Quick, make a list!
For new-to-Brave-Writer friends, I thought it a good idea to send you into your weekend with one of our core ideas: “The One Thing Principle.”
Quick: Grab a pen and write a list of all the stuff you think needs to be done next week with your kids. Doesn’t matter what you use. An old envelope or back of a supermarket receipt will work. Just start writing. List, list, list until you run out. Feel free to include random stuff like “Find Penny’s missing shin guard” and “Remember to buy nail polish remover” because those get in the way of remembering “Study fractions on Tuesday night so I can help Aaron with them on Wednesday morning.”
Your list may include big ideas (Make a plan for writing a year long report on Nebraska) and small ones (Get batteries for the pencil sharpener by Thursday so we can sharpen our new set of Prismacolor pencils in time for the art project that afternoon).
Once you’ve got a list, take a break. Get a cup of coffee or tea. Read a blog or browse the Pinterest newsfeed. Then come back to your list. Before rereading it, add to it. Anything you forgot, anything new that popped into your mind in the interim. Then, reread the whole list and allow it to jog your memory for one more thing. Add it.
Okay—sit back. You’ve got a list! Congratulations.
You’ve likely written a good, long, somewhat exhaustive (and exhausting list!). This weekend, pick one thing to do on that list. Just one. Pick the one that leaps off the page, gets your attention, draws you.
THAT’S the one to do this upcoming week. The other stuff, now that it’s on the list, will circle to your consciousness all week (you’ll be on the alert for that shin guard, you’ll walk by the battery section at the market and remember: pencil sharpener!, Tuesday night will come and you’ll grab the workbook for fractions and take a glance through it before you climb into bed). It’s all there. You can do any of the “lesser” items as they occur to you.
For now, though, pick the one “bigger” thing—the thing that you want to do, that takes preparation to do, that is nagging at you.
This is the week you’ll do it! Focus on that one idea.
Prepare for it.
Take the time right now to get what you need to do that task. In other words, most activities that we never get to need preparation (supplies, Xeroxed copies, materials). If it means you need to order a book, order the book now. If it means you need to assemble ingredients, get them together and put the missing items on a shopping list you will use today. If it means gathering materials on hand, gather them and put them in a safe place. If this is a task that needs preparation (a step or two must be done ahead of time), create space in your schedule in the early part of the week to get that art of the event completed.
Execute the task.
Once you have what you need, pick a time today (or on the planned day) to follow through and do it. Make sure you protect that time and space from interruptions. That means your laptop is closed, cell phone is on vibrate, and your television is turned off. Don’t answer the door. Text your spouse and tell him or her not to call you during that hour or two. Clear your kitchen table (or your yard or couch or car – wherever this thing is happening). Know that you have a dedicated block of time to do this task and that no other task will crowd it out.
Experience the task/event.
Be there. Don’t allow your mind to run off to dinner or dentist appointments you forgot to schedule. Don’t resent sitting down and “wasting time” doing what your mind resists. Don’t jump up to change a laundry load because the timer dinged. Do listen, pay attention, dedicate your mind and heart to the moment at hand. Listen to your kids. Feed back to them what you hear. Participate. Become interested and fascinated. Live in this moment and no other.
For example, if you are working on times tables, completely immerse yourself in the experience. Recite the tables, play with them, ask questions, find ways to make two times six interesting. Be there! Allow the connections to come that happen when you are involved and calm.
If you are holding a poetry teatime, relax. Sip tea, observe the facial expressions of your children, take in the color of the placemats and the shape of the scones. Stay in that event as long as it lasts and don’t reprimand yourself for skipping your grammar workbook that day.
Finally, once the event or learning experienced concludes, and you’ve moved on to the next “thing,” allow yourself to fondly remember what worked or was enjoyed. The next hour, or meal, or day, or two days from now, remember the experience you shared with your kids.
Say words like:
“You know, I didn’t realize how often fractions are a part of my day until we spent those two hours on Monday playing with your Cuisinaire rods.”
“I so enjoyed doing copywork with you on Tuesday. Want to read what I wrote? I want to read yours today.”
“Watching “Much Ado About Nothing” reminds me of when I was a kid and my mom took me to plays. What was your favorite part? Mine was…”
“I loved that poem about horses you read during teatime. Can you find it for me again? I’d like to reread it.”
Focus on the experience by honoring it in your memories. Retell the story, relive it a few days later. It will stay anchored in your lives as a touchstone if it becomes worth of your investment, dedication, and memory.
This is how you work through the list. You have all the way until June (and of course, beyond) to get through the list. Do it one thing at a time, and only do the one thing when you know you will really devote yourself to it. Let me know how it goes.
Cross-posted on facebook.
Image by Design Build Love