Back to blogging with my three co-bloggers! Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays. (Usually we are on time. Usually. Ok, mostly. Sometimes? Don’t judge me.)
Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:
This week, Merryland Girl chose, and she asked us to find a life hack and try it out and write about the results.
So, here’s where I admit that I had no idea what a life hack is. (I felt a little better when I asked my ten-years-younger friend Kym, and she didn’t know, either.) I went online and looked around and decided I am too stuck in my ways to try any of the suggestions, even if they are meant to make my life easier.
Which made me realize that whether I like it or not, I really am a creature of habit.
For a long time, I never considered myself as such. Routines sound boring. We equate them with being stuck, and who wants to think of my life in those terms? And then, of course, some major, disruptive life events popped up a few years ago and completely shook up the routines I did have, and boy, did I notice. Suddenly, I longed for the comfort of the same ‘ol, same ‘ol. What once seemed lame suddenly sounded almost luxurious.
I’ve written before about how I don’t like to get stuck in my ways, how every few years, I get the itch to move or switch jobs or careers or at least paint colors. And that’s true. But at the same time, on a day-to-day basis, I tend to carve out a routine – and I do not do well when it’s messed with.
These days, since school is in session, my routine is dictated by the kids’ schedule. I’m up at 6:15, and then spend the next half hour prompting them to get ready (“Brush your hair,” “Is your snack ready?”, “Put on your shoes,” “Don’t forget your meds,” “Are you really arguing about that??” et cetera). Then it’s off to the bus stop; if the weather is bad, I drive them (it’s about three-tenths of a mile away), but if it’s not, they prefer to walk without me (“None of our friends’ parents walk them to the bus, Mom!”). I remain home where I actually wake up (so not a morning person). I eat breakfast (usually one of a cycle of four things). If I have legal work to do, I do it; if I don’t, I’ll get showered and head out to run errands. I’m out for a few hours (buying certain things at certain stores), and then I head home for lunch. That’s followed by my walk with Kym at 1:30 (when it is more consistently warm in the mornings, we will switch our walks back to 7:00am, after the bus leaves, and everything else will shift accordingly). Unless I have a dearth of work, I tend to be fairly productive during the day.
Our afterschool routine recently changed, and here is where the problems began. The 12 was swimming three days a week and had a social group one day a week, which left only Friday afternoons free. I came home from the bus stop, fed the girls a snack, and then we got into the van and drove across town to swim practice. Practice, even when I just dropped her off, sucked up a couple of hours, meaning by the time we came home, we launched into the dinner and pre-bedtime routines. There was not a lot of discretionary time. The routine was exhausting, but in a controlled way, and I guess I came to rely upon it. But after a spate of ear infections (and a few other things), the 12 quit swim, and suddenly I had a lot of free time. The extra time actually threw me off – I did not know what to do with the additional hours. I ended up scheduling an hour of occupational therapy on Tuesdays, which helped fill that day, but only for two hours (therapy plus drive time). What else to do? I cannot just have open time. It never ends well.
For me, open time often becomes unproductive time. I let myself get sucked into a TV show or Facebook or a real book or a crossword puzzle instead of returning phone calls or scheduling an eye doctor appointment or writing my blog post (wondering why I missed the last two weeks? Here’s your answer). It’s like my brain goes on vacation. And then, suddenly, it’s bedtime and I’m like, “Crap, I didn’t [fill in the blanks with one of the eleventy billion things I totally forgot to do].” And I wonder why I can’t sleep.
As I thought about life hacks and my inability to successfully manage unscheduled time, I remembered a convo I had with the 12’s social group leader, Miss Julie. This woman is one of the most productive, organized women I know. She runs her own business and spends hours and hours working with special kids and attending IEP meetings and counseling parents, yet she still manages to return phone calls and text messages and manage the rest of her life. A couple of months ago, after group, we were discussing the 12’s disorganization (autism affects executive function, which frustrates my child, as she is inherently an organized person) and she said that she, too, struggles with getting things done, especially on “down” days. She told me that if she has a day off, she absolutely has to make a checklist of things she needs to do that day – or else she won’t do anything at all.
Thinking about it now, I see the logic in Miss Julie’s advice. If I stop seeing extra time as down time, I might, actually, get something done. It never occurred to me to treat it like work time or even like my walking time, to schedule it, if not to the minute, then at least in general terms of a list of things I need to get done that day.
I did not try Miss Julie’s system this week, because it’s spring break and we are expecting guests and I knew there’d be little “extra” time, as I’d fill the hours cleaning and hiding junk (I’m nothing if not honest). But I will give it a go next week, when I’m back to some semblance of a routine. I’ll try to plan ahead and make sure I don’t have any blocks of unused time. I may need to find my day planner (it’s somewhere) and utilize that, as I prefer paper organization to electronic phone alerts. I’m hopeful that Miss Julie’s system will work for me, and perhaps jog my lately sketchy memory.
And I’ll try to remember to block off a half hour to write a follow up as to whether the system worked. If I don’t get distracted.