Managing your own expectations with lupus in tow: a work in progress

At the beginning of the month, I posted about the new found freedom I have, now that both my girls are in school full-time. You can read that post here, entitled "Walk, don't Run."  Many of us experience the Back-To-School euphoria that comes at the beginning of September. But I know I'm not alone in experiencing the "But Where does the Time Go?" slump that hits after you realize that  B-T-S doesn't equate to eating bonbons. There's still stuff to get done. Add to that the lofty goals and grand expectations we set for ourselves in the Fall, and many of us have overbooked before the month is even out.

Thus, I know I need to employ a few strategies to make sure I don't implode. Remember - as a lupus patient who fights fatigue, I have a daily nap to attend to, between the hours of 1-3pm. That means that I have to work backwards from 1 pm every single day. How am I doing so far? I'm getting there. I'm about 65% for fitting in a sufficiently long nap before I go to pick up the kids. The other 35% could use some tweaking. My intentions are good, but I struggle to stick to that one o'clock deadline. Here's what I need to consider to ensure that I get my rest:

1) Go slowly - I have to keep in mind that this new schedule isn't going to go away anytime soon. It's not temporary. I will still have from 8am-1pm tomorrow, and next week, and the week after that. There will be exceptions, of course. But generally speaking, whatever I don't finish today, can most likely be tackled tomorrow.

For the sake of long-term strategic planning, and for my own peace of mind, I do keep a running list of all of the things I plan to accomplish (one for work, one for home). I know I can't get to all of them on Day 1. But knowing they're down on paper, and not just swirling around in my head makes me feel grounded. It's as if writing them down is step 1; making them happen is step 2. In fact, when I do write my grand list of to-do's, I find that become more specific, and they become more attainable action items than just "Organize the kitchen" or "Increase sales for 3Q".

2) Find the flexibility - The concept of "self-imposed" can wreak havoc on the life of a lupus patient. This was never more true than in the early years of my disease. I desperately wanted to maintain my high level of work and social commitments, not for other people, but to prove something to myself. My work was willing to bend; I wasn't. My friends and family were happy with a quiet evening at home; I refused. I put pressure on myself to look and act like lupus wasn't affecting me. Those expectations were self-imposed. And my health suffered greatly for it.

So when I think about all of the things I need to do to grow my business, get the house in shape, or plan for the future, I'm going to go easy on myself. I don't need to add stress where it doesn't exist. I'm going to find and appreciate the flexibility that I have. Granted, not every job allows one to work from home, and we all have family commitments that are non-negotiable. But I bet we can each eek out a little more flexibility on when, how, and where we make things happen. I like to think small on this one - grocery delivery, carpooling, ordering out. Just because you promised yourself you would do "x", doesn't mean the world will come to an end if it doesn't take place this one time.

2) Resist the urge to finish - I come from a long line of folks who live and breath by the phrase "just one more cast". (My father and grandfather were fisherman. What can I say?) This mentality, the one where you simply can't pull yourself away from what you're doing until you've finished, is a dangerous one. At one o'clock, I have to lift my fingers from the laptop keyboard. I have to put down the laundry I'm folding. I simply have to stop. I can't tweak. Or futz. Or fiddle. I'm just going to save my work, and walk away. (Eeeeww. That doesn't sound fun at all, does it?)

3) Prioritize and quantify - In theory, I've always prioritized my lists. But now that I have a new schedule within which to work, I find that my mind is bigger than my time (or make that my time-management skills.) So I've started to allot a time to my tasks. Most often, I'll assign 20 minutes here, or 45 minutes there, only to find I have 4 hours and 45 minutes worth of stuff to accomplish in the 3 1/2 hours I have available. So I prioritize. I pick the 3 or 4 things that I really want to get done that day, and I make those my new musts for the day. I remind myself of #1, and I rejoice in the fact that I have #2, and I force myself to stick to #3.

I'll continue to let you know how it goes!


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