Guess what I did yesterday?
After starting my day with a steaming hot cup of coffee and a legit Quiet Time, I exercised, cleaned two bathrooms, responded to five emails, made an appointment (on the phone!), worked in the yard, showered, organized my laundry/storage room (a task I put off for months, thinking it was impossible—come to find out, it only took an hour and a half), finished an essay, folded laundry, made dinner, and played with my kids. Oh, and I unloaded the dishwasher, too.
I owned yesterday. I was yesterday’s Boss.
Want to know what I did today?
Want to do know what I did the day before yesterday?
Like an unexpected afternoon thunderstorm, yesterday was a surprising deluge of productivity.
“Does anyone else ever feel like they stink at this whole Adulting thing and get nothing done, like ever?” This initial query, sent from a high school girlfriend, started a volley of texts between a small group of us who’ve known each other for two decades.
I expected my friends to say, Nah, I pretty much crush every day. But instead, all of them (from the physician to the teacher, from the stay-at-home-mom to the one with a furry child) had the same answer.
Yes. There isn’t enough time.
Yes. We’re all juggling (and dropping balls).
Yes. We feel pulled in opposite directions.
But how is this possible? How can these women I’ve grown up with—women I love, respect, and know get things done—all feel like me? How is it that none of us feel like we have enough time—in general, to do what we need to do, and specifically, in order to nourish our body and souls, to do what we like?
Three of us girlfriends of the last few years, our friendship forged in the trenches of day-to-day life with young children, sat around my circular kitchen table while our youngest kids ran around dressed up like superheroes. Through laughter and over cups of coffee, we discussed all the things we’d like to get done in the next few months: refinish that headboard, look for a job with better hours, get back into running. Our lists grew until we made a collective decision. The kids are getting older and it’s time.
It’s time to Get Stuff Done.
(My friends, saucy and not fearful of what their parents might say if they wrote a story that included a swear word, may have used a similar, slightly shorter, but more powerful word than Stuff.)
So succinct. So resolute. A hashtag seemed appropriate. I put my coffee cup down, pushed the chair away from the table, and walked a few steps to my chalkboard wall. I reached above my head and wrote #GSD in bold letters. (Turns out our hashtag wasn’t as original as I first thought, thanks to a quick search on Urban Dictionary.)
Regardless, #GSD stayed on my wall for months. It turned from a concrete plan to a friendly suggestion and, finally, to an annoying reminder of all the “stuff” I wasn’t getting done each day.
My youngest son, at two and a half, went through a phase where he ate nothing. Nothing. No things. For days. Days and days and days.
And it wasn’t No Bites of homemade Indonesian chicken with basmati rice and organic broccoli rabe. It was No Bites of dinosaur shaped these-aren’t-even-chicken nuggets with a side of sugar-on-the-go-yogurt or applesauce-in-a-pouch.
He was not sick, not acting strange, and not picky. He just wasn’t eating. (To clarify: When I say he ate nothing, what I mean is that he took one bite of one food at each meal. But that’s basically nothing. One bite is not eating, in the same way getting out of bed does not equal a full day’s work.)
If this happened with my daughter, our first child who lived on the 5-10% percentile line the first few years of her life, I might have taken her to our pediatrician’s office and sat on a small yellow plastic chair in a room with nautical wall decals and answered a series of questions about her bowel habits, mood, and liquid consumption over the last few days.
I might have said something like, “Everything seems fine. She just isn’t eating.”
My patient, brilliant, encouraging pediatrician may have asked, “In the last two weeks, has she eaten some dairy, some meat, vegetables, and fruit?”
“Yes, but…barely,” I might have replied.
My pediatrician might have then smiled at me with kind brown eyes and said, “If everything else is normal—her weight and growth, behavior and mood—you need to look at this differently. Longer term. Stop comparing her to other kids. Evaluate her eating in two week intervals.”
Remembering this now with my son (our third child), I waited. After five days of not eating, he woke up one morning and ate three man-sized pancakes, seven orange slices, a link of sausage and drank two glasses of milk. An hour later, he thought nothing of asking for lunch.
I wonder what would happen if we stopped looking at what we want to do on a day-to-day basis, feeling proud one day about what we did get done and defeated most others over what we didn’t, and instead used a longer time horizon for evaluating our productivity?
What if, like a toddler’s eating habits, we look at what we accomplish in two week intervals?
Some days we juggle flaming torches with a kid on our shoulders while riding a unicycle like it’s our job. On others, we wear pajamas to school drop off and feed our kids cereal for dinner. Very few of us are On every single day without fail. (And for those of you who are, I’d like to give you a high-five. But if you’re perpetually stressed, I’d also like to give you a little back rub and permission to go to bed early with dirty dishes in the sink.)
This is one thing I know: none of us feels like we have it all together. None of us is consistently on top of everything. I, for one, often feel like I’m consistently not doing anything.
But do me a favor. Let’s look back over the last fourteen days.
Have you checked at least a few boxes on your mental or written to-do list?
Surely it’s not everything you wanted to do. And most likely, it isn’t even everything you needed to do. But my guess is, taken as a whole, you’ve accomplished far more than you give yourself credit for.
Then look back another two weeks. Then two months. And then two years.
From “start a business” to “have a baby” to “work on our marriage” to “clean out the refrigerator”—regardless of how you feel about it today, #S got done.
Ladies, keep setting goals, making lists, and checking boxes.
It feels good to #GSD.
But the next time you’re beating yourself up over an off day or two—those dirty-hair, pajama-drop-off, laundry-pile-growing, kids-watching-too-much-TV days—stop for a second and check your two week intervals. It’s in that bigger window of time where you’ll see the truth. And I bet you’ll be surprised.