What tasks are on your to-do list today? This week? This year? Do you have a never-ending list that constantly overtakes you? I feel you, and the burden of overwhelm is huge. Last week I started the breakdown of our lives, compartmentalizing every aspect, and then mucking it all up by saying our life doesn’t fit into pretty little boxes. I made it through the first five areas, and have the last three to address here.
Life Is Messy, and Tasks are Always Present
Just to reiterate, if I were to break life up into different components, it would go something like what follows. Yet even in separating this out, you will see that life simply is. In our unschooling world, we don’t split subjects up into math, English and science; we incorporate it all into life skills that blend them together.
Think of this concept as we dive in – here are the areas of our lives again that I brought up last week:
- Personal Development
- Life Tasks
Picking up where we left off…
So…in the midst of wrangling children, getting work done, and the endless to-do list, let me guess: working out is pushed to the back burner. I completely feel you. I have been there, and with my workaholic tendencies, I am guilty of sitting in one spot and realizing I haven’t eaten, much less worked out, all day.
What does exercise give us? Many of us completely dread it. But guess what – there are a gazillion and one ways to be physically active, and many have nothing to do with hitting the gym. It’s not about doing a traditional workout. When I say “physical” is important, it’s the fact that with TVs, computers, cars and more, we have the ability to set on our butts day in and day out – and what does it give us?
- Weight Gain
- Low Self-Esteem
- Higher likelihood of injuries (unused muscles/bones mean more likely to get hurt)
- I could go on and on with a list of negatives, but that’s not my style
Instead, let’s get to the why and the how. You know all the perks of being physical – getting more energy, feeling great about yourself, being healthier because you are aware of and taking care of your body, etc.
Own this and make it fun
This is not drudgery. It isn’t something that you have to have animosity toward. This is your body; your beautiful shell that holds all the magnificence inside. It’s your piece of art that you can decorate any way you want. Getting out and getting physical does so much for your own confidence and energy, plus it’s an excellent way to connect with others. Here are some ideas on how to get physical outside of the traditional gym model. Add these in to life. You don’t have to carve out two hours for the gym. Set a timer on your phone or calendar alerts to go off every hour or two, and add in the little energy boosts to get your heart rate up. Do squats while you brush your teeth. Pushups while the coffee brews. Push yourself to not simply observe your kids playing tag, but to join them.
Stop, drop, and give me twenty. Nathan and I do 100 pushups a day. Insane? Possibly. But when you set breaks throughout the day to stop and do 15-20 at a time, you not only allow your brain a break and your body an energy boost, but you can accomplish something much bigger by the end of the day. It is so important to allow for those breaks in your day. A shift in focus from work – or kids – to something that makes you feel strong, energized and motivated can be what gets you over that midday hump.
Ah, the black hole of nothingness for parents of young children. No matter how social you are, adding in a new baby or a toddler going through yet another “phase”, and you have a recipe for all baby, no social life. Babysitters are expensive – you can end up spending $100 simply by being out of the house for a few hours, not counting the restaurant and movie tickets.
I know how impossible it can be to maintain a social life when you are feeding a little human every two hours. There are times in our lives where we do go into a bit of survival mode. There is only so much of us to go around, and sleep deprivation plus just the overall neediness of kids can take a lot out of you.
This is important, though. Our social circles have shrunk immensely. We’re having less children and families are spread further apart (the “cousin connections” of the past isn’t so common, as families spread out across the country). We have longer commutes, more and more screen time to entertain us, and the overwhelming tasks of this information-overloaded society to keep up with with.
Entrepreneur Jim Rohn says:
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
There is power in a pack. We are pack animals and community makes us stronger. When surrounded by positive relationships, studies have shown time and time again how a person’s well-being increases in direct proportion to the connection with others who lift them up. There are cognitive studies showing a direct correlation between a person’s well-being and their friend’s – if your friends are healthy, you tend to be, too. If they are positive and upbeat, so are you. Who they are becomes a part of us.
I grew up having a select few close friends. The older I got, the more broad my friend circle grew – I had my larger social network, and my core group of powerful friendships. I stopped finding “friends of convenience” – simply pursuing relationships with anyone who may come into my life – and I’ve been intentional about finding community I thrive in. I’ve learned to be selective about my friendships and social life and not simply do everything that’s out there. I don’t attend a ton of social events. However, I cherish the friendships I do have, and believe each one is significant in my life right now.
Friends come and go, and that’s okay!
Friends don’t have to stay in your life forever. Some of my best friendships aren’t the longest, but the ones where we deeply connected at a time we both needed it. There are seasons of life that will bring forth different friendships, but the point of this is that we need to be surrounded by people who encourage us, pick us up, challenge us, and make us laugh. Life needs to stay fun – otherwise, what’s the point of living it? Remember to play, have fun, and connect with others for no other intention than to simply find joy and connection.
You are exposed to new worlds, new perspectives, and the fun of play with friendships. No matter what age or stage in life, friends help us along the way and are a critical part of our lives. Remember community, and remain social – this is just as important as the other areas of life.
Here is the curve ball. With everything else – career, finances, family, personal development, etc, you can see how this is a compartment of your life. Then we get to this one – life tasks? What is this, you ask? This is everything. Updating your website, cleaning your house, taking your child to the dentist, fixing dinner, budgeting and planning, wiping butts and noses, checking in on grandma, and putting gas in the car.
These are the essentials – the daily living tasks that take up time and may be tedious. However, they are necessary parts of your life. Tasks are the never-ending to-do lists that come from living, and they are required to maintain your lifestyle. You can’t ignore paying the mortgage or getting groceries, yet we don’t really set aside one area of our lives to devote to these crazy “honey-do” lists. This is the epitome of where life bleeds into every compartment and shows that we can’t just box up each area of our lives and keep them perfectly separated. We run errands and everything happens at once.
No compartments; tasks make it flow!
- Work: grab the copy paper and ink at Costco for that document you need to print off
- Finances: run by the bank and deposit those checks
- Family: your kids are with you and it’s a spontaneous unschooling lesson on economics and life skills
- Spiritual/Emotional: as your toddler falls flat on her face in the middle of Costco, you find your inner zen and calmly pick her up and pray to the heavens she won’t notice the minuscule drop of blood on her lip, while pulling every bit of love and comfort out to move past the pain and get through the freakin crowd.
- Personal Development: after said crash-and-burn incident you learn that your patience has an upper limit and it’s been hit, so you recognize your own need to let go of the agenda for the day and scoot out while you still have any sanity intact.
- Physical: there still are bulk grocery finds to carry, huge shopping carts to push, and your car at the very back of the parking lot. Plenty of heavy lifting, pushing, and lugging to keep you in shape.
- Social: You run into half the neighborhood at the store, because that’s what a hometown is like. Along the way you saw the neighbor you’ve been meaning to have for dinner and the friend you promised to catch up with over coffee – calendars come out and you’ve scheduled your social events for the week.
- Life Tasks: you accomplished the errands to Costco, the grocery store and the bank. You’ve fed kids, put gas in the car, accomplished checking off your list, navigated through 1,264.5 meltdowns (some of which may have been your own), and even ran into a few good friends.
Life Tasks Bring It All Together
Those little tasks can drain us…or sustain us. Our to-dos can be something we dread, or a necessary part of life that allows us to incorporate all the areas that really are essential. Instead of muscling through tasks, change your perspective on them. Remember how to let go of the overwhelming feeling of having too much on your plate. Break it down. Remember, then, that as you go about the necessary to-dos, you have the opportunity to incorporate so much of your life to them. Be aware of the moment and what you can capture. You can grow emotionally, mentally, socially, physically – all through embracing the moment – and the task – as it comes.
Enjoy this life. Don’t let it be a chore or always a challenge. Make space for fun in your life. Play and connect with others, and focus on truly living.