Each morning as I begin my workday, I use my own customized version of Donald Miller’s Productivity Schedule. As he tells it, this system of planning his day has allowed him to get more done and lead a more productive work life than any other organizational method he’s ever tried.
Though I’ve made some slight changes to the way I follow the schedule, one piece I’ve kept is the section at the very top which reads: “If I could live today over again, I’d …” According to Miller, he got the idea to begin with this prompt from Austrian psychologist Viktor Frankl. In Dr. Frankl’s work with depressed and suicidal patients, “asking them to consider ‘what they’d do differently the first time around’ was a mental trick that allowed them to assess what was really important and learn from their mistakes even before they made them.”
I struggled at first to answer this question preemptively, before I actually began my day. But it didn’t take me long to recognize the normal hang-ups that keep me from a productive, efficient work day, ones I am guilty of most days. So often, I write things like “get up earlier” or “waste less time” or “exercise more.” Most days, I also write something like “love Steve and the boys better,” though I don’t necessarily have a clear sense of what that might look like.
Today, I got a glimpse.
This morning as I waited for our youngest to leave for the bus stop, Tilly, our black Labrador Retriever, ran into the living room carrying a bacon-grease-soaked paper towel in her mouth.
“Tilly!” I snapped, attempting to grab the paper from her mouth.
According to Jacob, this was the second paper towel Tilly had wrested from the trash can after he’d made himself a bacon wrap for breakfast. She’d successfully ingested at least half of the first one before he could pry it from her mouth. I swiftly rescued the second one and gave Tilly a stern scolding.
“Sit. Stay. That’s bad, Tilly,” I said in my low, growly voice, wanting her to know I meant it. Then I mouthed to Jacob, I’m not really mad. I just want her to think I am.
Tilly looked up at me, raising her eyes without lifting her head, ears drooped downward.
“Why did she even bring it in here?” Jacob wondered out loud, since she could easily have eaten the paper towel in secret had she just stayed in the kitchen.
By that time, I’d thrown the paper towel back in the trash, scolded Tilly sufficiently, and was now sitting on the floor rubbing her belly. As Jacob and I were laughing about Tilly’s lack of covert skills, she slinked out of the living room, back to the kitchen trash can, and for a third time, pulled a paper towel out of the trash.
I started laughing. “But it’s b-a-c-o-n!” I said in my best Jim Gaffigan voice, as though Tilly herself were justifying her lack of self-control. But garbage thievery is a serious offense in our house, so I controlled the snickering and scolded Tilly again. When I put the paper towel in the trash this time, I pushed it down lower so she couldn’t get to it.
In the meantime, I had left Tilly in a long “stay” in the living room, and by the time I got back to give her some puppy love, Jacob was almost beside himself.
“Again, why does she bring it in here?” he asked. “Why doesn’t she just eat in the kitchen where no one’s looking?”
“Well, she wants to be able to sit down and examine it before she eats it, and she can’t do that in the kitchen,” I said.
“Her feet slide around on the tile,” I said, having born witness to this phenomenon many times as Tilly tried to eat a piece of carrot or raw potato while I’m cooking. “Maybe she needs some of those socks with the treads on them so she won’t slide.”
And that’s when we both started howling, imaging Tilly with four little non-skid socks, padding around the kitchen eating bacon-grease-soaked paper towels whenever she wanted.
About that time, we noticed it was time for Jacob to head to the bus stop, and I really needed to hit the shower after working out at the YMCA earlier. As he headed for the door, I realized I hadn’t done that in a while, just set everything aside and hung out in the living room while he was waiting for the bus. Earlier, I had done the same thing with the older boys before they left for school. Just hung out, laughing and teasing and sending them out with hugs.
Too often, even the mornings are rigidly orchestrated for maximum efficiency. We’re checking in on after school activities while ensuring track uniforms and signed forms are packed in backpacks. Or I’m trying to squeeze in Bible reading and lunch packing around email checking and day planning. It’s all good stuff, necessary even. It’s the thing I always want to do better at if I had the chance. But the problem is, it just never ends.
So today, when I filled out my productivity sheet, in the section that begins “If I could live today over again, I’d …,” I wrote three things: waste more time, laugh more, and live more slowly.
Because sometimes, the best thing I can do to start the day off right is just sit around and watch my dog eat a paper towel.
How would you answer that prompt: “If I could live today over again, I’d …”
Don’t forget the book discussion of Jen Pollock Michel’s Keeping Place here on my blog during the month of June. Jen’s book released yesterday, and I’m excited to talk about it with you. Look for posts each Wednesday of June where we’ll talk about three chapters a week. If you want to write about the book yourself, please make sure you slip a link to the article or post in the comments section each week.
Need a copy of the book? As a member of Jen’s launch team, I am excited to offer you a 30% off promo code (READKP) to use at ivpress.com. Also, I have a copy of Jen’s Keeping Place to give away for those of you who are interested. Leave me a comment on last week’s post, “Housekeeping Problems,” share a link to that post on social media (don’t forget to tag me!), or just send me an email to tell me about your relationship to housekeeping, and I’ll enter you into the drawing. I’ll announce the winners and send out the book the week of May 15.
I hope you’ll join me in discussing what home means. This isn’t just a book or a discussion for women. According to Jen, “The message of Keeping Place is bigger than gender roles and responsibilities. It’s about the human longings for and losses of home, the human labor and love that’s required for God’s people to ‘keep place’ in the world until Christ comes.”