EXTRACURRICULAR OVERLOAD HOW TO DEMYSTIFY YOUR KIDS' JAMPACKED SCHEDULES
reach optimal flow. The next step is to eliminate distractions that will divert your concentration. Flow is easier to maintain than it is to build up to, and you don’t want your flow broken by something that could’ve easily been put off. Use smaller activities as a way to break up larger ones, and you’ll find a more consistent work rate. Another important component of flow is what Csikszentmihalyi calls the “autotelic experience.” Autotelic means that you view what you’re doing as an end in itself and find the work intrinsically rewarding. If you find meaning in the activity at hand, rather than relying on external motivators, it’s easier to throw yourself into a project. The next time you find yourself going through the motions or watching the clock at work, don’t write it off as “one of those days.” Instead, take a step back, plan out your task list, and approach your assignments with vigor. Flow doesn’t strike you like a bolt of lightning; you have to work for it. Once you find a routine that puts you in the zone, stick to it, and great work will follow. Form parent alliances. Those soccer practices Jacob’s going to? There are other teammates there, and they have parents shuttling them around, just like you are. Set up carpools — Noah’s mom drives them both Tuesday while you’ve got Thursdays — to manage scheduling conflicts between your kids and drastically reduce the time you spend as a chauffeur. To simplify the process and make sure everyone’s on the same page, check out the Carpool-Kids app at carpool-kids.com. It’ll let you directly invite other parents and set up weekly or one- shot carpool schedules. Maintain balance. You almost certainly will need to say no to additional extracurricular activities every now and then. Sure, simultaneous baseball, football, and soccer seasons might seem healthy and fun for your kid, but you need to consider your own needs, as well. Many parents give their children free rein over what to choose, but limit activities to one or two per season. Johnny wants to do underwater basket weaving? Strange choice, but sure — though he’ll have to abandon either fencing or ice hockey. Make sure you weigh each child’s needs equally, and keep the rules the same for each of them.
Everyone has days when work just seems to fly by effortlessly. You feel laser-focused and hyper-productive. In short, you are “in the zone.” This proverbial zone, though, can feel elusive when distractions are plentiful and time is at a premium. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced “Chick-zent-mee-hal- yi”) has spent his career investigating this state, which he calls “flow,” and his insights can help you harness your most productive self. Csikszentmihalyi’s seminal work, “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience,” asserts that finding flow doesn’t just increase your ability to accomplish tasks, it also raises your happiness level. “Whenever the goal is to improve the quality of life, flow theory can point the way,” he writes. According to his research, a state of flow is reached when skill and challenge are balanced against one another. When the challenge is too low relative to skill, boredom follows. When it’s too high, anxiety overwhelms the ability to reach flow. Just the right proportion of challenge and skill, and your mind becomes totally engaged in the task at hand. So, how do you get yourself into flow state? The first step is to set clearly defined goals. Once you know what you are working toward, it becomes easier to maintain the focus required to Every parent knows that a poorly organized tangle of kids’ activities is a recipe for a migraine. As school starts up again, so does sports season, and your kids’ extracurricular ambitions pile up like the falling autumn leaves. Don’t let yourself get burned out. Here are some tips to stay sane in the midst of the extracurricular whirlwind. Consolidate all your scheduling, jotting, and activity-tracking into one system. Let’s get one thing straight: You can’t afford to be scrawling “Abby piano lesson rescheduled 9/21” on the first scrap of paper you come across. That doesn’t mean you have to be hyperorganized, but it does mean that you need to keep your entire calendar in one place, whether that place is Google Calendar, a fridge whiteboard, or the old-fashioned standby: a calendar with a lighthouse on every page. One particularly attractive option is the Cozi app (cozi.com), which not only consolidates an entire family’s calendars, but allows you to include to-do lists, shopping lists, recipes, chore checklists, and more. Whichever system you choose, keep it updated. Its word is law.
HOW TO GET IN THE ZONE FIND YOUR FLOW
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