Finding My Flow
As a freelance writer, speaker and homeschooling parent, I think a lot about productivity. I am a self-diagnosed listaholic, and few things feel better at the end of the day, than to check off all the things on my list before turning in for the night. Okay, there is one thing that feels better, completely clearing out my inbox, but the daily task list runs a close second, with successfully navigating my daily food choices a late runner, but still always within the scope of my attention.
If there is one thing I’ve learned about productivity through the years, it is that I still have a remarkable amount to learn about how to maximize it. Oh, and that making and achieving lists is probably more therapeutic than productive, but still makes my anal retentive self happy, so I should keep it up (note to all my anal retentive readers: lists made on graph paper are even more satisfying and orderly).
As with many other areas of my life, having children has taught me way more about myself than I might have learned on my own. For instance, I never would have known that selective hearing is a self-defense mechanism that naturally occurs at the moment a woman conceives her first child. This gives Mothers the necessary time to hone this sanity-saving skill by the time the child is 5.
God is good, yes?
For instance, have you ever had those moments when you’re standing in the laundry room calling your children to come and help fold clothes? You yell and yell, and no one hears you? This happened to me recently.
Steaming, I stomped across the house, flinging open the door to Emelie’s room. I found her inside donning headphones, fully immersed in a creative pursuit, hands and face covered in paint, happy and blissfully oblivious to anything going on in the world around her.
Backing out before she saw me, I opened Meredith’s door with less severity and found her, also wearing headphones, sitting with her back against her closet door, plucking notes on her guitar while scratching lyrics across a notebook. Content, calm, and completely cocooned in her singleminded focus, I left her to continue.
At that point, forgetting about the laundry, I walked down the hall to see what Kenny was doing. His door half-open, I stepped in and found no one inside. My eyes were drawn across the room to his two floor-length windows right as he and his friend Austin ran past outside, blasting each other with water guns – laughing, diving to dodge the spray – alive in the moment.
I have already personally debunked the myth of multi-tasking, but have yet to master the art of single-tasking. My kids are a different story altogether; they can single-task like nobody’s business.
They know how to lose themselves fully in the things that capture and hold their attention (art, music, books) or challenge them (Legos, video games, water fights).
I’m convinced we were all much better at finding our flow as children than as adults. As a child, my cousin and I spent hours at my grandparents’ place, collecting twigs and branches to tie together with hay bale twine to create, what I remember to be, the most amazing shacks in the depths of the dry creek beds. Banked with clay on two sides, and loosely woven walls on the other, she and I fought off intruders, ran from mad bulls (not really), and swung across deep chasms on vines (while at the same time praying they didn’t rip out of the trees). Dirty, sunbathed, and oblivious to the passing day, we rarely felt the pangs of hunger or thirst, and often missed Grandma calling us in for dinner until we saw Grandpa across the pasture, walking to collect us.
As a Mother, I falsely convince myself that I must hold the world, or at the very least, all my family’s details in my head at all times. There is no room for flow when my biggest daily task is efficiently getting everything done without fail.
What I’m beginning to realize is that I don’t need to accomplish so much in a single day.
Instead, I need to choose one or two things, and as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, allow myself the freedom to focus on them one at a time.
I believe this is a step toward living a more peaceful life. One where the daily stressors don’t eat away the days and consume the nights. A life where I get just as good a night’s sleep as my children, where priorities align, and the tasks that truly need to be accomplished can be completed in a timely manner.