Memory Keeping Q&A | Time & Motivation

SUZIE | I am really curious not so much about anything specifically scrapbook related but more as to how on earth you manage to do everything you do on a daily basis.

JENNIFER | I would love to know * how you organize your day to manage work + family+ exercise + home.

AE | I recently wrote a big post that addresses this topic: Daily Work At Home Rhythms And Things I Have Learned. I definitely have help: wonderful childcare, someone who does the deep cleaning, a supportive husband (even though he's often gone right now), etc. Those three main things allow me to focus on my job and all the different things that go into keeping my work humming along from day to day.

I'm a working parent. It's not easy, but it's easier for me now than when I first started. I love my job. I love my kids. I love my husband. I love working in the yard. I love travel. I love taking pictures and pairing stories with those images. I want all those things to be part of my life and I work hard to make it happen.

ALI | You seem very in charge of your life and purposeful and on the ball! What do you do when you feel overwhelmed with mothering, responsibilities, behind on house, organization, behind on memory keeping, etc? Do you ever feel that way? How do you get back to feeling in charge?

AE | I definitely find myself overwhelmed from time to time. When I feel overwhelmed the first thing I usually want to do is take a nap. That's a good sign to me that I'm holding on too tight and juggling too many things. To be honest, when I get most overwhelmed I tend to take it out on Chris. NOTE TO SELF: This does not help.

Over the years I've learned to let certain things go (or enlist help) because I can't do it all. I'm fairly organized and I like things to be put away. When things aren't picked up I feel even more overwhelmed. I like to go to sleep with a clean kitchen and a picked up living and dining room. If I come downstairs in the morning to start my day and the kitchen is a mess (usually from me cooking and our dinner) and there's stuff all over the table and couch it's more challenging for me to get to work. It doesn't always happen the night before but I more often than not I put in the effort.

When I am feeling overwhelmed what do I get back in charge? First thing I usually do is make a list (if I don't have one going already) and figure out what the most immediate thing is that needs to be done. Next thing I do is just get started. I know that I will feel better if I just begin the process of tackling the things that are making me feel overwhelmed. Sometimes it's really hard to get going...

With memory keeping, I have zero issues related to being behind because that's not the way I choose to approach it. I have issues when I have projects due that I find myself behind on (usually because I got distracted by something else) but with general memory keeping I don't play the "caught up" game. I choose stories to tell based on motivation and inspiration. When I scrapbook the stories are from long ago and from today. I haven't done our Italy trip from 2010 yet but I've already done a layout from a story two weeks ago.

I also do a lot of juggling - tasks move to the front or to the back depending on the day, the deadline, how I feel, etc. I try to be as flexible as possible (key word is try).

MARTHA | Do you ever struggle with a total lack of motivation? When you are alone at home with no physical boss, do you ever find yourself completely wasting time? Not with intention, but maybe as an escape to feeling overwhelmed and/or frustrated? If none of this applies to you, please just skip this question. Thanks Ali!

AE | Yes. I'm completely familiar with a lack of motivation and wasting time. I'm familiar with spending way too much time surfing around - sometimes it can be valuable but often I think it's just wasting time. Sometimes it does happen for me as a result of feeling overwhelmed and other times it happens as a result of a build-up of doing too much work and is simply a sign I need to take a break. I actually had one of those days a couple days ago - I got the basics done but when it came time to move forward on the projects that need to be moving forward it just wasn't happening.

Here's some of the things I do when I find that my motivation is totally lacking:

  1. TAKE TIME OFF. For me a lack of motivation is usually a good sign that I need a break. Working from home on my own hours means that I don't always keep to the 8-4 or 5 that I strive for - there's a positive and a negative to it for sure. Over the years I've learned if I give myself the day (or the morning of afternoon) off and I go do something completely different - even if it's stuff that needs to be done around here: grocery shopping, gardening, exercise, etc - I usually come back to my desk the next day ready to work. Because I work from home I try to look at my schedule more globally vs. getting caught up in the fact that I might not get all my work done on a particular day. Looking at it from that perspective definitely gives me more flexibility in choosing to take a day off (it's always made up somewhere down the line).

  2. GIVE IN. If I find myself mindlessly surfing due to a lack of motivation sometimes I'll just keep messing around until I find a hook that re-motivates me again (a link, an image, a quote, a tweet, etc). When I do this, I don't beat myself up if I don't come across a hook. I take the hint that I likely need a break (see number one). I also often find when I do give in that I don't like wasting time - I know I'm doing it when I'm doing it and it usually doesn't feel good. That's usually why I'd rather just decide to take the day off, go do something totally different, and approach it again fresh in the morning.

  3. MAKE A SNACK. My office is upstairs. The kitchen is downstairs. Going downstairs to get a snack breaks up whatever I was in the middle of wasting time with. Usually when I come back upstairs I'm ready to try again at getting down to the business of the day.

  4. GO FOR A WALK OR OTHER EXERCISE. I'm working on retraining myself to remember that this is a really good option for me when I'm lacking motivation. I may not want to do it but I always feel better - more energized and better focused when I do.

  5. FORCE MYSELF TO GO TO THE NEXT THING ON THE LIST. Not fun but it usually works. I have to talk myself into this one - I try to pick something from my list that is easy and quick, where when I finish it I'll be back engaged in the business of work and be ready to tackle the next thing.

You also might want to check out a post I wrote a few years back: Breaking Out Of A Creative Rut.

This post is part of a 2011 Memory Keeping Q&A series. Additional posts in this series will be listed below as they are posted. Past Q&A posts are available via the Category Archives here.

Products | Photos | Inspiration | Motivation & Time | Anna's Baby Album

16 thoughts

  1. Melissa

    2011-05-25 11:26:49 -0400

    Enjoyed reading your answers today. I, too, am fairly organized and like to start each day with things picked up the night before.

  2. Christine

    2011-05-25 11:45:25 -0400

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas. Your post has given me food for thought. I need to get control of my time-wasting activities and be more motivated to accomplish things that are important to me.

  3. Dedra Long

    2011-05-25 12:16:04 -0400

    Wonderful suggestions Ali. I often find myself feeling overwhelmed on the weekends. Your perspectives are refreshing.

    Oh, and thank you for the post on skin cancer. The end of June will be my 10 year anniversary as a survivor of Stage III malignant melanoma.


  4. dawn

    2011-05-25 13:27:39 -0400

    This was very helpful Ali. So nice to hear that even you get in a rut sometimes and how you stay on task.

    Since WITL is fast approaching do you have some plans or ideas yet about how you are doing your album. I want to make sure there's enough time for me to see some of your ideas and then work them with my own and have time to shop for things. Thanks so much.

  5. aliza

    2011-05-25 15:20:07 -0400

    Thanks for sharing. It's always nice to hear the "real"side of things, like taking out being overwhelmed on husbands. I try to remember to ask my husband for help, rather than take it out on him. It's also funny, because my husband would never take it out on me, but I don't quite return the favor.

  6. Judy Webb

    2011-05-25 16:42:46 -0400

    Loved your openess and insights.

  7. Martha Thomas

    2011-05-25 17:20:36 -0400

    Wow Ali, thanks so so much for those answers! I really appreciate your openess and honesty. So. So. Helpful. :)

  8. Debora Prass

    2011-05-25 18:15:20 -0400

    Thanks soo much for sharing this! I work from home too, and This is exactly how I feel sometimes! Loved your suggestions on wasting time and lack of motivation... Thanks!!!

  9. Susan Anderson

    2011-05-25 21:36:06 -0400

    Loved reading this post. I too like things orderly and have finally learned to pick up most nights so I wake up to less mess/less frustration. I also like the idea of lists so ideas, thoughts and tasks are easy for me to find and decide up. Time wasting I'm still working on though I like your thoughts on it. Never really thought about it might be a signal that I need to take a break.

  10. Suzie Perrie

    2011-05-25 21:58:18 -0400

    Thanks so much for answering these! Sometimes I get so wrapped up in trying to do EVERYTHING that I forget nobody can. At least not for long. :)

  11. Ali

    2011-05-25 22:54:06 -0400

    Thanks so much for answering my questions! Your answers were very helpful and insightful! :) I love your idea of getting help! Love the 'list' suggestion! Lists motivate me too! I also love your idea of being flexible!

    Great ideas!

    Thank you! ~ Ali

  12. Claire

    2011-05-26 02:57:27 -0400

    Loved this post, very helpful indeed. Thank you.

  13. Chriss Johns

    2011-05-26 07:41:28 -0400

    Thanks for sharing Ali. I am past the crazy years with young children, so I really admire all you accomplish with the young ones close-you will be so glad you were available for all the crazy someday-SOON, because they grow up so darn quick. When ever I find myself overwhelmed, I simply make a list of all I have in my life that is a blessing and bam...back on track! Have a great day!

  14. Cynthia

    2011-05-27 13:24:02 -0400

    Great post! With my energy challenges I find I get easily overwhelmed and I know I get 'cranky.'

    I know bottom line the kitchen must be clean every night (although at the beginning of the new year I decided that my husband, our son and myself would each be in charge of dishes on rotating weeks which has been so good for me and enabled me to let go of always feeling it is my job to take care of it - of course our son is 18 so he can do it) and I know I need orderly in the house.

    I think your approach to memory keeping is so excellent; not having to worry about chronology really frees you up because there is no catching up! I am really hyped for the WITL this year because I plan to do it and I think I am feeling up to the challenge finally!

    I also appreciate the hard work, time and honesty you have put into these posts. Seriously great! Thank you!

  15. Angelica

    2011-05-28 10:37:42 -0400

    I really appreciated your answers regarding being behind in your scrapping or stroy telling. With my son (now 11) I started scrapping EVERY picture. Then when he turned 5, I got my first digital camera, then had my little girl, and have felt behind ever since! (Darn the dawn of digital!) So,I have given up on scrapping every picture, haha! But your explination of approaching the whole process differently...not just getting it all DONE, but choosing what to create day to day, doesn't just give me "an excuse" to be behind, it really changed my view too because you are so right! I did originally start scrapping to have the creative outlet and get the photos into albums. But now, as my creativity has evolved over time, its become so much more than that! It's retelling the stories that make up our life, not just about making a pretty page. I have finally found a way to describe how I want to scrap....thank you for that! And for allowing me to finally be free of the guilt of feeling behind! I just love following you and your work, and really appreciate all your hard work and effort!

  16. Staci

    2011-06-18 01:12:53 -0400

    When I'm stressed all I want to do is take a nap, too! I've never met someone who has that same reaction as I do. My husband responds to stress by cleaning things (awesome!) and some of my other friends ignore it by working out or eating (depending on the friend).

    I get over it by just doing one of the things that is making me stressed, even though it may not be what I *want* to do at that moment. If I wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep because of the stress, instead of just tossing and turning, I get up quietly and pick a quiet task to just start doing. I don't have kids or a job (military life makes it hard to have a job) so when I finish a task, I usually feel less stressed and I can then go back to sleep, it makes for weird sleeping schedules, but I find that I sleep better the next night, and when I finally do wake up I'm much more productive rather than grumpy and unmotivated.

    Thanks for the insight on how to manage things. I eventually want to make some money from home but it all seems a mystery to me still, as I don't have a boss to tell me what to do anymore. I find myself wasting lots of time because "I have all day to get this done", but then I usually don't end up doing it anyway! I need to get better at self-management, and this has been a great post to read. Thank you!

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