As parents face the annual back to school routine this year, perhaps we need to revise the standard preparation for the first day of school. Rather than discuss how to organize your physical “stuff” for school, we are going to discuss the ABC’s for organizing a plan to address stress during this challenging time.
Many parents experienced the challenge of online learning (aka – distance learning or at-home learning) with their children this spring. As school openings fast approach, it is a good time to stop and assess how that online learning experience went for your family. What worked well? What did not work well? And most importantly, why didn’t it work? The best way to find a solution to a problem is to understand the root cause of the problem. If your child was too distracted or had difficulty paying attention to online sessions, think about why he or she was distracted and do your best to address that distraction. Was their sibling doing their lesson in the same room? Were toys in the room that caught their attention? Was background noise a disturbance? Perhaps switching the room for their online learning or putting away some toys may lessen the distraction. Wearing ear buds might reduce the background noise. There is no one size fits all answer to this issue or any other issue you may have encountered. The key is to figure out why the situation did not work so you can identify a solution that will work for your family. And, for those who have not been through online learning as of yet, reach out to family and friends who have experienced it and get their input on what worked for them to see if it can work for your family.
Dealing with our children can be challenging in general. So, having to deal with online learning or blended learning, in addition to normal daily stresses, can be overwhelming for some. Many parents are also trying to work from home which compounds that stress. Finding balance amidst the chaos may be beneficial. Take time before school begins to identify ways to balance the hectic environment that may exist during the school day. A quick 5 to 10-minute stress-reducing activity should provide relief. The list below is in no way all inclusive.
Also, our children are not immune to the stress that online learning may create. They may find some of the items above useful when they encounter a feeling of anxiety. Here are a few additional suggestions:
Figure out what works best for you and for each of your family members.
Creating a productive environment for both you and your kids is a goal for many parents. Open communication can contribute to that goal. Does your spouse know you have a 10am conference call and he or she needs to handle any issues that may pop up during that call? Does your son have a test tomorrow and needs quiet time to study? Is your daughter struggling with a lesson and needs additional tutoring? Having open discussions about the needs of each family member can go a long way to reducing stress during the day. The discussions don’t need to be formal. While clearing the dinner table ask a question like “Do you need anything from me to prepare for tomorrow?” or “Are you stressing about anything and, if so, how can I help?” Speaking to someone about their needs can help ease their tension. And don’t forget to let your family know of your needs as well. If they don’t ask you what you need, you can bring it up to them. Let them know that you have that conference call at 10am and ask that you not be disturbed for that hour. Remind them that the dog needs to be walked at lunchtime and ask who can help with that task. Communicating effectively will let each family member know you are all there to support each other.
Using the ABC’s above may not eliminate all the stressors you will face this school year. However, utilizing Assess and Communicate as proactive steps to help prevent stress, and incorporating Balance when stressful situations arise, may help you get back on track and allow you to have a productive day.
Your Tasks – Our Time, Inc
|Some have taken to baking bread or cooking. Others have unleashed the crafter within themselves. Finding a common item and brainstorming the various unconventional ways that the item can be used is fun and challenging.|
|Between the ups and downs of the COVID-19 pandemic and the political tension, the past several months have been especially stressful. There are many ways that people handle stress. Some make To-Do lists.|
|For instance, what does one do with old (clean) socks? You know the ones… the dryer has eaten the mate or the elastic has lost its stretch. Below are some ideas of what you can do with socks. Not only can you enjoy some of these projects, beautify your home and/or enlist the aid of any children you may have lounging around the house feeling bored, these projects are a good way to reuse old socks. Thank you to Megan Willett and Business Insider for the post on 61 Things You Can Do With Your Old Mismatched Socks. Two that I found particularly interesting were the No-Sew Sock Puppy and the No-Sew Sock Face Mask.|
|No-Sew Sock Puppy. I love sock toys, but hate to sew. Inspired by the website Danielle’s Place, which is filled with no-sew sock animal and plushie tutorials, this is a picture of Fritz, the sock. He is made with a sock, rubber bands and fiberfill stuffing. Add whatever you want to give him character. No-Sew Sock Face Mask. There are many DIY face mask tutorials on YouTube. The one I found most helpful requires no sewing and no rubber bands. You can make these in under five minutes if you are in a pinch.|
|We live in trying times. Even though businesses and restaurants are slowly opening, many people feel quite alone and isolated from the world. Find a phone buddy. Make yourself a To-Do list and share it with your phone buddy. Did you check off at least one thing on the list? Fabulous! Share it with your phone buddy. If that person is not available, tell your cat or your dog or look in the mirror and tell yourself. Celebrate your accomplishments.|
|When you have taken time to decompress and replenish your spirit, learn about the multiple ways that we can all work for social justice and change in our world. But, most importantly, be gentle with yourself. Stay well, stay safe and stay home if you are able… and, if you are one of the many who must go to work to or who chooses to volunteer to keep us safe, healthy, fed, informed or otherwise (relatively) sane, thank you.|
Wishing is a good thing! It creates a vision of what we’d like for the future. Often the vision motivates us into action to make it come true. But the tricky part about a wish, compared to a goal, is sometimes we want our wish to magically happen without our taking action. Can you relate?
Here are some examples of Wishful Thinking that might be contributing to the clutter in your home:
The clothes you wish you could get into two or three sizes down.
The workout equipment you wish you would use.
The craft projects you wish you’d have to time to work on.
The second home you wish you could buy.
Charitable shops have been closed for some time due to the pandemic, and now that they’re opened, they are inundated with goods. Some people are reluctant to donate to charities for fear their items will be thrown in the trash. I’ve been told by Goodwill workers that they are storing items in trailers, however that statement is unverified. Another option for items you wish to sell or give away for free are websites like Freecycle.org and CraigsList.com, or local pages on Facebook Marketplace. Since summer is here, you can find ways exchange items with social distancing.
Wishful Thinking can be shifted to Realistic Thinking. If you have trouble getting started, consider the help of a professional organizer. Many are doing virtual organizing and can help you shift your thinking so letting go is easier. YOUR WISH FOR A CLUTTER-FREE HOME CAN COME TRUE!
About a year ago, I started asking myself a question that gave me dramatically more clarity (and joy!) in my work and life.
The question was:
Is it fun and easy?
Why did I start asking this question?
Because I was overwhelmed by the “shoulds.”
I have ALWAYS have been overwhelmed by those blasted shoulds, but I felt particularly overwhelmed as a new entrepreneur. Suddenly, I, alone, had to dictate how I would spend my precious time.
Being an entrepreneur can be incredibly freeing. But, there’s also no road map. No clear strategy. No “right” answers.
After a year of trying to do all of the “shoulds,” I signed up for an online course called 31 Days to Flow. I had learned about “flow” previously in my career, and I was intrigued about how I could apply it in this new phase.
Essentially, “flow” is a state where you feel totally in the zone. You don’t notice the time passing. You feel energized. You feel like you’re excelling at what you are doing or you’re seriously enjoying the process.
(Doesn’t that sound better than “should”??)
The course instructor asked us to spend almost two weeks identifying our core values. I was somewhat dismayed at this request since I had spent countless hours (days!) in my previous corporate and non-profit life identifying values. What?! Values?! But I signed up for flow!!
Alas, I really liked the course instructor, and I had paid for the darn class already, so I obliged.
The results ended up being one of the most game-changing exercises I have ever done.
After much soul-searching, ranking, debating and word-smithing, I came up with a list of 5 (soon to be 6) values that would become my new compass for EVERYTHING that I do – not just in work, but in life.
My values are (in order of importance):
These six simple words unlocked new wisdom about what I seek in life – in others, in my work, in my parenting, and so much more.
I could bore you for hours on the significance of each of these. So let me save you from that and instead offer a few examples. “Depth” alone explained why certain friendships filled me up, while others depleted me. “Quiet” explained why I turn into a crazed person from those hysterical Snickers commercials if I don’t have some quiet time in my day. “Beauty” came later, as an antidote to a world that often feels out-of-control.
Our instructor promised us that if we began to follow those things that aligned with our values, we would find more flow. More fun. More ease.
And so it was.
The question “Is it fun and easy?” became a shortcut to test if something “checked off my value boxes.”
I made some significant changes as a result.
By following the path of “fun and easy,” I have found more flow, ease, and joy. I’ve accepted the radical notion that I can follow what energizes me.
I know what you’re thinking. Not EVERYTHING can be fun and easy. So true, my friend. So true.
Luckily, for those things that aren’t fun and easy, we can often eliminate them, delegate them, or find creative ways to make them just a bit more joyful.
Starting today, how can YOU find more “fun & easy” in your work and life?
While sheltering-in-place we’ve been spending a lot more time baking. And wouldn’t you know: Stressed Spelled Backwards is: Desserts!
I saw that catchy phrase after delivering my 5th batch of muffins in April. To avoid gaining the dreaded Covid-15 (think Freshman-15) I delivered Tupperwares to my neighbor, who appreciates my zero-sugar recipes.
With my last delivery of cranberry-sweetened pumpkin millet muffins, I wrote “sorry for dumping my stress-baked goodies on your doorstep.” She texted back “TY” with a link to “Stress-baking is a real thing!”
My 3 favorite therapeutic benefits to baking:
This “proof of progress” is where I want to focus.
I don’t know about you, but I am:
• losing a sense of what day it is
• not as productive as I was before Covid-19
• feeling less accomplished despite feeling almost as busy
So I reflected on the tools I used before Covid-19:
Here’s why I’m returning to these habits:
I can’t take credit for figuring out…stressed spelled backwards is desserts!
When I think of reducing inefficiencies I think of when I was in college and learned about the time and motion studies of the 1950’s. I envision Lucy and Ethel wrapping chocolate on the production line. And then I think that no one wants to live life with so much constraint that we are more machine than human. However, so many of my clients tell me they want to be more efficient.
I am a big fan of putting rote tasks on autopilot so that our energy can be put towards creative process and enjoying life. I am embarrassed to tell you this (but will because perhaps it might help) but I’m always looking at how to do things in the fewest steps.
I will exemplify this with a task we all do – emptying the dishwasher. I’ve observed many people empty the dishwasher – I do it differently. And I typically get it done in the time it takes to brew 2 or 3 cups of Keurig coffee.
I waste not a moment on something as routine as unloading a dishwasher.
I’ve blogged about all of this and I’ve linked the above questions to those posts. What I’m addressing here however is how to create systems and processes to be most efficient, streamlined, and effective.
Sometimes having a productivity coach or organizing consultant helps. We work with our clients to help them develop the best ways to improve efficiency.