Are Our Kids Too Busy?

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Piano, drawing, swimming, language classes, dancing, karate, football, tennis: our children are spoilt for choice when it comes to after school and weekend activities.

There are also play dates, birthday parties, vacations and outings to attend, not to mention somehow fitting in around six hours of schooling per day plus time for homework and studying for exams.

This is without factoring in time to just be kids, to play, or read, or spend time cuddling up with mum or dad.

Are we overscheduling our children and bringing them up to believe that busyness is the only way to live? Are we passing on some of our time-poor habits and misconceptions about what it means to live a meaningful life?

Are our kids too busy?

When my eldest daughter was our only child, I admit that I used to schedule something for her to do almost every day. Each week we attended a mother’s group gathering, a swimming lesson, and a “Gymbaroo” class, and when she was a little older we also started attending playgroup.

I was constantly having to drive around to different places, and would sometimes sit at playgroup half asleep, having worked late the previous night  and then being woken up early by our daughter, only to have to be at playgroup around 9am.

Fast forward a few years and two more children later, and the activities became less of a priority, mainly due to financial constraints but also a lack of time. My youngest only started her very first activity, swimming, about 8 weeks ago!

The thought of driving three children to activities was too much, and now we are trying to cut back on how much time we allow our children to spend in scheduled activities. Life is more “go with the flow” with lots of “chill out time” as well as the usual fun kid stuff.

I think as parents, we all try to do the best we can with what we know- each of us has different circumstances, needs, knowledge and experience, and so my views on children and busyness are not meant to offend or make parents feel guilty.

But imagine just for a moment, how different your life and your kids’ lives would be if the pace slowed down just a little?

Instead of rushing off to another activity, using this time to sit at home with a good book or cuddle up and talk?

Instead of scheduling something every day during school break/vacation, allowing the kids to have a break from their friends and to learn that it’s ok to have a day at home not doing much?

Instead of thinking our children need to start an activity from a very young age, waiting a few years until they are old enough to discover their talents or interests?

A happy childhood is rarely about the number of experiences a child has been exposed to, but the quality. Think back to your own memories of childhood: what are they?

For me, it was playing outside with my siblings and the neighbourhood kids, climbing trees and riding our bikes and not going home until dinnertime. It was reading Enid Blyton’s “The Enchanted Wood” and daydreaming about being lost in a forest with magical trees and worlds beyond imagination.

I played netball for 18 months and hated it. I never attended dance classes. I rarely had a play date with friends and birthday parties were attended by my siblings and cousins.

Do I feel like I had a deprived childhood? Do I feel like I missed out on anything? No!

Was I ever bored? Yes! Children need to learn it’s ok to be bored sometimes. Children need to learn that sometimes, you just have to sit and wait patiently for a few minutes without thinking you need to constantly be entertained and busy.

Busyness and constant distractions and entertainment do not add more meaning to our children’s lives: it prevents our children from learning what it is to truly live a happy and meaningful life.

Busyness gives children the wrong idea about what brings happiness to our lives, and what it means to be successful.

Let’s lead by example and start to slow down our own busy lives- lets embrace a journey of unbusyness, and show our children what it means to truly live a meaningful life.

Let’s embrace the years of childhood and enjoy the simpler things in life. Let’s stop living up to society’s expectations of what a childhood should look like.

Someday, your child will thank you for doing so.

What steps are you taking to slow down the busyness of you children’s lives? Share your comments!

 

 

Today I Left My Job

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The following is a post I wrote on Tuesday morning at 4am.

I couldn’t sleep and was inspired to write.

Today I left my job.

After 10 years with the same company in the same job, it was time to say goodbye to the old and welcome the new.

I had set a goal to leave my job by the end of 2015, but back in August the company announced a restructure of our department and I was given the option of a new job with unfavourable conditions, or a redundancy package. I took the latter.

So here I am at 4am, unable to sleep because of mixed emotions: excitement that I have finally left work and will not return to the workforce for a while, and also disbelief that this has actually happened! For the first time in my life I do not have a job! I’m unemployed!

If my redundancy had occurred five years ago, I would have been a complete mess.

But today, there is so much excitement about what lies ahead. Although I have a few exciting plans for 2015, largely my life is in the hands of the universe.

Universe, it’s time to show me what you’ve got!

What I am looking forward to the most is the different turn that my unbusy journey may take.

When we experience a life changing event it’s a good time to look deep within ourselves, and also at what is going on around us, to decide which path we will now take. It’s also a good time to let go of any tendency to control the next stage of our lives- if we don’t know what we want to do, let the universe do its thing and give us some guidance.

By taking the time to pay attention to what is going on in the present moment, we can uncover lots of information about what we should be doing next.

Paying attention, instead of keeping busy, means there is no room for distractions and noise that might try to convince us to stray from our journeys.

There is no room for regret of the past or fear of the future, or else we will miss what is going on in the here and now.

There is no room for second guessing ourselves.

For me, my life will be at its least busiest!

There will be more time for lingering, more time for pausing, more time for celebrating and more time for resting.

Now that I won’t be in paid work, I am peeling back the layers of busyness even more. What lies beneath the layers? Only time will tell!

Have you recently experienced a recent life changing event? Have you reached the crossroads of your unbusy, or even busy, journey? I’d love to know!

REMINDER: Don’t forget my upcoming December Challenge: 31 Days of Random Acts of Kindness. Contribute  your suggestion for a random act, and look out for my upcoming PDF printouts to use for the challenge, starting December 1.

 

December Challenge: Random Acts Of Kindness

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“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank

We often get so caught up in our everyday lives that we think we are too busy to stop and help others around us who are in need, or we think that the world’s problems are too big for us to help solve.

So for the month of December, I would like to set a challenge for everyone reading this- each day, choose ONE random act of kindness to perform.

I have created a list below of 20 random acts of kindness, and need another 11 to make up 31 acts, enough for each day in December. This is where you can contribute to this challenge- comment after this post, a suggestion for a random act of kindness. I will then select the best 11 suggestions to add to my list.

Once the list is finalised, I will create and provide a PDF of all the acts, which you can then print off, cut up, fold and place in a jar or container. Each morning in December, take one random act out of the jar and make it your mission to perform this act sometime during the day.

The idea is to help us pause each day in December, which is traditionally a busy month in the year for many people.

Creating a less busy and more meaningful life means taking the time to help other people, and to play a role in making our planet a better place to live in. When you spread kindness to other people, you are sharing more positive energy around you, which leads to others sharing positive energy around themselves. Kindness is infectious- it makes you feel good about yourself, and makes others feel good about themselves too. It starts a domino effect!

Here is the list I have created so far:

Open the door for someone

Pay for someone else’s coffee

Smile at a stranger

Let someone queue in front of you

Write a lovely anonymous note and put it in a neighbour’s mailbox

Pay for someone’s parking ticket

Give your neighbour’s dog a toy

Write an inspirational quote on a piece of paper and leave it on someone’s car windscreen

Say hi to someone you often see but never speak to

Get your children to write and post a letter to their grandparents

Donate a book to your library

Pay a compliment to a work colleague

Write a thank you note the next time someone does something nice to you

Call someone you have not spoken to in a long time

Write a note to your spouse listing all the things you love about them

When packing your child’s lunchbox, leave a little note for them

Offer to look after someone else’s child for a few hours

Next time you’re at the supermarket, ask the person serving you how their day is

Share your umbrella when it’s raining

Send a Christmas card to someone you don’t see very often

Ok now it’s your turn. Write one random act of kindness you would like to see on our list- whether it’s an act of kindness to others, yourself, your workplace, your school, the planet, your neighbourhood…

Share below and let’s see what wonderful list we can come up with for our December Challenge!

The Value Of What We Own

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We often think about the value of things in terms of their monetary value- is this dress on sale? Can they reduce the price for me? That’s a great 2-for1 offer. When we are decluttering our homes and getting rid of the stuff we have accumulated, we may have difficulty determining what should stay and what should go based on the monetary association we make.

Think back to the last time you decluttered your home and couldn’t part with something because it felt like a waste of money to get rid of it.

Although it is important to remind ourselves of the actual cost of a purchase we made, we must learn to think about the value the item has brought to our lives. This helps us sort out what is adding value to our lives, and what is simply “getting in the way”.

How Else Can We Measure Value?

I have always been an avid reader and previously had a large collection of books. During the beginnings of my unbusy journey when I was decluttering my home, I started to think about the value of everything in my home. Yes the books I read had brought me joy and increased knowledge, however there was no longer value in the books sitting on a shelf gathering dust. These books could continue to offer great value to other people if I decided to let go of them. I thought about someone else reading the book and experiencing enjoyment, and this was enough for me to decide that it was time to give away almost all of my books (except a select few that I re-read every few years).

A similar principle can also be applied when we are thinking of purchasing something or bringing an item into our homes. Living in a less cluttered home is not just about how much you can get rid of, but also how you can stop bringing more things into your homes.

If I am considering purchasing something, I spend a couple of minutes thinking beyond the cost of the item itself. I think about the potential value that the item would add to our lives. This is something I am currently doing as I begin to think about Christmas and what to purchase for our kids. They want new Barbie dolls- would this bring more value to their lives? Going by past experience, they would play with them for several weeks before forgetting about them and moving onto something else. I don’t see this purchase as adding significant value, but rather creating more clutter.

Quality not quantity

Living a less busy, and more minimalistic life can be defined differently according to what each individual values. It isn’t about the number of items in your home, but whether what you own adds value to your life. This is a very personal interpretation- what one person values might be considered junk by somebody else.

If you are beginning your unbusy journey and decluttering your home, focus on getting rid of the things that do not add value to your life rather than how many items you want to get rid of. Initially this will be an easy task as you will find many things in your home that no longer serve you.

The difficulty comes later on when you are left with more sentimental items or those you spent a lot of money on. This is where it helps to assess the value of the item to you- sometimes a piece of furniture is of high value because it brings you great comfort. Other times a piece of furniture is unnecessary and is a “space filler” in the room.

5 Tips For Assessing Value

The next time you are assessing the value of something during a decluttering session, ask yourself the following questions. You can also use some of these questions to assess whether a potential purchase would add value to your life.

  • What do I currently do with this item? Is it being used? When was the last time it was used?
  • Does this item currently make my life better and if so, in what way?
  • Could this item offer more value to somebody else?
  • Is this item worth the time I am spending looking after it and storing it?
  • Is this item worth the space I am giving it in my home?

Is there anything in your home that no longer adds value to your life? Or is there something you cannot part with because of the value that it adds?

One Task At A Time

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A few weeks ago I was studying for exams, trying to memorise the definition of a deferred tax asset, while stirring a pot of bolognaise sauce for dinner. All was going well until I suddenly caught myself making a mental list of the ingredients for the sauce, which caused me to forget the accounting definition I thought I had just memorised.

Such is the life of a multitasker, juggling more than one task at the same time, and very poorly I might add.

I decided to put aside my studies and concentrate on dinner instead, focusing my attention on perfecting the bolognaise sauce. Accounting definitions could wait until the right time when I could dedicate myself physically and mentally to the reading required.

Along with being busy, multitasking has become a modern day badge of honour to be worn with pride while doing twenty other things at the same time. Somehow we have equated multitasking with being skilled, organised, and productive, however this is further from the truth.

A 2009 Stanford University study into multitasking found that those who multitasked were easily distracted and had trouble organising and storing information in their brains. Their performance was lower when compared with subjects who did not multitask.

Researchers found that heavy multitaskers also had difficulty filtering information, which meant that subjects struggled to perform tasks as they had difficulty sorting relevant from irrelevant information relating to their tasks.

Think about the last time you tried doing more than one thing at the same time, for example, reading a text message on your phone while you are in the middle of a conversation with someone else. Did you read the message, and then fully return to the conversation you were having, or did your mind continue to focus on the message?

When we multitask, we spread ourselves too thinly- we distribute our efforts, time and knowledge over many smaller tasks. We neglect to focus our attention on the one task, therefore we don’t give fully to what we are doing in the present moment. This leads to spending even more time trying to accomplish tasks that may have been completed more quickly if we had devoted ourselves to single-tasking instead.

What Multi-tasking Is Really Doing To Our Lives

By multitasking, we lose the opportunity of finding the beauty in an otherwise fleeting moment. Our mind is so caught up in the tasks that we are performing that we are distracted from other possibilities- the chance to connect with another person or a lesson that presents itself in a situation.

Multitasking can impact on the quality of our work and therefore our careers- think of times when you have been speaking with a client over the phone and at the same time, have been typing an email. You find yourself not being able to fully listen to your client who is speaking, and you cannot completely focus on what you are typing at the same time. If this was a potential client you were dealing with, you may have missed an opportunity to connect with your client, or to offer something of value. You may have missed the sale!

How You Can Gain From Single-Tasking

Single-tasking is focusing on undertaking one task at a time wherever possible, as opposed to multitasking.

Here are some ways that I have gained from focusing on single-tasking:

-I am not as physically drained as I was when I was working on more than one task at the same time

-My mind focuses less on irrelevant tasks or thoughts, because I am able to prioritise. Yes I get fewer things done each day but I choose things that are of higher importance, and focus more energy on these things.

-I gain more from the present moment- by listening to my daughter read and not doing anything else at the same time, I am strengthening my connection with her. I am also able to correct any mistakes she is making, or can start a conversation about what she is reading, which further extends her learning. I wouldn’t be able to do this if I was cooking dinner at the same time!

-I can invest more of myself into the task at hand, therefore improving my quality of work. By setting aside time to study for exams when I am not being distracted by anything else, I am able to focus more, and absorb more information, leading to a more successful study session.

By prioritising, focusing on the present moment, and investing more of yourself into what you are doing, you can learn to shift your mindset from tackling many different things at once, to approaching each task individually. Retraining your brain to think in terms of single-tasking wherever possible and limiting multitasking, will create a shift in the quality of work that you are producing. Your productivity will, in fact, increase. You will make fewer mistakes, be less busy, miss fewer opportunities and gain so much more by being present in the moment.

Have you made the change from multitasking to single-tasking, and how has this impacted on how you approach tasks? Let me know!