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It's Good to be Lazy?

It's Good to be Lazy?

Learning to Prioritize

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I once had a client who hired me to assist her with organizing her time. "Great," I thought. I certainly had a lot of experience with organizing time. "No sweat!" I thought.

When we sat down together, she came prepared with her calendar, a sample weekly schedule, and a minute to minute play by play of what she does on a daily basis. Usually, clients that hire me for time management coaching do not even have a calendar!

If I had every minute of my day/week planned out like this, I would absolutely burn outAs she began taking me throughout the course of her week- what she does on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, etc., I was flabbergasted and frankly, a bit overwhelmed. This woman had EVERY single moment of her day planned out and scheduled in her calendar- she even had plotted out the time in between each of her different appointments and what she would do during those breaks.

I briefly had a moment of panic that felt to me like: This woman is more organized than I am! What in the world can I possibly help her with? I don't even have my weeks and days structured like this and I call myself a professional organizer???

After I had a little bit of time to process what she was showing me, I realized that I did indeed have some important feedback and had to figure out how to share it with her tactfully-because all I remember thinking was that if I had every minute of my day/week planned out like this, I would absolutely burn out. This schedule is going to lead to burn out.

Another woman I was recently speaking with was a woman with a lot of responsibility. "What woman doesn't?" you may ask. But on top of the typical responsibilities entailed in being a mother and wife, her husband was a prominent and public figure, requiring her to also be busy with communal obligations. She didn't have too much family close by, just her husband's, and she was telling me how she can't really get organized because she had no time and no help.

I asked her more questions like- "Who can you delegate to? Do you have cleaning help? What is your typical day like? When do you do x,y,z chores?" She answered me that she had cleaning help but she didn't like the cleaning job they did so she had to do it herself. And that her own mother didn't live close by but her in-laws did and she just didn't think they were so great with the kids. She also explained that she works full-time and will take all three kids to the grocery store after work because her husband wasn't home in time to do so and she didn't feel comfortable taking a lunch break at work.

She got a little sparkle in her eye when she told me about the crafts and homemade baskets and baked goods she makes and customizes for each family before every Jewish Holiday in case some of her husband's supporters came by to visit before the Fall Holidays.

I can picture you now. Reading this article in your summer loungewear wondering in the midst of your summer vacation why anyone would be so type A and organized to perfection? It's summertime. Who wants to think about organizing in the summer? Many of you probably don't! The kids are home, it's vacation, you don't have to worry about arrivals and dismissals and drop offs and deadlines. Everything is much more laidback. And you know what I think about that? Good!

I think sometimes, we as Jewish women, actually take on way too many responsibilities not only outside of the home but inside the home as well. I understand we have lots to do with our kids- dinner, errands, sports, games, family, etc., but I deeply believe, in my heart of hearts, after hearing many mothers and wives say to me," I really have no time. Every moment of my day is scheduled and there is nothing left"- that sometimes, we use that as an excuse.

If you are one of these amazingly talented, overscheduled women, it’s because you choose to bePerhaps you are a perfectionist and you really just cannot delegate jobs to others because you feel no one does x,y,z the way you do. Perhaps it even goes deeper than this, and I'm no therapist, what I do know is that many times people hide behind their "busyness" or their "chaos" because they actually enjoy feeling like a "conquistador of chaos" (Julie Morgenstern, Organizing from the Inside Out).

It really doesn't matter why you may be taking on too many responsibilities or overworking yourself and we don't have to spend a lot of time figuring it out. I do think it is important to at least become aware of the truth that it's not that there is always sooo much to do that you have no time to breathe. If you are one of these amazingly talented, overscheduled women, it's because you choose to be. Yes, the demands on you are high, and I don't want to minimize the importance of all you do. But be honest, do you really have to do all of the things you think you have to do?

In the case of the woman whose husband was in the public eye, for instance, I really admired her creativity, capability, and devotion. She was overwhelmed but I suspected that she truly enjoyed saddling herself with all of that responsibility! Remember, the "twinkle in her eye" when she described to me the painstaking time she invested in making homemade baked goods and baskets? She didn't really have to do all of that. She could buy things, perhaps, or even hire someone to do it for her. She could bake from a mix! She enjoyed it because she is creative and possibly took pleasure in the feedback she got about how professional her baskets looked! I thought that was wonderful, and I wanted to "call her on it" though so she would be aware that she chose to take on this extra project, not that it was forced on her.

I also pointed out to her that some of her argument about "having no help" was flawed. She kept saying she had no help because her own family didn't live close by. I pointed out to her that her husband's family lived near her and she had cleaning help. That's more than some people have! Even though she didn't like the way the cleaning people cleaned, the point was she did employ them and had the choice to demand more from them or look for a replacement. She did have the option of hiring a mother's helper for when she wanted to go shopping or to drop off some of the kids at her in-laws. She also did not (in my opinion) need to bake hundreds of cakes before a holiday.

My Mission Statement is pretty simple so I know what to focus my priorities onYes, her husband's constituents really enjoyed her hand-made goodies. Yes, everyone is continuously impressed by her ability to do it all herself. I just wanted her to see that she chose to take on these projects, that's all. I empathized with her and also "forced" her to see through some of her arguments about there being no time in the day. She finally admitted that she is a perfectionist and actually liked to take on all this responsibility but feared one day she would burn out.

What I propose is that if you are enjoying summertime now with a more relaxed attitude or carefree mindset, hold on to that for the rest of the year too! Why not?? If something is really important, it will still get done! Let's be mindful and conscious of the responsibilities that we do have and choose them, rather than having them choose us.

If you're not sure what I mean here about looking at our responsibilities and choosing them, perhaps you don't feel overwhelmed or complain about having no time to get everything done. Mazal Tov! You must have a real knack for managing everything and keeping your household together. Or perhaps you are not a perfectionist or you are enjoying such a carefree summer that you really can't begin thinking about yearly responsibilities.

If you are a perfectionist, and you do often feel as there is no more time in the day, try this exercise. Make a list of everything in your house that absolutely must get done as well as Standard Operation Procedures for the running of your home. What are Standard Operation Procedures? Every large company has a Standard Operations Procedures Manual. Why should your home be any different? A plan, schedule, or better yet, a basic systems manual for how your home runs.

No you don't need to write up a formal operating manual, but yes you do need to know what you and your family members need to do on a regular basis. When family members need to be somewhere, what happens when you travel, phone numbers for babysitters, what time it makes sense to do x,y,z, everything you can possibly think of about how your home runs. This will allow you to go away for a night or two and get a babysitter. And it gives you peace of mind.

It's much more than scheduling every minute of your day or rushing to action the minute a need arises. You'll have taken the time to sit back and really choose what tasks are important to include in your manual and what aren't. You'll think about why you are doing these things to begin with. Throw in your family's mission statement in there as well. Mine looks something like: "We are a household in which everyone is fed, clean, and happy. Children talk to their parents about what is bothering them and we strive to work together to follow in the ways of G‑dliness."

If you love the lazy days, figure out a way to be more “lazy” during the yearMy Mission Statement is pretty simple so I know what to focus my priorities on. If my Mission Statement were more about how our family is one whose creativity and artistic talents are bar none, then I could justify spending hours on handmade napkin rings or on Shabbat desserts that look picture perfect; straight out of a magazine. And there's nothing wrong if you do want that to be part of your Mission statement! Just make it a conscious choice that you are going to spend much time putting the "icing on the cake". Much more empowering to choose it than thinking that you just have so much to do, there's no time left, right?

Enjoy your summer, stay relaxed, and if you love the lazy days, figure out a way to be more "lazy" during the year. Chances are you could never be lazy even if you tried!

Rivka Slatkin is the founder of Jewish-Life-Organized.com, a website geared for helping the Jewish woman organize her life.
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Sara Menashe Dallas, TX November 10, 2010

Right on time... I needed to read this today and I thank " for you, Rivka! You help me in so many ways, and I didn't even know exactly why I was looking at the Chabad site just now; but then I read this article and it puts it all in perspective!
Just today, I was overwhelmed with all the 'opportunities' available, as well as what I already have committed to. It is a choice to be overwhelmed.

Thank you for your work! Reply