The Ant and the Grasshopper.

Sometimes, my husband annoys me just a little bit.

I tend to plow through life at a break-neck speed. I have a to-do list a mile long every day — chores I want to try to tackle, projects I want to try to get done. As soon as I get home from work, I’m doing a fitness routine, or doing chores, or trying to get some writing done. Often, I’m trying to tackle five different projects at once. I can’t remember the last time I actually accomplished everything on my to-do list for the day. I race around, often frantic and stressed. Sometimes, I find myself annoyed with my husband, who doesn’t do this at all.

My husband, like me, puts in a full 8+ hours of work each day at his day job. When he comes home, he will calmly assist me with chores; if the day was too hectic, he might grab a very short nap first. He tackles one or two items, and he doesn’t rush through them. Once he accomplishes whatever those projects were — whether it was dinner, or cleaning the kitchen, or doing yardwork — he puts up boundaries and stops. He rests. He indulges in much-needed and much-deserved downtime. If I desperately need him to tackle a project, and if that project can’t wait until the next day, he will take it on for my sake. But he is very good about setting boundaries and keeping those boundaries in place — even when I’m frantically rushing around trying to complete the dozens of projects I have on my list for the night, and getting aggravated that somehow he’s getting the chance to “check out.”

But, you see — I could learn something from this. Why does my list have to be dozens of items long? Why can’t I just pick one or two things to focus on a night — and put off all of the rest? Why can’t I pick a time of the evening where I simply drop everything and start winding down so that I can be ready for sleep at a decent hour? Why can’t I set boundaries for my own mental and physical health and then keep those boundaries in place, even when outside obligations threaten to break them down?

I am just as capable of being as calm and relaxed as my husband in the evenings, and in the process I can more thoroughly enjoy spending time with my family instead of feeling rushed through activities with them.

I don’t want to continue defining my self-worth by how much I get done in a day, how productive I am, how many tasks I accomplish, how clean my house is. I don’t want to continue rushing through my life like a madwoman.

The ant could learn a couple of lessons from the grasshopper, here.

4 Comments

  • March 21, 2012 - 6:52 pm | Permalink

    I dm just like you and Chris tends to be more like Thomas. I also try too hard to fit more into my day than I really have time for. I am constantly tired as a result. I need to tell myself that it is ok to rest! Thanks for the reminder. :)

    • March 22, 2012 - 9:31 am | Permalink

      No problem! Now I just need to get good at following my own advice. The worst part is that I often have all these “self-help” things that I organize into a to-do list and then feel like I *have* to do. I think I’m missing the point! :-)

  • March 21, 2012 - 10:03 pm | Permalink

    And I thought you were the hippy child in the relationship – you sound more like Alex P. Keaton =p

    I have no idea if we are similar in this regard or not, but I find too much to do is a symptom. The real problem is in not saying no. It’s easy to say yes to everyone and everything, it’s hard to learn to say no to things. Not just people, but even your own projects.

    When I get to a point where I feel things getting out of hand, I used a trick I learned in the military – Rack’n Stack. List all the items, then order them by priority. They must have a discreet order, you can’t just mark a few things “#1″ some others “#2″ – get the in order.

    Items at the bottom of the list, drop. Items at the top keep, but only a few. Items in the middle, make note to come back to at a later time (when the top items are done). Since I’m often using a kanban board, this means moved to the backlog.

    If you want the hippy, non-military version look up Stephen Covey’s “Big rocks in first” thing – part of the 7 Habits. Actually I highly recommend 7 Habits if you’ve not read it, even if the language used is overly lovey-dovey.

    • March 22, 2012 - 9:40 am | Permalink

      Well, much like Alex, I’m sure part of my issue is responding to my hippie parents. XD

      You’re absolutely right about the real problem being that I can’t say “no.” I have a history of being unable to say “no” to almost everything, and it’s caused a *lot* of heartache, stress, and flat-out devastation in my life, to be honest. I’m getting better about some things; some things not so much. It’s a work in progress. However, I hadn’t thought about the idea of “saying no” to my own projects, too. It makes sense that I may need to say no to myself sometimes, too!

      I like your idea of Racking and Stacking — but, honestly, the idea of “dropping” any of my projects fills me with soooo much anxiety and depression. The Kanban board has helped some, because so many projects can just become “one day I’ll get to this” but not completely forgotten about. But I probably should take a hard look at some of them and let myself off the hook. I mean, if I never finish the novel I started back in high school, the world really isn’t going to end. (Although, apparently my daughter is going to nag me about all of the projects I never finished until the end of time.)

      Also, this is probably the 5th time Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits has been recommended to me. I need to add that to my to-read list.

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