Picking Days - How to Organize Your Focus


Being a parent is very rewarding, and yet it is also the hardest job in life! Weather you are a stay at home dad, a work from home mom, a work out of the house dad, a single mom, a married dad, a caregiver, or any other combo; trying to juggle life and raise a little one has its challenges! But I think we all agree that we would not change it for the world!

For most of us the biggest challenge is trying to juggle it all. No matter what your situation is, there are definitely rewards and challenges. If you work from home you might have a lot more flexibility. You save money on daycare and sitters, but you also have to try to stay focused and not get distracted. When you are at home, there is always a million things you could be doing. So trying to stay in work mode can take its own form of planning.

If you leave the house to go to work, then you know that your primary focus in your office is your work. That can be very hard when you feel needed at home. And when you do finally finish your work day, there is so much waiting for you at home that needs to be done – and yet all you want it that quality time with your children.

What if you are lucky enough to be a stay at home full-time parent? You might think what an easy job that would be…. Until you actually try it! Now you are on-call 24/7 with a to-do list a mile long and a required level of patience that only a saint could possibly have.

So often we think that another option would be easier. We think that another job role, or lot in life would make the difference. But it doesn’t. No matter the circumstances, life can seem overwhelming at times. Have you ever felt like you were trying to do and be so many different things, and yet you couldn’t do any one of them to the best of your abilities?

But, did you ever pause to ask yourself “Am I trying to accomplish too much?” The truth is that sometimes our focus is just in too many places.

So often we end up on a vicious hamster wheel of over-committing and under-performing. We try to please everyone around us and yet forget to take care of ourselves and what is right in front of us. We say “Yes” more than “No”, and often times we end up paying for it as tasks we are trying to juggle begin to drop.

The key to fixing all of this sounds simple, and yet it can be a process - We need to find a better balance.

Type A personalities might be able to organize their day down to the hour, or even to ten minute blocks. They plan ahead for every detail, and for them it works. But for the rest of us, this kind of planning seems more like another chore that is very unlikely to ever be accomplished, than a put into action life-saving tip.

If you are finding yourself overwhelmed and in need of a solution, I do encourage you to organize your time. But I encourage you to consider organizing your DAY as opposed to organizing your HOUR.

This requires a lot less planning, and is a baby step that you can eventually build upon - if you ever want to.

The way that it works is to set only one priority for each day. Choose between Home, Work or the Kids.

While obviously you still have a job that requires your attention, you hopefully also have time where you are in charge. You can pick how you spend YOUR time, and this is what you can prioritize and plan out.

Some days your focus needs to be on the house, especially when the laundry basket is overflowing. Other days you may need to focus on that extra work project or business presentation, and most importantly - you will have days where the focus needs to be on your kids.

Because you are a parent, every day will be filled with meeting your child’s needs, but the way you structure your focus throughout the day is very different. And just like you plan doctor appointments or work meetings, try to now plan your focus for each day.

House Days:

Almost every week try to plan a house day where you (and the kids if they are out of school) can stay home for a large chunk of time to get things done.

Give the kids 1 room assignment at a time to pick up. I recommend starting in their playroom. This way when they are finished with all their other jobs, they can go back to their playroom while you complete your tasks. Ask them to help pick up everything and put it in its proper place so that you can come through behind them to vacuum and dust. Then together go back through to Windex and mop. You may be surprised to find that kids actually can enjoy cleaning too! Turn on some music and make it a fun bonding time! And anytime you can turn something into a game (like a reverse treasure hunt when finding bins that each toy goes into), it will seem less like a chore!

By spending one day cleaning, it allows for the rest of the week to be focused on other activities. Sure you will still have dishes to do and laundry to fold, but if the house is clean you can spend a more minimal amount of time each day managing the daily tasks.

Parenting Tip: When cleaning the house,  let your kids take a small break after each room or two. Get a snack, run outside for 15 min, grab lunch, etc. To them it would be overwhelming if you said to pick up the whole house at once. But when you focus on one room at a time, it seems much more doable.

Also, consider rewarding them in some way. Sometimes maybe they get a special treat, but try to usually reward them with special time once the whole house is complete.  If you have a cleaning day because company is coming that afternoon/evening maybe go the candy route. But if you were cleaning because the house just needed it, then I try to do something for them like going to the park or uninterrupted time in the backyard playing their favorite games.

I do believe in teaching responsibility, so I don’t reward each time they pick up their things. I only do this when we clean the whole house. Especially if they can do it with a good attitude, then I really praise them for helping me out!

If the kids are all in school, then ask them to help pick up everything the night before, and make their beds in the morning. Again, probably not their favorite things to do, but they will appreciate that the next day you will be doing the cleaning all on your own. And of course they will love coming home to a clean, fresh smelling space, so ask them to willingly do their part to help make it happen.

Work Days:

Other days your focus needs to be on your business. If you work outside the home than it might be easier to just stay in the office a little later.

But if you work from home and the kids are out of school, you may need to get creative and prepare. The best piece of advice that I can offer that really does help is this - “set up” the kids before you attempt to dive into work.

It is so frustrating to sit down at the computer only to have the kids constantly interrupting for things. You quickly find yourself saying “just give me 5 more minutes!”  But if you can try to meet their needs first, and spend a few minutes playing with them, they are more likely to give you some space and time to focus.

Example - Ever since I was a little girl I have loved to set up the play for my sisters and I. So for my kids, I will try to set up something they haven’t done in a while. An example – my boys love to play with trucks and my daughter loves animals. So maybe I get out all the Lincoln Logs, the construction trucks, and the bin of plastic animals. We figure out where the lumber yard is on one side of the room and where our new zoo building site is on the other end. Then I let the 3 of them move logs in their trucks across the room and build a zoo for the animals. Add a few sippy cups and a bowl of animal crackers on the coffee table and now hopefully they are set for at least a little while.

If your kids are older you could maybe try setting up an easy craft, or get out a bunch of coloring books and art supplies.

Obviously there will still be interruptions. But by trying to meet their needs first (trust me, it does take some thought and extra time/effort) it often does allow more time to focus on your task.

Family Days:

The best are family days! Because they most likely don’t happen everyday, try to pack them full, or put extra thought into planning something special.

My kids and I have already packed up right after breakfast and left with all the dirty dishes still sitting out (don’t panic - I did rinse them). For me it’s a mental thing. I do like a clean sink, but if I take the time to start cleaning I can so easily get caught up trying to do just one more thing. So for me, and for my kids, I put the food away but leave the dishes for later.

Whether you plan to go to the playground or off to the zoo, make it fun. And even if plans don’t go exactly as you had hoped or originally planned, keep the focus right where it needs to be - on the kids!

I once had a doctor tell me that it’s not about the quantity of time you spend with your kids, but it’s the quality of time you give them. And this is so true! If you give your kids that quality time, then they will be much more likely to let you clean up the dishes later that evening, or have a productive work day later in the week.

Say No:

It’s amazing how once you start shifting your mindset and living like this, how much of your activities you realize are not necessary. Instead of trying to squeeze in those extra time-fillers, consider leaving the opportunities to someone better suited. It’s not fair to take on a task and not be able to fully execute. So unfortunately, you may need to step down from a few committees.

This doesn’t mean you can’t ever volunteer again. But consider volunteering in your child’s class here and there, but don’t feel obligated to run their biggest fundraiser of the year.

You can help with your little nephews and nieces from time to time, but don’t feel obligated to watch them every week. You can take your daughter to soccer practice and be at every game, but don’t feel the need to be the head or assistant coach.

Of course you can do these things if they are your priority. But if you were doing them just because you could not say “No”, or if you find you are not meeting your own family’s needs, then you may need to re-evaluate.

Sometimes we need to say no and be a little selfish for the sake of our family. But as our kids grow and their needs change, your time will change. You’ll be able to get more done at different times of the day, and maybe can even sign up for that committee again - Who knows? But right now, focus on what is needed right in front of you, in your house, before saying yes to anything or anyone else outside.

Lessons Learned:

Whether you are always at home, or work outside of the house, you need to prioritize your time spent at home. There will always be things to do. You can’t possibly ignore your children’s needs, the housework, or your business work. But what you can do is allow yourself the time needed to focus on achieving whatever is needed most. Is it a work project? Then your kids may need to play a little more independently than usual, and they might get to watch an extra movie here and there. But once that project is finished, make sure you allow yourself the time needed to focus on your housework – a true home is so important to every child! And then most importantly, make sure you schedule that special time with your kids – they deserve it and so do you! Give yourself a break from everything else and focus on them, because they won’t stay this little forever!

Eventually there will come a day where your house will always be clean, the laundry will always be done and you can work without a single interruption. But that will mean your kids will be grown and living on their own. So as stressful as it does get sometimes, I encourage you to find a better balance. I don’t want you to just survive, but I want you to truly embrace and enjoy this time that you have with your little blessings!

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