Get Busy Un-Busying

I have a confession to make: One-week last month, my 11-year-old daughter wore the same shirt to school every… single… day! She’s been growing like crazy, and between my not having time to go clothes shopping for her or do laundry every day, well, that’s just what happened.

And that, in a nutshell, is what it means to be a member of today’s “sandwich generation.” Caring for aging parents, taking care of our kids, managing our work, trying to maintain the many other relationships in our lives… we often find it very overwhelming!

Our post-Covid environment has made things even worse regarding a blurring of the lines between work and home. Many people (mostly moms) have told us they miss the days when going to the office meant a short respite from responsibilities at home.

One thing I’ve realized is the need to modify our often unrealistic expectations about what can be accomplished. We need to remove the guilt that occurs when we realize we can’t do it all. We may disappoint people when we tell them “no,” but we simply can’t do everything. That means being ok with not trying. It’s what I like to think of as “getting busy un-busying.”

This doesn’t mean neglecting responsibilities. It’s about taking perfection as a goal off the table and striving for a manageable balance. It’s giving myself permission to stop trying to be everything for everyone all the time. The more I’m able to do this, the better things are for both me and those around me.

“Next Week” Never Arrives

My sister Alyson and I like to joke that being an adult means telling yourself things will be better next week. Stop and smell the roses? Most days, I’m not even aware there are roses!

But I have found some things that assist me in managing through and that I hope will help you too…

#1. Prioritize

Prioritization means acknowledging that not everything is of equal importance. And, like life, our priorities change constantly.

I’ve got things on my To-Do list that have been there for months. Maybe they’ll rise to the top one day and maybe they won’t, but I’ll get to them eventually. I keep a close eye on the list, take care of what needs doing today, and let go of the rest… for a little while anyway. The word for this is triage.

Above all, I do my best to make peace with the idea that I can’t do everything and no one benefits when I try, especially me.

#2. Own Your Calendar

Dr. Becky Kennedy, a clinical psychologist and mom of three, stresses the importance of “changing your relationship with your calendar.” Don’t wait for free time to present itself (it never will). Instead, carve out the time before the fact, whether that’s planning to read a story to your child, taking a walk in nature, or sitting down for a bit and checking into social media.

I block off time for the important things and then fit other, less urgent tasks in between whenever I can. I even block off travel time around my daughter’s activities so I don’t have to multitask and make work calls.

Make sure, too, that you diligently protect those time blocks; it’s tempting to encroach on scheduled “me time.” But I find that when I resist the urge to give up these blocks, I am far less irritable and resentful. I’m a better mom.

#3. Stop Multitasking

For a long time, I ate at least one, sometimes two meals a day while driving. I thought I was being efficient. Instead, I was driving less safely and eating less healthily.

I was living with a mindset that said the busier I am, the more successful I am. As if stress and busyness were a badge of honor.

But making the most out of every moment isn’t about efficiency, it’s about being present. That means trying to pay attention to just one thing at a time — everything deserves my undivided attention. By prioritizing and time-blocking, I can reduce multitasking and be more present. 

After all, my daughter is only going to be this age once — and, frankly, so am I.

#4. Communicate Directly 

Sometimes, I’ll be working hard to get us out the door — packing lunches, putting together snacks, bringing extra clothes for after school — and my daughter will want to tell me something right then.

I’ve learned to say, “I really want to hear this, but I need to focus on what I am doing right now. Let me finish, and then we can talk.” I’ll say the same kind of thing to my mom if she calls and wants to chat when I’m in the middle of something.

I used to think I had to be available at all times for the most important people in my life. I’ve learned that it’s better for everyone if I let others know when the time isn’t right. Of course, if there is a crisis, the right time becomes now.

#5. Take Charge of Your Tools

Your phone, your email, your text… they are there for your benefit, not the other way around.

If my phone rings and it’s my daughter’s school or my dad’s assisted living, of course I answer it. But more often than not, I let the call go to voicemail. 

Then I return the call as soon as I can, based on the caller’s urgency and my other priorities (there’s that word again!).

Slow Down and Take Control

There’s an old proverb that goes something like this: “The hunter who chases two rabbits catches neither.” I try to keep that in mind.

It’s okay to step back, breathe, and focus on what is truly important, even if that means — because it always means — not accomplishing everything. 

I know there will always be more things to do than I can get to and that’s okay. The laundry will have to wait. 

Share this Post

Scroll to Top

Stay in the know! Sign up for our monthly newsletter!

Connect with us on Social Media

Sign up for our newsletter, receive a free guide to understanding Massachusetts Senior Living Options

[ctct form="2326" show_title="false"]
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.