This week I am bringing over posts from LauraEarnest.com.
Managing our energy is one task that working parents face daily. Given the demands on us from both the office and home, we can quickly become drained. An old article over at Lifehack.Org, The 7 Energy Sinkholes And How To Avoid Them, gives a good overview of what they are. I thought I would expand on these for working people.
The 7 Sinkholes
- Poor Diet and Lack of Exercise
- Problem Contacts
- Focusing on Your Weaknesses
- Squeaky Hinges
- Blog/E-Mail/Facebook Addiction
- Pleasing People
How These Sinkholes Impact Working Parents, And What To Do About Them
It’s hard enough to cope with the disorganization of one person, but throw in the stress of having to locate items for children and spouses, and this can be a major drain. There is only one way to get past this: declutter (see Clutter 101: How To Start Decluttering) then organize (see Organizing 101: Where to Start). This means get rid of the excess, then find a place for everything else. Organization boils down to keeping everything in its designated places.
We can help train our children to do this by having designated areas for their stuff. In our house, backpacks go by the door in the kitchen. Any backpack not left there will be removed. The rule in our house is that if the backpack is dropped somewhere else, I will throw it either into the yard or on the front porch. I’ve only had to do this once.
We also have a Saturday Basket. Worn out with telling my daughter to pick up toys, I hit upon this idea: I make a quick sweep through the house every evening and things that are not put away are put in a laundry basket stored on a shelf. On Saturdays she has to put all these toys away; if a toy ends up repeatedly in the basket, it quietly goes away. I no longer have to yell about picking up, and I am not working around disorganized playthings.
Poor Diet and Lack of Exercise
This is a hard one for working parents. We have little enough time as it is, and the thought of adding one more thing onto the list can be daunting. I won’t lecture you about the importance of diet and exercise. We all know it. What we need is practical suggestions on how to make it happen.
I don’t have a problem eating healthy for breakfast or dinner, the meals I eat at home. My problem is lunch. My solution to this is to take leftovers from the night before as my lunch. I get the benefit of the healthy meal, without the additional effort of having to prepare a separate meal.
For exercise, I believe it is best to work it in wherever possible. Sure, we may not be able to get to the gym or exercise class three times a week; however, getting your body going some is better than not at all. I work extra effort in by moving a little faster while I am cleaning house, walking the dog as often as possible, and walking at lunch if the weather permits.
Unfortunately, problem people are not easy to get rid of. Those that aren’t related to us could be jettisoned. However, for the sake of familial peace, we cannot simply refuse contact with draining relatives or in-laws. My solution: limit your exposure. If your sister calls up to complain about the latest crisis in her life, ring your own doorbell and get off the phone. If your mother-in-law is nitpicking during a visit, get a sudden “emergency” phone call from work. Whatever it takes to preserve your energy from vampires.
Focusing on Your Weaknesses
So many working parents second guess themselves, mostly because of the pulls on our attention and time. With the second-guessing comes a sense that we may not be doing as well as we could. This sort of negative thinking, focusing on the things we think we could have done better if we had more (fill in the blank: energy, time, money…), can lead to a mental fatigue. Instead, focus on what you do well.
The article defined a squeaky hinge as a piece of technology that doesn’t work optimally. This one caught my attention as I used to deal with a dishwasher that didn’t quite clean, and made horrible noises. With any sub-functioning equipment, we need to get it fixed or replaced as quickly as possible. The amount of subconscious attention you will be given to the broken item will be eliminated, and you will wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
Technology is great. However, as working parents, we don’t have unlimited time to read email, cruise the internet or read blogs. Do we want our children to remember their parents at the computer, or playing with them? The sad truth is that 90% of what comes over the computer at home is not essential. (If you don’t believe me, go for a week without accessing email, and see how much you truly miss). Limit your computer time, with a timer if necessary, and use the delete key liberally. Better yet, filter your email to get the jokes and advertisements right into the trash.
As working parents, we want to give our best to everyone. However, if we take it too far and do things for others at the expense of time we need to rejuvenate ourselves, we will burn out. The way to avoid this is to make sure you keep your needs met as much as possible. As a friend of mine says, “If mama isn’t happy, nobody is happy.”
Photo by Jef Poskanzer