“If things seem under control, you’re just not going fast enough.” —Mario Andretti, race-car driver
Recently I posted about how we have decided to move from California to Illinois. Goodbye Bay Area, hello Chicagoland!
This comes at a crazy, crazy time. We JUST had a baby 3 months ago. We are in a global pandemic. The country is rioting. My husband’s work is busier than ever. We are transitioning our au pair out soon and searching/welcoming a new one (such a big change for the boys and us!). But, that doesn’t stop us from ya know, trying to sell our house, find a new house across the country, and move a party of 6 safely, during a health crisis.
In our world, we do many things all at once. I tend to thrive under both pressure and in chaos.
This is a post about doing the opposite of what most self-help books and advice-givers will tell you to do. Sometimes it works out to “bite off more than you can chew”, “to have a full plate”, and “to spread yourself thin”. I don’t suggest doing this on a normal basis – it probably is not good for anyone’s mental, physical or emotional health on an on-going basis. Especially if any of those areas are fragile. But – for some of us – that’s when we perform our best.
When Matt asked me to marry him, I knew we’d do it within the year. I don’t have enough patience to wait longer than that. So, while we both worked full-time and I was super involved in the sale of the company I was working for (to a huge tech-giant), I was also planning a wedding and a honeymoon. While we were busy in those chaotic circles of “things to do”, we also decided to, ya know, buy a house. Not just any house, but a fixer upper.
We got engaged in September, whizzed through the holiday season visiting family across the country, closed on our house in February, began renovations in March, moved into in April (while still under construction – which is not highly recommended here), the sale of the company I was at was confirm in the winter and closed in the Spring, then just when I thought we would take it easy from then on out (until the wedding) – I was offered a huge promotion/new job at the new ownership company. That happened in September, which I took, and started 4 days before we were off for our wedding in mid-October. So, life happens. Sometimes all at once. (After that, we decided to have three kids in 3.5 years, so we are still at it with the chaos).
6 Ways to Thrive and Not Just Survive in Chaos
- Accept a lot is a lot. Everything is not going to be perfect, or smooth or easy. Just know there is a lot on your plate and some things might be, look, feel, happen a little differently than you imagined. Not good, not bad, just different. Accepting that when you have a lot on your plate it can feel heavy and working within that instead of fighting against it is the first step in thriving in chaos and not just surviving it is all about. Instagram perfection is not a reflection of reality.
- Know what matters and what doesn’t. You have to decide on priorities and principles. Everything can’t have the same level of importance and same attention to detail. Focus on the things that matter most and what is most timely within that list. Yes, keep a list.
- Keep track. Having lists, documentation, files, folders – it all matters. Keeping track of your work, projects, events, receipts, communications – it all helps in the long run even though staying organized can feel time consuming in the moment.
- Know the goals. Each piece of your chaotic puzzle has an end goal – know it and focus on it. Don’t get pulled under by the unpredictable missteps, and small mishappenings. Concentrating on where you need to get to and why will help keep things chugging along.
- Stay out of drama. End of story. If there are people or things in your life that create fear, unnecessary anxiety, emotional hardship, and other sorts of pain, worry or anger – find meaningful ways to methodically move on from them or separate your and your family from them as much as possible. No one can get far in chaos or calmness with drama in their life. Don’t fight with the moving company who scratched your car (just get their insurance!), don’t give a hard time to the handyman (just hire a new one!), don’t bicker with your mom about seating assignments (let it go!) – whatever you can do to avoid drama is good for getting things done.
- Let it ebb and flow. Like I said before, spreading yourself too thin on a normal and on-going basis is not going to be good for anyone. Things will fall through the cracks, the people around you might be let down or hurt, or projects will fall apart. You cannot run your fastest forever. Let your season of “busyness” ebb and flow. Don’t let it continue on and forever. If you find yourself in a state of constant chaos – look for ways to manage the flow by outsourcing some things, like every other week making life super easy with a babysitter, take-out, a housecleaning service or food delivery. Have open communication with your partner. Lean on your friends or family. Push things off your plate in strategic ways to give yourself a break all at once so you can recharge and be roaring to go again.