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Letting Go #chronic illness #simplify

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Life with kids is hard enough. (Joyful, yes, but hard.) Add chronic illness to the mix, and it’s nearly unbearable. But, it can be made easier. You just have to let some things go.

Easier said than done, I know, but it can be done. More importantly, for the sake of your health, your sanity, and your relationship with your family, it needs to be done. So, here’s a gift from me to you, something we often feel we need in order to make decisions, big or small: Permission.

I hereby give you permission to let the following things go:

  • ¬†Facebook/Google+/Twitter, etc. Unless you use these things primarily for work, drop them (at least temporarily). Your friends will still be there in two weeks or a month, as will all their horrifying, celebratory, and banal updates. I promise. If you’re truly worried about missing something big, let your closest friends know you’re dropping off the social media map for a while. That way, they’ll know to contact you in person if something really big happens. Disclaimer: This may be very difficult for you, depending on how much time you currently spend on social media. It will get easier. In fact, the longer you can go without checking your accounts, the less drive you’ll have to do so.
  • Non-work-related emails. (This is easiest if you have a separate work account.) Check your work emails daily, if necessary, but commit to only sorting through and answering your personal emails two or three times a week. Schedule the days, and don’t cheat. If someone in your life needs a faster response, they’ll call.
  • Unscheduled phone calls from numbers you don’t know. This is why we have voicemail and answering machines. Unless you’ve scheduled a phone call with someone and/or it is a call from a number you know you have to answer (such as your child’s school or doctor), let it ring. If not answering makes you uncomfortable, allow yourself to check your messages immediately. If it’s a call you should have taken, you can always call back.
  • Non-essential housework. Yes, we have to do the dishes, clean the kitchen, wash the clothes, vacuum, and sweep. Dusting, unless dust aggravates you or your children, can wait. So can the mirrors, the windows, the baseboards, and the floors in your bathroom (unless you’re currently potty training – that can get messy).
  • Non-essential baking/cooking. We all want to feed our families healthy, home-cooked meals, and that’s normal. (Of course, if you hate cooking and you have the money to purchase healthy prepared foods, by all means, go right ahead. That’s normal, too!) But, you don’t have to bend over backward to make baked goods from scratch for your child’s school functions or play dates, especially when you don’t feel well. Same goes for nights in with friends. Grab some take-out, frozen pizzas, party trays, or cheese and crackers. Your (true) friends won’t care.

It may not seem like much, but you’ll reclaim a significant amount of time and energy by letting go of these everyday tasks and activities. If you’ve found other ways to simplify, please comment. We’re all here to help each other.

The Most Productive Mom Tip Ever #wahm #productivemom #momtip

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I’ve finally done it, that thing I kept talking about, over and over, for the past nine months. And, guess what? It feels great! I’m more productive, less anxious about deadlines, and more at peace with myself. In fact, it’s been going so great, I can’t believe I didn’t start sooner!

No, I’m not talking about a new diet or workout routine. No, it isn’t a re-energized sex life (though 18 months into our son’s life, I’m sure my husband is ready for that). I’m talking about something much, much simpler. A thing we’ve all heard about, and yet rarely find the strength or energy to start doing.

Yes, I’m talking about the early morning wake up.

For the past week, I’ve been getting up at 6 a.m. and sneaking out to my office in the backyard to begin my day an hour and a half earlier than the rest of my family. The first day I did it, I completed all of my work for the entire day before my son even made his first peeps. Now, a week in, my electronic to-do list, which previously was glowing bright red with all my unfinished, overdue tasks, is a nice, healthy yellow. My office is (relatively) tidy, and my schedule is (relatively) clear.

To be honest, I cannot believe how much work I’ve gotten done in just a few hours. I also can’t believe how good getting up early can feel. And, while everyone across the Internet has raved about this time-management tip, I think it is particularly beneficial to me as a mom with chronic illness.

My illness is such that it builds over the day so, more often than not, by nightfall I’m wiped out and can do little more than veg out in front of my computer in bed in the dark. If I’m lucky, I might be able to read, but these days I haven’t been that lucky. Despite all this, I was still holding on to the crazy notion that I would finish my work for the day after the kids were in bed.

Obviously this was madness. I almost never felt well enough to work at the end of the day, and my to-do list just kept growing, glowing brighter and brighter red all the time.

Thankfully, I’m pretty sure I’ve resolved this issue. While I can’t say getting out of bed early is easy, especially if my toddler has been up in the middle of the night, in the long run, it’s much, much easier than not doing so.

What about you? Have you tried the early morning wake up? If so, how did it work for you? If not, why not?

 

 

Flexible Scheduling for the #Homeschooling #WAHM

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My life revolves around a schedule. It isn’t because I want one. (I’m not a natural planner, and I chafe under rigidity and obligation.) It’s because I need one.

With an unpredictable chronic illness, an ever-changing infant on the cusp of toddlerhood, and a sweet-but-sometimes-explosive adolescent girl, my schedule keeps me sane.

It helps me pencil in time to work, read, and relax. It ensures I get a shower or bath more often than every 72 hours, and it reminds me that (eventually) I will have a break. In short, my schedule is often the only thing that keeps me from jumping off a cliff. The key to maintaining it though, and not allowing it to become just another rigid set of rules, is to keep it flexible.

For example, I don’t pencil in my son’s naps at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. I don’t force him down if he isn’t tired, and I don’t mind if lunch is served at 1:30 p.m. instead of noon. Instead, I have a loose set of guidelines that help me know when to run errands, when to head to my office to work, and when to put my kids to bed.

To develop this schedule, I spent about a month monitoring our days and activity levels. After about two weeks, several important things became abundantly clear:

  • My son generally wants to nap about 1.5 to 2 hours after waking in the morning and then again about 2.5 to 3 hours after he wakes up from the first nap.
  • If I try to get him down outside of these parameters, he usually won’t sleep.
  • If I get him down at the right time, he’ll sleep for approximately 90 minutes each time.
  • My daughter does her best work in the morning.
  • If we run errands before her school work is done for the day, she is likely to have a meltdown while doing it.
  • My son won’t eat between about 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., no matter how much or how little he’s had to eat that day.

Knowing these things has enabled me to craft a loose but predictable schedule that ensures everyone in the house gets what they need on a daily basis. It doesn’t work for specific events planned by other people (e.g., library story times and yoga class at the local YMCA), but it works wonderfully for things I plan or schedule myself.

Based on these guidelines, I know to schedule appointments and errands between approximately 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. or after 3 p.m. I know not to expect any significant undivided work time until the afternoon (when my husband gets home) or the evening (when the kids are in bed). And, I know that I’ll likely spend my son’s morning nap gearing up for the day and helping my daughter with her schoolwork.

It isn’t perfect (I haven’t yet figured out how to make it to the 10 a.m. Zumba! class down the street), but it works for us.

 

Tools and References that might help if you want to try creating something like this for yourself:

Baby Connect App (perfect for monitoring infant and young child eating and sleeping habits)

Educational Leadership: Giving Students the (Right) Time of Day

 

Making Time for the Unexpected

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Having grown up in the U.S. to remarkably independent self-motivated parents, I internalized the idea that hard work equaled success from an early age. But, working hard doesn’t have to mean working 24/7. In fact, working constantly is a sure-fire way path to burnout: physically, mentally, and emotionally.

As a homeschooling work-at-home mom to a breastfeeding infant and a special-needs, pre-teen girl, I’m constantly fighting the urge to spend every minute of my day engaged in one task or another. Between writing books, juggling clients, teaching my daughter, and caring for my son, my house, and my husband, there just never seems to be enough time to get it all done. But, I’ve learned the hard way that trying to do it all without taking the time to rest and recharge means getting less done overall.

It is invariably the days and weeks on which I am over-scheduled with work projects and other must-do tasks that some unplanned event or catastrophe throws a wrench in my plans. My baby gets sick, cuts a new tooth, or refuses to eat and requires my constant attention, or my daughter has a meltdown that takes hours of time and most of my energy to get under control. Or, I get sick and simply can’t work any more that day, no matter how much I’d like to do so.

In short, things happen that I can’t control, and it means I have to be able to adapt. And, I can’t do that, if my schedule isn’t flexible enough to accommodate unforeseen events. To make sure I have the flexibility I need, I created the 75% rule: However many hours I want to work in a week, I cut it by 25%. Then, I fit my work assignments into only the hours I have marked as available. No matter what.

When I first implemented this system, I really had to work against my tendency to fill in the empty hours on the calendar. If a new client popped up with a potential assignment, I would see the empty slots in my mind and automatically say “yes, I have time.” It took me months to realize that the empty slots weren’t really empty. They were full with events, outings, and setbacks that I couldn’t possibly foresee. They were my fail-safes. And, in my life, they are absolutely necessary.

What about the rest of you? Do you fill your schedule, or do you purposefully leave some time for the unexpected?

Other links on working smarter by working less:

The 80% Energy Rule: An Old Secret to Success

Blogger Justin Jackson talks about The Principle That Changed My Life

Relax! You’ll Be More Productive