Ok, in the balls-to-the-wall world we live in, where most of us feel like we can’t move fast enough to get it all done, it’s time we take a pause and cut ourselves some real slack. Like actual, real slack. Because most of us tend to focus on everything we missed or didn’t get to during the day or the week or the month, instead of everything we did accomplish. And that’s not exactly what you’d call healthy or productive. Yet we all still do it all the time.
Now I don’t care who you are, what you do for a living, or exactly how many balls you have in the air on any given day…life is complicated. For all of us. And it doesn’t seem to matter if we’re single or married or have twelve kids, because most of our days have a lot of moving parts. And getting to all of them can be a struggle. So much so, that I often wonder how we all manage to fit in even the bare essentials, let alone all the other stuff we have on our list.
Think about it like this… From the second we squint open our eyes in the morning to the second we dive onto our mattress at night, most of us have enough basic To-Dos to cycle through that it would be super helpful if the earth took a little longer than twenty-four hours to do its rotating thing. I mean, another half dozen hours would be nice. But that’s not an option.
See, I often wonder how it is that we get everything done with any time left over for much else, like relationships or hobbies or leisure or breathing. Every one of us has so many fundamental things to tick off and remember every day before we can move on to all the actual work we may have, that sometimes I’m just a little dumbfounded that we manage to accomplish anything at all.
Consider this… Plus or minus a few things, the average person’s day goes something like this…
We hoist ourselves out of bed (which can take some serious time and effort depending on how well we snap to it); then we have to eat as we simultaneously check every single social media feed that we have. Then, if it’s part of our routine, we exercise; then we groom (which is cumbersome if we’re a girl); and then we attack our closet and get dressed.
After that (if we happen to have a family) we help/motivate/threaten all of them do exactly what we just did. Then, potentially, we drop kids off someplace; then we commute somewhere; then we settle into the next part of the day which usually involves a job or errands or appointments, all while we slowly start turning our attention towards our stomach again. Because once we hit the middle of the day, we have to feed the machine again, which means either preparing or buying or ordering food.
Not too long after that, around mid-afternoon, we have to pause again to caffeinate ourselves (a critical task for most people). And that involves ordering or making something that’s going to help us weather the rest of our day. Then we tick a few more things off our daily list and slowly start thinking about what dinner’s going to look like. Which inevitably involves some kind of planning or shopping or prepping or ordering or cooking, either for ourselves or a whole tribe.
Then we start heading home, which may involve picking up kids or running more errands. Followed by dinner, which is usually, on some level, pretty involved. Then we clean and digest and exhale for probably the first time all day. Then it’s nighttime and there’s only a teensy bit of time left in the day to do anything of real substance. So maybe we read or relax or play the guitar or knit or socialize. Then we sleep. Then we repeat.
Now I’m not saying any of this to bum you out with the reality of everything we have to get through in the course of a day. On the contrary. I actually think it’s important for all of us to stop and celebrate all the things that we do manage to get through every day. Cause it’s a lot. And it’s actually something I think we should acknowledge more often. That’s because I feel like, so much of the time, we’re all so down on ourselves for the stuff we forget to do or couldn’t make time to do or just didn’t want to do on any given day.
I feel like, if we put a little more of our focus on all of our wins (even the small ones like flossing or getting to the pharmacy), we’d benefit from the pride we feel about keeping a thousand balls in the air, instead of feeling depressed over what we didn’t check off our list.
Because in case you haven’t noticed, it’s kind of human nature to cut ourselves down and focus on the negatives instead of the positives. But the sad reality is, on a fundamental level, people have the genetic predisposition to focus on the ugly, bad things around us more than on the healthy good ones. And that doesn’t do any of us any good.
As far as I’m concerned, we should be celebrating what we do get to. And that’s because a lot of small victories add up to a something much bigger. They add up to progress. And progress, any way you look at it, is forward motion. And forward motion leads to more forward motion. And that’s good. Because just getting up every day and putting our feet on the floor to attack a new day means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. And even that one seemingly simple thing can be huge.
So the next time you feel like slamming yourself because you feel ineffective or unproductive or maybe a little unmotivated, add up all the things you did get to in the course of a day. All the calls or connections you made. Or the book you read or the meal you prepared or the guitar cord you learned. Or the people you may have impacted or reached or touched or helped just by getting up and engaging with the world. Then walk to a mirror, move in close, and kiss yourself on the cheek, cause you did good.
Think like that often enough, and you’ll start to create a mind shift. And those are cool, because then you begin to celebrate the little stuff more and take pride and pleasure in just basic productivity. Then you’ll learn to compartmentalize the stuff that just didn’t make the cut for the day and you’ll learn to be ok with it, because you’ll remind yourself that you’re only one person and there’s always another day.
But all that comes with time. First, let’s just work on the slack-cutting part. Do that for starters. The rest of the good stuff that comes with that will almost always follow.
Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts on a tiny peninsula. Read and discuss all her columns at lisasugarman.com. Or, find them on LittleThings.com, BeingAMom.life, GrownAndFlown.com, Hot Moms Club, More Content Now and Care.com. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is and Untying Parent Anxiety: 18 Myths That Have You in Knots—And How to Get Free available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at select bookstores.