Being On Task

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It was about 9 when my kids and I left our group of friends we have dinner with every Tuesday night and headed home.  We were late for their bedtimes, something that has become the norm as the school year is winding down and the evenings stay lighter, longer.  It was especially true on Tuesdays, but I stopped fighting it.  They still managed to get up in the mornings ok, even if they did need extra nudging.

“Mom?” my son asked from the backseat as I drove and fiddled with the radio at the same time.

“Mmhuh?”

“Mom, what if we got ready early tomorrow morning and then went to Starbucks before school?” he asked hopefully, and completely out of the blue.

I thought about it.  For us to get out the door early would be short of a miracle.  Lately we had been rushing like wild banshees in the morning, trying to get everything done in 45 minutes, and always managing to forget something in the process.  Just that morning we had forgotten my son’s baseball glove for practice that afternoon, and I couldn’t remember if I’d turned off the coffee pot.  We hadn’t left our house till 8 am, and we were supposed to leave by 7:45 am to get them both to school and give them time to play before class.  As it was, they both got there just as the bell rang.  And that was the norm.  In the wake of our rushed mornings, there were papers left on the floor as backpacks were cleaned out last minute, jelly on the counter from PB & J sandwiches, a couple extra sandwich bags that fell on the floor in the process of getting just one, clothes strewn in a trail from the bedroom to the living room……  And the fighting that had ensued between the kids, not to mention between me and the kids over them fighting with each other…..it made every morning a recipe for stress and ulcers.  So it seemed impossible that we could actually get everything done in a shorter amount of time than we already were failing at.  But still, the least we could do was try.

“I’ll tell you what,” I told him and his sister.  “If you can be ready and we can be out the door by 7:30, then it’s a deal.

“What if it’s 7:31?” he asked.

“Then the deal’s off,” I said.  “So you better be sure that you get everything done in time, otherwise we won’t be able to go.”

His young brain started working overtime as he thought about the reality of the deal.

“I’ll never be able to do it,” he muttered.

“Well, what if we get our backpacks together tonight?” my daughter asked.  I nodded.  There was another baseball game the next day, and not having to search for pieces of his uniform would save a ton of time.

“You could even get some of your lunch done tonight too,” I told her.

When we got home, they set about getting all their things in order.  My son grabbed what he could find of his uniform, I helped him locate the rest (Sidenote: When he first started baseball, I vowed to keep all his uniform and equipment in one area only.  For the most part, this has been a success thanks to a backpack that we housed everything in.  But on practice days he would relocate what he needed to his school backpack, weekends would scatter baseballs all over the house, and the mandatory laundry due to dirt stains from slides he would perform at each base whether necessary or not would spread his uniform from dryer to couch to his drawers.  Some mornings before practice or games would result in losing 20 minutes or more to just trying to find white pants that had been washed, or both of his cleats.  So as you can see from our example, it is definitely a smart idea to dedicate an area to sports equipment and uniforms.  And then stick to it.).  I prepped the crockpot for the next night’s dinner and set up the coffee pot for the morning.  My daughter picked out her clothes for the next day, then made her whole entire lunch, saving her sandwich to be made in the morning.  My son put out a granola bar on the table and said he was done.  They were both pretty pleased with themselves, reminding me to wake them up a little early in the morning so they could get a headstart.

This morning I woke them up 10 minutes early.  They barely moved until I reminded them about our deal.  They were both up in moments as I set about getting myself ready.  I let them be responsible for themselves, refraining from reminding them too much to be on task.  They needed little prompting, as it was.  My daughter was done by 7:10.  My son was a little more behind, but was steady in his diligence to get ready.  He put on his favorite yellow polo shirt, asking me to help him with the collar.  Then he made his lunch, getting jam all down the front of it.  His sister was surprisingly kind in telling him that he only needed to change his shirt, that it would only take a moment.  He even thanked me for washing the jam off while he ran upstairs to get a new one (apparently being on task improves manners and promotes niceties, as well). 

We were done by 7:25.

Well, they were.  I still had to finish my hair and get my lunch made.  But in favor of rewarding them for time well spent, I put my hair in a messy bun and saved making my lunch to after I dropped them off.  And over comics and news stories at a little round table in Starbucks, we enjoyed chocolate milk, a decaf mocha, sticky buns for them, and a half-caf coffee for me. 

In essence, the concept of setting up the night before for the next day is not a new one.  It seems so silly that I don’t make this a regular habit.  The kids made mention that if we did this all the time, we would be out of the house on time more, and we wouldn’t have to rush at all.  And it’s very true.  Even with only a week left of school (oh my gosh, seriously?!?), I think we can still do this and make it a late habit. 

In honor of our “newfound” organization, what are some other ways that you save time or make things easier to accomplish?

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