All to often, I find myself saying these phrases to my children:
“Go play, I’ll be there in a minute.”
“I am almost done.”
“I will play as soon as I finish the dishes.” (and then I get distracted and clean up the kitchen, and do the laundry…)
Sound familiar? There is so much to be done, and I am constantly putting my family on the back burner. I am always in catch up mode.
I want to be present for my kids, my husband, and myself. I have found that multi-tasking is holding me back from being truly present.
Multi-tasking vs. Quality Time
There are times when multi-tasking is appropriate – even necessary. Dinner preparation, for example, is a great time to multi-task. I can cook the rice, cut up veggies for a stir fry, and listen to an audio book. Multi-tasking can increase efficiency and productivity.
Quality time is not about efficiency or productivity. It takes focus – our whole focus – to be truly present.
I often try to work on a project while doing an activity with my kids. In the end I am frustrated, my projects don’t get done, and the boys are frustrated, because I am not giving them the attention they need.
I am slowly learning that 15 minutes of focused time is worth more than 30 minutes of partially focused time. I can’t just focus on my kids all day. I need time to focus on them, time for myself, and time to focus on my other responsibilities. There has to be a balance. If I can focus on one area at a time, the time spent is much more fulfilling and productive.
A Tool to Help Me Focus
Lately I have been using a timer to help me work towards that balance. I set the timer for 30 minutes – 1 hour, and for that time the boys can play quietly in their room or the living room while I work on a project. When the timer goes off, it is time for me to quit working and focus on an activity with them.
The timer gives a set amount of time for them to play and for me to focus on something else. This sounds simple, and maybe a little silly, but it has really helped me to separate activities and truly focus.
It is too easy for me to get going on a project and not want to quit. When I finally step away from it, the kids have watched hours of cartoons, the house is a mess, dinner is not even started, and everyone is starving and grumpy.
The timer gives us a natural transition. It limits my work time, and encourages me to use that time wisely. It helps the kids to play better independently, because they know they will have my undivided attention soon.
A Division of Time
I am trying to categorize my daily activities into 3 categories to help me as I organize my daily routine.
- Activities that can be multi-tasked
- Activities that take complete focus
- Activities that I need to streamline or eliminate
As I streamline & de-clutter my activities, I hope to create larger blocks of time to focus on my children, my family, and my passions in my daily schedule.