. . . just not the LAST five minutes.”
Have you ever heard that quote? It’s not my own. I can’t remember where I heard it. Google came up with nothing. I have been saying it for most of my married life, but I’m not sure where this tidbit of wisdom originated. I have come to realize how very true it is.
As I was working through last week’s plan and deciding on things that frustrate me and things that went well, I came to the conclusion that the things that went really well were not the easy ones, but the ones that I tackled on time – a little at a time. The simple things that I put off were the things that overwhelmed me.
When my kitchen schedule said to make butter on Tuesday, I started the butter – took about 5 minutes. I moved on to other things while the mixer was churning. An hour later when it FINALLY made butter, I spent 5 minutes washing and then I set it aside and later that afternoon I spent 5 minutes forming the blocks. The same thing worked with my sourdough bread – 5 minutes to start and then off to do school. 5 minutes to begin kneading and then off to change the laundry. 5 minutes to finish kneading and 5 minutes to form the loaves (I did that in a row for 10 minutes). Those kinds of tasks went really well last week.
Things that didn’t go well were planning meals, but not starting them at the beginning of the day. Five minutes in the morning and five minutes at lunch usually has my supper well on its way, but 3 times last week I did not do this. And three times I was scrambling at 8:00pm to finish the kitchen chores from a late supper. I also put off several scheduled tasks that I just didn’t want to do. When I finally tackled one of them (clean and organize my baking corner), it took exactly seven minutes. REALLY!! And I put this off for 3 days. I should know better.
So here are my lessons learned:
Be realistic when setting goals and scheduling tasks.
- Three reasonable and focused goals accomplished through a series of realistic tasks is fulfilling and encouraging. For example, the goal might be to clean the master bedroom (which is truly a need). Divide this into 12 smaller tasks that can each be accomplished in about 15 minutes (Sort the box of paperwork; Fold the pile of clean laundry; Clean the floor under the bed; etc.). Spread these tasks out over two weeks. In two weeks the goal is accomplished – done well and with only a little consistent effort.
- Twelve vague and desperate goals listed like each one is a task unto itself is overwhelming and doomed to almost certain failure. For example, the goal is still to clean the bedroom but that goal is recorded for tomorrow like it is a task all by itself and you have nothing else to do. Possible Scenario: Walk into the room. See so many things that need to be done. Do a little of this and a little of that with no focused effort. Get overwhelmed when nothing seems to be accomplished. Feel relieved when the phone rings. In two weeks, the laundry pile has doubled, the box of papers is now mixed up with a box of sewing notions (because each task was started, but neither was finished. When it was time for bed, they were all swept off the bed into the same box), and cleaning under the bed never even crossed your mind.
Schedule in short breaks and margin time.
- A short break does not mean switching from the laundry to the dishes by way of Facebook. A short break means doing something that is relaxing AND good for you. Possibilities include, but are not limited to, a musical interlude, a brisk walk outside, a quick shower, a cup of herbal tea and an inspiring story, a power nap, sketching a flower, a cold glass of homemade real lemonade on a hot day, etc.
- Margin time is a life-saver when days go awry or tasks take longer than scheduled. Margin time can be one half hour scheduled two or three times each week, or a couple of hours set aside on Saturday morning. Anything that “runs over” or just doesn’t happen can be moved to that slot. On the rare occasion that you don’t need that time, enjoy your break.
Schedule in tasks that inspire and not just tasks that drain.
- We are each different and the tasks that we enjoy are different. If I schedule 7 cleaning tasks for one morning (or even one day) I will be one VERY grumpy lady. But I love to sew and I enjoy school (especially Audible books) with the children. This won’t be the same for everyone, but write down all the tasks that need to be done. Make sure at least half of them are enjoyable. Mix them up during the day so that there is always something to anticipate, always something to spur us forward.
Practice self-discipline. It is a skill.
- As a mother of twelve children I can honestly say that this seems to come much more naturally to some than others. But even the most undisciplined can develop this very important skill. Set a schedule of tasks for just one hour each morning and one hour each night (or start with 30 minutes). Practice that series of tasks until it is truly a routine – no variation! (or as little as possible. Really!!). It will be amazing how easy it is to then add a mid-day routine and then an after work/school routine. Just like playing an instrument, one doesn’t start with a whole complicated piece. One starts with learning the notes, one at a time, and then practicing until those notes and rhythms become memorized and smooth. Before long, an entire song does flow . . . just as the days will flow when self-discipline is a developed skill.
Five minutes invested early is FAR more peaceful and productive than fifteen minutes spent at the deadline.
- “One can do anything in five minutes . . . just not the last five minutes.” Plan ahead. Set specific goals and schedule reasonable tasks. Do them in a timely manner so that the last five minutes are spent enjoying the results instead of sprinting recklessly to the finish line.
Our meal plan for this week looks something like this:
What can you accomplish in 5 minutes this week (not the last 5 minutes)? What is your best advice for investing your time?
This post was shared with Menu Plan Monday.