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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Task-Oriented and Toddler-Oriented

If there is one thing that would help you get to know me, it's the fact that I am a task-oriented person, not a people-oriented person.  This one tiny fact can help you understand so much about why I do what I do.  I mean, of course, I like people.

Well, I like some people.

I like you.  You're cool.

And of course, I am always trying to get better at focusing more on people than tasks.

For example, if I ever get snippy, impatient, or bossy, check to see if I'm trying to get something done.  Usually, that's it.  (Or I might be hungry.  That's it sometimes, too.)

Not that I use this as an excuse.  I am always working to moderate this side of me, but it is a natural part of who I am.  A people-person would rather sit and chat with someone for hours and leave their kitchen half-cleaned, or their laundry half-folded, or their Facebook half-checked.  That's just who they are.  It's wrong, but it's who they are.

I'm kidding.


Having a toddler around has recently thrown my task-oriented self for a huge loop.  I get really frustrated when I start something and then get interrupted.  It's like a part of my brain just shuts down and ignores everything else until it's finished.

But obviously I can't do that with a toddler.  Everything is interrupted when there's a toddler around.  And you can't really blame them.  They need help with just about everything, even in our house, where we've really tried to give her as much independence and access as possible.

So I've been working on coping mechanisms.  They're  not perfect, but they are the result of over a year of relearning how to do just about everything.  And in the spirit of the article, I will interrupt what I am trying to say periodically with pictures of Cricket trying to distract you.

1)  Make Tiny Tasks

Don't try to tackle an entire project.  Break it up into smaller pieces and focus on completing one of those.

Instead of trying to empty the whole dishwasher, I just try to empty the silverware.  Then the top tray.  Then the bottom tray.  Three separate goals for three separate times.

If I'm trying to prepare for a meal or make something during the day, I just do one step at a time.  I might chop onions, and then go push Cricket on the swing.  Later, I'll come back and wash all the potatoes, then leave and change a diaper.  I might boil the pasta, put it in the fridge, and then go read books to Cricket.

It's not just in the kitchen, either.  I might upload pictures from my camera in one sitting, go through and edit them in another, and then upload them to Facebook in a third.  (I don't have an iPhone.)

Or, instead of cleaning the entire bathroom at one time, I might only clean the sink.  Then later, or even the next day, I might clean the toilet.  Then later, the floors, etc.

Sometimes I even prep during nap time things that I can't do until she wakes up, like putting things in the food processor but waiting to turn it on.

If I think of each step as an individual task, it makes it much easier for me to break things up throughout the day.

2)  Prioritize

I plan my day in terms of what I call "time units."  My time units right now are basically broken down into five parts:  Before She Wakes UpMorning, Nap Time, Afternoon, After Her Bedtime.  I prioritize what I do, not just by what is most important, but by what it is most important to get done during that time period.  For example, she's a light sleeper, so I save quiet things like folding laundry for nap time, and do things like washing dishes in the morning when she is content to play independently.

This prioritizing by time units helps me get the most out of the day and not feel like I'm spinning my wheels trying to do things that I can't seem to finish.

Well, not feel as much like that, anyway.

3)  Constantly tell yourself "My baby is more important."

This is self-explanatory, but worth including.  If I get really frustrated, this is my mantra.  Even if nothing at all gets done all day, I've played with Cricket, she's healthy, and she's cared for.  Mission Accomplished.

4)  Make lists

I know some people don't like lists, but they are my life-support system.  Because of our real food emphasis and my trying to save money by making stuff myself, I have a never ending list of things I need to do or make, like granola bars, cereal, chopping and freezing veggies, making bread, making bath salts, etc.  (That last one is not applicable to the real food part of the conversation.  I do not recommend eating bath salts.)

I also have a list pad on the fridge that is our running grocery list, so when we are out of something, or I think of something we need, I immediately write it down and don't have to remember in a week when I go shopping.

As a task-oriented person, lists help me feel in control.  I can point to my list and say, "Look what I have accomplished!  I have done things!"  I have even been known to add things to my daily to-do lists just so that I can cross them off and prove that I did stuff.  Hey, it works!

5)  Be realistic

I have slowly and painfully realized that I have new limitations now that I am chasing and being chased by a small person.  I've gotten to where I won't put more than about five things on my daily to-do list, because it's almost impossible for me to accomplish more than that.  I just had to adjust to a new normal, and that's ok.

If you are not a task-oriented person, first of all, you probably quit reading this a while ago because it doesn't apply to you, and because you don't feel the need to finish reading just out of obligation like the rest of us.  You also probably think I'm kind of crazy and very uptight.  While that may be, hopefully some of the things I've said ring true to a few people.



  1. I love this. I definitely have a weird mix of times they're applicable as far as people- versus task- orientation goes, but I can relate to so many of the things you've talked about here. Did that sentence make ANY sense? I can't concentrate these days, imagine that, ha! Figuring out that it's acceptable to break up a task or a project into smaller steps absolutely changed my life. I still struggle with feeling guilty about "never finishing ANYTHING," but it's getting better. Well, as time goes on I'm more willing to accept grace for today and let some things slide. It averages out. There are days my kids are way more needy and days they just want to be left alone. I totally take advantage of the "Get outta my way!" days. haha.

    1. Yeah, any time she is feeling independent, I snatch at my chance to get something done, for sure! But yeah, lots of grace and patience. Those are the most important things.

  2. I am so going to need this in a few years. :-)

    1. If you come up with more, let me know! I'm always up to try something new! :o)