Dealing with the Avalanche

As I mentioned in the mailbag this morning, my father had emergency surgery due to a massive infection brought about by a dirty fish hook that got embedded in his arm. He’s going to be in the hospital for another day or two.

We have a house full of people coming to visit us this weekend – we have to plan meals, make sure that we have everything we need for sleeping arrangements, and do plenty of housecleaning first.

I have a big pile of work projects that I’m desperately trying to find the time and energy to tackle.

I’m trying to clean up multiple disasters (I mentioned one over the weekend) and I have to give a presentation this evening describing how one of them is going.

We’ve had a nearly constant run of thunderstorms here for the past week, waking us all up at night. Not only that, we also have a one month old who isn’t anywhere close to sleeping through the night.

This morning, I found myself kneeling in the bathroom cleaning up a disastrous toilet accident from my two year old daughter who is still struggling with potty training.

All of the above things were floating through my mind and for a moment, I just sat back with my head against the wall, feeling a bit overwhelmed.

What do you do when you find yourself here? I’ve found that a few tricks manage to keep me sane and keep me moving forward on all of the stuff I need to do.

First, I focus as hard as I can on the immediate task at hand. My job was to clean up the bathroom, period, so I focused on that task. Once that was done, I focused on lunch. Once that was done, I focused on a work project. One task at a time, with focus on just that task, makes it go much easier.

Second, I channel my frustrations into that task. Instead of being enraged or crying or anything like that, I focus very hard on using that emotional energy to get the task done. I often use that emotion as a factor in choosing what task to do next. So, for example, if I’m feeling a lot of emotion at my current situation, it’s usually a good time for me to do a physical task. I tend to burn a lot of that feeling off by doing dishes or moving furniture or mowing the yard.

Third, I aim to get a good night of sleep. The best method for doing this – which I do about once a week – is to sleep in the guest bedroom in the basement. It’s in the quietest part of the house and enables whoever sleeps there to get a great night of sleep and be ready to deal with the activities of the day.

(Unfortunately, this is a more difficult option for my wife. While she’s on maternity leave (through at least August), she has chosen to breastfeed, and part of that means that during the night, she has to wake up for nighttime feedings – I can’t help with that. Thankfully, we do have a bassinet right next to our bed from which the baby can easily be retrieved.)

Finally, I keep in mind that it’s okay to not be perfect. Sometimes, you simply can’t do everything, no matter how hard you try and no matter how much you want to do everything just right. You’re far better off relieving the pressure and just simply accepting that you won’t be able to complete some things than trying to do everything right and fail at the truly important stuff.