Have you ever noticed how sometimes our days get filled with things that are unimportant? Sometimes the busyness of life can cause us to focus on all the little things that fill our day instead of the important things we should be doing. Sometimes, it is easy for distractions to divert our attention.
I’m reminded of two signs I saw hanging up in a teacher’s room when I was in school. The first said, “A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.” The second was really similar, it was called the 7 P’s. “Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.”
As I remember these two signs, they seem particularly relevant to my life now. As a single working mom with two boys in activities, there is never a lack of things to do.
I love the article by Dallin H. Oaks called Good, Better, Best. In this article, Oaks talks about how:
“We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best.” – Dallin H. Oaks
There are many good things that we do and fill our day with, but perhaps there are better things we can replace the good things with, and perhaps even the better things can be replaced with best things. I have found that if I am not careful I can easily fill my day with good things and completely neglect the better and best things. It takes intentionality and planning to use our time effectively.
My two boys both play lacrosse and from our home to the field it is about a thirty-minute drive. Have you had this moment?
We are running out the door, grabbing things left and right so that we can be on the field ready to practice or to the game on time, it’s hard to think about anything else because, “we have to go right now.”
I have tried a few things to help make our commuting easier.
Prepare in Advance
I already know that Mondays and Wednesdays I need to pick up both of my boys from school so we make it to practice on time. Instead of waiting until five minutes before I need to go to get water-bottles, snacks, and all the gear in the car, I find that if I get that done in the morning, or even early in the afternoon I can calmly walk out the door to pick up my boys.
If I’m not stressed leaving the house, I am in a better place to ask my boys how their day was and engage with them during the drive. I am also far more patient about the traffic situation on the road.
A Stressful Example
Just to illustrate my point about the importance of planning ahead, I’m going to give you an example that happened just a few weeks ago where I did not plan.
I had been busy all day doing things on my “to do” list, and realized I had to leave right then to pick up my youngest son from school and hope I would make it on time. So, I quickly ran out the door, hopped in the car and started on my way.
By the time I got to the school the buses had already left. This is problematic because by the time he gets off the bus at home, it’s too late to drive him to town. His practice would be 1/3 over by the time he got there and the coaches highly discourage being late.
Ok, one child wasn’t going to make it to practice.
There was still a chance for my other son. So, I pulled out and drove the ten minutes to the other school. I could feel my stress level rising. My shoulders were tensing up and even though I was trying to shrug it off, I was still bothered I had missed picking up my youngest son.
My oldest was there and waiting for me, so I was able to get him in the car and start the drive into town with plenty of time to get to practice. We got to town, and I took him to the field, but I ended up parking in a spot where I don’t usually park. It wasn’t until the car was off that I realized I hadn’t even checked to see if their gear was in the car.
All That for Nothing
All of that rushing, all of that stress didn’t even matter. Even if I had picked up my youngest son on time and everything had gone according to my time schedule, he still wouldn’t have been able to practice. They wouldn’t have had their sticks, cleats, pads, water-bottles… anything they needed to play.
I texted coaches and let them know the boys weren’t going to be there and again tried to shrug it off; but the stress was still there. I looked around for kiddos and then backed up only to hear a sickening crunch. I pulled forward and had my son hop out to look at the damage because I couldn’t bring myself to look yet.
It turns out that I had backed right into a solitary concrete barrier and put a nice dent into my back bumper. In my hurry, I had not seen it. Thankfully no one was hurt, but as you can imagine this added to the stress I was already feeling.
I was too distracted by everything that had already gone wrong to be aware of what was happening right in front of me, or I guess in this case right behind me.
I called a repair shop to see if anyone was available to do an estimate. My son and I drove to the shop, which was an adventure in itself because the address on google maps was inaccurate. It took about thirty minutes instead of ten to find the place. Anyway…
We finally found the shop and they gave me with the papers for the repair estimate. On the way out of the shop, my son wasn’t paying attention and totally fell down the stairs and skinned up his knee.
We both learned a lesson—Distractions are real. Luckily, the consequences that day were all relatively minor, but sometimes distractions can lead to significant damage in our lives.
The Past Does Not Equal the Future
Thankfully, the next practice day went much smoother. In fact, that experience was a great learning moment for me and my son. Failure can be a really good teacher. As long as we learn from our mistakes, our past actions do not have to be repeated in the future. We have the power to learn and change.
Now, as I remember the signs that hung on my teacher’s wall, I put some more effort into planning. I’m not perfect, but I am consistently seeing that where I plan and prepare, I have far more success.
I’m sure I will have more bad days, but hopefully I will be more aware of distractions, and not allow them to dictate my time or how I feel.
- Oaks, Dallin H. (2007). LDS.org. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2007/10/good-better-best?lang=eng