Spinning My Wheels While Achieving My Big Picture Goals

by Katy on October 3, 2012 · 27 comments

The following is a reprint from a previously published post. Enjoy!

Sometimes I feel like I’m spinning my wheels. Like Sisyphusmy to-do list fills with tasks that have to be repeated on a daily basis, and I never pull ahead. Wash laundry, hang dry the laundry, put away laundry, make dinner, clean up from dinner. You get the drift. So I try to accomplish something, heck anything on a daily basis that pulls me forward towards the grand goal of being completely on top of my life.

You know, the house completely organized, all my work commitments met, a full and satisfying social life and thousands upon thousands of extra dollars leftover at the end of each and every month.

Laugh if you will, but I feel like goals cannot be reached unless you actually reach for them. Like I try to explain to my sons, there’s no way you can get an “A” in school if you’re only trying for a “B.”

This may make me sound like an insufferable perfectionist, but I assure you that I am far from this category. My built-in buffet resembles a sculpture made from unrelated items, and it was a bad day when I discovered that my piano bench was a flat horizontal surface.

“What, I can clear the dining room table for dinner by piling everything onto the piano bench? Genius, pure genius!”

And before you start noting that the bulk of the household chores seem to be resting on my supposedly feminist shoulders, please note that my husband and I have an unwritten rule that whichever of us is working that day gets a break from household drudgery. Which means that I get two days a week off, and he gets the rest.

We are currently hosting a Japanese exchange student for a couple of weeks, which means that we are on our best behavior. We’re shutting the bathroom room when in use, abstaining from yelling at each other and cleaning up the dinner dishes directly after the meal. For other families this might not be a change from routine, but for us it is. However, I feel like I am so busy with the daily tasks of life and playing tour guide to my city, that I am not working on the big picture stuff that keeps me from feeling like I’m spinning my wheels. 

So last night I actually made a mental list of my accomplishments for the day:

  • Hosted a Japanese exchange student, which gives my younger son much needed opportunity to practice his Japanese.
  • Did earn a $120 “stipend” per week of hosting, which has already been deposited into my sons’ Japan trip savings accounts. (One son will go to Japan in the spring for two weeks, while the other will go for five weeks in the summer. *Gulp*)
  • With the help of my husband, I rolled out our old and somewhat rusty propane barbecue to the curb with a “Free” sign on it. It was gone within five minutes!
  • I gave the silverware drawer a much needed wipe down and organization while chatting with my husband in the kitchen.

This list may not seem impressive to the perpetually productive among you, but since I also took everyone to the zoo, provided transport service to my older son for work, made and then cleaned up from dinner, (yakisoba noodles with smoked pork, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and snow peas) completed a laundry cycle, (wash, hang dry, put away) watered both own and neighbor’s plants and wrote a blog post.

Just the tiny accomplishments of organizing a drawer and getting rid of the barbecue support my goals of an uncluttered home. Which moved me one teeny-tiny step towards my goal of being completely on top of my life.

Hey, I can’t achieve it unless I reach for it. Right?

Now, about that piano bench . . .

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Lili@creativesavv October 3, 2012 at 7:56 am

I am definitely a goal-setter. But when it starts to make me crazy and exhausted, I change the top item on my list to “make myself happy for the next hour”. Obviously, I can’t do this all day, every day, or I’d spend my hours reading novels, watching old movies, wandering through gardens, napping, and eating chocolate.


Katy October 3, 2012 at 8:05 am

That, my friend sounds like an awesome day! 😉



Jen October 3, 2012 at 8:25 am

That daily circuit does get you down if you don’t have some other stuff to focus on. Thanks for the reminder of keeping the larger goals in sight.


Linda in Indiana October 3, 2012 at 8:46 am

I have been known to keep telling myself with all the mundane, daily chores I am living in lots of “Job Security”. And we all want to feel needed don’t we–Ha! But while you are dealing with everyday needs and responsibilities, life is happening and goals need to be in mind. But from what you have always displayed in your blog….your goals are definitely there and the just like the ant moving the rubber tree plant….you are definitely getting there…just a little bit at a time. Besides, my kids are grown…and at the time, it felt like you have said…but in retrospect….Man, it sure went quickly. Life is a journey…not a destination…savor the roller coaster ride while you can.


tna October 3, 2012 at 9:05 am

I have a goal of refurbishing clothes. So many things I think…this would be so much better if it had some little tweak. Or I have something with a hole or rip that I like the fabric and make pillows or little zipper or draw string sacks to store things in. Yesterday I took a cotton top with icky butterfly sleeves and made it into a nice sleeveless top and made the neckline not as low. And I have some 10 cent zippers I’m going to make little storage sacks out of the sleeves. I don’t have a sewing machine so I just use a needle and thread and my stitches keep improving thankfully.
I also have a goal to bring acorns and nuts I find while out walking back home to the skinny local squirrrels. I make sure there are no signs of other squirrels eating from the trees I glean from. I put about a pound out the other day and they dissappeared so fast I suspect some two legged squirrely people are helping themselves.


Lindsey October 3, 2012 at 9:22 am

I try to do one mini-task a day, in addition to the regular tasks of life. Thee are always cleaning…like yesterday I wiped down the front of all the kitchen cabinets, while the husband washed out the kitchen and bathroom garbage cans (Ick). I find if we each do one little grubby chore a day, even if most other things were off kilter for the day, I feel like I at least did somethign to stay ahead of the mess!


alexandra October 4, 2012 at 4:38 am

I like this idea! I am going to try it. thanks for sharing.


Poor to Rich a Day at a Time October 3, 2012 at 9:47 am

I tend to set way too many goals and then as burnout sets in I start to get way off track. Now I am learning to set only one or two big goals at a time with the mundane daily tasks filling in the cracks. I am hoping this will keep me reaching goals instead of setting to many and reaching none!

Great post and reminder Katy, I loved this post.


Katy October 3, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Thanks, I need the reminder myself!



Karen October 3, 2012 at 10:13 am

Amen to Poor to Rich above! If I write down a lot of things to do in one day, it becomes overwhelming. With just a few there is such a sense of accomplishment in crossing out ALL my list as done. Of course it starts over the next day.


Heidi October 3, 2012 at 10:15 am

Today, besides the regular laundry, dishes and food prep responsibilities, I cleaned 2 bathrooms (including unplugging a teenagers bathroom sink drain with the help of a coathanger… gag…), and I did a great grocery shopping trip (after coupons and rebates, I spent about $55 for a weeks worth of food for 4 people).

My husband and I joke about him being a “macro” problem-solving personality (i.e. he looks at an issue from afar, and tries to consider all aspects before taking action) while I operate with a “micro” approach (I will take small steps and enjoy seeing my efforts add up to big progress), but we agree that the combination of our styles makes us a good team.

Using my “micro” approach, I try to tackle one task every day that is outside what I’d consider the “usual” stuff. By the end of the week, I feel like I’ve accomplished something.


Rosi October 3, 2012 at 12:22 pm

just a thought: if the teenager has an own bathroom, it could be the teenager’s responsibility to clean that, no? 🙂

comparing my own upbringing (two working parents, all kids included in household chores because – well, mom is mom, not our cleaning lady!) with some of my earlier flatmates (having had stay-at-home-moms and no idea how to eg. unclog a sink), you could label it “teaching valuable life skills” 🙂


Erin October 3, 2012 at 2:58 pm

wow. “goals cannot be reached unless you reach for them.” I think you just changed my life…that is a good one!


Katy October 3, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Thanks, great! 🙂



Kathleen Harris October 3, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Awesome! I’m buying a piano bench asap! 😉


patti October 3, 2012 at 4:37 pm

I think you should give yourself some grace for hosting an exchange student. That will mean more in years to come than whatever item you cleaned that day. We have hosted five Irish boys (one a year) between the ages of 6-12 and two high school German students. My son has also been to their homes. Whenever you have someone in your home, the dynamics all change but that is a good thing, too. You will really appreciate your family when the exchange student leaves!!! : ) I can’t tell you what the house looked like or whether we ate well (well, actually that is a joke because when I put one of the students on the plane he thanked me for the ONE dinner I prepared the whole six weeks he was with us) – in the end, you will remember the person who visited and all the fun you had. Memories are more priceless than all that money can buy. I always try to remind myself I can’t remember what was the most important “thing” (furniture style, shoes, entertainment, car model, etc.) from 10 years ago, but I can remember what my family was doing and all the adventures we had. And if I didn’t have a full “in-box”, I wouldn’t be needed.


Shelly October 3, 2012 at 9:34 pm

I like this post it made me smile reading about closing the bathroom door. I set goals each week to work towards but I have found many weeks I need to be happy with accomplishing just a few things. I am learning but some weeks I just pile on way too much. It is great to have those lofty goals to work towards I do the same thing myself. It is just that I have to remember I can’t accomplish it all in one day. All that gets me is worn out and grumpy.


Jo October 4, 2012 at 5:35 am

I also really like the feeling of “making progress”, and I realized I was too focused on work/academic goals, so I started to write goals for the day like “Clean the sink”, “Drink only one cup of coffee”, “don’t shout at son today”, “give husband some time to chillax”. It’s been really helpful in bringing balance and helping me not to value, and not just write off, the days I spent with the little kiddies.


Jo October 4, 2012 at 5:36 am

I meant to say, “to value”, not the opposite =)


Liz October 4, 2012 at 6:14 am

What if the goal was to live in the moment? To be completely present with what you are doing right now.

Instead of constantly imposing “goals” on yourself.

Slow down, enjoy now, and stop saddling yourself with a need for “accomplishments”.


Katy October 4, 2012 at 6:27 am

You must not have a household to run, a job, a blog and teenagers. Without goals, like would be pure chaos!



Iris October 4, 2012 at 7:12 am

agree with Katy here – many big goals require a multitude of small steps, and when the small-small of it gets tedious, it’s good to remind oneself of where these steps are leading to.

for me, it works best to visualize progress:
currently I have a big photograph of my next travel destination over my desk. it’s covered with a semi-translucent sheet of grey graph paper. whenever I add another $5 in my travel savings account, I cut away one square, revealing more of my destination 🙂


Katy October 4, 2012 at 7:29 am

That is awesome, great idea!



emmer October 4, 2012 at 7:18 pm

i gave up daily goals. makes me crazy because i can never finish all i want to do. switching to more or less weekly goals helps to even it out. mine is divided into email/computer stuff, phone calls, do at home stuff, and go (somewhere and do something).the three most important things get a star so that they will be done first, but i still get a bit of a choice as to what i will do next. the list lives on the frig, and so is visible. i am very out of sight, out of mind, so the frequent visual is a good thing.


Jo H. October 4, 2012 at 8:17 pm

I’ve tried making lists but end up ignoring them most of the time and just doing things as the urge strikes me. So now I go at it from the opposite direction – at the end of the day I list what I did that day, both the routine things like cat care and work, but also the small goal-oriented jobs that get worked on or finished. For me it is a surprisingly powerful motivator because I anticipate the writing and want to have a few of those extras in the list. Hey, different strokes for different folks, right?!


Jo H. October 6, 2012 at 10:23 pm

Oh bother, when I came back to catch up, I realized this is basically what Katy does except she does it mentally whereas I write it down 🙂 I guess I got distracted by all the comments about making lists!


Kathy October 5, 2012 at 8:30 am

I could have written this post…and indeed, have written similar ones. I think your idea of writing down what you accomplished was perfect. Sometimes we need a little reminder of all that we get done every day–so much of it is “invisible.”


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