Let’s get into REAL time management skills for REAL parents. I’m not going to list a bunch of life hacks and tips and tricks. We all know that if they worked, none of us would be struggling and frantic and thinking how the F do I keep up with my life right now with these little kids and all of the things?
I ask myself this all the time, and then, very often about 30 seconds after I ask myself this, someone will ask me how I manage to have a career, a creative side hustle, co-found and scale a company and run a podcast with my husband – and have a lovely family life with my husband and three children under five. Then I get a bit of perspective and realize, I must be doing something ok.
My answer to that question? The truth is, I don’t try to do it all and I consciously practice not doing things.
Some days I let go and accomplish nothing, others I am doing all of the above and loving it. So, my first answer, is go with the flow of your energy and what feels right. Experiment with gearing up and gearing down in your life, become flexible and adaptable and able to. The day you feel like you can’t relax or gear down is the day you KNOW you need to practice that more. Lately I’ve struggled with that and I let it go far before practicing it again.
My second answer dives deeper and it explores what we do with our time…and…equally important…what we don’t do with our time. As a time management specialist, I see more issues with the latter. Everyone’s trying to do more, but at the same time, struggling to decide what to let go of, in order to let other things expand.
The code for modern parents is kind of like the olympic motto “citius altius fortius” which means faster higher stronger. Except our code is basically more of everything, much faster, and on a bigger scale of accomplishment.
I’m getting better with managing this… I am becoming increasingly selective over where my time goes, and my children gave me that gift, as they have for you. You’ve realized with kids that those windows of free time are so limited, and you are way more purposeful about it, right? You are using that time to really act out that future life you want, right?
I am SO proud of you if you are making progress in that direction, and if not, this is a wonderful personal development piece to try out and practice that will benefit your life hugely. You’ve got this blog to help you get there 🙂
Let’s break it down…
1.) Identify the things to keep and spend more time with:
One of the best things you can do is sit down and reflect on your values, the things that are deeply important to you. Yes this will take a deliberate and conscious effort to carve out the time to do this on pen and paper. Less thinking. More writing it, speaking it and doing it. Don’t let them fade away into the mists of your consciousness for the 100th time. Write them down somewhere.
To prime your brain and tease out your priorities and values, you can answer these questions:
At my eulogy, what would I want people to say about me?
In the last month, where have I felt most happy, creative and inspired, what was I doing in that moment?
When do I wish time could stand still?
What are the most important values I want to pass onto my kids?
What do I admire most in other people?
What my idea of a perfect day with my family and what are the feelings that come up when I imagine that day?
What do I say “hell yes” to?
Identify your “hell yes” categories.
They do change and develop over the years. Just a few of mine I have written down are:
Time in and appreciating nature
Serving others in elevating their lives
Authenticity and openness
2.) Identify the things to let go and examine why you struggle to let go of them:
As Steven Covey says, the most important thing is to have the YES categories burning inside of you. When you have those, it is easier to set boundaries and say NO to other things.
That is the other side of the time management coin: Saying no to things which do not align with those priorities you sat down and clearly outlined. These are the pieces where you practice the art of letting go. I fully appreciate that this is harder than it sounds. Most of my clients really struggle with this piece and it takes practice.
Where have I let go? My house.
I don’t often have people over (or if I do it’s a close trusted circle) because truthfully, it’s much messier than the average house and I don’t care to spend huge chunks of my day cleaning it, neither do I have the means to hire housekeeping right now. I know my house bothers some people, others it is no big deal. I want to say it’s easy and that I am okay with that piece and I’ve let go of any and all challenges around that – but that’s not how life is – we have to work at it, acknowledge our internal struggle and then make the choice that aligns with us (not others’ priorities FOR us.)
Yes, I still have to work through the inner shame that activates in me all the time, but I can make a choice now instead of act unconsciously.
So I choose to rebel, ignore the judgements, perhaps not have the people over that don’t feel comfortable with our house, and embrace the ones who embrace our crazy house style. Let me tell you, it’s freed up so much time to deepen what I really care about.
Instead of feeling guilty I’ve explored it enough to know it is on a level, “learned shame” because a messy house does not align with how I was programmed: Growing up, society’s expectations in general (check out people’s houses on social media, there’s only a few brave souls who show their house au naturel,) family and outside judgements that continue to this day, not to mention the remnants of general gender roles and unspoken expectations.
But with awareness there’s something else you develop. Choice. You’re human and will feel those feelings, you will feel the fear of judgement, and then you can shake it off or cave to it. Which lines up with who you really are?
Do I cave to other people’s judgements and spend hours cleaning my house over and over to maintain what is largely a facade of a clean organized house?
Or do I stay true to the values and priorities I set out for my self, in terms of how I want to spend my day? I know which one leads to the life I’ll be proud of.
And then… I take my kids outside. To free play in the beautiful fall weather.
Because that’s the life I want, and that makes me alive. Not spending more time cleaning my house, to avoid the judgment of others and keep up to expectations.
It’s truly not for me.
Kraft dinner comes out of shag rugs easier when it has dried and gone hard, anyways 😉
Moral of the story:
With better awareness comes freedom to make a choice.
With choice comes actions that align with who you are, and who you want to become, and the life you want for yourself and your family.
Always, always before saying yes or no just ask yourself quickly in your mind:
“Does this align with where I want to go, who I want to be, what my future life shall look like? If it does, keep it. If it doesn’t, let it go. That is true time management.