Last year I had the privilege of working with a wise woman on a local project. At one point in the planning process she said what is likely a familiar adage to smart people: You can have cheap, fast or good. Pick two.

Photo courtesy of Juan Freire - CC License

Photo courtesy of Juan Freire – CC License

I tried to find a way around that one. It doesn’t exist! In my shopping life, in my organizational life, in my purchases – it seems I’m always making a decision between those three things. For food, we pick fast (local) and good. For clothes I tend to choose cheap and fast. For vacations, cheap and good. I would venture to say, take a look at which two you tend to choose¬†and you have yourself a personal value system. (As a Wingfield, cheap seems to nearly always creep to the top of a list. It’s bred into me.)

In my mothering life, I’ve revamped the system. On a daily basis I’m choosing between Happy, Clean and Productive. I can manage to hit two of those, but never all three. I can have happy kids and get stuff done, but the house will be a disaster. I can keep it neat and tidy and I can attend to work tasks but my children are climbing the walls and screaming for attention.

On some days, I’m not even choosing two: if I get one of them, it’s still a success in my eyes. Especially if it’s Happy, because working to make sure all 4 of these little monsters lives fully into the day is sometimes all I can manage. (And that’s okay, too.) But I’m ridding myself of the belief I need to do all three. I’m not sure they can co-exist. Just like cheap, fast and good cannot co-exist (or it’s a small miracle), Happy, Clean and Productive rarely arrive at the door simultaneously.

If you look through your days, do you find a trend in your success rates? Perhaps you’re usually quite productive? Or the kids are mostly happy? Perhaps the challenge isn’t choosing the most important – they each have their place – but rather making sure we keep them all in the mix.

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