I lead a pretty busy life.
I keep up with this blog, which means writing posts, scheduling social media, making images, tweaking the look of my blog, and trying to create products.
I also have a part time job and writing contracts with nasty demands like deadlines and word limits. Then there are relationships, house, and yard to nurture.
My inner perfectionist should be having a hairy fit that I haven’t created the summer course I hoped for, that I have a deadline looming next month, and I have flower beds full of dandelions.
Life could easily get stressful.
But I’m not feeling overwhelmed.
Want to Know My Secret?
Many years ago I discovered a simple technique that changed the way I did things.
I was an overwhelmed Mom with a preschooler and a newborn. I was completely out of my depth. My family was thousands of miles away and I had very little support. I came home from the hospital with the new baby and somehow managed to get both boys down for a nap. Then I sat on a chair in the kitchen and sobbed quietly in despair. I was convinced that I couldn’t give both my children the care they needed.
One of them would die! I just knew it!
I can look back at that moment of desperation and smile about it now, but at the time, I was so overwhelmed I couldn’t see any other outcome.
In those sleep-deprived days of caring for a newborn and preschooler, I stumbled onto a simple technique. It was a list that helped me keep my sanity, get through the days and keep both my boys alive. I didn’t even have to write it down.
The list that will stop you feeling overwhelmed
I created a very short list of essentials in my head.
- Feed everyone.
- Make sure everyone (including myself) was clean.
- Keep up with laundry and dishes.
- Show my love with lots of hugs and cuddles
That was it! This very short list provided me with a minimum standard of care for the day. I figured if everyone was washed, fed, and clothed I was doing really well. No-one would die and we could manage. Add in a bit of loving and everything essential was covered.
A few months later, when everything was starting to settle down I added two more things
- Clean the Kitchen
- Clean the Bathroom
That became my list for many years and it worked well
As my boys grew my bare essentials list grew to include a few other things, but I decided to keep it as short as possible.
Over the years I have kept my list of essentials. Yes it has changed and evolved with my circumstances, but it still forms the foundation of my schedule.
The benefits of this list
- Helps set priorities (you do what is on the list first).
- Gives peace of mind. (The essentials have been completed).
- Gives us permission to put aside less important things.
- Silences our inner perfectionist (When we’ve done the essentials that inner critic really has nothing to complain about.)
TAKE THAT INNER CRITIC!!
You see how it works?
It is my list that keeps things ticking over nicely. Many days I will do more than my essentials, but if I can’t that is okay. I can rest in the knowledge that what I have done is good enough for today.
When people, deadlines, or commitments demand more of my time, my list makes sure my life, job, writing business continues to run quite smoothly. It gives me peace of mind.
How to create a list of essentials
I was going to share my list but decided against it as everyone’s list of essentials is different. My list will not look like your list, because we have different priorities and that is okay. I have some friends who absolutely HAVE to make their bed every day. It doesn’t bother me an inch if the bed is never made, so I walk away from my messy bed without a backward glance. However having a clean bathroom is an absolute must for me!! Making the bed is NOT on my list. Cleaning the bathroom once a week IS on my list.
There are no rules about this. There is no right or wrong way to set your list of essentials.
- Basically, this list represents the bare minimum you need to do in order to keep your life in order and your family alive and healthy. What are those things for you?
- Keep it short. The goal is to be able to complete this list without too much trouble each day/week. Even on the horrible, dreadful terrible days that we all have.
- Make sure you can complete your essentials without too much effort each day.
Remember your list will change and evolve with your circumstances.
Don’t forget that each family member can help with the list. In our house my partner has pretty well taken over cooking. I tend to do quick tidy ups and keep the bathroom wiped down. We both make sure the laundry and dishes get done.
What if I don’t have time for my essentials?
Sometimes my list gets too long and I find I don’t have time to do everything. If I get to the point where I’m too tired (or busy) to find a way for our essentials something has to change. It’s time to take a step back and evaluate what is going on.
- Do I need to simplify?
- Cut something out?
- Delegate? (I recently delegated one of my blog tasks to a virtual assistant. It has freed up several hours each week for me.)
- Ditch the Pinterest ideal?
- Get your kids involved in taking on some of the simple tasks on your list.
Do whatever it takes to make that list achievable on an everyday basis.
My list of essentials was a lifesaver in those busy days of caring for baby and newborn. I hope you will find it a helpful technique. There is a great deal of peace in knowing that we don’t have to do everything all the time.
There will be days when the stars align and you have the energy, and time, to tackle those tasks outside your list. Yay go for it!
There may be days when you have loads of energy, the sun is shining and you would much rather go outside and enjoy the day with your family. Go right ahead. Your essentials are covered.
There will be days when we wonder why you even bothered to get out of bed. On those days your list of essentials will be the only things you can accomplish. And that is good enough!
Now it’s your turn!
I’d love to know. What is on your list of essentials?