Balance. Time Management. Hmmm… this is a post long in the making. And a making that’s been out the window since I had my third child almost four months ago. Because these days I often feel like I’m on a roller coaster ride with no safety strap. (Either that or I’m spinning my wheels to stand still--it’s Choose Your Own Metaphor Day so take your pick). I WISH I could say I’ve a set schedule. I WISH I could say I’ve got my head on straight, but I can’t. Instead I’ll say how much I love my family and how they make my world go around. And they do in a very real sense because THEY set my schedule.
And as much as I’m enjoying my last baby, I also look forward to the days when the dust will settle (See? CYO Metaphor Day) from the baby chaos and I’ll find writing, exercising, and mothering routines again. A balance. A HAPPY balance.
In the meantime, I’m here to share some tips I’ve picked up over the years for making the time in your day balanced. Now a huge caveat, these are things I’ve LEARNED from other people, not necessarily things I PRACTICE. I hope they help you as much as they help me:
1. Get up early.
Try for a decent amount of sleep, but get up for those people-free, productive hours of the morning. My mother is a pro at this. (Then again, I think she's half-robot and doesn't need as much sleep as the rest of us.) I get more done in the wee hours of the morning rather than those sleepy afternoons after lunch. If you're a night owl reverse this routine and use the time when everyone else is in bed to get some things done. Don't be tempted to turn those great late night shows on and waste value productive time.
And if you have trouble getting up in the morning at your established time, try these suggestions:
Don't lay around in bed and smash the alarm for awhile. One trick is to set an alarm on a coffee pot. Since I don't drink coffee, I learned from someone (forget who) to first thing when you wake up, think about something (anything!) you are excited about that day. It perks you right up. I often think about where I am in a story I'm writing. I get so excited that my brain wakes up. If all else fails, hide your alarm. Or ask your bedmate to kick you out. With a metal bat. (Kidding!)
2. Get ready for the day all at once.
Shower and dress all the way down to your shoes. You are ready for anything then and that is an energizing feeling. (Plus it really does save time not having to make several trips to the bathroom mirror or your dresser.)
3. Take projects with you everywhere.
We spend a lot of time in our lives waiting. Take your work with you—the hairdresser, the bus stop, the Doctor’s office, etc. Having said that though, don’t neglect others with you at the expense of reading/writing just one more scene. Whatever you are doing, be in the moment. If you are reading to your child, enjoy the moment, don’t think about the dishes. It’s one of the many things I love about yoga—it teaches you to be "present". (Unfortunately, I'm still working at this one, though. I incessantly go down my mental to-do list at the expense of the now.)
4. Make dinners easy on yourself.
I’m an admitted food snob, so I’ll not tell you order McDonald’s every night. Instead, pull out that crockpot or roaster and modify your favorite recipes. Great meals can be set in a slow cooker earlier in the day. Not only do you have a meal ready when you’re ready, but the clean up is easier. One pot! You can also make extra and freeze half for really busy days.
5. Exercise and Eat Right
Anyone who exercises will tell you that they have more energy, get more done, and feel better when they squeeze in exercise. It’s not easy to do, most days I fail, but even 20 minutes every other day can make a difference. Also eating right helps. We’re only beginning to understand how much diet affects us, regarding how we feel. Listen to your body, it will help you make wise choices in eating. (And no, I didn’t say listen to your CHOCOLATE voice. LOL. Cassie....)
6. Don’t be afraid to throw out the time wasters.
Track your activities for a week and see what you spend most of your time doing. Be prepared to trim the fat in your life and take out what is not important to you (say, too much Facebook/blogging time. Hee, hee!) and put in what is, like writing or playing checkers with your child. Time is more precious than money and oddly enough, we are all given the same amount in a day. Make the most of yours.
7. Think about tomorrow today.
It helps me to sleep better when I’ve written down the game plan for the next day. That way I’m not up at night trying to remember what it was that was too important to forget. Keep a notebook by your bed. Make your list (I’m a HUGE lister!), write it down, and then let it go.
8. Along with letting go, let go of the day while you are at it.
Take a moment each night before bed to breathe, relax, and let go. Yoga and Tai Chi are great for this, but there are other ways. I use this time to recharge my spiritual battery. Again, I don’t always have time to do this extensively since the new baby, but I DO have 60 seconds to breathe. I make the most of those 60 seconds.
9. Set achievable goals and work towards them.
Challenge yourself, but be realistic. Then once you reach your goal, reward yourself fittingly. You know the saying, let the punishment fit the crime? Well also let the reward fit the achievement. An added benefit of goal-setting is that your children see you doing this and nothing teaches better than example.
10. Take baby steps.
Sometimes you can’t clean the house, write a chapter, go to the gym, paint the house, work at a job, help with the homework, make a gourmet meal, and whatever-else-I-forgot-to-mention all in a day. But you can do a little of a lot of them. Pick and choose what you can and save the rest for another day.
What I haven't said here is that what should impact balance more than anything is priority. In the end, what is really important? I may not remember the days my house was clean (or not) or that the six-year old's hair was perfect for picture day, but I DO want to remember how it felt to kiss that squishy newborn's cheek, hug a child's tears away, or write a scene that makes my adrenaline pump. Those are the things that are important to me and if I wish to achieve the proper balance, those will be foremost in my time use.
Other places to look for time managements helps: www.flylady.com; mindtools.com; and getmoredone.com