Ahhh yes the age old juggle of work and family life and the endless quest to try and fit a little time into the day for yourself too.
I'm not entirely convinced that you can do it all completely seamlessly, but dammed if I will give up trying to find a way.
People often ask me "What's that?" referring to the folder I carry everywhere with me.
"That is what saves my sanity" is generally my response.
They are referring to the folder I take everywhere with me, and what is in that folder are the tools I need to keep the fifty odd balls in the air at any given time and dropping only a few here and there.
My system is not foolproof, but what system is? Lord knows I have tried many. But the thing about any organisational system is it can be the difference between ideas, apppointments, and commitments disappearing into your head and being lost for ever, and things actually running smoothly.
When I left the corporate world and went into business for myself 16 months ago (WOW has it really been that long?) I made a promise to the family that I would never again allow work to mean I miss out on doing something with my kids that they want me to do - for example school plays, parent mornings and kid's sport etc.
I want to work, correction, I want to and NEED to keep working, but I don't want it to totally consume my life like it used to.
For a number of years now, both pre-corporate and post-corporate, I have worked from home. The downside of working for yourself or working from home is that it can be hard to switch off. Often it is difficult to ignore the emails and the phone calls when you are supposed to be 'off duty' and so if you are not careful you can end up working around the clock.
I haven't mastered the balancing act yet, but I am getting there.
I thought I would share some of the strategies I use to fit everything into my day and make things run a little smoother for my family and I.
These strategies are not just for working parents. Most of them can be applied to non working mum's and Dad's too because heck, you guys have a million balls in the air too - just different balls.
I am going to break this up into a weekly series because your eyes would roll into the back of your head and you would likely develop a nervous twitch if I lumped it all onto you in one hit. I also want to break it up into bite size pieces to give you the chance to implement these strategies into your own life if you are up for it and to trial them for a week before we move on to the next strategy.
Please remember, I am by no means an expert at life organisation, but I am a mere work from home Mum who is damn well determined to find some balance in life, and I have managed to pick up a few tricks along the way.
WHAT YOU NEED
- A notepad
- This weekly calendar or your own version (just make sure you have it set out hourly)
- A pencil, eraser and highlighter (you are going got be moving things around)
- A big cup of tea or coffee and a clear head.
The first thing you need to do is sit down and work out exactly what you need to get done in the week.
- Make a list, however long it needs to be, but be sure to include everything - meal prep, getting kids ready and school drop offs, your work commitments, kids sports & activities, regular appointments or activities, homework and housework.
- If you need to travel to and from work each day, build that time into your work commitment hours.
- If you work for yourself or work at home, you need to set a limit on how many hours a day you are prepared to commit to your work and then schedule those hours in.
I actually use a separate work day calender to schedule everything I need to achieve in my working hours. I have a few clients I manage daily and so I have to keep track of what needs to be done daily for each of them. Having a dedicated work schedule allows me to break my work day down into task specific appointments, keep track of my hours and get everything done on time.
One by one start scheduling the things you have written on your list into your calendar.
Effectively you are making appointments with yourself, so be realistic - don't double book yourself or you will have Buckey's chance of sticking to it and you will only set yourself up for failure before you have even begun. That's the quickest way to become overwhelmed and lose heart.
- Cross things off your list as you schedule them in and move things around if they are flexible so that the timings work for you.
- Highlight the things that cannot be moved, but as for everything else - Can you move your evening gym to the morning to give you an extra hour at night?
- Can you check and respond to emails once or twice a day rather than 3 times throughout the day etc so you don't get distracted and disappear into the black hole otherwise know as the inbox?
YOU officially have too much on your plate!
You need to think about moving things around, outsourcing if possible or perhaps even letting some things go.
- If you are working full time but you cannot find the time to clean the house or tackle the ironing yada yada yada, can you fiddle your budget to free up some dollars to pay for some help?
- If you find your are losing a lot of time in your day procrastinating on social media, surfing the net, playing on Facebook and reading blogs (ummm I may be guilty here), schedule some time in for those too so you can enjoy doing those things guilt free.
- If you are finding you have no time left to do homework, it's a constant battle to eat dinner on time, or getting getting the kids to bed at a reasonable time is damn near impossible, then you need to ask yourself seriously - do the kids (or yourself) have too many extra curricular activities going on? Is there more than you can physically handle?
We cut back to one sport per child per term and we moved homework for the little ones to two nights per week on days where we had no sport (leaving time for reading every night). The kids weren't entirely happy about it at first, but they got used to it and they now have extra free time to play with their friends and just be kids. Carl and I scored a little breathing room when it came to paying for all those activities too!
- Make sure you put room into your schedule for you. Even if it is just 30 minutes a day that belongs to you, you deserve it, you work hard so don't deny yourself that time. If you have a partner, then make sure you include time with them too!
So there you go, this scheduling thing goes part of the way to explaining why I am such an OCD freak. I like routine, I like knowing what is expected of me and I relax more when I have a plan in place to manage it all.
Next week I'm going to reveal my Sanity Folder. The folder that goes everywhere with me and is quite possibly the best thing I have ever created as far as my sanity is concerned.
If you keen to give this scheduling a try, I would love to hear how you are going with it. Feel free to ask me any questions as I would be stoked to help a fellow parent make life a little easier.
Do you schedule your day or do you prefer to wing it?
What works for you?