Finding focus amidst chaos

Let's talk about life.

You know how nicely cafeteria trays separate out each piece of your meal? Everything is neatly divided, potatoes not touching green beans (or quinoa salad not touching sauteed spinach—whatever’s your thing). These items all exist within the same whole (the tray itself), but there’s a clear line between each element.

My life is not like a tidy cafeteria tray. Not one bit.

And I’m guessing many of you can understand that, whether it’s because you're a parent...or a creative working on your business while also working full-time...or a caregiver who’s also trying to maintain their own life...or just a human being living in a world that (unfortunately for so many of us) isn’t easily compartmentalized.

Currently, for me, the chaos is coming from parenthood. We made the decision for me to stay home with Nathan while also working as much as I can. We knew it would be an adventure, an experiment, and it's one I've been thrilled with—I love our days at home together and our adventures and the freedom to continue being my introverted self. I know how incredibly lucky I am, believe me.

But I’ve always been someone who does well with a cafeteria-tray kind of world, keeping each portion (or part of my life) carefully divided out.

I like separation between work time and personal time. I like to finish a project before moving on to the next thing. I prefer not to work on vacations at all. I like things neatly compartmentalized.

But life with a baby is not like that. Lately, my days are all about changing. Switching tasks. Turning my brain from one thing to another with lightning speed. I immerse myself in work, then I pick up a hungry baby. I immerse myself in play, then it’s time to eat lunch. I begin doing laundry, then it’s time for a nap (for him, and occasionally for me). I go back to the work, trying to pick up the thread of a half-finished sentence, but a call comes in about scheduling an appointment. And on it goes, over and over.

For someone who’s always been easily distracted anyway (I’m famous for switching over the laundry and forgetting to turn on the dryer—or boiling water, turning off the kettle, and then never making tea), this jumping around is tough. Some days I feel like I have a handle on it all, and some days it wears me out. And it’s meant some things have been sacrificed—I’m moving much slower on the work front than I’d like, even as my brain buzzes with ideas and plans. (I mentioned that here.)

But I’m content with where I am, truly, so I’ve been looking for ways to struggle less and simply be where I am each moment—while also honoring the part of me that needs some measure of focused time (even if it’s a small amount).

For me, right now, that looks like: exercising each morning (shout out to The Balanced Life Sisterhood, which is currently saving my sanity), meditating for about three to five minutes each morning using an app or guided meditation (still working on finding something I truly love; open to suggestions), and writing.

Yep, writing. Not for someone else—obviously I’m not writing to you guys all that often (sigh)—but writing for me.

These days, that looks like spending about five to ten minutes each morning doing my own version of a gratitude practice. I write the thing I’m grateful for, and then I write a little more about it—what I’ve learned, what I still have to work on, why that thing is on my mind that morning. It’s more about exploring my feelings and ideas and where I am currently; the gratitude part mostly provides structure and a way in. It’s simple enough that I’m able to fit it in most days, and it makes me feel more grounded (especially when I do all three things—exercise, meditate, and write, which only takes about 30 minutes total).

Explore, to me, is a similarly grounding experience. It’s quick—no mega commitment needed. But there’s also accountability and a reminder—an email in your inbox each day—which makes less work for you as you try to get into the routine. (I had to set a reminder until I got into the habit, which is another way to go!)

I had planned to open Explore to you before the holidays, but I’ve dedicated less time to it that I planned—see the above about all the crazy. Just know that I’m working on it and I’ll get it into your hands as soon as I can.

I’m also working on a new website, which will speak more to my focus these days—a blend of connection (with yourself, your ideas, and your audience), the tension between knowing and doing (which I talked about recently), and sustainable growth and change (something that’s really on my mind lately). I’m excited to keep working at whatever pace I can, and look forward to sharing more with you along the way!

Until then, what are some ways you can find focus in your own chaos?

Some ideas:

  • a five-minute walk (yep, just around the block...or your backyard)

  • a simple meditation (simply lie on your back and think of a light traveling slowly from the tips of your toes to the crown of your head as you breathe)

  • a quick workout (search for one online that's under ten minutes that you can do at home)

  • five minutes of free-writing (just write about anything or pick a topic)

  • enjoy a snack without distraction (no Instagram, news-reading, podcast-listening, etc.)

The idea is that you spend a few minutes focusing on what you want to focus on rather than getting swept away in the tide of the everyday. I'd love to hear what other ideas you have!

Okay, that's it for today. Happiest of holidays to you! I'm wishing you many moments of focus as the year draws to a close.

With much love,

P.S. If you’ve already done Explore, I hope these emails are a good reminder to you about why the practice is so important. When I’m ready to release Explore again, I’ll be emailing you to see if you’d like to do it again (for free, of course)! So keep an eye out. I can’t believe it was a year ago that we were all preparing for the first round! Whew.

More Thoughts

>  There’s one more technique I’ve been using for my sanity—you can read about it on Instagram!

>  I haven’t done much planning for the New Year yet (and I'm feeling strangely unstressed by that!)—but if you’re in that mode, check out this post I wrote a couple of years ago. Lots of options for you there. I particularly recommend Susannah Conway’s Unravel Your Year—so, so good and totally free. Her Word of the Year email course, also free, is a great companion. Wishing many good things for you in 2017, whether you plan or not!

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