Don’t Cause Your Own Chaos

posted by Andrea | 05/6/2019

A couple weeks ago, I had an extremely busy week with several time sensitive projects for one of my Virtual Assistant clients, lots of extra activities at church, so many fun community events we could participate in, and all the busyness that accompanies the end of every school year (programs, concerts, preparing for teacher appreciation week, extra meetings, special days, treats, etc. etc.) 

To top it all off, the weather was finally starting to warm up and all I really wanted to do was spend time working in the yard. 

The week before, we had 6 big trees planted in various areas along our driveway and fence, we transplanted several shrubs, split tons of perennials, and really got things looking nice. Then we had 20+ yards of mulch delivered… which meant I really really REALLY wanted to spread that mulch over our planting beds and get it off our driveway.

One day in particular was especially packed full. 

I woke up (at the usual 4:00 time) with my mind already swirling as I mentally tried to rearrange the day in attempts to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together.

Here’s a short list of things I WANTED to do on that day: 

  • make vegetable quiche and banana bread for breakfast
  • finish the urgent VA work I left from the night before (NOTE: it is NOT normal for me to have time-sensitive VA work)
  • complete a few smaller projects on my own blog
  • get kids dressed, fed, and ready — and Nora off to school
  • wash all the kid’s bedding
  • get groceries (it had been over 2 weeks and we were running out of everything!)
  • take the younger 3 kids to a local play group from 9-10
  • go to an optional outside event at school (for Nora’s class) from 10:15-11
  • stop by the bank
  • stop home to put the groceries away, switch out the laundry, and eat lunch
  • head back to school to bring Simon to the same optional outside event from 12:15-1:00 
  • hurry home and hope Clara doesn’t fall asleep in the car
  • finish laundry and make the beds
  • cut up raw veggies and roast 3 pans of veggies (now that we actually had groceries in the house)
  • make dinner (I had salmon ready to go the night before)
  • clean up the house and get the kids in bed
  • help Dave spread mulch
  • wrap up blog work, make my to-do list for the next day, shower and go to bed

As I looked over everything on my list that morning, I knew it wasn’t all going to happen — especially since Clara didn’t sleep well the night before due to a stuffed up nose so I knew she would sleep in longer than normal (meaning I couldn’t leave the house to get groceries early enough to be back in time for the play group — and then the whole rest of the day’s time-line would be thrown off).

My brain kept swirling, running through possible scenarios that could allow me to fit everything… and after about 10 minutes, I realized that the majority of the tasks on my to-do list were OPTIONAL.

I DID NOT HAVE TO DO THEM! 

I was the cause of the busyness, the stress, and the chaos that would become of our day if I tried to pack everything in (with 3 kids along for the ride). 

So… I quickly re-evaluated and prioritized my day to look A LOT different! 

I finished the urgent VA work I had to do and completed the blog work for myself (all while the kids were still sleeping)

I nixed the quiche and banana bread and served breakfast burritos instead. 

I decided NOT to wash all the bedding, but just wash pillow cases, pillow liners, PJ’s, and the blankets they snuggle with at night.

I let Clara sleep in as long as she wanted and decided to skip the play group (the boys didn’t seem to care one bit).

I decided to skip the optional (outdoor) school events because it had started to drizzle. Simon was a little bummed, but got over it because I said we’d get donuts (see below).

I stopped by the bank, then used a BOGO coupon to get the kids donuts at a local bakery for their morning snack (which they thought was awesome).

Then we got a massive amount of groceries from 3 different stores! 

When we got home, I let the kids watch a movie in the car for 20 minutes while I put ALL the groceries away, changed out the laundry, and made lunch. 

I got Clara down for a nap at her normal time, then I read a few books with the boys, and then we played upstairs while I put the laundry away and put all the blankets/pillow cases back on.

After playing for a while, I got the boys started with a coloring project at the table while I cut up raw veggies and fresh fruit, and cut up / seasoned veggies to roast for dinner (the boys consumed many fruits and veggies for their afternoon snack). 

Dave and Nora got home right about the time Clara woke up from her nap, and everyone went upstairs to play while I finished a few computer-related projects and made dinner. 

We ate a delicious salmon dinner with roasted veggies, fresh fruit, homemade rolls (from the day before), and cheesecake (from earlier in the week)!

We cleaned up the house, got the kids in bed, and then Dave and I decided to skip the mulch as the weather still wasn’t great and we both had several other things to do. 

Dave graded tests while watching basketball. I worked on my digital photo books and a little craft project I started for the upcoming teacher appreciation week.

We went to bed fairly on-time without feeling overwhelmed or overly-exhausted. 

My entire day, my family’s day, and the following days were significantly happier, less stressed, less chaotic, and more enjoyable simply because I CHOSE TO LET GO of several of those “not-100%-completely-necessary” activities.

 

My family managed just fine without a gourmet breakfast. 

No one at the play group or the kids school was overly-disappointed that we didn’t show up.

The kids were thrilled to have a donut and a little extra TV time! 

The kids had plenty of time to play at home and we all enjoyed a slower pace to the day.

We still enjoyed a delicious dinner and had lots of fresh fruits and veggies to enjoy over the following days.

Everyone slept fine again in “dirty” sheets.

Dave and I enjoyed a more relaxing evening inside and we finished the mulch over the next 2 days.

.

Now, I completely understand that many of you might read through the list of things I decided to skip and think I got it all “wrong”. You would much rather attend play groups and events at your kids’ school versus finishing the laundry, getting groceries, and roasting veggies. 

BUT, based on MY personality and what I know about MY kids, I am confident my choices were the best choices for us on that day. 

The point I want to make is not that you should skip out on fun extracurricular activities or stay home instead of going out! 

Rather, I hope the next time you have an overly busy, stressful, or chaotic day ahead, you stop and remember this post – and then honestly evaluate whether you actually MUST do everything on your list, or if you can make the choice to eliminate some (or several) of the extra things. 

My guess is that more often than not, you will have at least a few to-dos you don’t actually HAVE to do (at least not that day). 

.

In general, I’m almost always a fan of “doing it now” versus waiting until later… but as I mentioned a couple weeks ago, there are almost always exceptions to every rule, and on extra busy, stressful, and chaotic days, I have found it’s often more beneficial for me AND for my family if I take a step back, put a few non-essentials off for a bit, and re-prioritize my day. 

Of course, we cannot do this every single day… but once in a while, it might be just the “break” we need to maintain our sanity. 

NOTE: If you feel like you are constantly stressed and living in chaos, you probably have way too much on your plate right now. Maybe it’s just a really busy season of life for you, or maybe you need to start staying “no” a little more often

As you go through this VERY busy time of year, take a few extra minutes to think through and plan your days.

Realistically determine what you can and cannot accomplish… then, honestly evaluate if there is anything you can remove from your list (either for now, or for good!)

Don’t be the cause of your own chaos! 

1Shares

Filed under: FamilySchedulesTime Management

Leave a comment

21 comments

  1. Debbie

    05/07/2019

    I’m also a “do it now” kind of person, mostly because I don’t want to forget. As I came home from the airport yesterday for a sisters get-away weekend, I had a list in my mind of what I need to do as soon as I got home. I couldn’t even sit down to eat lunch until I unpacked and put away things. I also had in mind to put away Easter decors spread all over the house, record expenses from my trip, and buy a gift card my sister asked me to get for my mom for her mother’s day gift. All these things made me stressed after coming home from a nice vacation which is not ideal. I decided I didn’t have to go out and get the gift card that day. That one thing alone off my list made a huge difference for me. I finished everything and had time to talk to my husband and share about my trip as well as watch a couple of shows with him before heading off to bed. I agree that we don’t have to do everything that’s in our list for the day. If it’s starting to become stressful re-evaluate the list and see what is not time sensitive and move it to the next day.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh good, glad you put off something until later (Note: I ALWAYS unpack immediately when I get home — even if it’s super late at night!)

    [Reply]

  2. JJ

    05/07/2019

    So wise!

    [Reply]

  3. Hannah Beth Reid

    05/07/2019

    Thank you for this post!
    I think of situations like as needing to think ahead. If you hadn’t chosen to grocery shop, not only would you have been at a loss for veggies for dinner, you would still need to shop the next day. And some “needs” are really ok to push off.
    The reminder to think through to-dos and see what is necessary for today and what can be pushed and moved around is timely!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes exactly. I felt like grocery shopping was a MUST do for me that day — and although I don’t love going to the store with 3 kids, it wasn’t bad and it was a huge stress-relief for the rest of that week too!

    [Reply]

  4. Jennifer

    05/06/2019

    For some of us no one puts more pressure on us than ourselves. Then we remember that it is our OUR to-do list, our own expectations, our choice. Liberating! I fret dropping something and then feel so relieved that I did.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes exactly!

    [Reply]

  5. Dawn

    05/06/2019

    This is so true! I have one child graduating this year from high school and we are keeping her grad party simple. When I hear of what others are doing, I just think – you know, I don’t need to do that and add the extra stress and money. And at the end of the day, it’s what works best for your family, right?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh my, those graduation parties can get OUT OF CONTROL! Dave comments on them every year (we are invited to so many)> Glad you are keeping yours simple!

    [Reply]

  6. Nancy

    05/06/2019

    Good thoughts, Andrea. I feel like May can be every bit as hectic as December. No need to make it more difficult by insisting on trying to do it “all.”

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, May and December — crazy months!

    [Reply]

  7. Stel

    05/06/2019

    This is the ONE thing that I learnt to control in my slightly chaotic life!
    All my fixed activities (gym, crochet group etc) as well as those of the boys (extramurals), are pencilled into my diary. The moment an additional item comes up and it has to happen on an already busy day, I let go of something else. Only the real, necessary duties remains. No more chasing my own tail trying to make all activities.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — well you picked ONE really good thing to be amazing at!

    [Reply]

  8. Annette Silveira

    05/06/2019

    What I hope everyone sees when they read this is “What works best for ME?” I know that’s what you intend and that’s really the only way decision making works in this day of The Best Way To…
    We have so much chatter coming at us from all sides and it’s hard to sit back like you did and ask “But what do I need?”

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, yes, yes! I hope that’s always the messages that come through on my daily posts!

    [Reply]

  9. Mallory

    05/06/2019

    Yes! Yes! Yes, I had to learn to do this as well. On Sunday night I always look at the week ahead , and if I see an extremely busy week. I will purposely make room for quiet time so I can prepare myself for each day. I will also make a mental note to say no to further commitments for that week. This has become my outlook for several holidays as well, especially during the summer. I don’t want to spend hours purchasing and making food for a get together, I don’t want to spend the day at someone else’s house making small talk, (unless it’s someone I’m very close to and comes naturally) , I don’t want to arrive home late, tired and rushing kids to bed, it then bleeds into the following day bc no one sleeps in and it’s hard to get things done when we are cranky and tired from being gone all day. There are exceptions to the rule like you said. Thanksgiving and Christmas and usually Easter we do a big dinner with family, the other holidays are our time to make memories with our kids. Same with the weekends. I don’t want commitments on Saturdays, it’s the only day we are all home together, especially during the short summer season . So many times busyness is an option , I never got pulled into the running kids to sports and extra activities. Two take piano, we do two weeks of swim lessons each summer, and each season one child gets to decide if they want to play a sport. That is enough for me and no one has ever complained that they are missing out. We’ve had kids in basketball and t-ball, one played a trial game of soccer and decided she was not interested, this summer our oldest boy is attending golf lessons for a week in June, another would like to play the winter basketball season. They don’t all need to be in sports at the same time, nor does each child need a sport to attend every season . It’s too much. It’s important for us to have dinner as a family as often as possible and that is the first thing to go with sports and extra activities . I also need to have a orderly home and that is the second thing to go . Well rested kids are important to me, it’s not worth risking all that to be busy. Busy does not make me or the kids happy, we have learned to slow down and realize its a short time that we have some control over how busy we are , the kids will soon be grown with jobs and attending high school, friends, activities they can drive themselves to, for now less commitments means more family memories.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I’m with you on the less busy holidays. I honestly don’t even love doing Thanksgiving Christmas and Easter (I know, I’m a scrooge) I just want to be home with my own family — not doing all the crazy house hoping and eating all the food that makes me feel awful the next day!
    I need to let my kids experience these big holidays with family though — I know I always looked forward to these times when I was a kid!

    [Reply]

  10. Meghan

    05/06/2019

    Andrea, I love this post! It’s one of my favorites ever written. I used to be the person who tried to do your first list. The Holy Spirit and (my very supportive) husband have helped me reevaluate my priorities. Most of the time doing everything on a very packed list creates stress that hurts my relationship and interactions with my children. Sometimes I verbally go over “my have to dos” with my husband and he helps me pair down to what is absolutely necessary. My advice to any one who struggles with doing too much is no one is going to give you a blue ribbon at the end of the day for your efforts. Like you mentioned, no one really noticed or cared that you didn’t meet all of your expectations for the day. It’s one’s own pride that is creating unnecessary stress. It’s hard to exhibit love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, and self control when I’m running around like a crazy person.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    wow — thanks Meghan! That means a lot coming from you as I KNOW you’ve read many of my posts 🙂

    [Reply]

  11. Kate

    05/06/2019

    THANK YOU!! I needed this. I feel like I’ve been spinning in circles the last couple of weeks, for a lot of the same reasons you mentioned (year-end activities at school, church activities, yard work, etc, plus the normal work and home responsibilities!)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    you’re welcome Kate 🙂

    [Reply]