Milk (Your Cows)

Tom Spuhler

Tom Spuhler

“The core practice of Milk (Your Cows) is figuring out who depends on you and what it means to be committed to meeting their needs, while maintaining a sense of balance in your own life.”

I’ve dedicated March to the practice I call Milk (Your Cows). When I visited Tom Spuhler’s dairy farm in Ohio, I witnessed his grueling schedule of milking cows morning and evening, What amazed me about Tom was the way he held onto an awe and wonder for life in the midst of the demands of family and all those cows. His story makes me think about the joy and struggle in making room for the people who depend on me.

Recently, I was on the radio show Your Health and had a chance to say more about this:

 I knew I wanted to write a chapter about people who depend on you and what that means with regard to time management. Because you cannot exactly say, “Well, I am going to spend two hours with my sick mother and then maybe three weeks from now I am going to wean her off my love.”

You can listen to more of the radio show here:

Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, recommends identifying the important roles in your life such as mother, family member, or friend. Then, each week write down what you plan to do in each role. This kind of purposeful planning is analogous to “milking (your cows).” The only adaptation I’d suggest is to try to figure out how to make your relationships with others mutual. Talk with your “cows.” Don’t just assume you know what they need from you.

In addition to noticing the people who depend on me, I have thought about how much I depend upon the generosity of others. There is no more naked moment than when I say to someone, “This is what I really need from you.” I know there are friends and family members who are willing to do anything for me. So, why is it so difficult to ask and to accept even the smallest help sometimes?

The simple truth is that we are dependent on one another, whether we like to admit it or not. We are all cows, and we all need help being milked.

This month, steal away to a quiet place. Make a list (long or short) of people who depend on you. Summarize a few of the ways they depend upon you. Once you have completed this list, think about how your everyday life can accommodate these commitments. Then start a conversation with the people on your list. Together you can be involved in the endless pursuit of balance.


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Good Busy eBook Edition Released!

We’re excited to announce that Good Busy: Productivity, Procrastination, and the Endless Pursuit of Balance is now available as an eBook from Amazon!

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Buffer: Keep a Margin

Kari Andrade

Kari Andrade with her daughter

“…Kari predicts the duration of any experience and adds extra time. In so doing, she acknowledges the uncertainty of life. The message is to budget more time than we think we need. When I remember to buffer, my days feel much calmer.” Good Busy p. 7-8

February is dedicated to the Buffer, a practice of setting aside more time than you think you will need for various tasks. Since Good Busy’s release in September 2012, I have heard from many readers that they resonate with buffering, Kari Andrade’s practice. Some, who struggle with punctuality, say they are now inspired to buffer more.

Since February includes Valentine’s Day, I have been wondering whether the buffer practice can be an act of love. Is there a way for you to love people better by buffering? Can you honor your commitments to yourself and to others by keeping a margin and allowing more space in your everyday life? I invited Kari to my house in early January to explore these questions and to reflect on how the practice of buffering continues to evolve in her own life.

Kari and I discussed an experience in her past that continues to shape her perspective on buffering. Growing up, Kari’s family was always the last to arrive at social events. “I equate being late with being out of control and being less than,” Kari said. Since her childhood and certainly since the book’s release, Kari and Eddie, her father, have talked about their different approaches to time. Eddie claims that Kari’s childhood was not chaotic, but that her own high need for structure influences her everyday practices. Their ongoing dialogue illustrates how differently individual family members can relate to time.

Kari sees the buffer practice as a way to love people who have a different relationship with time from her own. She estimates how long an activity might take someone else so she is not disappointed or mad if things don’t happen as originally scheduled. For instance, Kari anticipates the actual time people will show up, rather than rely on the time they say. She anticipates what she knows they often do and makes adjustments to her own expectations.

Kari tries to show her love for others by trying to better understand their relationship with time instead of nagging them incessantly. Sometimes she even buffers for others. If she is going somewhere with her husband and daughter, Kari will think through how long it will take for the family to get ready and will get them moving a little sooner than they might on their own.

Kari and I discussed whether or not the buffer is a practice of efficiency or inefficiency. Even though Kari brings projects along in her car in case she arrives early and has to wait, she sees buffering as an inefficient practice because she is making the choice not to use all of her time productively. When you buffer, there will be idle time because you leave more space between commitments. On the other hand, I think buffering affords greater efficiency because when you are calm and focused you can get more done.

Kari’s final words of advice about the buffer are, “Always remember, nobody ever plans to get gas or go to the bathroom. You have to add extra time for it.”

Your assignment this month is to practice buffering. Think through your commitments each day and imagine how you will move from one meeting or activity to the next without stress. Think about why you cut deadlines so close. Do you need to cancel or postpone some of your commitments? Reflect on what it might look like to be calm inside your busyness.

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Happy 2013 Everyone!

In September 2012, I published my first book Good Busy: Productivity, Procrastination, and the Endless Pursuit of Balance. Many readers tell me they prefer to read Good Busy slowly: in fits and starts, in the bathtub, at bedtime or reading one chapter at a time as they make small adjustments to their own daily lives. In response, I have decided to share a monthly reflection on each one of the Good Busy practices here on my new blog with the hope of supporting this ongoing engagement with the book. If you would like to receive the latest Good Busy installment in your inbox rather than reading it on the website, you can sign up to follow the blog via email using the Follow Blog via Email box to the right of this post. In February 2013 the first installment will feature reflections on the Buffer, along with recent perspectives from Kari Andrade (who is featured in the chapter).

Here is our calendar:
February – Buffer
March – Milk (your cows)
April – Gungee
May – Routine
June – Geological
July – Make your own
August – Mirror
September – Sequence
October – Tunnel
November – Hunt
December – Sliver

This fall, we sponsored several Good Busy readings and events. The first one was at the Center for Documentary Studies on September 13 and focused on Director Tom Rankin’s “Sliver” practice. That same day North Carolina Public Radio’s The State of Things featured Good Busy. You can stream the radio program here. Two days later, we spotlighted the “Buffer” practice with Kari Andrade at McIntyre’s Books. On October 4, Dennis Mumby, Chair of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Communication Studies Department gave a brief lecture on the efficiency movement during a reading at Flyleaf Books, and Jamie Fiocco, Flyleaf’s Owner and General Manager, spoke about the busyness of an Independent Bookstore owner. On October 24, Sandy Dang, along with her mother and father, discussed their relationship with time during the Vietnam War and the “Hunt” practice at the Regulator Bookshop. On November 8, I read at the Bulls Head Bookshop.

In the near future, we will ALSO launch an e-book, more readings, and a second edition of Good Busy. We plan to host readings in other parts of the country. If you are interested in hosting a reading, discussing Good Busy at a book club or with a group of friends, let me know.

My best wishes,
Julia Scatliff O’Grady

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Good Busy

GB cover for Amazon2Good Busy: Productivity, Procrastination, and the Endless Pursuit of Balance
By Julia Scatliff O’Grady
PUBLICATION DATE: September 1, 2012
RCWMS Press, Durham, NC
ISBN # 978-0-9722035-6-2
$20 / 104 pages / paper

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