get stuff done

Easy there, cowgirl. Or, esse quam facere.

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by Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

Here’s one thing I’ve noticed since I’ve been back from my summer Internet break: there’s a lot of talk right now about being rather than doing. Some of the smartest people I love to read are encouraging us to remember that life isn’t always about doing, doing, doing. And that who we are doesn’t equal what we do. To that, I raise my glass and say a hearty amen.

But here’s the weird thing about me. After taking a much-needed break and reading a few solid books, I get motivated to do the whole being-over-doing business. And so I go hog wild setting up systems in my life to be. I roll up my sleeves and declutter my wardrobe like a madwoman to make sure I’m not spending too much time dealing with clothes I don’t love. I call our kids’ school to let them know we’re going back to homeschooling so that we can better claim our time as our own, and then I spend long waking hours planning for the school year. I reclaim my commitment to read books that encourage simple living—to being and not just doing—and then I spend late night hours filling my wish list on Amazon.

I start doing, in other words. In order to be. Oh, the irony.

fastcompany

I don’t know if it’s my highly-autonomous personality or what (I’m an INTJ), but once I decide something, I am focused and determined and gung-ho about that thing until I feel like it’s done. When there’ s a new season rolling around (typically a new year or the start of a new school year), I get all jazzed about starting off with a bang. And then I ultimately try to do too much. Which leads me to burnout and discouragement. And then vain attempts to try and tweak the system, until I realize that oh yeah, I’m not allowing enough margin in my life to just be.

So I take a break. And then I re-remember the whole being-over-doing thing, which gets me excited, which leads to my over zealous tendencies again. And on and on the cycle goes.

I’ve been back from my break for a little over a week now, and here’s how things will be different for me this time: I’m going to ease in to things. I’m going to approach this whole living well thing as though it’s a journey and not a destination, because well, it is.

morning

Practically speaking, it looks like this for us right now:

• We’ve got house projects waiting for us, but the Pacific Northwest summer doesn’t linger forever. So we’re going to spend more time this month canoeing and camping, and leave the stairs-painting business until the fall.

canoeing

• We’re going to homeschool again, but instead of pushing out of the school-year gate with a bang, we’re starting with this: reading, writing, and math. That’s all. And once we get that groove, then we’ll ease in with some history and science, and then maybe a little art and music later. I know from experience that if I try and do everything at once, like I’m tempted to do, I’ll hate life by November.

• My knee is officially getting better (I tore my ACL in February and had surgery in March), so I’ve been given a green light for easy exercise. My body wants to start running miles. But I’ll hurt myself and will probably get discouraged at my pathetic run time, so instead, right now I’m focusing on daily walks and low-key hikes. The running will come.

I’m all about the being over doing, but I can’t do be. If that makes any sense. I can be be, and I can do do (cue the Chandler jokes), but I know I’ll get discouraged if I overcommit my fall, even with the best of intentions. I can still be my party animal planning self, but without overdoing it. I’m going to learn from my break, and still live like the journey is just as enjoyable as the destination.

Because it is.

What are some ways you’re going to ease in to your goals and projects this fall?

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Comments

  1. This is SOOO me! I am about to begin my first year of homeschooling, after pulling my kids out of public school and I am so afraid of burnout. I have been listening to some of your podcasts about homeschooling and am really gonna try and take the words of wisdom of your seasoned homeschoolers. I printed off your awesome planner…..LOVE IT! Thanks for all the encouragement. Best of luck on your school year.

  2. avatar
    laurajoliza says:

    It makes me smile to see you return to homeschooling this year. I agree with all of your reasons, posted on your personal site – and the time thing, especially: quality time with your kids; how much *less* time it takes for them to learn at home; how you don’t have the time you think you will when you are shipping them off somewhere; wanting your time to be flexible…We are a work/stay-at-home family as well, and it just makes so much sense to all be on the same frequency.

    I have homeschool brakes on this fall in the form of a new(ish) baby. I know my expectations can’t be high this year! I’m planning for us to listen to The Story of the World during our afternoon quiet time (we’ve already started and love it), and, well, that’s as far as I’ve gotten, curriculum-wise! I have a decided Unschoolish bent (combined with a fascination with Charlotte Mason’s approach), so I’m just going to read to them on the couch and then invest in experiences to fill in the gaps where my constant state of nursing leaves us. :)

    We’re going to be doing the Wildheart Nature School’s homeschool session on Fridays this fall. My nearly-7 year old is doing their day camp this week (had her first day today and loved it!). I can’t recommend it highly enough; very John Holt and something I want to see supported in Bend so it doesn’t disappear!

  3. avatar
    Kaitlin - Handmade Freedom says:

    Excellent advice. My main goals for the rest of summer are to get my two year old at least mostly potty trained, to get my blogging into a nice groove, to put together the beginnings of a loose pre-school homeschool curriculum and help get my darling into a rhythm before her sister is born.

    I’m doing a whole lot of do-being but your post is a nice reminder to savour this time.

  4. Yes, so true! Our church in college emphasized working from your rest instead of how we typically rest from our work. That was a game changer for me in the crazy cycle you described above.

    • “working from your rest instead of how we typically rest from our work”

      Wow. That made my day–just as much as this post did!

  5. Your “starting” homeschool schedule looks like mine, year round. It’s my secret to avoiding burnout with 7 kids. Stick with the basics. The children school themselves on the other subjects in their free time – which is plentiful in our day. LOVE love love this about homeschooling.

  6. Oh YES, amen sister. I am an INTJ as well and love to plan and prepare… and then get discouraged when things don’t go quite as smoothly as planned. I have been limiting my selections and plans this homeschool year and I think we have a shot at this schedule!

    Here is to prayer and to understanding the joy in the journey.

  7. I found myself smiling and nodding while reading this. I’ve never really heard the vicious cycle of doing and being explained quite like this before, and you are so, so right. What great advice to ease into things rather than go full force ahead. Why have I never thought of this before? ;)

  8. I understand this. It sounds like your also intentionally prioritizing the important stuff. It’s encouraging to me to take a step back & see what is most important & do those things.

    I’m currently taking a break from blogging & specific social media outlets to hear and declutter my mind & heart. Our family is going through immense changes, so for now, I’m learning to lean into Jesus with all of it. This scares me, which also makes me realize I haven’t the slightest clue how I’m going to approach this coming fall. But your post has encouraged me (also reading some Stephen Covey).

  9. Thank you for this — so helpful.

    What I really want to know is: where did that print come from? (feels so good to get stuff done) I would love to have one too!

    • It’s from an Etsy shop we did a giveaway for awhile back. I’ll have to dig it up… (Or you can search ‘queen for a day giveaway’ and see if you find it!) :).

  10. I too get a little caught up in the organizing of being that I end up doing so that I can be! I’ve decided to start small by blocking out time in the family calendar for regular down time so that we all have time to just stop and do the things that free our minds and bring joy to our hearts. Also working on some screen rules as I often get too busy with the internet – it’s good to know your weaknesses when it comes to simple living, gives you somewhere to start!

  11. Amen girl! I’ve been spending lots of time celebrating my 50th with friends, soaking up Oregon’s beautiful summer, and hosting dinner parties whenever possible to enjoy being with friends. House projects and other chores can wait.

  12. When you do start running again, don’t take a watch with you for a good, long time. Just enjoy, whatever speed and distance you cover.

    • Sigh… that sounds marvelous, Caroline. I think I will.

      • Yes. When you start running again you can borrow my mantra, “I am running faster than I would be if I were sitting on the couch.”
        After the birth of my first child, I started running (hard) four weeks post-partum. What a mistake…that ultimatley injured me and left much further behind where I wanted to be if I had just taken my time and eased back into it.
        My second child is still a baby…this time I really took it easy as I started running again. And my body is much happier for it. It appears that I may be getting wiser – don’t tell anyone!

  13. It’s that INTJ “mastermind” facet, that wants to turn more research and planning into a neat package that results in MASTER ALL THE THINGS!

    …What helps me is to make a list on the side that says “this is what I’m not going to do, what I’m not going to volunteer for, what I’m not going to write about,” etc. (Did I say “list”? I meant “spreadsheet.” Ha.)

  14. Hello, fellow INTJ!! :) This is me exactly…. I get so excited about plans to step up my meditation practice so I get into finding cool apps and creating a cool meditation space… and then I don’t meditate! My mantra for balancing being and doing is to recognize that the doing is necessary, but to be fully present for it…. being aware that I am doing (if that makes sense).

    Enjoy your canoeing and camping and the last few slow weeks of summer!

  15. I have an exercise for you that I learned in a class I was taking that might be helpful.
    Its all about being patient with yourself and giving yourself successes.
    In this class we were told to keep a journal and ever night write down what we thought we needed to accomplish the next day. Sort of a to do list. The trick was to only write down what we actually thought we could get done.
    We could have a master list that we could take from for the daily to do list, but the point was to learn to realistically only put down what we really thought we would get accomplished. Then if we succeeded we got a check for that day.
    Its really not as easy as it seems.
    I tend to be over ambitious and you really learn about yourself and your capacities with this.

  16. Love reading your blog. The FRIENDS reference made me smile!

  17. You’ve learned the groove of the Pacific Northwest Summer. We sprint starting in July and start to ache for our rhythm of life come September. I once heard a woman say that come September she wishes it would start raining so she could feel less pressure to be outside. I am a doing person and need to ‘do’. I’m learning to have the balance and not always see life as a project to complete. Balance.

  18. avatar
    Elizabeth says:

    Absolutely, Tsh! The urge to plan how to “be” is one that I have too – after all, with a few to-do lists, handy office supplies and a little bit of motivation anything is possible, right? Sigh.

    Since I’ve had a break, I’ve felt this feeling to jump head first into everything I’ve wanted to do, see, learn, cook, plan, write, clean, trash, read, organize and the list goes on. That’s a surefire way to get burned out (I know my personality and that always happens around the fall if I don’t watch it…). Here’s to doing what you enjoy *and* taking the time to actually enjoy it :)

  19. avatar
    Sarah Westphal says:

    Great post Tsh! (Makes me wonder what my letters are–the INTJ-whatevers)

    So many nuggets of wisdom in the comments to boot!

  20. I’m so guilty of doing so much in an attempt just to “be”. I always thought I was the only one. I still don’t have a game plan for easing into this fall, but I think just being aware of how I drove myself crazy last year is going to help tremendously. That and taking moments like tonight just to enjoy the simple things with my kids. I need to make sure I don’t plan to do so much that those opportunities disappear.

  21. As a fellow INTJ, party animal planner – I can completely relate. Every year of my life there is a new project which promises, once mastered, a better life. Lies. Walking by faith day by day, listening to the Spirit and being fully present are completely contrary to my nature. Thanks to my ESFP husband I’ve grown in them and am learning how to slow down and experience a more meaningful life – rather than just planning one ;) Thanks for the reminder here – they are ALWAYS needed for me.

  22. Oh, that is such a familiar cycle! Yes, I do the same thing, deciding to “Do” just being, from time to time. Or not deciding to, but find myself doing just that. It’s like creating complex systems to simplify. It’s not that you can’t get something out of the process, but suddenly you realise – Doh! This is not what I had in mind.

    As for easing in, we’re heading into Spring here, which is my usual time for getting gung ho and making a gazillion plans for the garden and growing way to many seedlings. But this year I am taking it one thing at a time, because I know my garden is just not going to see enough of me this year. And that just has to be okay.

  23. As another INTJ homeschooling mom, I totally relate, particularly to “hating my life by November” (which happens to be the perfect time to start planning a complete life overhaul for January). This year our schedule conspired to force me into a slow start to the year, and I’m so glad. I don’t think I would have had the willpower all on my own to slow down my gung-ho tendencies.

    A line of poetry that has helped me reassess if my “mastermind” personality is out of control is by T.S. Eliot: “Dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will have to be good.” If that’s what I’m trying for, no wonder I’m frustrated.

  24. Yeah, we are easing into our homeschooling schedule. I started my four year old with his reading lessons and my six year old with their First Language Lessons this week (3x/wk). After two weeks of that, we’ll start Classical Conversations where we’ll add our memory work. During the first 6 weeks we’ll gradually add in our science, Story of the World and training the little 18 month old to entertain herself! Haha, it’s all on the calendar and looks great. We’ll see how it works out in practice, but I like having a plan, even if it changes! :)

  25. Take it easy on the running. It is not an easy thing to do when you live in the land of super fit people.

  26. I’m an INTJ as well, getting gun-ho about getting things so I can live easier later (!) is my usual trap into burnout. This article came in perfect timing as my mind was bustling with plans and projects for the new season. I have a new baby on the way, and I was already going through my oldest’s baby clothes. This article reminded me that I have time still. Right now I ought to enjoy the last bits of summer with my only son, while he is still the only one. :) thanks for this and hope your last bit f Summer is full of being.

  27. I could have written this post. I live this pattern often (INFJ here). When I’m stressed and overwhelmed and endeavor to simplify, but I can never quite get my systems in place and I still end up running perpetually behind. I’m learning to limit my activities, but I can’t seem to stop thinking about all of the things I would like to be doing. I want to be, not just do. Thanks for the encouragement.

  28. I love the idea into easing into things, specially us moms get ready to start the new school year, which with fall it also means back to evening activities. However, it’s hard not to want to speed up as much as we can. Sometimes, I feel that maybe I’m saving too much energy to get going and it’s only at super speed that I can accomplish anything until I run out of energy and focus.

  29. Oh goodness I can sure relate! I am often grateful for moments that require me to be so present that there is no room for thought just to force me to be…for moment anyway.

  30. Great advice! I started early this year, excited & gung ho, but met with such resistance that it was an abysmal failure. :( So I’m starting over this week by easing gently into it (3Rs with emphasis on the Reading R) and will gain momentum slowly. As I read your post, it occurred to me that gentle transistions were my usual mo so I don’t know why I went out full-speed this year. I think as my kids get older (teenager) I get more nervous. If that’s possible. (I blogged about my crash & burn in my true confessions blog post.)

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