My not-so-little-any-more boy recently turned six. We had a party to celebrate. He wanted a big party, if he’d had his way he’d have invited every kid he knows. We compromised on 22.
I’m not going to lie, the prospect of hosting 22 three- to eight-year-olds was daunting! Plus, the timing was fairly awful. Both my husband and I were going to be away (separately) in the lead up to the party and I had a massive work deadline the day before. It could have been a perfect storm of my own making. The kind of thing you avoid if your goal is to banish busyness from your life.
What was I thinking?
I was thinking, “I’ve got this”. Because I knew I did. Over the years of adopting a slow not lazy approach to life, I’ve learnt tips and tricks that help me to cut through the chaos and avoid feeling overwhelmed. I marshalled them all into action to enjoy the birthday party.
Essentially, it comes down to an easy, three step process that you can use to simplify any activity.
- Write a why statement
Start with why. Whatever the undertaking, reflect on why you are doing it. What’s your purpose?
In the case of the sixth birthday party, at first glance, you might think it’s obvious: celebrate my son turning six.
But, there are so many ways I could do that. From the beginning, I pictured a party with his friends. Why not just a family party like when he turned one? He’d been looking forward to a big party, racing around with all his friends. I was thrilled he has so many budding friendships and was keen to support them.
Why was I doing this? So we could celebrate my son’s birthday in a way he could enjoy with his friends.
Once you’ve got your why statement, it also helps to write down the reasons you’re not doing it for. In the case of the party, it was helpful to remind myself that the purpose of the party wasn’t to prove myself as some kind of domestic goddess or cake decorating champion.
- Make an enough list
Okay, who finds themselves struggling with the feeling that no matter what you do, it’s never enough? The feeling drives you to do more and more, but it’s still never enough. This is a common feeling and I find it a very easy to pattern to fall into. I’ve come to realise that it’s not that I’m not doing enough, it’s that I don’t have a clear and realistic picture of what enough looks like.
Unless you specify what enough is, it becomes everything by default. I assess myself by imagining perfection and then taking off demerits.
Writing an enough list flips this thinking – you specify the essential elements that satisfy your purpose. Anything more is merely an added bonus. Use your why statement to help you identify the essential elements of what constitutes enough.
As I sketched out my enough list for the party, I kept coming back to what my six-year-old would want, looking at it through his eyes and thinking about what he’s looking forward to, what would disappoint him if we missed it and what he doesn’t care about.
A good example is some cute icecream cone thingos on Instagram (they look like icecreams, but they had a mallowpuff on top and M&Ms in the cone). I wanted to make them for all the kids to take away at the end of party. But really, it would have been a lot of faff that I just didn’t have capacity for. With my enough list, I was confident I had my bases covered and could put that idea to one side. Phew.
Even with a clear and realistic picture of what was enough, I still had a lot to do. More than I could shoulder alone, which is where step three comes in.
- Ask for help
We aren’t all 100% on top of things 100% of the time. The highlights reel that is social media makes this easy to forget. We’re mere mortals and we aren’t doing ourselves any favours pretending otherwise.
Whatever your mission, think of who you can call on for some support. I lined up the pizza delivery guy to help with food and had my husband and brother to help with set up, clean up and child wrangling. Give them specifics. Don’t assume they know what help you need.
As well as rallying practical support where you can, don’t underestimate the value of moral support. Start a trend and let your guard down a bit. Share your struggles. It turns out all the mums at my son’s school find hosting kids parties a bit overwhelming. There’s a lot of comfort to be found in knowing you’re not alone in how you feel.
The party was a success, with a fun time had by all. Sure I was worn out by the end of the day, but in a good way. Using these three steps you can transform the most overwhelming of tasks into something that’s not just manageable, but enjoyable too.
What’s a task you’d like to focus on simplifying?