I really hate this time of year. I mean I really love it but I find the whole things stressful. My body starts anticipating our annual migration weeks before we leave for holidays. Do you find juggling all the Christmas concerts and end of year parties difficult along with school holidays and Christmas shopping?
Of course, there are two adults in my house and whilst I could get the other adult to help the delegation and instruction manual involved to get him to help is a job. So, it falls to me. When you are super busy how do you stay on track?
First things first: Getting on track plan of attack
Create a To-Do List
This does not have to be a neat little source this from where and by departments. Just write down everything that is taking up time in your brain. Everything. Any thought that comes to mind write it down. I tend to create my list first on a large piece of paper. I then go through and use a highlighter. I love colours and I define the list by must do, nice to have and forget about it no time.
Go ahead use one colour for each topic. You will be surprised that many, many things are crossed off simply by writing them down.
Note – before you put things in the must do pile, are they must do with a sense of urgency? If they can wait then they may just be nice to have’s. Question yourself as the aim of the list is to define achievable goals not a never-ending list of overwhelming must do’s.
Keep an Inbox — and prioritize it
My inbox (let’s be honest it’s an old shoe box) is divided into must do, nice to do and file for later/ or never getting to that stuff!
I make time once a week to stay on top of it. Opening mail. Paying bills. Answering invitations. Making notes of what is happening in the community and various clubs we are a part of. Diarising various school events and functions.
Rule number one of the inbox is you need to love it. You need to take care of it and make sure you are looking after it. If your good with pets, this is one of them. If your good with plants, this is one of them. If you are good with neither, then set an alarm once a week to remind you to get it done. Doing this week is less next week.
Note – the inbox can very quickly develop from a snowball to an avalanche. Be sure to keep it at snowball size.
Make sure everything has a house
I live in a house of men. They think that my knowledge of where everything is, is my super power. When they have lost something, they find my ability to put my hands on it within minutes the strangest action known to man.
Truth is everything has a place. Big or small everything is placed somewhere. This is further compressed in my house by the fact we live in a small space. When you are limited by space not only do you tend to rid yourself of excess junk or unnecessary items but you also need to make sure everything is put away and in its home.
Find a pattern to your work flow
We all have periods of productivity and periods where we are less productive. I cannot get great work out results in the afternoon or evening. It is not for me. If I work out in the mornings however I can feel energised and focused for well into the day.
Work out when is your best time to concentrate and when is your best time to do tasks that are more mundane. Organise your time accordingly. This could simply be when the kids are not around to interfere. Regardless use your time wisely.
Don’t be scared to purge
Do not feel like you need to hang onto things that create clutter. I deadest love my iPhone. It has given me so many get out of jail free cards. My son brings home no fewer than 3-4 paintings a day from pre-school. I keep maybe one from 50 and then I take a photo of the rest (let’s be honest here, just most, but he doesn’t know the difference) I can clear my house of clutter but allow him to feel proud of his work.
I repeat this with large Lego farms and cities that appear. Don’t get me wrong. I will allow my kids to create for days but there is a time when it needs to go away. The iPhone comes out and we pack it up. We can refer to that brilliant work later (if either of them ever remember)
In regard to tasks and creating a schedule of what you need to do and wheat you don’t. Purge. Get rid of anything that requires large outputs of time and very little benefit for doing so. Cost benefit ratios are great for getting rid of ridiculous tasks.
Break up intimidating tasks into manageable chunks.
You planned a wedding right. Or a party? Remember how you divided the tasks into all the things that needed to happen for the service. And then all the things related to the invitations. This is project managing 101. Group like tasks together and identify what tasks sit under each grouping.
Add time limits to all those that apply and highlight the must haves. Once you have them chunked down and in order of priority you will feel less overwhelmed and much more capable of achieving your goals.
Don’t let things pile up
Schedule time to get things done. No more than 3 major rocks a day and the 5 smaller tasks. Once you have 3 large tasks per day for a week you will be surprised how quickly you move through that list.
Feeling super busy is exhausting. I am exhausting thinking about all the things I need to do and where I need to be for the next month. Don’t let exhaustion get the better of you. I have listed ways we can feel less busy. Freeing yourself of some of the busy will allow you to focus on what is most important.
Ways to feel free of busy
I think this is the modern-day excuse for everything. You didn’t call your friend on her birthday. “I’m sorry but I am so busy” it’s the excuse we are all guilty of using to allow us to get away with bad behaviour. Truth is we should just own our bad behaviour and stop raving on about how busy we are. The next person is bound to be busier. There is a mum at my son’s pre-school who has 5 kids. Can you get busier? Well, she my friends would be the last person to state how busy she is. She turns up, she owns being late and she commits to the moment. A lesson for us all.
Respect your rhythms
Acknowledge you are hopeless in the evenings. I never call friends when I get home from work. After work is the kids time. After work is family time. I go to work so I need to fit in time when I am devoted to their issues, their problems and their concerns need to be addressed, understood and listened to.
You will not get anything from me in the evenings. On my commute to and from work – happy to talk and discuss or plan anything you like.
What about you? When are your best times for getting ‘stuff’ done? Make sure you allow this time to cross off some of your big rocks. These are the biggest or most important tasks on your list.
When you need help – you need help. There is no shame in trying to be everything to everyone all the time. Sometimes you may need your husband or friends to help. There is no shame in asking. What are you afraid of? They can only say no. And that’s okay.
Build in buffers
Allow yourself time to present something later than expected. Allow yourself some extra time.to complete things. By allowing buffers you are essentially creating an environment that allows for things to go wrong. Things that you are waiting on other people to achieve are also not so crucial. You have buffer. There is no builder alive who doesn’t have buffer in their project plan. Consider that when you are creating plans. Buffer.
Just as a you have a productive time of day you will also have periods when you procrastinate. Make sure you allow some time for downtime but also make sure you are not avoiding or ignoring the tasks at hand.
Practise ‘strategic incompetence’
I live with men. Yep. Got sick of me saying that yet. One thing they are all great at is stating how they are not very good at that task. It usually gets them out of it right? Not in my house. If you are rubbish at hanging the clothes out I pull them all off and ask for it to be done again. And again, until the job is completed to a standard that is appropriate.
Having said that, being aware of their strategic incompetence game play has made me consider how I should start to employ this methodology in other areas of my life. That old saying ‘if you want something done ask a busy person.’ I find myself volunteering at school and helping when I have a full-time job. I appreciate we all work but surely some parents could miss a gym class to volunteer from time to time?
Work out what it is that sucks you of time. For most mums, it is being a taxi service to our children. Getting them from here to there can suck a lot of time. There may be another area of your life that sucks time, but once you are conscious of it you may be able to work out ways to make it productive.
Facebook and social media are great timewasters. There are apps that will alert you when you have hit a time limit for such apps. Do you need to waste time on this nonsense over doing something of greater value to you? I understand you may enjoy it and you like finding out what people are doing but how much time? Are you aware of how much time you spend on social media?
Do we need to move so fast? Do we need to pack so much in? Research has discovered how valuable it is for kids to have time to make up games and to just be bored. We tend to think we are doing the right thing by providing them with activity after activity to give them their best life. We forget that imagination and free time to just be are important development opportunities for children.
How much time does it take for you to do a task for how much output? If something takes you ten hours do you get ten hours reward for that effort? Ask yourself is this specific time worth the reward.
I used to drive my kids to a pool two suburbs away just to avoid the local pool that I thought had become complacent. Truth is the two suburbs away malarkey was too stressful and hard to get to each week. I moved back to a local pool. The cost in time just was not worth what we were getting out of the activity.
Big rocks and little rocks (7 Habits concept)
Each day should be broken into three big rocks. These are the things you must achieve that day. Then you have little rocks. Things that you can achieve after you have completed the big rocks. The list of little rocks does not have to be crossed off at once but rather as you get to them. This list may change as you work through the week. Little rocks may become big as you get closer to due dates etc. Try to manage your life by crossing off three big items and then have a secondary list of smaller items to do after the big items are ticked off.
What is time management?
Time management is a straightforward concept. It’s the process of arranging and controlling how you spend your time in or out of work.
Top Tips for getting your time under control
- Make a record – how are you spending your time? What can be cut out? Also, always write down your ‘to do’ list and organize it according to priority.
- Managing communications – make effective telephone calls (don’t stay on hold, leave clear messages etc.), keep a tidy inbox with multiple folders for different types of emails, don’t let yourself be disturbed by colleagues/friends if inappropriate.
- Be organised – a tidy desk/house, a tidy to do list, and a tidy inbox show a tidy and organised mind and person.
- Prioritise – even if you have multiple projects on the go and numerous tasks to achieve, a clearly defined list of priorities will keep you on top of things and will help you to meet deadlines. Divide into must have and nice to have for all the things you have on the go.
- Delegate tasks – don’t be afraid to pass duties onto other capable people. The time spent teaching someone else to do one of your tasks is soon made up for.
- Say no – sometimes well-meaning people, make demands on your time unnecessarily. A polite ‘no’ will help you to keep control of your time.
- Maintain your record – a diary or planner will help you to keep an eye on where your time is going. If it is being spent badly, you can change things. Making a written note of how you spend your time is one of the key steps. Don’t miss it out.
Now that you are organised you will have the confidence that you are not missing the small things in life. Your super busy life is no longer overwhelming or difficult as you have taken the opportunity to slow down as you plan. You can focus on building memories instead of running form one thing to another.