How many times have you said, “there’s never enough hours in the day”?
Every so often? Once a week? Once a day? More? I have said this phrase more times than I can count + with more frustration than I care to admit.
It is the #1 topic being discussed on repeat amongst my friends.
We all seem to be looking for that magic bullet; the answer to our problems: “What am I doing wrong?” “Why am I always having to sacrifice something?” “How can I have more time to do the things that actually get me excited + out of bed each day?”
If you are nodding along to any of this, you are not alone. I’m right there with you.
Back in the days of my PR career, I was always on top of my workload, appointments, client meetings + events. My life was completely organised in full-blown colour coordinated fashion. I was the one who could manage accounts within budget + on deadline, every time, without fail. I was the “safe pair of hands” you could always rely on. Back in those days, if something was on my To Do list, it got DONE!
These days I’m stoked if we get to Kindy roughly on time, super-stoked if I make it back from the school run without my 2-year-old having a complete meltdown, and super-super-stoked if I’ve made everyone’s beds before dinnertime. So much of my time is at the mercy of my two littlies. Even when I start the day out with the best of intentions + a firm plan of attack, my day usually veers off course more times than stays on it.
My struggle therein lies in the fact the landscape of my day is forever changing, requiring me to be mostly reactionary rather than in the driving seat.
And then at the end of the day, I always have a big decision to make – do I go to bed + try to sleep away some of this exhaustion, or do I stay up + do something that I want to do, knowing I’ll be tired again tomorrow?
Too often I feel I am sacrificing something that’s important to me. I go to bed feeling frazzled + thinking about everything I need to catch up on tomorrow. It’s always a hard slog; I never feel like I’m getting on top of it all.
Please tell me I’m not the only one that feels like this?!
Well I’ve decided it’s about time that changed. It needs to change for all of us. We need to take some control back in our day + to start doing more of the things we love.
In my humble opinion, there are 2 main reasons as to why we get to the end of the day + feel like we didn’t achieve what we wanted to:
- Too much to do + too little time. Your goals for the day are too ambitious + there literally aren’t enough hours in the day for you to get through your gigantic To Do list.
- You’ve spent your entire day running the hamster wheel + zero time on the things that actually matter to you. For example, if you’ve always been a sporty person + enjoy running, yoga, swimming + crossfit, then naturally you’re going to feel disheartened at the end of a day filled with traffic, washing, client meetings, grocery shopping, negotiating + none of your passions listed above. Likewise, if you have ambitions of starting your own business, you’re going to feel completely pulled down by the monotony of a day where you haven’t taken any steps towards fulfilling your dream.
Sound about right?
Well I feel like there’s a solution to both of these problems. First, we need to make our To Do list fit into the time we actually have in the day. And secondly, we need to make sure the big things that matter to us are prioritised within our To Do list, so that they get done + not forgotten (+ therefore saving that little piece inside of us slowly dying *sob*).
So I’ve decided to apply the organisational tactics + time saving techniques of my corporate days to my life as a stay-at-home-mum-and-do-everything-like-a-crazy-person. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the years, it’s that you need to PRIORITISE (+ prioritise properly). There’s no point wasting time doing the little things that carry no weight in your life; it’s time to do the big things that will make a difference.
So here’s my new strategy, incorporating some of the things I do already, with some of the things I’m going to do from here on in. Let’s make this change together + start smiling more each day people!
Write down your schedule for a typical week + observe where your blocks of “spare” time actually are. You cannot conjure up time. You cannot magic it out of thin air. We have 24hrs in a day, and you need to know how you’re actually spending that time before you start to fill in the gaps. This exercise aims to lift the veil on where your pockets of “free” time actually sit, in the hope that it will allow you to be realistic about what’s achievable when you’re setting your daily goals.
In the spirit of sharing, this is a usual week for me…
Until I actually did this exercise, I had no idea I spent 3hrs being taxi driver on a Monday + Thursday! 3 HOURS!! What the?!
When we see our days and week like this, it certainly helps answer that question of “why are there never enough hours in the day?!”
This exercise also screamed out to me that my evening time is the best opportunity for me to be truly productive. More on this massive realisation later too, as this was such a lightbulb moment for me!
So once you’ve mapped out a typical week in the Life of You, take a good hard look at what you’ve jotted down. Identify your crazy-busy days + soak in your week as a whole. Can you pick up any patterns or is there anything sticking out to you that you haven’t realised before? Are there blocks of time that you can count on, and perhaps utilise better?
What I want you to realise + accept is that you’re busy, and your time is precious. You might only have a small window of time to do the things you love, so let’s make sure you open that window + take in as much of it as you can to make the most of it.
Print out your Daily Planner + write a list of all the things you want to do that day (FREE printable for you at the end of this post – yay!).
If you’re not a fan of lists, perhaps this assertion from time management expert, Brian Tracy (and author of Eat That Frog – well worth a read) might sway you: “The good news is that every minute spent planning saves as many as ten minutes in execution. It only takes about ten or twelve minutes for you to prioritise tasks by planning out your day and create a to-do list. This small investment of time will save you at least two hours (100-120 minutes) in wasted time and diffused effort throughout the day.”
Pretty good right?!
It’s time for you to PRIORITISE. Now before we go any further, you remember Step 1 right? The step where it suddenly hit home how little spare hours in the day you actually have?! It’s at this point that you need to be really honest + realistic about what is even possible for you to do today.
As Managing Director of your day, you’re now going to put each of your daily tasks into its place. As in, you are going to give each task a number depending on its priority or a “D” for delegate.
Your priority categories are as follows:
- Life threatening (yes I’m being serious, like administering life saving medication!)
- Must be done today | Time sensitive (taking the kids to school would be one for me + I have a rule of no more than 1hr housework)
- Heart-Flutter stuff (at least 1 needs to make it onto your list each day)
- Can be done tomorrow | Do today if I have time (everything else)
This handy little flowchart will help you to decide…
Remember this needs to be the best version of your To Do list that you can possibly do for your day. Keep your list as concise as possible to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Really question if the tasks you’ve prioritised in #2 should be there? What can you shift around, what can you delegate? Don’t be afraid to re-prioritise tasks to #4 – this doesn’t mean they won’t get done, it just means you will get to them once the more “important” tasks have been covered off.
The only thing you MUST do, is ensure there is at least 1 item under priority #3. If you don’t do this, your day won’t soar.
Get it done! The minute you have time to get into it, simply start working your way through your To Do list from #1 onwards, then put a big fat cross through it once it’s done. Your goal is to tick off everything that’s priority #1, #2 + #3. Anything else is a bonus.
Keep your list handy so that if you get sidetracked or interrupted with a phone call or suddenly have to run an errand, you know exactly where you’re up to in your day + can pick up where you left off.
But there’s one more MEGA AMAZING tip I want to share with you, that was completely LIFE CHANGING for me.
The exercise in Step 1 made me realise that reclaiming my evenings would be key to feeling a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. Yet, my evenings were often the time of day when I was exhausted, playing catch up on all the things I hadn’t done that day, + scrambling to get the house in some kind of order before doing it all over again the next day.
I have realised that my priorities at the start of the day, are TOTALLY different to the end of the day. Yet I’m working off the same To Do list I wrote 12 hours beforehand.
So, Step 4 is also about re-evaluating + re-writing your To Do list just before the part of your day that is the most “free” or precious or important to you. Maybe it’s early morning before your family gets up? Maybe it’s a 2hr window in the middle of the day when your preschoolers are napping? Maybe it’s the evenings when you’re home from the office + your kids are all asleep?
Whenever your most precious window of “free” time is, you need to look at where you’re at with your To Do list, and re-prioritise for that time frame.
I personally took that one step further, by permanently shifting our family dinner time to 5.45pm. This means all 4 of us are now eating together + all the cooking and clean-up is done and dusted before the kids go up for their bath. It means that I now have actual free time to spend on my re-prioritised day’s goals come evening time.
Here’s my real life example of yesterday’s To Do list to show you what I mean…
As you can see, by the time I got to my evening time yesterday, I was nowhere near as far through my To Do list as I was hoping I’d be! I still wanted to keep working on my blog, but I also decided that I didn’t want to go to bed with a messy house (toys / sports gear everywhere… not a good start to the week!) – so re-prioritised to get a bit of tidying done first, then happily worked on this lovely little blog post for you all with cleanliness around me! Even though I hadn’t ticked off everything for the day, I ticked off all the things I really wanted to do before I went to bed – which is why I felt I achieved a lot that day + why I slept easy!
Hopefully you now feel you have some extra tools to allow you to be smarter with how you go about your day. And I hope that at the end of each day, you start feeling calmer + happier + more satisfied with what you’ve achieved.
Don’t be a slave to your To Do list though! It’s simply reminding you where you need to be + what you need to keep working on to get back on track. Remember you’re The Boss! Go with the flow, re-prioritise + switch your tasks around on the fly if you need to. You decide how your day is going to end up.
Remember your FREE printable daily planner is available for you to download + use whenever you’re ready. You can print this out as many times as you like so you have a fresh one to use each day. Enjoy! Mel x