I'm thinking of how to start this post, and it's throwing me off a little. I'd like to say that I enjoy just relaxing- that I am good at letting myself take breaks. But at the same time, I associate productivity with usefulness and purpose. So at any given time my brain is calculating what needs to be done and how I can get the most accomplished in the least amount of time. Sometimes this makes a lot of sense: I'll start cooking the chicken and onions, then put water on the stove to boil the pasta, and-hey-I might even empty the dishes from the drain while both are cooking. Or maybe I'd like to play with the kids but I'd also like to clean up the living room so we "play" the clean up game. Ah, or the kids are asleep in the car so I run errands that only involve drive-thrus...we pick up a prescription at the pharmacy, fill up a tank of gas, and (if I'm feeling indulgent) grab a Starbucks coffee while I'm at it. (Seriously, this is why we have books on CD and blue tooth for cell phones, right? Getting somewhere that we need to be is productive, but the time spent getting there doesn't feel so productive.)
There is certainly a time for multi-tasking. But my struggle is in finding a balance between getting necessary things done, and learning to just embrace and be present in the moment. The latter involves slowing down- it often requires me to "single-task"... so that I can really focus on the one thing that I am doing. Sometimes I have to watch the kid while doing chores, but sometimes I need to just focus on BEING with my kids and realize that simply focusing on them is productive and important. Alternately, slowing down requires that I occasionally put aside my mental to-do list so that I can focus on God- and not just on His will and requirements for my life, but on honoring and worshiping Him.
I think about this a lot when I put my son to bed. He falls asleep within twenty or so minutes most nights, but often that requires my husband or I to lay down next to him till he drifts off. So when I'm putting him to sleep, I end up fighting this thought in my head that I need to be "doing" something instead of just laying there. Clearly, I am doing something- I am putting my son to sleep- but it feels like it would be better for me to be washing the dishes or exercising, or to be finally done with my day so I can just relax with my husband and a show. I used to put my daughter to sleep this way too and I'd get so focused on what I wished I could be doing that I'd literally start counting up to 100 and back down again...because somehow that felt like I was "doing" something to pass the time- like if I could just work my way up to a certain number I would have put in my time. Unfortunately, falling asleep was not a strength of hers.
Lately I've found myself praying as I put my son to sleep. Maybe it sounds like praying and putting my son to sleep is "multi-tasking" but I feel like the difference is that my heart is settling- it is focusing on being instead of crossing something off a list. As I stop fighting the feeling that I'm "stuck" for twenty minutes, I embrace the reality that this is twenty minutes that I GET to be still- that I can think about my day, and pray about things that have surfaced in my heart. I can thank God for things, and bring my faults and burdens to Him. Turns out prayer doesn't actually feel that productive either and as a result, I don't often make enough time for it. But it is one of the most important parts of growing closer to Jesus and His heart, and only through that relationship can I do anything of value- whether or not it feels productive.