I made Panera my office today, which made me pause a second to be grateful that I’m fully supported to flex my week to make things work. Cut my 30 minute drive to 5 minutes? Sure. Bottomless Hazelnut coffee? Yes please. Tables in the sun on a warm September morning? Oh mercy.
I’m in the middle of the process. I cannot brainstorm and then write curriculum in one swoop, I’ve realized. So I have to do the former in a chunk, coming up with what we’ll do for our various lessons, plus a few things we won’t do, for whatever reason. I write these with a pen on real paper, alternating between the lines and the margins. I connect ideas with arrows instead of sentences, so I can save as much of my brain for the real writing as possible.
Every idea now lives on its proper notepad—one for each age. My brain can be done working on ideas, new thoughts, creative ways to learn. It’s time for a break. In today’s case, this is the break, complete with a bagel and fresh coffee refill.
When I’m done, it’ll be time to write. In contrast to the diagonal writing in the margins, the arrows replacing sentences, writing curriculum will fill in a template. Each of 6 boxes will hold their specific message—overview, supply list, directions. There are font families and voice consistencies to observe. The messy pages of ideas become one neat front-and-back sheet.
I love both sides of the process—the all ideas free-for-all and the tidy, structured translation to the template. I used to ignore the ways each part of the process had unique needs and realities, blurring brainstorming and writing into one chunk of inefficient time that left my brain utterly fried.
It’s the same way my brain feels if I try to play with my kid and read blogs on my phone. The same way I feel if I try to scan Facebook and listen to Curtis tell me about his day. The same way I feel if I try to mentally jump into my workday on the drive in, especially if I try to talk-to-text emails. (Which is all kinds of stupid and I’ve come to my senses, ok Dad?)
I do best when I have one goal for each block on time, and I’m getting better at knowing what those goals should be. The drive to work is for filling up my heart by observing quiet or listening to worship music. The walk from car to office (1/3 of a mile, because Fitbit.) is the ritual to mark the start of the workday. Work is for making a to-do list and working it intentionally. The walk back to the car and the drive home is the ritual to mark the end of the workday and let it go. The last few hours of the day are for Riley. When he goes to bed at 8, the final hour or two of the day are for Curtis and for me, which means no late night work, ever.
I’ve always preferred structure and routine. When I had a kid, people told me I’d be happier if I let those preferences go, because they’re too difficult. They were well intentioned, but wrong. Building your lifestyle outside of your personality and affinity is too difficult.
When I listened to what the realities of my life told me, a new structure emerged, just like the reality of brainstorming tells me to write on paper and ignore the lines and the reality of writing curriculum tells me to plug everything into the template but not to try to come up with ideas while I do it. That listening is helping me build something sustainable, something intentional, something good, and in time I trust that everything will be better for it.