Feeling a Little Behind?

20455864 I was caught up once, in the year 2000, and it lasted about a week.  I remember it quite distinctly, because it felt absolutely glorious.  I’m not sure how I managed it, exactly (I was the mother of two young preschoolers at the time), but nonetheless, for one brief week, I was completely, 100% caught up on housework, projects, crafts, everything.

It hasn’t happened since.

The fact is, I simply have more to accomplish than can reasonably be done in the time allotted me.  Period.  Add to this that I am easily distracted and even more easily overwhelmed, and what do you get?  Many, many unfinished tasks.

I begin unloading the dishwasher and halfway through I realize I’m out of detergent so I add it to my grocery list, but on my way to the grocery list I see a pile of dirty socks on the floor so I take them to the laundry room, but when I get in there I see my husband’s shirt that needs a button sewn on, so I get out my sewing supplies but when I look at my scissors I remember I have a gift to wrap for a birthday party, so….shall I go on?

After a few hours of this, I realize that I’ve been very busy, but little has been accomplished.  I’ve just been bouncing from thing to thing, finishing nothing.  And that little part of my personality that craves a sense of completion every now and then is frustrated and stressed out.  Does anyone else have this problem? 

This was becoming such a cause of frustration for me that a couple of weeks ago I instituted a very simple rule for myself.  One word:  FINISH.

If I’m unloading the dishwasher, I do not allow myself to veer away to anything else until I am FINISHED unloading the dishwasher.  Even if it seems important.  Even if I’m afraid I’ll forget it if I don’t do it RIGHT NOW.  The reality is that something else will probably remind me of it later.  And truly, if my children are fed and loved and taught about the Lord, is any of the rest of it THAT critical?

There are exceptions to my rule, of course–life with little children is full of important interruptions.  Sometimes I must stop what I’m doing to referee a wrestling match teach my children to love each other, and that’s okay.  But when I’m done wiping the blood off of them leading them to reconciliation I’m making a concerted effort to come back to what I was doing, instead of finding another task to start.

This may sound terribly elementary to some of you who are more disciplined than I am.  Maybe you get up at the crack of dawn and are utterly on top of everything in your home (if this is the case, then why in the heck are you reading my blog?  Comic relief?).  But if, like me, you need a little help in the focus department, then please, leave a comment and share any pointers that help you FINISH. 

42 thoughts on “Feeling a Little Behind?

  1. Laura says:

    I’m awful about this. I’ll be all productive and move from one room to another to put something away and then realize that I need to take such-and-such to the garage and when I’m in the garage, I notice that the wet mop is still in there and then…it just all falls apart. I’ve tried to do the same thing you are doing here – finish. I also try to restrain myself to one room. If I have stuff to put away, I either make some piles and put them away when I’m ready to leave that room or if I leave that room before I’m done being productive in it, I make myself aware of what I’m doing and why so that I don’t get distracted. Taking my glasses off or contact lenses out helps too. That way I can’t see anything else. 🙂

  2. Adventures In Babywearing says:

    Goodness, my life is one big interruption. I feel the same way- doing a whole lot of busy work with nothing to show for it. Just recently I’ve really been keeping a list with a cute sharpie pen attached, and crossing off things as I get them done- even the smallest of tasks I will write down because #1 even though it’s simple I’ll still forget and #2 it’s so fun to cross things off, gives a sense of accomplishment, even if it’s a silly little task! This has helped lately. But I am eager to see any real helpful suggestions you get (and it better not be FLYLADY!)

  3. Laura says:

    I thought I was reading one of my diary entries!!! No, really, who has time for a diary these days?
    Today is my first day doing the Clean Heart, Clean Home challenge – seems so much better than Flylady, because everything is right there for you to print out. Plus, you don’t get those annoying emails all day long… so far, my front door is clean & my entryway is clean. (I readjusted the schedule because I couldn’t start on time, since we were out of town last weekend – I’ll still take the whole 52 days if I need it, but since our place is so small, I think I can manage in 45 days…) Now, in the grand scheme of things, you wouldn’t notice the door or the entry 😛 but I have faith that at the end of the 52 day challenge, everything in my home will have been cleaned thoroughly, even if you won’t be able to tell that by day 53!!!
    Oh, yeah, I got sidetracked… no advice for the not finishing a task, though. Let me know if you find anything that helps. (I ask as I sit here, looking at the white laundry to be folded in the basket, where I dropped it to fix the kids lunch, after which I scrubbed my front door while thinking of the 52 day challenge…)

  4. Wendy says:

    I feel like this a lot too. One thing that has helped me is having a check list for the day (I try to do this before bed the night before). There is something so great about being able to check things off. I try not to write down realistic goals for the day, since with 3 little ones life can get crazy. And, of course, you need to fit in blogging a little (ha!) Someone (maybe it was flylady?) suggested to me to do one room or task at a time until it is completely done. That sounds simple, but it has helped me.
    I love the picture you used on this post!

  5. Amber says:

    I am the same as you. I get started on some noble task and in the middle of said task get sidetracked with other little noble tasks so that it seems like I accomplish nothing. I am still hoping to someday get my housework all caught up. I tried Flylady but couldn’t handle all the email reminders that came in every day either. I may have to go check out that Clean Heart Clean Home idea that another reader posted.

  6. Antique Mommy says:

    It is hard to stay on task with a little one underfoot and so many interruptions. I find that if I can just be satisfied with doing some tasks “good enough” and not perfectly it helps. And really some stuff you think needs done (organzing pictures/recipes/coupons that you never use) really doesn’t.

  7. Mama Darlin says:

    Yay!! I am not alone! I too have been trying to spruce up my work habits, seeing as I am always running around doing something, but then…well you know the story. 🙂
    My trick lately is to of finish something I start, but also to not worry about the order. For instance, I couldn’t vacuum until I dusted and polished, which I couldn’t do until finished sorting piles of things that would create dust. But with three small kids I don’t have the time to devote like that. Hence nothing gets put away, dusted or vacuumed. SO now, I do it when it needs it whether or not I did the other things first. If the floor is dirty I vacuum/mop, then I worry about the other stuff.
    Also I make lists! It sounds so simple, but it does feel so nice at the end of the day to toss all your chores in the recycle bin. 🙂

  8. Lisa says:

    I haven’t been caught up since before the little one was born. It seems that even if I do finish something, it needs to be done again as soon as I do finish, ugh.

  9. Melissa says:

    I TRIED Fly Lady, too. Actually, the book was much better than the website. Still, I’ll have to try to Clean Heart, Clean Home thing.
    One thing I DID get from Fly Lady, and try to do when I really need to focus…set a timer for 15 minutes. DO NOT LEAVE THAT ROOM. Clean what you can (put anything that doesn’t belong in a basket to take out when you leave). When 15 minutes is up, leave. If you have time to keep cleaning, go to another room & do the same thing. If you have a 3rd 15 minutes, go back to the first room for 15. THEN take a 15-minute break. TAKE THE BREAK! In one hour, you’ve gotten started (and maybe even finished) 2 rooms, and even had a break! And you don’t feel so burned out.
    Even if you don’t want to do the whole rotation thing, I highly recommend the timer. It keeps you on track to see how much you can get done in 15 minutes (usually a lot more than you think.)

  10. Cheri says:

    Hi Self o/ (waves madly) I do battle this, and it is something I deal with daily. I haven’t done her in a while but FlyLady really helped me come to terms with my ”perfection tendencies”. Comic relief? I had two spills (one being half a gallon of milk, the other being a big cup of water (in another room) and a child wanting to make hot chocolate so he put the powder and COLD WATER in and then didn’t understand it not being HOT CHOCOLATE, this afternoon 😀

  11. Cheri says:

    Heh and yeah I did flylayd very briefly but the 548542152598878554 emails a day ended up annoying me, but applying her ideas *did* work. LOL

  12. Carol says:

    I just don’t start anything until I know I can do it start to finish. And that’s my reason why nothing ever gets done around here.

  13. Sarah says:

    Shannon, I started using Lisa Whelchel’s daily organizer for my to do list. There are three columns, one for Phone, one for Do, and one for Go. I write my tasks down, stick it on the fridge, and don’t do ANYTHING else until everything is crossed off. And whatever doesn’t get done goes on the next day’s list. It’s simple and has worked for me so far. You can find her template at lisawhelchel.com 🙂

  14. Tammy says:

    I’m right there with you…too many tasks, easily distracted…it’s a neverending story here.
    I’ll have to check out Lisa’s template Sarah mentioned- I love Lisa’s site and in fact, that is how I found everyone’s blog…one blog at a time!

  15. Susanne says:

    I can so relate!! And I will not tell you how many things I’ve misplaced becuase I got distracted and laid it down and got distracted again and on and on…. What you’re doing is exactly what I’ve started to do. I’m feeling comfort knowing I’m not the only one! 🙂

  16. Cheryl says:

    I have to agree with Sarah, “you’ve been caught up?” I haven’t been caught up since the fall of 1993. Really.
    I just knew I couldn’t be the only one that felt this way. The first time I read that little story that has been passed around the internet about the woman who gets ready to go to bed and on the way………(well she ends up doing a days work before she gets there because she keeps getting sidetracked). Anyway, I couldn’t believe how much it resembled my life. Why is it I don’t feel like I am slowing down at my age (51) but it takes me forever to do what I use to do in a short amount of time. Thanks for reminding me I’m not alone!!

  17. momrn2 says:

    I have no ideas… I just stopped by the comments to see what everyone else was offering up. I’m in the same boat with you!!

  18. Heather says:

    I would answer you- but the phone is ringing- let me go downstairs and get it, oh while I’m here I’ll unload the dryer, oh yeah – feed the cat – Dang the cat box….
    ANYWAY! I’ll answer this post when I’ amm caught up – clear your calender for March 2010! Tentatively

  19. Shannon in Arizona says:

    WOW I wish I had some advice I will be reading the comments when I am done to see if there are any ideas out there. The only thing I have done, which I know not everyone can or will, is buy a new washer and dryer. We had a small one we had bought when we got married and the tub was small…..so it took forever to do clothes. We bought an LG front washer and dryer and WOW I get clothes done in half the time. PLUS, I can set the timer on the washer to wash the clothes up to 8 or 9 hours ahead….this has helped me keep up on my laundry which was my weakness. Now if it could just fold itself…..and put itself away……

  20. Jan says:

    You have actually been caught up? I’m impressed. I have never, in my whole life, been caught up. Lists and timers help. Having a totally concrete, sequential husband helps (since I am totally random and abstract). Living in an RV helps, since there is less space to keep a lot of stuff, and less stuff to clean. But with little ones, I guess that would not bee very practical.

  21. meg says:

    I, too, have this problem. Didn’t really surface until I had a baby. I have to laugh when I get to the end of my day sometimes and pass by things on the way to the bedroom that were half done…a half-emptied basket of laundry, milk carton on the kitchen counter (sweating and lukewarm), etc. etc. Sometimes you just have to laugh to stay sane. And sanity, for me, has meant that I don’t have to check off every item from my to-do list to have a good day. At least I try to tell myself that…. :0)

  22. ABC Momma says:

    I try to focus on just one thing to get done per day. All the distractions are fine, just as long as that one thing is done. Oh, and I get my kids involved. Today I cleaned the kitchen while the kids took out the household garbage & recycling. Tomorrow we will be cleaning bathrooms, etc, etc.
    I was never a good fly baby.

  23. Jennie C says:

    Same problem over here! I like crossing things off a list, though, so I made laminated lists of the daily repeating chores (like making the bed and wiping down the bathroom) and the things I want to do on each day but not everyday (like washing the cloth diapers or mopping the kitchen floor). I can check them off with a wet erase marker, wipe it clean at the end of the day, and reuse it. Odd things like sewing on buttons can be added in marker and wiped off with the rest.

  24. beth says:

    Unlurking cause I actually have something that doesn’t look like it’s been mentioned yet. Making lists the night before is great if you need help organizing your day but if your problem is just getting distracted in the middle of a task (which is what I suffer from in spades) I’ve found that keeping a 3×5 card and pen in my pocket helps me immensely. So then if I’m, for example, emptying the dishwasher and I realize I need to add soap to the grocery list, I write down quickly “add dish soap to grocery list” on the 3×5 card and finish emptying the dishwasher. Then I go on to whatever my next task I had scheduled was. Then, when I’m finished doing what I’ve set out to do for the day (or I’m done for the day regardless of whether or not I’m finished) I can do any of the “Oh, I should just real quick take care of that” things that are on my 3×5 card and I can schedule any bigger things that I think of for the next day or later in the week. But I’ve found that writing it down real fast gets it out of my head so I don’t worry about trying to remember it and then kick myself when I can’t remember that thing I thought of when I was emptying the dishwasher.

  25. Rachel says:

    I SOOO identify with tyour post! I see others have mentioned FLYlady, but the timer idea is what keeps me on track. Otherwise NOTHING gets done.

  26. maria says:

    alas, i haven’t been caught up since ’97, but it was a nice day. really i’m here for the ideas..because i have none, but i do agree with the big washer..i LOVE mine. best money i ever spent and i tell everyone, the laundry is done in literally 1/2 the amount of loads. we bought the duet. of course now i need a machine to fold them and put them away…(sigh) a girl can dream.

  27. kellygirl says:

    Oh My GOsh!! I think I have finally found my long lost twin! Ok so you have like 30 comments on your blog…I think someone can relate! My mom gave me a plaque once that said “I cleaned the house this week…sorry you missed it!” and that is so very, very me. I start doing something and get so distracted way too easily. So why do I get on my kids case when they do it, go figure! Like when I came to check my e-mail and got caught up in the blog world…oops! Ok, so I need to go do the kitchen and NOT get distrcted, now! Thank you for your post! It is so where I am at!….Your Long Lost Twin!

  28. Jenife says:

    🙂 Not sure if I like this post or the one yesterday about scapbooking better!!! Thanks for your honesty.
    I’m right here with ya. The only insight I have recently discovered is not to start in the kitchen. I try to leave it and do other chores (otherwise I never leave the kitchen…always cooking,cleaning,snacking,etc)

  29. Michelle-This One's For the Girls says:

    I get distraced easily too. Easy with so many children, huh?
    One thing I do that helps some is I give myself “rewards.” For instance, I’ll say to myself, “If I get this, this and this done COMPLETELY, I will reward myself with 30 minutes of blogging/computer time.” ()r whatever…)

  30. Nikkie says:

    I try to do things right away, because I’m famous for putting things off to the point of no return. I’m never caught up, but the little important things like clean dishes and stinky garbage getting outside gets done right away, telling myself the wholetime that I won’t want to do it later!

  31. mimi2six says:

    I operate by a list and have for as long as I can remember. I love the feeling of crossing something off as being completed, and I give myself permission to move an item to another day. That’s why I love my PDA…..I can so easily move a “to do” item to another day. Sometimes I move the same item several times, of course, but eventually I get to delete it. My list contains even small “to do’s.”

  32. Melissa says:

    Keep repeating to yourself all the way to the library Pam Young and Peggy Jones. They are more enjoyable than Flylady IMHO. If you want a laugh or help. Get your act Together (their book)is the place to go. It’s not Wednesday but well… you know.

  33. Shalee says:

    Two things:
    1) I’ve started giving my kids some of the tasks to do around the house. They share unloading the dishwasher, watering plants and sweeping. Plus they have their chores to do each day (making bed, picking up dirty clothes and putting their clean clothes away.) This helps me and it teaches them to appreciate what we do for them every day.
    2) I tell myself that not everything must be done. We tell ourselves that it must be done or else we are bad wives/mothers/housekeepers. But really, that is a lie that satan tells us so that we will feel inadequate. Do what you know you need to do and then see about the rest. There will always be a task to do, but there will not always be children around who need our attention.

  34. green3 says:

    I’m sorry I can’t help you. I’ve always been caught up. I don’t know how you people get so behind.
    (you didn’t buy that, did you??)

  35. Dawn says:

    My middle name is Side-Tracked! I get side-tracked from doing everything unless I make a to-do-list and cross off the things I have gotten done. It helps me focus better, and I tend not to get side-tracked as much. It doesn’t help to have too many projects going at once, but when do us moms NOT have TOO MANY projects going at once? I just wish for one day I could get caught up on everything, but I think it is impossible with kids, since the minute the laundry is caught up they get muddy and have to change, and the minute all the dishes are clean and put away, they are hungry and have to eat and use dishes. So I have come to the conclusion that my housework will never be done and my house will never be spotless like June Clever’s house.

  36. Pieces says:

    I call it my newly acquired ADD. I like the idea of mentally stopping yourself with a reminder to Finish. Beth’s idea of the 3×5 card is a good one too. Write it down so I know I can deal with it later.

  37. Cindy says:

    I think it must have something to do with the whole childbirthing experience that makes us lose our minds. I can never remember anything anymore and I lose my train of thought so easily I am not sure I even have a caboose anymore.

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