There are a few things I’m regularly working through, and one of them is my ability to magnify a situation by telling myself it’s too difficult. Oh man, I am so good at this. (Laughs awkwardly.) I’m really good at coming up with an idea, but then I struggle to break it down/get started. It’s like I enjoy complicating all of my tasks?!
When I take care of myself by getting enough sleep at night or eating well or exercising my brain (through creative projects, re-arranging our home, even painting my nails), I feel like a totally different person. I feel healthy and like I can conquer all of my to-do list woes. This phrase often comes to mind…
“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
I had a dentist appointment yesterday morning, and it’s close enough that we can walk to it. I find this amazing since we are back in the Midwest suburbs, and this isn’t always possible. This particular appointment was trying to give me a lot of worry. I’ve never had any issues with my teeth, but I have had a couple cavities filled and because of that I generally don’t like going. Before worry came over me, I calmed my anxious feelings. What is the worst that will happen, I thought? I decided on a cavity, so I walked myself through the process of what would happen next: another appointment would need to be scheduled, they would give me some pain medicine, I would stare at the TV mounted to the ceiling, and I would have to keep my mouth open for 20 minutes while they worked inside my mouth. I can totally handle that! It’s just a cavity. I powered through the situation, and brought myself back to reality one mental step at a time.
With Christmas being over, and the kids constantly growing out of their clothes, an area of our basement was becoming pretty cluttered. And clutter is one thing I don’t like! I’ll do anything to prevent it, either by putting things away, donating, or re-organizing a space. But once Christmas was over, our basement was collecting ornaments and home decor and too-small clothes and luggage and baby gear no longer needed. The pile was taking over my laundry space, and my initial reaction was to ask Zack to help me un-clutter the space once the kids went to bed. But then I thought, No, I can totally do this myself. I knew he would be willing to help, but I know how limited our evenings are, and doing this wouldn’t be fulfilling for him personally. I decided to just get started myself, right now while the kids are playing with me nearby. I grabbed a big, soft blanket and an empty laundry basket, and settled Marigold inside with her baby doll. Then I asked the older two to find another running path, and I got to work. One plastic bin at a time, I re-organized my laundry space by putting things where they go. (And then I gave myself a big gold star.)
What are my priorities? I’m not calling them goals this year, because that makes them feel out of reach. And really, they aren’t goals — they are more important that that. They are my priorities, things I really want to do and find a lot of value in doing. So I made a list of what I want to achieve this year. And then I taped it on the wall near my desk so I can remind myself of them. And each day, I continue to not have a few social apps on my phone, ones that were taking me away from my priorities by encouraging me to misuse my free time. And you know what? Two nights ago I painted my finger nails this great shade of red. And then all day yesterday I thoroughly enjoyed being home with my babes: preparing dinner and reading books and helping Max create a little play nook near the front picture window. I folded three loads of laundry and sent Zack an encouraging text. For a minute, I stood still and watched the snow fall to the ground. We had an amazing day, and all of this was achievable because I am keeping my priorities at the front of my mind, one hour at a time.
Something else on my list of priorities is writing a book. During Christmas break, we traveled all over Michigan and a little into Indiana. Zack and I had hours of time together while the kids slept in the car, and during this time we dove into our creative ideas and financial goals. At one point during our trip I was trying to write a rough outline of my book, but I was having a really hard time seeing my overall vision in front of me. My go-to process is to make a vertical list, whatever comes to mind I write down. But that wasn’t working! I felt frustrated, like my idea was silly and wasn’t expandable. Maybe there’s another way to do this, I wondered? I turned the page to start over, then I rotated my book ninety degrees. “Make a mind map, Maggie, just like you did in middle school,” Zack said. And so I did! I wrote down the general idea of my book. Then I jotted down some chapter ideas. Then I expanded on each idea. Seeing my idea in it’s entirety was so ridiculously helpful, I couldn’t believe it! One expansion at a time, that’s how my book outline was created.
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Do you struggle with complicating your tasks? (Tell me I’m not alone!) I can see the mental process of “one bite at a time” helping in a variety of ways: re-organizing an area of your home, creating a new meal plan, updating a process with your small business, planning a party, or preparing for maternity leave.
Once I get started, it’s rarely as difficult as I anticipated it to be. Actually, it’s usually a really quick process and a whole lot of fun. Hooray!
PS. Here’s a link to that great shade of red nail polish I mentioned.
Oh Maggie, your words continue to be a breath of fresh air, a whisper of encouragement, a light shining when it would be so much easier to hide in the dark. I WILL take down that Christmas tree today one ornament at a time, all while fixing train tracks and doll shoes. And then, because of that little project out of my head space, I might even take nap time to pour myself a cup of tea and write a few positive words of my own. Your voice is everything to me right now. I can’t wait to read your book! Thank you.
((hug)) We are in this together!
This is an awesome post!! I’ve been doing the same things. Removing the distractions and absorbing myself in priorities and the little moments in the day. I’m seeing the joy eggs all over and that’s what it’s all about. Joy.
I’m so glad you commented!
I struggle with this too! I love the “one bite at a time” perspective! I think this could really help me in lots of situations!!
I need this post-it noted all over my house! ;)
Your posts are always so encouraging and this was exactly what I needed to read right now. We are preparing for a big move with a toddler and I am currently pregnant… I need the one bite at a time mentality instead of the “I’m never going to get anything done and I’m so overwhelmed!!!” attitude I’ve been stressing with lately. Thank you for continuing to encourage others in your busy season of life.
Hi Megan! Your comment means so much to me, thanks for sharing where you’re at in life — we’re in this together! xx
Ps. Is there someone who could watch your toddler for a couple hours so you can pack feverishly fast?
Slowly starting to do this. There are so many big to-dos on my list and this is the only way any of them are going to get done.