School has been back in session for about a month now and life is settling back into a regular routine filled with classes, extracurricular activities, grocery shopping, laundry and yardwork. The pace has picked up from the summer.
While I am happy having more structure in my life, I also find myself worrying about checking off everything on my never ending to do list. I like to feel productive and checking things off my list makes me feel good about myself.
Many of the things on my list are necessary, too. I have to fulfill my job responsibilities and we do need groceries and clean clothes. Often I get so caught up in getting everything done that I don’t slow down and enjoy life.
My youngest son is a high school senior this year, which means all sorts of things are happening for the last time. He’s had his last first day of school with me, and soon I’ll be going to his last marching band performance. I’m realizing I had better enjoy these moments and spend time with my son now before he leaves home. Maybe some of those things on my to-do list can wait.
Several years ago I got sick and spent a day or two hurting too much to do more than just rest. I ended up playing board games with my boys, which was quite enjoyable. I remember thinking I should do that more often. But once I got better, it was back to the regular busy routine and being productive. I liked my shift in focus and spending time with my boys, but it was hard to do that without being forced to by illness.
So, how do we slow down and shift our focus to things that might not seem productive? One suggestion I’ve read various places is to schedule time for yourself or your family just like you schedule other appointments and activities. Then you’re not trying to fit yourself or your family into whatever time is leftover. I’ve also discovered that I have to look at spending time with my family as something that is productive. I remind myself that I am developing relationships, which is something that I want to do. It just doesn’t usually get written down on to do lists.
I have to look at taking time for myself in the same way. If I spend too much time worrying about everything I need to do, it can be easy for me to start feeling overwhelmed. These seemingly less productive activities refresh me and then allow me to accomplish more of the other things I need to do. So, taking a break is actually productive.
Slowing down and enjoying life doesn’t have to take a long time either. You can incorporate little breaks throughout your day. As you drive in the morning, notice the sunrise. As you walk to and from your car, listen for birds and look for flowers. Take a few minutes and listen to your favorite song. Take some time to read a book, practice some yoga, meditate, pray or write in a journal.
When you are with your children, other family members or friends, give them your attention. Don’t be planning what you need to do next or you’ll miss out on what is happening now. Those moments don’t last and before you know it, it will be the last first day of school, the last marching band performance or the last chance to visit before someone moves away.
Susan Cox is one of The Republic’s community columnists, and all opinions expressed are those of the writer. She is a mother, an adjunct instructor of English at Ivy Tech Community College-Columbus and a substitute teacher for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.