I heard this quote a few weeks ago while listing to the Rich Roll Podcast. It’s a long interview, with a LOT of interesting trains of thought, but by far, the concept that stuck with me the most was this idea of making things easy.
With the start of a new year, and ten new goals that I’d like to achieve over the course of the year (all lovingly developed and explored in my favourite PowerSheets), I’ve been employing this technique with great success.
One of my goals for the year is to have improved time with the kids, and together as a family. In the past, I would have gone about this goal by trying to create “special” things to do with each kid, and to do with both kids together. I’d get caught up in planning something for each month, start off with a bang, then end with a whimper. And in the process, completely loose sight of the intention behind the goal.
But not this year – because, as I wrote the goal, I also worked on how I could achieve this goal in the easiest way possible, and in what is turning out to be more meaningful for both me and the kids.
Step 1 in achieving this goal was simply to create more time to have with the kids – it’s easier to have improved time when there is simply more of it. Put differently, I tend to have a better time when I have more than 5 hurried minutes at the beginning or tail end of a day with the kids. So, in planning our activities for the winter term, anything that wasn’t deemed a “must-do” by me or the kids was cut. There are things the kids would have liked to have done, classes they could have enrolled in, but that would simply have added things to do on the calendar with little added benefits for anyone.
Step 2 involved looking at the “pain points” in our day and figuring out how to improve or eliminate them entirely. Since it’s winter and overall, it’s been pretty freezing cold so far, the kids need to be in full winter gear to go to school each morning. The logistics of squeezing my daughter’s uniform tunic into a pair of snow pants each day was taking significantly longer than it should have and resulting in whining and/or tears, which was grating on all of us. The purchase of a smaller tunic and a new pair of snow pants, has added ten minutes to the time we have in the morning, and eliminated the whining and/or tears.
And while unnecessary activities were eliminated, the kids still do have their fair share of activities, in and out of school. Which means bags for school and after-school activities need to be packed. While we have been in the habit of doing this the night before, assembling gym uniforms and dance uniforms right before bed had a habit of drawing out the bedtime routine and often times winding the kids up after we had just spent time winding them down. So . . . the easy solution . . . as soon as the kids get home, backpacks are emptied of that day’s items, and refilled with whatever is needed for the following day.
And lastly, Step 3 . . . removing screen time. My kids wake up early. Really, really early. Like 4:50 early. And it was really, really easy for me to let them watch tv to help fill in the time in the morning. But, because I have 2 kids of opposite genders, and I do like to be fair, tv time in the morning has evolved over the years from 1 episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to my son watching a half hour of sports highlights and my daughter watching a half hour show of her choosing. I was going nuts listening to my daughter whine when my son was watching sports, and listening to my son whine when my daughter chose to watch Barbie. In other words, what I thought was the “easy” way, was turning out to be problematic for all of us.
So I instituted a new “easy” solution – no screen time in the morning. The kids can read when they get up. They can help me pack lunches and make breakfast. And they can get all the little things they need to do in a day done, like practicing piano. Everyone is happier, calmer, and, as an added bonus, we’re all ready to go about 45 minutes before we need to leave for school. And in those 45 minutes, we play games, we read, we investigate things the kids want to learn about . . . . we spend time together. And when it’s time to go to school, we can be dressed and out the door in under 5 minutes – there’s no last minute scrambling for items they need for the day – they’re all packed – and the kids can easily get themselves into their winter gear.
I’ve also eliminated screen time in the evenings during the week. While they weren’t watching much, the shows they were watching, and the squabbles over who got to choose the show to watch, were driving me nuts. In it’s place, we chat (often while all making dinner together), they play, or read. And after dinner, they can help clean up, or play or read. But whatever it is they choose to do, we’re together and we’re all happier. And I’m achieving my goal.
This concept of “easy” is helping me with my other goals too . . . instead of setting specific goals for the gym this year, I created one overarching health goal “personal vitality”. In the past, I’ve focused on learning pull-ups, or setting new personal bests when I lift weights . . . but the complex methods I developed to meet these goals were inevitably thrown off by a sick kid, or, you know, life in general, and my goals were abandoned, un-met, leaving me, deep down, with a sense of failure about it all. This year, by working out consistently, and continuing to commit to eating well, it’s easy to meet my goal, and I feel a whole lot better about myself because of it.
As you go about your day today, think about what aspects of your day might be improved if you made it “easy” . . . you just might be surprised at what you find.