Following on from my previous post, A quick CareerMom guide to making more time, I wanted to share a few more practical tips which have really worked for me and freed up my time.
As a busy mom, every little helps when it comes to having a bit more time for yourself…
Tip 1 – Go to bed earlier
On the face of it, going to bed earlier doesn’t give the impression that it could free up your time but… bear with me.
Sleeping earlier is just a means to the time management holy grail: getting up earlier.
I get up at 5am everyday so I can leave for work soon after 6am. I read Hal Eldrod’s The Morning Miracle a few years ago – and much as I don’t do everything that he suggests each morning (I’ve tried, repeatedly, but journalling and mediation are just not my thing…) – the book did change my life.
Although I could get up at 5.50am, jump in the shower and scramble out of the door just in time to catch my train, I choose to get up earlier so I can ensure a relaxed early morning. I have a cup of tea, a cooked breakfast and a shower. My walk to the station is brisk but unhurried.
Anyway, at the weekend, I noticed that – despite the lure of a lie in until 6am, I still get up earlier. This is very precious, quiet time for me where I have some time to myself to set my intentions and to do list for the weekend – and get a head start on essentials such as cooking.
Much as some days I would love to stay in bed a little longer, I know that if the girls wake before I am up and dressed, that window of opportunity is lost for ever. (Being up and about before my children is critical to me getting anything done!)
I recommend you have a think about your morning routine – does it start the day off for you on the right foot? If, more often than not, it doesn’t – I hugely recommend getting up earlier, before your family. The best way to try this approach is setting an alarm in the evening, as well as the morning, and going to bed earlier.
Tip 2: Turn off the TV
For the most part, I stopped watching the TV months ago. Occasionally I turn it on now if I really want to veg. But I’m often disappointed to discover that there is nothing on that feels worth watching.
Previously, if I couldn’t find a program to watch, I’d default to turning on the news. However, with the News Channels need to fill 24 hours worth of airtime with sensational, depressing and repetitive news, I now give this a miss too.
Don’t get me wrong – if there is something you really love to watch – that is great! Go for it. Personally, I was a huge fan of Parks and Recreation and intentionally watched the entire series with glee! What I am against is just turning on the TV and staring at it vacantly, not really engaging. This becomes a habit very quickly (been there many times,) and it’s a total waste of time.
What can be more tricky is when this is a shared habit with your partner. You may think that being sat on the sofa together is your only real time together during the day. However, is this really rewarding time where you connect? Or do you just sit next to each other, flicking between shows – often because even if you could find something worth watching, you have different taste in TV or film anyway…
I recommend thinking about or discussing your TV viewing habits and seeing how fulfilling either of you find them. Are there alternatives? Perhaps listening to music for an hour whilst one of you reads and the other sorts through your photos from the last year to create a scrap book or puts together a vision board… or both go for an early night.
Tip 3: Unsubscribe from unwanted e-mailing lists
Many of us have become slaves to our email – as we receive hundreds of unwanted emails from every shop you’ve ever been into in the last 15 years – and all of the third parties they have ever passed your contact details on to. Whether you are the sort of person who has 13,000 unread emails in their inbox or zero, that wave of information every time you open your inbox is exhausting!
You can use a service like the Gmail unsubscribe button, or unroll.me, to mass unsubscribe and the impact of decluttering my inbox was significant. To receive only relevant and useful emails is a game changer in my view… and another advantage is that if you unsubscribe from all of the online shops constantly bombarding you with pretty images and relentless sales and deals – you will not only save yourself time from all of the online shopping – you will also undoubtedly save money too. Win win!
Tip 4: Try a Social Media Detox
It can be useful to take a week or even just a few days away from Social Media – deleting the apps off your phone – so you can break the habit of constant scrolling (been there too!!). See how much time it frees up. But also take the opportunity to actually miss social media – and notice what you are missing.
After a few days away – how do you feel? Lighter? Not genuinely missing it? Or are there updates from certain people or groups that you actually miss seeing?
When you return to your social media – take an hour or so to go through your contact lists and assess who makes you happy on social media – and who’s posts generate a negative reaction? For people in the latter category that you don’t know, I recommend just deleting them. If however, there are people you know and it would be socially unacceptable to delete them from your contacts, just go through and hide their feed.
Similarly, where you follow groups – there is often an option to mute them for 30 days. On Facebook in particular, I found the algorithm was often prioritising random groups that I had liked – so I would frequently see posts from strangers rather than friends and family. I went through and muted every single group for 30 days so I would be able to see my friends again.
As they started to come back online – I would consider if I had actually missed that particular feed – and if not, I deleted it straight away. If I wasn’t sure, I would mute for another 30 days. But there were some I missed – and I kept these. However, there were very few in this category.
Tip 5: Create a – prioritised – daily to do list
Everyone knows that writing a to do list is a valuable use of time as it helps you to be more intentional about your day and focus – however – it is worth repeating. What I would add is that it is useful to carry around a notepad with you specifically for this purpose.
One of the things I have learned to do is to write my to do list – but then highlight the first thing that I must complete today, before anything else. And then the next three must dos.
Creating this habit of having a to do list means that you can consult it whenever you have a few minutes spare. It will help you focus on what needs to be done next. Have you ever had a spare 20 minutes and spent the first 18 minutes deliberating what to do with the time? Yes, me too. Depressing isn’t it when you realise you’ve just wasted your window of opportunity?! With a to do list at hand, you can quickly consult what you want to, focus and get on with it.
Personally, I like ticking things off – so, especially when it comes to my weekend to do list, I will be adding things like having a shower or going and sitting outside with a cup of tea for some fresh air – just to give me the impetus (or permission for me time!)
Simple changes with big impacts..
These are just a few simple ideas to help identify habits you may have developed that are contributing to the feeling of being too busy and overwhelmed.
I have employed each one of these strategies and found them to be effective in upping my feeling of productivity – which for me is critical to my sense of personal wellbeing and self esteem.
I’d love to hear from you if you try any of these techniques – or if you have others you think I might like to try!