When It Pays to be Unproductive

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I grew up in a family where as soon as we were done eating, my grandmother would get out her Hokey vacuum sweeper and pick up every last crumb from under the table.  Every meal was directly followed by well-orchestrated dish washing and when my grandmother finally got a dishwasher, everything still needed to be washed before going in it.  I’m not sure if this mentality came from growing up on a farm (I didn’t, but my parents did) where everyone is up before dawn and the work is never done, but I come from a family that can’t bring themselves to sit.  Even now, I would never catch one of my maternal aunts or uncles just sitting—reading—watching TV, they are always doing something.

And as a result, the thought of “just being” makes me feel guilty and incredibly uneasy.  Because, truth be told, there is always something I could, should, need, and/or like to be doing.  I actually don’t even know what “just being” is…what does one do, when you aren’t doing?

So in preparation for my Create Your Filter for 2017 workshop that I recently created, I completed the exercise that includes a schedule audit.  Writing everything down that you do in a typical week and then highlighting it by color to see where your big chunks of time are going.  And even though I talk about this all the time, and work on continuously streamlining my life, it was an eye opener for me.  The items that glared back at me:

  1. After school each day, I, in theory, close my work day so that I can focus on the kids, afternoon activities, meal prep, etc.  But work keeps creeping back in, because my kids don’t really “need” me for 3 hours after school, and there is only so much straightening and meal prep one needs to do each afternoon.  So my boundary for work had slowly eroded.
  2. On the weekends, I use the majority of the time to regroup for the week. I grocery shop, batch cook, clean and do laundry.  And I couldn’t account for anything else, yet I’m at home for hours on end.  I’ve let those activities stretch through the majority of both days because I don’t dare sit down.
  3. On the weekends, while we are all home together for the whole weekend typically, we have no structured or anticipated quality time as a family…why?  See #2.

My desperate need to be productive and make the most of every minute, is at the detriment of quality family time.  I’ve always banked on the fact that we are all together, in our small house, so that we are having together time.  But that’s not a reality.  Every request from the boys to “read me this book”, “play this game”, “watch this” is met with “in a minute, let me just do this one more thing”.

So this was my wake up call that being unproductive actually pays dividends in quality time, memories, laughter and true together time.  So I printed out a new blank calendar, and penciled in what I really need for the productive weekend activities, and put a hard stop on work at 3 each day—I’ve given them boundaries, and then inked in the remaining time to just be…with my family.

Now that’s just half the battle of course.  The first step was realizing the problem and putting the boundaries in place.  The next step was giving myself the permission I needed to just be.  But it does not change the fact that I don’t sit well. I can’t just sit next to my kids while they are doing their homework and just be–can I?  But that’s my challenge to myself.  It’s not enough to be here, I need to also be present.  Even if that means I need to sit on my hands!  Wish me luck!

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