I am overwhelmed. It doesn’t matter where I go or what I do, when I look around me I see a million plus one projects that I should be working on. The front yard needs weeding. The back yard needs watering. I need to go through the bag of clothes to be donated. I need to re-organize my kitchen cabinets, which resemble a war zone. I need to make laundry detergent, but I’m out of borax. I need to clean my garage, clean out the back seat of the car, answer my backlog of 300+ unread emails, finish painting the basement, clean up my desk…and on and on and on.
You know exactly what I mean, don’t you?
Everyday life can be totally overwhelming. I go to do the weeding but I need the wheelbarrow to carry away the debris, and it is buried beneath kids’ toys in the garage. I go to clean up the cabinets but I haven’t gotten to the store yet to get those organizers that will help it stay neat. I want to water the back garden but the hose was run over with a lawnmower and needs repair first. There are so many projects waiting for me, but something else always stands in the way. It leaves me and my ADHD in a frustrated heap, ready to cry, because I have such good intentions but no way to actually do it. At least, not up to my standards. “If it can’t be done right, I shouldn’t even attempt it.” That is what goes through my head. It’s just one more way I am failing at day to day life. I curl up in a little ball, dejected, and things only continue to spiral out of control.
The only problem is, it isn’t true. I’m not failing.
For a couple of years I worked with an excellent counselor about some issues in my life. My perfectionism and feelings of failure from failing to live up to it were key things we talked about. He introduced me to a radical new phrase: Consistently Adequate. My job wasn’t to create some perfect utopia for myself and my family. My job was to get through life, being consistently adequate. There would be times of great excellence and times where it would all fall apart, because THAT IS JUST LIFE. My goal was to consistently fall somewhere in the middle.
That’s where the Five Minute Principle has become revolutionary in my life. I may not have three hours to devote to clearing up the overgrown front yard or cleaning out the garage, but I can spend five minutes every morning doing it. I can do anything for five minutes! Every morning for the past four weeks as LittleMissSunshine boards the school bus, I pick up a pair of pruning shears, a spade and some gloves and I hack away at the front garden. I pile the debris in the corner of the yard, where no one can see it. I set my alarm for five minutes, and do what I can in that five minutes. It is AMAZING what I can get done in only five minutes! I have managed to get the jungle out front under control, transplant several hostas that needed moving, clear out the beds in the side garden and start on the bed against the garage that has been taken over by trumpet vines this summer. All in five minutes, every morning, for the past month. My goal isn’t to have a perfect garden, for I’m learning that isn’t possible in my life. My goal is a DONE garden. A garden that doesn’t attack people as they walk up to my house, isn’t overrun with trumpet vines, and a garden that I can continue to work on throughout the fall. One that I can sit and enjoy. First, I attack the mutant weeds the record heat has brought out of nowhere. Second, dividing and transplanting. Last, I will worry about mulching and feeding for the coming year. All without feeling overwhelmed, in only five minutes a day. After my five minutes I reward myself with half an hour of peace, a cup of coffee and the New York Times. Both activities feed my soul–I get the pride of knowing I’ve done what I can for the day to get things under control, and I get a set amount of time to feed my mind and just be quiet. Win-win!
It has worked so well I have begun to bring it into my routine in the afternoons as well. For the five minutes before my daughter gets off the bus, I tidy something inside. Maybe it is tackling the pile of school papers that are already building up. Or maybe it is clearing out the top shelf in the coat closet. I’ve cleaned out the back seat of my truck, and I’ve sorted out my kitchen accessories drawer. Are they done perfectly? No. Are they ready for their magazine-perfect photo shoot? No freaking way. But they are tidy, I know where things are, and they aren’t threatening to explode on me anymore. Consistently adequate. That’s my goal, and I’m getting there!
One of the things that inspired me to adopt the Five Minute Principle is my exercise routine. Years ago I learned that I could do five to eight minutes of moderate exercise and still reap big rewards. I do a couple of mild strength training exercises every day, followed by some yoga stretches. It works really well at keeping my headaches and back problems at bay. And I don’t face the dread of having to beat myself up for an hour!
What in your life is overwhelming you? What would you like to have more of? There’s so many things the five minute principle could apply to! From cleaning, to gardening, to cooking, to exercise; reading the bible, praying, catching up with a friend…the list goes on and on! Let me offer one last piece of advice: if you’re anything like me, you will find a great idea and apply it to everything you do. Don’t do it with this. Yes, it works well. It can radically change your stress and chaos levels. But if you suddenly add five different five-minute routines to your day, you will get overwhelmed and quit, leaving you in a worse place than when you began. Slow and steady wins the race! Add one at a time, and make sure to allow plenty of time in there to feed your soul! That will do more to calm the chaos than any other thing you can do!