There’s a poem hanging in my parents’ house that I read many times growing up. It’s penciled by hand on white paper, complete with illustrations–my sister’s assignment from Mom one long-ago homeschool day.
There were a few other poems and proverbs that decorated our house through the years, many of which didn’t completely make sense to me. But I “got” this one. Although I had some vague suspicions that Mom chose it with chores in mind, it talked about play, too, so at least there was balance.
The poem goes like this:
Work while you work
Play while you play.
One thing each time,
That is the way.
All that you do,
Do with your might.
Things done by halves
Are not done right.
Recently these words have been running around my head, becoming a mantra for my days. The poem’s simple instruction appeals to me. My friend Sarah says (in this post) that we need to redefine simplicity for each season of life–and right now, this poem defines it for me.
Here’s how I’m applying it:
Work while you work: I’m setting aside dedicated time for work, when I buckle down and get as much done in the space allotted to me as possible–usually during Little Dude’s nap times. I eliminate distractions: silence my phone, close unnecessary web browser tabs, etc. I don’t think about what else I need to do that day, I just focus! If work time is diluted with distractions, I lose the feeling of accomplishment that allows me to truly play and relax later on.
Play while you play: There are short periods of play, like the leisure time I get in the evenings, and longer periods of play, like a week-long vacation to the beach. Both are vital for a balanced, refreshed life and need to be delineated with protective boundaries. Because I really do enjoy my blogging and Virtual Assistant work, it’s all too easy to fritter away my leisure time with miscellaneous work-related tasks.
But this needs to stop. Checking email and using social media count as work for me, and I’m trying to be more diligent about saving these activities for work hours. Instead, I want to keep my evening “playlist” to activities like diving into a novel, browsing Calvin and Hobbes while enjoying a brownie (that was last night’s pick!), or reading blogs purely for fun (not for networking or finding content to pin!). For longer periods of play, like vacations, my computer stays behind altogether–that’s the goal, at least.
One thing each time, that is the way: Uni-tasking (as opposed to multitasking) is a lost art, but I’m discovering that I can accomplish much more if I focus on one thing at a time. That applies to both small, everyday activities like housework, and larger accomplishments like personal projects or work goals. It might take me a while to check something off my “do” list, but I’m eating the (proverbial! figurative!) elephant one bite at a time. And on the other side of a few months, I can look back and see that I’ve actually accomplished many things.
All that you do, do with your might: I can’t do things with all my might if I have too many things to do. I keep that “do” list and my commitments simple so that when I say “yes” to something I can really mean it, and do it justice! This also feeds back into the work/play balance. I want to work with all my might during work time, and completely relax during play time.
Things done by halves are not done right: And, I might add, if they’re done halfway they will probably need to be done again. But done fully and done well, there’s no guilt when it’s time for leisure, and no resentment when it’s time to work.