time management, Working Mom, Working Parent Life

Time Management is about Letting Some Things Go. What I’ve Learnt about Trying to Clean the House with 3 Kids

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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

Learning

Kindness

Serving others in elevating their lives

Authenticity and openness

Creative expression 

 

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.  

 

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Book Club, Essays, Life Hacks, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Organization, time management, Working Mom

How to Manage Your Time as a Working Mom – What My iCal Looks Like

Hello everyone!  At work this week I’ve been running a ton of presentations and doing a heck of a lot of coaching around time management, now that we are in the exciting month of September.

For many, this month marks a shift into a different pace and rhythm, especially those of you parents who have kiddos continuing (or starting!) school.  Doubly true for those of you who simultaneously work in industries that ramp up in the fall and winter!

As a higher education professional, that certainly applies to me!

First point, I want to say, is be gentle with yourself!  As you get into the rhythm of a new season, it’s going to take some adjustment over the month.  You’ll do too much, then you’ll go the other way and not enough and then you’ll find that “just right” rhythm. There’s a Scandinavian quote I love, “not too little, not too much, just enough.”  I believe you can’t find “just enough” until you try the other ends of the spectrum and your boundaries.   One person’s too much is another person’s just right.… right?

Personally, in my own time management life, I’m trying to figure out how to fit meal prep and a more effective morning routine into my life, but my ical and outlook schedules are pretty dialed in.  I’m also back at work after maternity leave and having to trust that my husband has the home front and home iCal under control while I am in sessions or workshops.  The hand off of child schedules during the daytime has been a wild (but awesome) adjustment for both of us, and we just keep the lines of communication open around our own personal strengths and weaknesses and where the other needs support.

Second point I want to make, is that we are all constantly working on time management, and then adjusting our schedules and rhythms as each new element comes in.  I am a time management expert and I have to work at it every day!

We NEVER discover a perfect system and then install it… we are ALWAYS adjusting and constantly responding to changes…  I’ll talk about this in the video.

On IGTV (Instagram TV) today I shared a behind the scenes video of how I manage my schedule as a working mother with a career, a few side hustles and 3 kids. I show you my iCal and my outlook, and the systems I use to stay on top of things.

I’ve also posted the video below, which is also saved to my channel on Youtube.  

 

FYI, I share lots of coaching, tips and insights on my Instagram account, so if you don’t already follow along, do check it out at https://www.instagram.com/great_maternity_leave_yyc/

I find it incredibly helpful to “see” what other peoples’ lives are like, and people’s work / home schedules are fascinating to me. I love studying them, but it’s often not something that people open up about and show (or even talk about in conversation.)  It’s kind of like finances in a way, so, that is exactly why I am sharing my own.

Let’s have these conversations!  They help us elevate our lives and manage the full days of parenthood.  Where do you excel? Where do you struggle? What has helped you?

If you are a working mother and are very curious about balancing multiple roles, I strongly recommend the book “I Know How She Does It” by Laura Vanderkam which has lots of ‘sample’ schedules of real working women she interviewed.  The paperback is $22 and the Kindle edition (I personally read this on Kindle so I can save and review the notes) is $16.

I Know How She Does it by Laura Vanderkam
One of my favourite books on maternity leave, it helped me with time management for working moms

Time management really is a passion of mine, I love how fluid it is and how it is an ever-shifting thing.  I have an entire category of the blog dedicated to it, so here are some additional articles that may be of interest.  I’ll also make a note to share my own notes on this book above!

EXTRA READING:  Other Time Management Articles on the GML

Why we should stop saying OMG I AM SO BUSY

Add This Approach to Your Time Management Practices

My Thoughts on the Whole “Too Busy / Too Overwhelmed” Dialogue In Society

 

Happiness, Organization, Personal Development, time management, Working Mom

The Passion Planner is one of the Greatest Time Management Products I’ve Seen for Busy Moms.

The other day, a student in my office introduced me to the Passion Planner.  She seemed surprised that I did not know what it was (luckily my students keep me up to date with the times!)   I AM SURPRISED I did not know about it!

The moment she pulled a beautifully inscribed journal out of her bag, I knew it would be right up my alley. I am a huge proponent of analog methods of time management (not to replace, but to complement digital methods.) However, I did not know how many great things were inside the pages until she showed me.

The passion planner is a fantastic combination of two important components of time management: It has a tactical component (day to day execution pages – with weekly and monthly calendars, personal & professional to do lists)

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And a strategic component.  There are pages for passion roadmaps and concept charts for 1, 3 and 5-year plans incorporating SMART goal setting principles.  Tips abound and plenty of space for creative brainstorming.

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Smart time managers are also adept at another practice:  They reflect.  The passion planner also allows for that, with a monthly reflection at the end of each month with prompt questions.  The monthly reflection has you think about whether you stayed true to your priorities, how to improve, what successes you had and where you feel gratitude and a sense of accomplishment. It is a nice balance between celebrating success and identifying areas of improvement.

monthly-reflection

 

If you have a journalling or time management enthusiast in your life, this is perhaps the best Christmas gift you can get them, ever, along with a set of fantastic coloured pens 😉 Especially for those returning to work from mat leave, or setting a new year and new priorities for what they want to get out of their maternity leave – or out of their busy lives which include motherhood.  The sacred space to plan, reflect and assess is one that we are all too often missing in the busy days of motherhood, and is perhaps one of the most beneficial gifts we can give to a mother 🙂

http://www.passionplanner.com/

I have mine already on order & can’t wait to show you what I do with it!

 

 

Happiness, Personal Development, Productivity, time management

How to Have a Great Maternity Leave: Add this Approach to your Time Management.

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Time management. It’s a word that fascinates me. I study it. I present on it. I coach clients and students in this topic extensively. It is one of the most frequent requests that I get.

When we want to improve ourselves – either professionally or personally, the first place many of us go, is google. A close second is people we look up to or trust.

We open the laptop. We google, and then we search. Scrolling down the page, we select the links that stand out, delve in and read the practices, the tips, the tricks and the life hacks. Then, we go back to work with the best intentions, but quickly settle back into the same routines, the same habits and a sense that simply acquiring knowledge is notall there is to this puzzle of how to effectively manage our time.

Time passes, whether we use it or not.   We are so, so acutely aware of this as our babies grow before our eyes and their faces change in a DAY!  A DAY!

We are hyper-aware of this, aren’t we? Here I am writing this article. Here you are, reading this article. We care about how we use our time, and we want to use it better.

It turns out that time management is deliciously complex, and a perpetual balancing act. Any outstanding time manager knows it is an incredibly dynamic area of their lives with ever-changing needs. I’d be worried for a client if they weren’t having to juggle their lives. If they weren’t struggling. To struggle with time management is to engage with it. The people who say that they are constantly working to manage their time? I want to hear that. They are actively avoiding becoming entrenched in a routine. They are engaging with changes in their daily lives. They are moving forward with intention and avoiding becoming stuck. Struggling with time management means growth. Perhaps that is why it is such an enjoyable and ever-rewarding topic to dive into as a coach.

IT IS NORMAL to say you are struggling to balance your schedule because when you tell me you are struggling, it means you are working at it.  Remember that 🙂

There will actually never be a point in your life where everything is running smoothly.  Unexpected variables will come in – call from Daycare for a sick kid. Mega project at work and an injury at the same time. But there is a point in your life you can get to, and that is the ability to not stress when things aren’t running smoothly, to just embrace the bumps and not let it throw you off.  When you see “not normal” as “normal.”

 

Are you the general, or the soldier?

I could direct you to the time management matrix by Stephen Covey, or print out a nice Monday to Sunday schedule and have you analyze your day-to-day existence. Perhaps I could coach you on the way you conceive of time and your mindset around time.  You don’t need that. You already have had an advanced course in time, because you had a baby.  Time compressed, duties increased and you found yourself re-thinking all of your old routines , which got thrown out with the first diaper.

There is an important skill that these people  – these amazing mamas have – with mad schedules – BUT the calmness and presence and peace of mind that we all envy.  This is a skill that is not discussed as often as other time management practices:

This skill is the the ability to fluidly work at two different levels. The ability to operate at a strategic level (think of a Army General doing the goal setting, planning, assessments) and the ability to operate at a tactical level (think of a Soldier carrying out the work, boots on the ground.) You’re going to have to bear with me using military analogies, but I think we all have the gist of what each role involves.

The strategic level of time management is about consistently having the overarching goals and objectives nearby as the plan is made. A strategic time manager defines and understands priorities, can anticipate influencing factors, incorporate changes in those factors, and decide where, when and why to apply their efforts. They don’t lose site of their goal and are anchored. A strategic time manager takes the time to analyze and assess how things went, and looks at the execution of that plan (the tactical level.)

It is absolutley critical to set yourself a few goals, or things you want to get out of the maternity leave experience.  For my first born, it was learning about motherhood and choosing which parts I wanted to embrace, and other parts where I needed to define my own style.  And  embracing it (because I hated the idea of motherhood before I got pregnant.) A key theme was also slowing down. For my second born, it was about integration of motherhood with my professional goals and testing out balancing the twos.  Mental health improvement was also a big goal during my second maternity leave.

The tactical level of time management is about grounding oneself in the overall strategy, and then deciding exactly how to execute that strategy in real life. Tactics are the way that we actually achieve our goal in real, day-to-day life. In my opinion, the bulk of time management resources lie here. For a mother this may be, how do I manage the crushing fatigue, how to get some sleep in to gain some energy for other tasks.  Meal prep, scheduling some solo time, team work with husband and family, sharing a family iCal, and so on.

The weeks expand into months all too quickly. Do we take the time each week to circle back, think about the previous week, and the next week – do we carve out that 20 minutes? What does our execution look like? Did our week wind up being in line with our goals? What did we say yes and no to? Did we take new things on?   How many of those goals do we accomplish and how do we get them done? Were they done in a sustainable way and at a pace that we can keep up with over many months?

A strategic planner will ask these questions.  But a strategic planner will schedule this time into their day and protect it, as well. Outside of the work world, the best time managers I know are ones who get up before everyone else in the family – or take some alone time – in order to have some strategic planning time. They are also adept at dealing with unexpected events or variables because they have practiced thinking at the strategic level.  Those unflappable Moms who just get to work when all of a sudden their kid breaks a leg and they are trying to manage a baby at the same time but seem to make it to the hospital and deal with it all okay and with a good attitude.  You know those moms.

Months turn into seasons, and with this longer view, we are able to see which area we are dominant in, and how this has influenced our daily lives.

Productivity is great! Do more! Be more! There is a strong drive to be an excellent tactical executor. There is an INTENSE pressure in the Mom world to live in the execution world.  Diaper feed satisfy the baby satisfy the family do more be more do it faster.

And the thing is, we are creatures of habit, our brains want us to get into a routine so that it can automate some of its tasks. The danger here is that in this style of time management, this leads to the situation where we wake up one day and think wow, I am really overwhelmed, I’ve taken too much on, and I am feeling a bit out of control. My goal for you with this article is for you to think about how much time you live in the strategic time management world versus the tactical time management world. I want you to gain some awareness.

What does it mean to make good use of strategic planning? To use an analogy, these people are firmly anchored with their boat and know everything about the environment (including weather) around them, but their sails are not catching the wind. They’re not actually moving forward, despite knowing what they need to do. They’re so busy planning and studying the environment they forgot to put the sails up.

Some mamas are dominant in tactical execution.  I would argue this is the most common theme with mothers.  They are productive machines and there is powerful momentum in this approach. Efficient, fast, they don’t think past what has to be done right now and take on more.  But a departure from strategy means that these hard workers can (and do) take on extra tasks that result in loss of identity & fulfillment – away from the objectives and priorities set out in the role, in the sake of boots on the ground / get work done.

Living in a purely tactical time management world is, in a sense, to lose some power and control in ones daily life. Where all of a sudden you realize “I haven’t had a single evening to myself in three months, wtf.”  or “Wow, I am running on empty at this point and coffee and wine are literally helping me survive it.”

A purely tactical sailor, to go back to our analogy, has lost their anchor and are moving at a fast clip, with wind full force in their sails – however, they are so busy managing the full sails, that they don’t have time to assess, plan and reflect on the environment they are entering. They’re moving so fast in their day, that they cannot look up and are heading for bad weather – and when that bad weather comes, they are so busy managing their sails that they cannot adjust – CRISIS! A tactical time manager will experience a shakeup – perhaps the kids are home from daycare because they are sick – or a project has hit a road bump – and say, and I quote this: “I JUST DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS RIGHT NOW!”

With these analogies, you now have a feel for what it means to be a strategic thinker or a tactical executor. The most effective time managers get things done – yes – but they also know when to take a moment – to request from their husband or boss, to carve out space in their day and PROTECT that space in their day – so that they have a sacred space to plan, reflect and set their goals and intentions.

What do you truly want to make a priority in your life? What do you want to say yes to, and what do you need to say no to?  What does a week or a maternity leave, even,  look like with sound strategic thinking? Hindsight and foresight? Clear priorities and goals?

The most effective time managers are able to dance with strategic and tactical approaches, never losing sight of either one. It’s a fluid dance, sometimes we must put our heads down and go tactical, and survive it (with above mentioned coffee and wine) but when there is time to take a breath, we retreat inside ourselves to the strategic and find our anchor. And if there is no time to do so? Ask yourself why this happened.  Why didn’t you make space for this important part in your life. Were you caught up in the day to day?

To work at the strategic and tactical level in time management gives us the awareness and knowledge to clearly and effectively say “yes,” “no,” or “let’s renegotiate this” in our day to day lives.  If you struggle with setting boundaries, saying yes or no clearly, perhaps this is the right article for you. As a mama, life (and our families) will always be banging on our doors, and when they do, our answers need to be given with clarity, courage, confidence and the knowledge that, as Stephen Covey says, there is a “big yes” burning inside.

For further reading and inspiration around the “bigger yes,” you may want to read this fantastic article by Derek Sivers.

 

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Building a Business, Essays, Life Hacks, Lifestyle, Productivity, time management

Why you should reject the “OMG I AM SO BUSY” Busy Mom Mindset

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In my professional job at a Canadian University, I design and give seminars on a variety of topics that help students be successful at University.  It’s one one my favourite parts of the job and it has some selfish benefits – I get to learn and experiment with these principles in my own life before I share with clients.  I get to read books and research and then teach principles to others, that help me, too.

At this year’s class of 2020 induction the University brought in NYT best selling author, Psychologist & TED Talker extraordinaire Kelly McGonical speak to the class of 2020 on her new book, The Upside of Stress.

At its core, this amazing book is really about how to reframe stress and use the power of our own perspective and our own mindset, to reframe stress into a good thing. Chock-full of anecdotes and research, The Upside of Stress demonstrates the power of mind over body – and mind over life.

Those Books that Make a Difference

Often, the books that resonate with us the most, are the books that simply frame in English language, some kind of principle we’ve understood or known all along, but couldn’t fully frame. I think that’s why the book did so well.  The Upside of Stress hit home in so many ways. I only wish I had read it when I was in undergraduate studies myself.  It would have saved me so much self-imposed “I’m soooo busy!” drama.

I didn’t figure out my stress stuff until the age of 30, when I experienced really heavy stress.

In the spirit of this book, and the approach McGonigal takes on reframing stress, I wanted to talk about how we can re-interpret stress & the cult of “busy” in the journey of motherhood. We can’t change events or circumstances, but we can work on how we viewtalk about and decide to interpret things.

 

Mom 1 to Mom 2:  Hey…are you a member of the cult?

Mom 1:  wtf?

Mom 2:  The cult of busy of course! WE ARE SOOOO BUSY! (takes off chasing toddler)

 

Whenever I mention to people that I have two small children (toddler and 1.5 year old) the first thing they do is shake their heads and say “oh, that’s busy.”  I often don’t even mention that I have children because I don’t want to induce such worry!

Sometimes I get “oh my god, you must be so busy” with a shake of the head, other times, slightly more worringly, it is with genuine concern / resignation.  I catch myself thinking  “oh?” and sort of start to doubt myself, like I should be more stressed than I am.  Maybe I’m not working hard enough?  Am I not doing something right as a parent?  Because I feel actually ok? Am I being a horrible parent because I’m obviously taking time out of parenthood to work on some business goals and people don’t do that?  Oh yes, they creep in.  As much as I keep them out, they creep in when someone looks at me with an alarmed look on their face with the mention of two children under three.

The problem is, I kind of don’t want their perspective.

If bought into this whole “my life is so horribly busy and I work so hard and I am exhausted and omg” it would be a bit of a disaster.  I would have immersed myself in the cult of busy. I’d probably be on a really high SSRI dosage.  I’d be in counselling.  I’d be struggling to deal with the left curve balls that sometimes get thrown my way.

It’s a devious cult, this cult of “busy” and it is hard to emerge from because it takes over the way you see things.  It’s a mindset.

If my mindset is like this:  MY LIFE IS MAXED OUT, I AM SO BUSY AS A MOM HOLY SHIT, I definitely would not be giving myself the mental space for anything else to happen, ever.  Because I’d be red-lining on everything, all the time. I wouldn’t have done any of the things I’d done on mat leave, or started any businesses or projects.

It led me to wonder, how come everybody says “you must be so busy.”

Why?  There’s tons of influences. In coaching we call it societal discourse.  It’s the hum of conversation around a topic that seems to be widespread.

First, it might be a cultural thing.  There’s a sort of pride, achievement in saying how busy you are.  If you are busy you must be super productive and successful.  I must be super productive and successful.  Therefore I must be busy. That’s the underlying assumption that occurs out there in the world when you have a lot on the go.  The ego likes that.  Then it doubles down when you are a Mom, because we have this weird guilt thing where we feel like we have to justify our very existence with double the hard work, right?

Some people are genuinely maxed out with life, and that’s totally cool.  I’m not judging.  But I write this post to help others who want to “catch” themselves in the mindset and take the edge off of it, because I think a lot of opportunity opens up with just a shift in mindset.

Where else does this whole busy mom thing come from?

There’s movies about the harried, flustered Mum.  Commercials that want you to think you are busy because then you’ll need their product.  Capitalist society wants you to be busy and stressed, because then they have solutions for you for only $10.99.

Moms are always portrayed as stressed and frazzled, aren’t they?  Everywhere we go, everything we see.  And it’s kind of our fault.  We don’t look up from our phones to pay attention to a mom calmly playing with their kids in the park – we only notice the exceptions.  They’re more interesting.  The 5 minutes in the day where the kid has gone bat shit crazy, and is about to take down a shelf at the grocery aisle, with Mum valiantly trying to save the kid from himself.  But we don’t notice the quiet moments – not the other 1440 minutes where they are doing well and things are calm.

The exceptions become the norm, then media and society immerses us in that norm.

 

Because of reading books like McGonical’s – books from different people with different mindsets, who all experience the same things we do yet see them in a different way –  I discovered that there is more to it.  There are people out there who achieve amazing things as parents, and they think differently.

The key is if we want to be something, or do something, we need to study those who are successful at it, and look at their mindsets.  

We are not resigned to this fate of busy, harried, stressed out moms.  We can be busy, yes but we can be in control and cooly, calmly and pleasantly say no if we need to, or yes if it’s a priority. We can choose yes or no and make our lives as busy, or quiet, as we want to.

The luxury of choice also extends to our own minds.  We have the luxury of making a choice of whether to believe we are busy or not.  With two under three, I decided that I was not busy; I still had time.  And with that time, I could pursue goals and dreams and projects and priorities.

Sure, free time was compressed from 3 hours (luxurious evenings pre-children) to 1 hour (while children or napping, or while I am on lunch break at work.)  but I still had an hour free time each day in some form or another.  Free time is free time.  I sat down and looked at my week, and where the gaps of free time happened (6-7am, lunchtime at work, and 8-9:30pm) and decided what my most deeply held goals and values / priorities were. A crystal clear priority plan I still have on my iPhone notes when I need to remind myself what I want to say “YES” to, and as a source of strength when I have to say “NO” to things.

In this or that hour of free time, there went the goals and projects.  Writing a childrens’ book.  Running an Etsy store.  Reading and learning.  Finishing my coach training and launching a coaching business.  But they weren’t OMG JUST MORE SHIT TO DO.

These were all consciously chosen and pursued dreams and goals that I looked at as my idea of fun on free time.  I wanted to do these.  That’s just me. That’s what I define as enjoyable and rewarding.  Others may be Netflix or catching up on laundry, that’s okay too!  But do you tell yourself “AAAAGH!” or “COOL, IT WILL BE NICE TO SWITCH IT UP AND DO THIS INSTEAD.”

Is your approach an “ I HAVE TO” approach or a “I WANT TO” approach?

I don’t mean to be a jerk but I do mean to give a cold hard dose of reality with this post –  if you came back and said to me NO SERIOUSLY I HAVE NO FREE TIME I would debate that. I would want to see a week’s breakdown of your life, and I would ask you about your mindset.  I would ask you about what you said yes to, what you said no to. I’d ask you to put “yes and no” in the box according to what you said when that opportunity came up.

What qualifies in your life as free time?  What activities are you designating as “I have to” and  as “I want to.”

Let’s take this external event, I’ll show you an “I have to” and “I want to” mindset.

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Deciding to take the kids to the library.  Two different experiences.

Mum 1:  Agh I have to get them out of the house and this is my to do today.  It’s just one more thing on this massive list of things I am supposed to get done today. Work work work! Busy busy busy! I have to get this done!

Mum 2:  Ah awesome, with this hour I’m going to decide to take the kiddos over to the library, that’s a treat for us, a fun excursion and a break from the day’s routines. I want to do this !

SAME external life event for both moms.  Two TOTALLY different ways of perceiving it. No wonder when you come across people in the library everyone is in a totally different state of mind; look at how different their beliefs can be.

Mum 1 is living in the  “holy shit I’m so busy / stressed” narrative. Mum 1 feels that everything is outside of her external control and she’s just dragging herself along.  Mum 2 is living in a more in-control narrative that doesn’t see everything as obligations and duties.  Mum 2 is operating by choice.  They may both have busy lives and the same schedules, but they have different mindsets and ways of perceiving the situation.

What do you think Mum 1 and Mum 2’s lifestyles look like?  Do their thoughts serve them well?  Do their mindsets move them closer to goals they have?

 

 

When you wake up in the morning and you have a particularly big day of activities coming up – whether you work or stay at home, do you feel that anxious energy and think “I JUST WANT TO STAY IN BED OMG LIFE IS SO OVERWHELMING AND THIS IS JUST CRAZY”  Or do you feel that anxious energy and think “cool, this is a little tingle of excitement and anticipation getting me ready to execute a big day!”

The brain quite literally  changes its wiring and neural pathways to accommodate your thinking patterns.  Each time  you choose to think a certain way, you are either reinforcing the pathways present – or helping the brain to reshape itself and habitually think a different way.

If you start reading books by all of these cool women who have kids and have achieved awesome things, youll notice that most them tend to go through the exact same scenarios that we moms do – but they frame it differently.  They make the choice to think things, and form their brains in ways that will help them toward their goals. You as a mama know how quickly time passes, so think about what you want to achieve.  Whether you use it or not, time will pass.  You already know this better than anyone, as you sit with your baby and think “where did the time go?!”

If you want to join the cult of busy and the stress narrative, that’s your choice but ask if it serves you and gets you towards your goals.  There’s an alternative that will help you take on new things and grow.  You just have to choose it.

xo

 

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Extra reading *and viewing

 

Amazon link:  https://www.amazon.ca/Upside-Stress-Why-Good-You/dp/1583335617

McGonical’s online course through Stanford University http://online.stanford.edu/course/upside-stress

Kelly’s personal website http://kellymcgonigal.com/

 

Happiness, Lifestyle, Productivity

Good Time Management is About Embracing Your Strengths

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Today I wanted to talk about an important component of time management that I have noticed successful people (especially Moms!) doing, and have been trying out the last two months or so.  As always, I try out different things, and experiment / apply them to my “mom life” before I share them here.

In my last post I talked about how the quantity of time is reducing in our day to day lives, which we can mourn, or we can embrace by shifting our mindset. 

This is a complementary post, because this post is now getting into “cool, let’s talk about the quality time and analyze it further.”

We all have things that we are amazing at, and other things…well… it’s like pulling teeth. We either procrastinate hardcore, or get it done but with a bit of pouting, attitude, or even body language that is designed to indicate to everyone around us we are not enjoying it, lol. I definitely stomp around with the laundry basket.

Successful / Engaged people are incredibly realistic about what they are good at and enjoy (today we will call these “enjoyments”) and what they are not that great at and just have to dig deep to do it (we will call these “duties.”)

Have you ever sat down and listed all of your daily and weekly responsibilities – just like you would write up a job posting / job description?

And then, have you looked at that list, and decided what your enjoyments are and what your duties are?

DO IT. 

 

Here is my list of roles / projects that fill my day-to-day rhythms.  I’ve put beside them whether it is an enjoyment piece – energizing and rewarding.  Or, a duty piece.  Don’t enjoy it, just get it done.

 

Professional Job  *Enjoyment

Commuting *Enjoyment

Exercise (running) *Enjoyment

Exercise (strength) *Duty

Laundry *Duty

Clean surfaces *Duty

Organizing / putting away *Enjoyment

Cleaning *Duty

On-Demand Cooking *Duty

Advance Food Prep *Duty

Grocery Shopping *Enjoyment

Social Media *Enjoyment

Blogging *Enjoyment

Childrens’ Book *Enjoyment

Quality outdoors time with kids *Enjoyment

Quality indoors time with kids *Duty

Quality time with husband *Enjoyment

Finances and household budgeting *Enjoyment

Social planning *Enjoyment

Relationships / Communication *Enjoyment

Research / Learning *Enjoyment

Building Coaching Business *Enjoyment

Write down the list of ongoing daily responsibilities / projects that you have in your life, and assign duty or enjoyment to each one.  

The next part is deciding how to manage all of these critical activities with our time.

I am a firm believer that you embrace and work with your strengths, and partner with your (partner) on weaknesses (your weaknesses may be their strengths.) Even just the conversation around your strengths and not-so-strengths is valuable.  After a talk about our cleaning strengths and weaknesses, my husband and I decided I would be the organizer / put stuff away person and he’d take care of the cleaning jobs.  After years of us disagreeing over things this has been a big improvement for us!

Make a conscious decision about which will be your daily activities (a little, often) and weekly activities (a lot, sometimes.) 

The secret to being productive (and pretty happy about it) is tackling all of the enjoyment pieces of our life on a daily basis.  I crack away at each of these, a little bit every day.  But the “duty” items drain me, put me in a bad mood and just straight up take willpower.

Recently I made a conscious decision to tackle duty items  in one big day, once a week instead of facing them down every.single.day.   That works for me – and that’s what I want to stress: decide what works for you. What works for you? Do your “duty” items feel better tackled a little bit at a time every day? or would you rather roll up your sleeves and get ‘er done in one big blitz?

My husband’s strengths complement my weaknesses in cooking and cleaning – but when I do them, I try to blitz them so that most of the week, that precious time is spent in my strengths, dialing in our budgets, building businesses, planning social events, organizing and putting things away, etc.

One big cooking blitz, one big laundry blitz, one big cleaning session. I am totally okay with letting these to- dos stack up during the week while I engage with strengths, like getting my kids outside and doing cool stuff and quality time.

(Sometimes other people do not think this is okay – I’ve had my fair share of other people’s judgements –  but I think you just have to steel yourself against criticism and hold fast to the fact this is what works for our family and lets us engage on a daily basis with our priorities and places of engagement and enthusiasm.)  

“But if you are deciding put off important items, how do you keep track of them?”

You may want to ask that.  Here’s another thing I do to make this system work.

 JOURNALLING.  

I could write an entire post about journalling. I’m a passionate journaller.

I’d love to write about using it to keep track of projects, inspiring your life with bucket lists, tracking how you are doing mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually with daily check ins, intention and goal setting, or even just helping your memory out by transcribing dates from iCal into a written journal.

(I promise I’ll get to a post on this.)

Anyways back on track –

On Sunday night I sit down and set intentions and goals for the week, but I also write a comprehensive list of important things to get done, and I add to it as ideas randomly pop in my head, or as I suddenly remember things (I don’t have a great memory.)  I’m known for remembering random things we need to do, and it’s only because I carry around this journal and get it down the moment it appears in my mind.

This technique also helps me maintain focus on my work by not getting sidetracked.  Thoughts pop up, I put them into the journal to be deal with and evaluated later.

Depending on whether it is a duty or enjoyment item, I either tackle things daily, or I save the duty pieces to one dedicated evening / morning or day at when I have a chunk of free time and can tackle them all at once.

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(This is what an ENTP journal looks like, if you know your MBTI types)

 

LET’S TALK!

I am dying to know – what are your systems, how do you manage the great work and the grunt work?  Are you a little every day, are you a all-or-nothing type? Have you ever sat down and thought about this?

If you have, is your system working for you so far?  Any unique tips?

Let’s chat!  I’d LOVE to know.

Book Club, Happiness, Productivity

A Day in The Life of a Working Mom and the 168 Hour Log. How to be More in Control of your Time.

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One of the most influential books I read on maternity leave was Laura Vanderkam’s book I Know How She Does It:  How Successful Women Make The Most of Their Time.

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In the book, Vanderkam gave a number of successful women diaries to keep.  For one week they logged every activity from the first shrills of the alarm, or cries of their babies, through to the last moments of consciousness.

From those diaries, Vanderkam distilled her findings, culminating in the New York Times Bestseller book (link above.)

There are many fascinating practices that came up again and again across these women.  I am sure you can guess many of them – in fact, Vanderkam reviewed some of them in this article for CBS.

Everybody wants to have better mornings.  I know a bad morning for me, is being in a reactive place – not being prepared and then waking up to my baby or toddler’s voice, then scrambling to get coffee in me, lunch prepped, breakfast ready and then out the door.  Why is it bad? I feel rushed. Scrambled. Unorganized. I forget things.

A good morning is having some time to wake up before anyone else, slowly reboot my brain with some reading and social media scrolling, and then get some idea of the things I need to get done in the quiet moments because I’m not a good details person.  I’m calm and grounded when the kids get up, and focused on what needs to be done.  Not all over the place.

That is so much easier said than done, hey?

There are countless articles on the web, advising you on what the most successful people do in the morning. They all start like this “The 10 most important things that…”  “Twenty ways to change your day” etc etc.

My hangup has always been – and always will be – “We already know!   SO HOW DO WE ACTUALLY DO THIS EVERY DAY AND IMPLEMENT IT WITHOUT FORGETTING?”

It turns out, that to take new actions, we must first know ourselves inside and out.

You cannot reprogram yourself without 100% total awareness of what you were doing before.

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I spent a week doing what Vanderkam calls the 168 hour challenge.  I logged my days from wakeup to pass out.  I’d put “go to sleep” – but most days, I’d literally collapse into bed with a blissful sigh, absolutely pooped after a baby or toddler wakeup at 10pm – just when I thought I was in the clear! 

In recording just one week, I was astounded at the patterns I could see. In reflecting upon those patterns, I was astounded at the lessons I learnt and the newfound motivation to adjust my daily practices and incorporate new ones that I had studied (but never implemented.)

I learnt what I needed from my mornings.  What I needed to set my energy up right for the day.  I learnt that with a monkey brain, I needed to set clear intention and focus in my first few moments of the day. I learnt what my natural tendencies are, when my discipline and focus are missing.

Everyone is different.  Where I am trying to slow down my energy in the morning, others may be trying to improve it.  So take the log here with a grain of salt.

The point of this entire post is to encourage you to journal your day and reflect.

Then, set some new intentions.  Try them out with the new motivation you will have.

Try out new things.  Scrap what doesn’t work.  Keep what works.

There’s a reason this entire process took a year.  It’s constantly trying things out, reflecting and going back to the drawing board, researching some more, and adopting other techniques.  It’s not about a perfect 100% dialed in day; it’s about the journey to get there, the constant little improvements, day by day, week by week.  Then, a year later, you realize that a whole chunk of your day has shifted.

It’s about the bravery to break out of unconscious routine and habit, and choose to implement new things with the type of intention that propels you toward your life goals.

I bring to you a before and after  –  a peek into my own day (this is just a 1 day sample.)

Here’s a typical “unconscious day” before I studied and learnt from this book, followed by a “conscious day” where I have successfully implemented a few of the “successful women strategies” as well as other daily routines outlined by people like Tim Ferriss (see his 24 hours schedule here.)   Once you listen to hundreds of hours of podcasts, you realize successful people tend to have very similar morning routines and daily habits.

 

BEFORE – APPROX 1 YEAR AGO

7:10 AM – wake-up to the sounds of my toddler.  10 minutes lying there thinking it’s too early.  Scroll Facebook.

7:20 – Realizing I have to leave for work in only 20 minutes.  Why didn’t I get up earlier?  I could have worked out. I should have gotten up. Coulda, woulda, shoulda.  

7:25 – 7:45 – Get coffee machine on, get toddler up and half dressed

7:45 – 7:55-  Realize I need to leave in 20 minutes.  Berate myself.  Get snack ready for toddler, coffee made and get my underwear on.

7:55-8:10 – Get mascara on, baby awake.  Go get him up and dressed, prepare some milk.  Get back to getting dressed.

8:10 – Remember I haven’t made any lunch.

8:10-8:15 – Quickly throw together some breakfast food, get my handbag and get my toddler dressed / brush her hair.

8:15 – Look for shoes, car keys, other random things I need.

8:25 – Couldn’t find car keys, or coat, or something else I need.  Hop in the car.

8:25-8:50 – Drive to work, get there in the nick of time.

9-5:30 – Work at the University.  Wind up staying a bit late and feeling guilty about it.  Don’t take a lunch break or my morning and afternoon breaks – maybe a random 30 minute break  (I am bad for this and it’s a habit I am trying to break.)

12:00 – Buy lunch briefly and go back to work, eating lunch in front of computer.

5:30 – 6:15 – Drive home with a podcast, stress a bit about not being disciplined about leaving on time.

6:15-7:45 – Intentional, present family time with the kiddos.

7:45 – 8:15 – Bedtime preparations, get kids in bed.

8:15 – 8:45 – Husband and I make dinner, eat late.

8:45 – 9:30 – Have a glass of wine, relax and chat.

9:30 – 10:00 – Clean kitchen or complete a short tidying up task so house is clean for morning.

10:00 – 10:30 – Tuck in, read non-fiction.

10:30 – lights out.  Spend next 30 minutes thinking about the non-fiction I just read.

 

AFTER – CURRENT STATE

**Note:  This is an ideal day here- in any one day I don’t check off every one of these things.  I am at about 60% success rate at this point in the game.  For every one item dialed in, I miss the other one.  This is a work in progress (and a fun project at that!)  – but after trying each one of these components, I know now what an ideal day looks like, and what to work towards, and it ALL starts with how that first 2 hours goes in the morning, before I even get to work.  

5:50 – Get up naturally without need of alarm (if I go to bed at 10pm and keep a routine – this takes a lot of discipline!)   I’ve been experimenting with programming thoughts before bed to have my body wake me up – it WORKS.  If you trust it….
5:50 – 6:10 – Lie in bed, slowly wake up with scrolling through Instagram (I only follow accounts whose images represent goals, lifestyles or lessons I want to learn.) Good inspiration.

6:10-6:30 – Make lunch while coffee brewing.  Make the bed if husband is working  (watch Admiral McRaven’s speech on making the bed every day for reference to the importance of this task and how it sets you up for a good day.)

6:30-7:00 – Drink coffee in living room and cross off some to-dos with my businesses I am building on the side.  Last week, this time was for my Kickstarter campaign.  other weeks it might be packing an order I received through my Etsy Store.   *A less “dialed in” version of this would be 20 minutes of Facebook and only 10 minutes of work, lol.

7:00 – 7:20 – Get dressed and actually do some decent makeup beyond mascara.
7:20-7:30 – Specifically assign myself 10 minutes to find shit like my car keys and sunglasses, which I know I constantly misplace.  See, I haven’t improved on it, I just build this time in now and ALLOW myself the time / acknowledge this as a regular event.

7:30 – 7:45 – Assemble breakfast and lunch for the day.

7:45-8:30 – Run on a nice trail somewhere along the commute to work.  Also listen to a favourite podcast for inspiration and to set my frame of mind for the day.

8:45 – Arrive at work with time to change out of running clothes; enjoy a nice americano and a green juice / hard boiled eggs (my go to breakfast.)

8:45-9:00 – Take the time to write down my to-dos and goals for the day in a little journal I carry around.  This helps me control the bazillion ideas I have each day, and maintain a focus.  I repeat this practice at the end of the day before I leave the office, making a note of a small success that day.

9-5:00 – Work at the University

12:00-1:00 – Take lunch.  TAKE the break. Get outside. Do.Not.Work.  Ideal is excercise or listen to the Headspace Meditation App.  

5:00 – 5:30 – Before leaving office, reply to personal emails,plan social events, life administrative stuff like budget checks, iCal updates (my husband and I share one.)

5:30 – 6:00 – Commute home with another (easier listening) podcast, intentionally focus on leaving work at work.

6:00 – 7:00 – Fully present time with the kids, relieve husband while he preps dinner. Best case scenario is to go outside in garden or to park or walk along ridge.

7:00-7:30 – Eat in various stages depending on who wants to eat and who does not lol.  You know life with toddlers 😉

7:30 – 8:15- Kids ready for bed: Bath, teeth brushing, bottles for baby, set up beds, put on pjs, etc.  Each of us takes one kid, gets them down at same time.  Intentionally focus on breathing and clear mindedness while rocking baby to sleep; not on kindle.

8:15-9:00 – Cup of tea and talk time with husband in living room.  Also: Myofascial rolling while talking a few times a week.

9:00 – 9:30 – Clean kitchen, tackle a few house tasks.  Somehow the physical activities shut down the brain for bed

9:30 – 10:00 Reading fiction (so I can’t think about it) or another Take 10 session from headspace app.

10:00 Lights out.

 

 Evernote Observations from Keeping This Log:

-How much time I was wasting scrolling through social media before.  I still love social media, but filtered it so that the accounts showing up are inspiring or help me proceed towards goals.

-How precious  free, solo time is and the need to get up before my family to get set on the right foot.

-That email can wait.

-That a small habit like a green juice, making my bed, or a good cup of coffee actually does set the vibe for the rest of the day. Small, seemingly mundane tasks have a powerful ability to shape our mindset.

-Morning is a prime energy time.

(When are your energy flows?  Worth noting in your time log)

-The best business ideas for me, happen in the car.

-I use my phone and check emails a lot less often, this has helped with focus and not jumping among too many tasks and diluting energy / effectiveness.

-That there are 168 hours in a week, after sleeping and working, that leaves me 72 hours to decide intentionally what to fill that space with, and how.  

 

Now, here’s your homework:

Spend one day in your typical cycle.  Record what you get up to.

Then, design an ideal day and make it your goal to execute that one ideal day, with the purpose of writing about it – either privately in an email to yourself, your journal, in Evernote, or in your phone notes.

The moment you record your day, reflection happens and a world of motivation opens up.  You can’t help but notice where the obstacles and opportunities are, and you can’t help but become intentional with this one gift we have; time.

You have 168 hours in a week, what do you do with that time?