One Word for 2014: Live {January Update}

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One Word for 2014: Live {January Update}

Despite the fact that I’m a bit overwhelmed by life at the moment, I’m determined to be intentional about my choices in 2014 — more specifically, to be intentional about slowing down, managing my time and making choices that better reflect my priorities.

As part of my one word {LIVE}, I’ve decided to work through three books this year, one chapter a month: Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine, Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford, and Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider.

Today I’m sharing my thoughts about chapter 1 of Say Goodbye to Survival Mode — Stop Trying to Do It All — over at Money Saving Mom, and I also focused on chapter 1 of Hands Free Mama, Acknowledging the Cost. {Notes from a Blue Bike just arrived this week, so I’ll start working through the first section in February.}

I love Rachel Macy Stafford’s encouraging words and commitment to living hands free and all in. This doesn’t come easily for me since I’m about as task-oriented and introverted as they come, but with the adolescent years just around the corner, I’m feeling the pull to really “tie the heart strings” of my girls to my own to help us get through those years.

This chapter, like the first chapter of Say Goodbye to Survival Mode, was about acknowledging that for every thing we say yes to, we’re saying no to another.

The hard part for me, as a work-at-home mom who homeschools, is that rules like closing the computer when my kids are awake are simply not an option. I need to get a full week’s work in and still have time to unwind and sleep in order to function.

That means teaching my girls that when I’m at the computer, I’m working, and that if they constantly interrupt me, work will take longer. Which means — and here’s my big epitome for the month — when I’m sitting with my nose glued to the computer screen, I need to actually be working.

Rachel offers four practices in Chapter 1 that I focused on this month, and each one hit home for me with the weight of its potential impact on my life:

Go Hands Free at Specific Times

This hands free time for me, more than any other time, needs to be in the car. I have a much easier time setting technology aside when I’m busy at home, but because car trips are never less than 30-45 minutes for us, it’s too easy for me to pick up my phone and fiddle with it while we drive. The girls are often busy during this time listening to stories, playing games, etc. and may not even notice, but this is also a chance for Sean and I to have one-on-one conversations with fairly few distractions, and I want to protect that time better.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve been trying to go “hands free” in the car for 5 weeks now and I’m still not very good at it. Sometimes we want to look something up on the internet together (usually to settle some goofy argument about a weather phenomena, historical fact, etc.), but more often I’m simply checking Facebook and Instagram.

So I’m writing this publicly as I redouble my efforts and commit to being hands free in the car.

Identify Distraction

I shared my time and energy wasters in my guest post at Money Saving Mom, so I’m not going to repeat them here. Hint: the internet.

One Word for 2014: Live {January Update}

Invest in Moments That Matter

While living intentionally is often about saying no and giving things up, I love that Rachel offers a positive spin on this practice by reminding readers to invest in the moments that matter. With four girls and a new baby boy, there are dozens of these opportunities every day, and opening my eyes wide so that I see them is just as important as actually seizing the moment.

Moments like when Jackson first opens his sleepy eyes and stares up at me, when I’d be tempted to try to get a few more emails sent or words written before he needs my full attentions. Moments when the 4-year-old is inside by herself and I can grab a chance to read and snuggle with her. Or when our 6-year-old is feeling left out of the big girls’ play and I can take time to play with her myself. Or when the older girls want to show me their latest creation, read me a story they’ve written, or tell me about the minutiae of their day.

These moments happen so often that it can be easy to classify them as mundane, but they really are the moments that matter. Ironically, the reason I work at home is so that I don’t miss them, but I think working from home might be hurting more than it’s helping at this point.

Let Go of the To-Do List

This is one I’ve actually gotten pretty good at in the months since Jackson was born. I still need to make a to-do list, obviously, because there are things I need to get done, but I have learned to walk away from the to-do list at times and not let the things that don’t get done weigh me down. This is a fine balance because I want to be productive and hard-working but I don’t want to live and die by a list of tasks.

One thing that helps me to let go of the to-do list is a weekly brain dump, where I write down everything in my head (whether it can realistically be accomplished or not). Sometimes just writing it down and acknowledging that it would be a nice thing to do — like dusting the baseboards, which simply isn’t happening during this stage of life — is enough for me to stop thinking about it and essentially cross it off the list.

One Word for 2014: Live {January Update}

Successes & Failures in January

As we kicked off the New Year, my focus was simply on being more aware of the choices I’m making. I’m also learning to focus on each individual moment so that I don’t find myself discouraged by the big picture rather than celebrating my individual successes in this area. But I also need to acknowledge my failures so that I can continue to do better.

One thing that’s hard for me is deciphering when my failures are due to poor habits and bad choices and when it’s the weight of PPD pulling me under. At this point I tend to have good days and bad days, and I need to give myself more grace and room to breathe on the bad days, so I’m only counting the successes and failures from the good days!

Here’s where we’re at for the first month of the year:

  • Stopping and looking the girls in the eyes when they talk to me. I would say I’m hitting this 50/50. Sometimes I’m really good at it and sometimes I tell them I can’t look or talk even when I could, just because I’m feeling overwhelmed or selfish. Those times typically happen when I’m nursing and trying to sneak in a few minutes of reading time if I’m being honest.
  • Playing games with the girls. I think about doing this all the time, although I’ve only fit it in a few times so far. But I’m going to call that progress.
  • Avoid wasting time on the computer when I’m bored. I’ve actually gotten pretty good at turning off the computer or walking away from it when I’m just clicking around out of boredom. Now I want to get better at walking away before I reach that point!
  • Being more intentional and spontaneous about play dates and coffee dates. I’m trying, but I’ll admit I still end up pushing this one into the “later, when I have more time” category…as if that day will ever come. We do have a play date scheduled for tomorrow, though!
  • Enjoying my time with Jackson rather than passing him off to someone else so I can get work done. Although there are definitely times when the girls or Sean take Jackson while I work, or I set him in his swing beside me, I think I’ve found a good balance here.
  • Closing the computer even when there’s work to be done. For me, this is mostly about creating a realistic to-do list, focusing on the things that have to get done first and then making time for one or two little projects without getting sucked into the vortex of big ideas. It’s still a work in progress, and I’m nowhere near perfect at it, but I’m getting there.
  • Making time for one-on-one dates with the girls. We’ve been doing a lot of family activities lately that don’t leave a lot of time for one-on-one dates, but I’m trying to do better about inviting one of them to help me in the kitchen or grocery shop with me, even though my introverted self enjoys doing those activities alone!

I’m really enjoying taking the time to focus on one chapter at a time in each of these books so that I don’t just read the words once and then move on. In February I’m going to focus on Saying Yes to the Best (from Say Goodbye to Survival Mode), Making Purposeful Connection (from Hands Free Mama) and Awakening (from Notes from a Blue Bike)

Here’s to a life worth living in 2014!

Did you pick a word for 2014? How is it going so far?