In part one of “tracking my time“, I said that I spent less time in house cleaning than the grumpy lady in my head thought. I also mentioned that I came up with some strategies to use my time more wisely. Here’s another lesson from the time tracking experiment: do more things in time blocks.
This is an important point especially applicable to us stay at home mom types.
So often, when one’s full time occupation is caring for several children, much of the day is taken up with activities that are so brief, they hardly warrant writing down. My time tracker was a simple grid, each box representing 15 minutes. This presented a problem.
Changing most diapers takes less than two minutes, and although I do it several times a day, I never bothered to document it.
There are also the quick moments in between tasks, or while doing something else, when a mom takes the opportunity to clean something or admonish a child or put on a Band-Aid or run something to the car or referee a spat or … you get the picture.
Part of this is unavoidable.
You can’t simply ignore the 3 year old just because you’ve sat down to nurse the baby, for instance. You may have to hug her after she gets a boo-boo or help her with an annoying hair bow.
But some of this is preventable. It’s worth it to discipline ourselves to doing just one thing for a longer period wherever possible.
The problem with doing a million little things all day long?
At the end of the day, a mom feels as if she’s done everything, yet accomplished nothing.
This is just one reason why paid work is so gratifying: one can accomplish a task and bring it to completion (to say nothing of the compensation).
The things that take up a mother’s day are ongoing and neverending. Laundry, meal prep, cleaning… they are never done.
The simple fact that the graph I used to track my time was in 15 minute increments encouraged me to stick with one task, if at all possible, for at least 15-30 minutes – a classic example of the observer effect. The observer effect just refers to the fact that when you observe a behavior, it automatically changes it.
So, instead of doing cleaning in 1-2 minute spurts, I instead cleaned for a solid 15 minute increment and then stopped until the next cleaning “session”.
This gave me a greater feeling of accomplishment. Which for me is the biggest benefit. Why? Because I could take a moment to look around at the area I had just cleaned and enjoy the feeling (while it lasts anyway!).
Truth be told, it probably leads to greater effectiveness at whatever task you’re doing (since multi-tasking is a myth). Also, concentrating on one thing leads to flow, which gives us joy.
While cooking supper last week, I poured myself a little wine and put on music or a podcast. I also insisted that the little kids stop running through the kitchen. I turned the baby over to a big sibling. This transformed cooking dinner into a pleasurable self-care exercise instead of a stressful drudgery.
To sum up, the time-tracking exercise encouraged me to do ONE THING, whenever possible, at a time.