A week of underachieving: 4 ways to ease the mind

Mindfulness, Parenting

We all have them. Frantic weeks, weeks with illness, weeks with visitors, or too many activities to attend, schedule, manage. Weeks with broken toys and chewed books to repair. Weeks with calls to make, family to see and urgent tasks. Sometimes weeks with all of these at once.

Every now and then life just piles up and you realise that your To Do list is more overwhelming than soothing in its sense of order, your personal butler is still a lottery win away and there’s no babysitter who can magically take the small folk off to the park for say…six hours, to help you whittle the list down to a manageable size.

And this is where we are this week. Because this week, I fought the battle with my To Do list, and, by all accounts, I lost.

Here’s what we did do, most of it delightful: we had visitors, went away for a weekend, had a birthday, did some voluntary work, did a mountain of washing, another mountain of washing and a tiny amount of putting away, went to work, wrote a little, planned a little and tried to keep on top of the minutiae of life–the sorting, calendar updates, tidying, tidying and, oh, what was that? That’s right, more tidying.

What happened was:

  • I came down with a head cold.
  • One of the small folk came down with a titanic style version of the same head cold. Yes, down in heap.
  • Second small child came down with the same head cold. Pesky, indeed.
  • The washing stayed, mostly, in the washing baskets ready to be relocated into some other more suitable location. Hopefully before the next lot of (delightful) visitors next week.
  • The voluntary craft was left half made. And there’s another two voluntary jobs to do next week.
  • Any real planning for the future–read: next week–has not happened. Nor will it til, well, after next week.

Thanks to my listed-oriented, motivational mum, I am a firm believer in the To Do list. I like the way it gives structure, I like the sense of achievement it brings when you finish a task, I like knowing what’s coming, and how to get to where I’d like to be.

But in the change of times that comes with small people and more jobs on the list, the To Do list can sometimes be a simple reminder of all the things I’m not achieving. A constant low-key nagging that raises my cortisol level, with no items deleted and no obvious relief in sight. The one light is the thought that one day the small people will go to school, and there might be a few more hours in each and every day to catch up on around seven years of backlog.

Until then, I’m working on a few simple steps to ease the self-inflicted stress of The List:

  1. Try to prioritise less

It’s difficult trying to do less and see some of it as not so important. When you’re accustomed to achieving a lot in a relatively short space of time, setting your sights lower is hard to do. But I’m finding it’s a discipline that’s worth adopting, especially with children in the mix. When there’s a book to be read or a scooter to use, what’s more important–that, or the crumbs on the bench?

Some days there’s time for both, and there are both fun activities and jobs from the list. Sometimes, the crumbs lose out.

  1. Just let go

Part of managing my To Do list is simply a change of mindset. In the new world order, I sometimes have to stop and think through what’s happening, and where I’m clinging too tightly to the things I need to achieve I know it’s time to step back.

And let go.

And by letting go, even a little, I heave a mental sigh of relief. Because it’s nice to leave the stress of achieving somewhere behind.

  1. Be more mindful

Being more mindful is a sweet flow-on from letting go. With less stress to achieve comes a more relaxed mindset and the ability to see each activity with greater focus and attention. Multi-tasking is core to my being, so this is a challenge. But it’s also the most rewarding. When I stop, let go and watch the world around me there are wondrous things to see.

  1. Journal it, blog it, find a way to smile about it.

The To Do list might change but I know that it will not get smaller. Finding ways for it to be a happy experience, are gold.

Because the times do change, there is always light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s true: This too shall pass.

7 thoughts on “A week of underachieving: 4 ways to ease the mind

  1. Excellent post and well written! I found you in Blogging 201, and am glad for the opportunity to pop in and see what you have going on here! I love your thoughts on letting go and finding a way to laugh over adversity. Sometimes, it is the only way to cope. And on the upside, “disastrous” events can provide almost endless fodder for journaling/blogging… once it is down on paper and I am able to see the funny side, it is as if it is solved somehow. The problems remain, perhaps, but I feel better about them. xx Mother Hen


  2. Really enjoyed reading this blog it says so much about the world we live in to me ;lots and lots to do and sometimes things get hectic and the lists seem unchecked.Love the idea of a list that actually says’ nothing to do’… I write the weirdest lists like- get up , dressed , washing on the go , sitting room, bathroom etc in between visit to the parents , collect the grandchild from school etc and then me time; so love the me time but sometimes my allocation of time has been wrong , so one day this week after reading your blog I am going to write a lovely sign for my notice board that will state ‘nothing to do ‘…and yes I agree this too will pass. Very refreshing blog .Kind Regards Kathy.


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