Time is a vacuum

We finally hired a babysitter to play with my son while I get some
work done. I used to work while my husband was home, but we used to
both get something done for those hours, and now one of us has to pay
full attention to my son. Okay, so I’ve already talked about how
children really push our flexibility; here I wanted to talk about how
this new time felt.

Like a big gaping space. With nothing in it. Fresh new time that I
haven’t scheduled anything in yet feels like a vacuum. I’d take that to
level of saying that it feels a little bit like I can’t breathe;
there’s no air in there; because there is no structure yet. You know,
for some of us it’s hard to get anything done when we don’t have a lot
we have to do. Some people need their time jam-packed with commitments;
I’m a bit more mid-level on this. I need some structure but not too
much, so I can hear my own thoughts about what I need and want to do
and take on, and listen to them. Without a little bit of scaffolding,
the thoughts just turn into a big dust storm and I sit there rubbing my
eyes, lost in it all.

I used to panic when I had this kind of open horizon. I’m more relaxed now. Here’s how I turn the emptiness into usefulness:

  1. Get the big huge rock rolling. It’s hard to get into action
    from a standstill, so sometimes whatever tasks get me moving
    (physically or mentally) are where to start.
  2. Start with little stuff. Stuff that feels like highly engaging
    busy-work can help me out. Yesterday that was working on tiny pieces of
    my website updates, like figuring out how to set up a "favicon."
    gives me a sense of accomplishment, which is great for the
    happy/focused brain chemicals. It also gets me working, rather than
    thinking. It was something that felt fun and interesting but not too
    big yesterday. Other days it might be dumb paperwork like logging
    business receipts or filing papers; other days that’s overwhelming at
    first. By the end of yesterday I felt all warmed up and ready to tackle
    that kind of thing.
  3. Clean your desk. This isn’t what I did yesterday, but it can work a
    charm. While doing it, it can help to keep reminding yourself that
    clean up is a real part of productivity. Clean up is part of work, and
    part of play, just like we teach our kids! It can be another great
    warm-up for other work, especially as it may involve getting your hands
    on items that remind you of projects or tasks you want to work on.
  4. Listen to how you’re feeling at the moment, and pick the right
    task. Trying to log receipts can be a spirit-killer one day, and an
    easy to-do-check-off the next. On the former day, don’t do it unless
    you really have to; it isn’t going to help get more done. (If you never
    have a good day for some task like that, get help doing it.)
  5. Start to identify projects, tasks, and break them down- on paper if that helps.

I’m tempted to keep going, but then I’d be straying into other
things. The point here is that when time is too open, it’s time to get
things moving, not time to dwell on the big picture and get stuck.