Carers: Saving Time for the “Important Things”

Carers: Saving Time for the “Important Things”

I was watching an ad on TV for some cooking implement the other day and heard this statement, “Save time so you can spend it on the important things”.

I wondered to myself, what do they think the important things are? Surely eating is important. And preparing a meal should be something you should feel ok spending a reasonable amount of time on. Planning and preparation is a way to show those around you that they are valued. Even taking the time to cook for just yourself is nurturing and better for you than some quick option. Some people love to cook - cooking could be their important thing. But if not, I guess it's possible this gadget could help?

But does advertising like this make us generally feel we should spend less time preparing a meal, because of some imagined more important thing to do? I hope not.

We must have more time now than ever before - we can get super fancy vacuum cleaners and 4 slice toasters! But if we don't have a clear idea of how we want to spend this time, it does just seem to disappear.

Many of us spend a lot of time believing we are in a rush, everything needs to be done in the quickest way possible. Is this making our lives better? Is this saved time actually going somewhere important? Maybe this moment is important?

Recently I had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Matthew Croucher, who is a Psychiatrist of Old Age and Senior Clinical Lecturer. One of the things he spoke about was planning positive events, he called it “doing more nice stuff”.

"Nice Stuff" should go on the list of “Important Things”

Dr. Croucher was talking about positive events for people in old age, especially those in care. I saw a lot of heads nodding when he said some of these people just don’t have a lot of nice things happening in their day. Some people don’t have anything at all happening in their day - which is worse.

Happy events need to be scheduled for people who are unable to do this for themselves. But if you have a stressful busy life you may need to think about how you can plan these for yourself also.

Everyone is different, so what your see as a positive event, someone else may not. Food preparation may fit into someone's idea of “nice stuff”. For others (like the advertisers), it may be seen as a chore. So it is really important to focus on what the person you are working with would enjoy, and not just assume that if you think it’s good they will too.

And this goes both ways, just because you have given someone a rejuvenating day doesn’t necessarily mean you should feel rejuvenated too. It may have been a lot of work for you, you may need to find your own way of reviving yourself.

But this positive events idea also made me wonder, are we so busy we are missing some of the "nice stuff" that is happening in our day already? Could hanging out the washing on a sunny morning be more enjoyable if we weren't already thinking about the next task?

Another point Dr. Croucher made is that humans have a need for mastery.

Meaning, people like to learn new skills, to achieve and accomplish things.

To be able to accomplish something a person needs to be given a challenge. In the carer's role this involves careful judgement as it can be easy to over or under estimate what someone is capable of doing. Getting a challenge “just right” can be tricky, a person's energy levels and mood are also going to come into the equation. Sometimes aiming for something you believe can be easily achieved and then increasing the challenge in small increments is a good way to go.

So another item on my "Important Things" list would be "A Challenge".

We all need to think about this for ourselves also. Work and family life may be challenging but is it offering enough of the feelings of accomplishment we need? Maybe there is something else that could help with this. It doesn’t have to be something huge, just a small skill to work on, it feels good.

If you find yourself rushing to get something done, pause a moment and think about what the important thing is you are saving this time for. Make it count. It may be that you will get more satisfaction from taking time in this moment, if you drop that rush-to-get-it-done feeling.

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