Breathe Organize Act

Essay

With the boys–off at school and Erin at work, the silence of the house wraps around me and the loneliness sets in. Every flat surface is a wasteland of clutter, the to-do list in my head grows by the minute. How will I get everything done today?

Overwhelmed, I pour myself the last of the coffee and sink onto the couch. Before I know it I’ve squandered an hour doing nothing that involves the list in my head. The critic in me jumps up and begins berating me for wasting time, for feeling this way, for not being able to handle things like I once did. Now, the critic tells me, you don’t have time to get everything done. I’m a failure, I think, and the with that the darkness takes a firm hold of me. I might as well just give up.

With therapy, I have been able to make an about-face in my perspective and now find that I can harness time, corral projects–both household and creative, and prioritize for maximum effect. In the past I would hyper-focus on the seven hours the kids were in school as the only time I had to get things done. Now I look at the 168 hours the week has to offer. Accounting for the 56 hours of sleep that still leaves me over 100 hours to be productive. Therapy has also taught me that what I fire, I wire. When I tell myself that I don’t have enough time, then I won’t have enough time. The podcast Before Breakfast introduced me to the 168-hour view and also to the idea that it is not that we don’t have enough time; it is that we don’t make things a priority and thus squander the time we do have. If I want to start running three days a week, then I need to make that a priority and tell myself I have the time.

Keeping a list in my head only allows anxiety to take route and the dark parts of me to run the day. Therefore, I write everything down on a master list. Each day I look at this list and choose three things to prioritize for the day. Trying to work off the full list would be as foolhardy as working off it in my head. I’ve already decided to make writing an hour a day and running three days a week priorities so those don’t go on either list. Everything else does, no matter how simple the task.

With a plan and some organization, it is time for action. I know what I want to get done today, but first I need to get the kitchen cleaned up from breakfast so that the mess does not surprise me later, which happens more than you’d think. A messy kitchen late in the day is a sure way to rouse the critic or the other surly parts of me that are more than happy to commence with disparaging self-talk.

Some days go sideways and I don’t get everything done. Some days I get more done than I planned. Either way, I celebrate the victories of what did get done. If I don’t get to something, I put an arrow next to it so know to do it tomorrow. This is another change for me. I used to beat myself up over not getting everything done. Nothing like feeling like a failure just because you didn’t get to all the laundry folded

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