Tuesday, February 26, 2008

9 Ways to be more Productive

Yesterday I had a pretty embarrassing moment of consumer-culture thinking. My neighbor is getting a lot of yard work done and workers were tearing out the old brick on his walkway. I asked the workers what they were planning to do with the old brick, and they said they were going to throw it out.

Naturally, I couldn't see all those tons of brick going to waste while our back patio is rotting to pieces, so with their permission, I started to haul it away. I had on my leather work gloves which haven't been used in years and was bent over throwing the dirty bricks into a wheelbarrow. The smell of the dirt, gloves, and barrow suddenly reminded me of something. I thought to myself, "Wow, this smells just like a home and garden store."

My next thought was, "Man, have I gotten soft."

And later on, after all the bricks were moved, I noted to myself that I haven't been so sore since the last time I went to the gym--which was a long time ago. Too much of my life, I realized, is built around consumerism. If I'm going to lift weights at the gym, I may as well stay home and get some yard work done. Or build a playhouse, ride a bike, fix my fence. And, by God, a home and garden store ought to remind me of working in my home and garden and not the other way around!

I want to set some goals for myself that I can follow to make my life more productive and less driven by consumer culture. Following the idea of making small, measurable goals, I'm focusing on what I can do this week to set new standards for myself. Here's the list:

1. Eat Only at Home
This may be easy for a lot of people out there, but it has always been a pain for me. Through a series of financial ups and downs in my childhood, I have come to associate eating at home with stress and eating out with celebration. And when things get stressful for me now, I want to go out to eat to alleviate it. Being aware of this pattern is not enough to change it for me. So I will think day-to-day that I will have less guilt if I just eat at home.

2. Make food from Scratch
In the past, I've made the resolution to eat at home and then done something that I feel is just as bad--eat half-homemade foods. But so far this new year, I have made myself proud. I don't eat out of a box or out of a can (unless I'm using canned ingredients for something that's out of season). In fact, I haven't even bought a loaf of bread in almost three months. Instead I bake all of my bread from scratch. It tastes better and costs about 25 cents a loaf. And no, I don't have a bread machine. You don't need a bread machine to make bread at home. And you feel good about yourself when you can take something so basic, do it yourself, and have it be better. It goes from being empty filler to being something substantial.

3. Find a new way to get to work
Biking to work is an impossibility for some people. That is unfortunate. We actually bought our house with this in mind. Actually, we even moved to this town with this in mind. When I ride my bike to work, I don't stress about traffic, and though it takes a little longer, I arrive at work or at home feeling better. If you can't bike to work where you live, perhaps you can take a bus, a train, or walk.

4. Walk to the park with the kids
Where we live we're in walking distance of several parks with playgrounds. Taking a walk with the kids to one of these parks has the dual effect of getting exercise for me and wearing out the kids. It's amazing, but over half of Americans get no exercise every day. Absolutely none. When I was younger, I never would have thought of walking as exercise, but now, sure, it's more than I usually do.

5. Make a Garden
If you don't have one yet, make one now. We have a pretty big yard and get lots of rain. There's plenty of space to start growing our own food. I've never been all that fond of vegetables, but it's about time I changed my mind about that. I think that growing my own will make the whole process feel more rewarding, much like the bread making. If you don't live in a situation where you can have a garden, there is the possibility of a community garden.

6. Build Something
I don't know what I'm going to do with those bricks. I can make the new patio with it and save money, or I could see it as a gift and make a barbecue pit. Again, lifting weights is great for getting into shape, but wouldn't it be more interesting

7. Donate Stuff
It's that time again. Every so often it's a good idea to get rid of unplayed with toys and unworn clothes. My house has the tendency to fill with clutter and I just don't know how it does it. But I know the cure. Not too long ago, we sold 20 boxes of books to a used book store. It was nice to get rid of all the books we won't read again and know that they can move on to people who haven't read them.

8. Volunteer
There's a community beautification project this Saturday. Or, Habitat for Humanity is building about 15 miles away and still needs people. Next week, my wife can lead a workshop about self-esteem for preteen girls. There are tons of volunteer options out there and we don't take advantage nearly enough.

9. Make a Date with the Wife
My wife and I spend a lot of time together, but it is always family time. There's nothing wrong with that, but I do feel like it's important to nurture the one-on-one relationship. Maybe my sister will play with the girls while we go out. Or maybe we'll put the girls to bed on Friday and instate a no computer, no tv, no books night. We could play board games, work on a project together, or have *ahem* other kinds of fun. Anyway, we won't waste our night and we'll be taking time for each other.


It's important to take time and make it useful. So much of our time gets wasted and we feel like it's taken from us. Focus your energy, focus your time, and the resulting productivity will resonate throughout your life.


Jenny said...

This is a great post. We are going to start a garden too, since we have half an acre covered in red mud. Any plant at all would be an improvement over that! I also have started sewing and making things. It's a nice feeling to have done something with your time even if it's small.

Huckdoll said...

Good for you for setting all of those goals...I really like number 9. I find that dates without the kiddos really refreshes the relationship and can be a lot of fun. It's very uplifting.

Inspiring post!