Especially since I’ve started this podcast over the last 6 months or so I’ve had several conversations with friends or family and someone will ask “How do you do it all?” or “I don’t know how you get everything done.”
Obviously I don’t.
Spinning plate analogy vs balance
Family and work and downtime and creativity and exercise and socializing and cooking and cleaning and laundry and appointments and school pickup and drop-off and soccer practice and all of the to-do lists.
Everyone’s schedule is going to look different. Everyone’s priorities are going to look different. I work 7 night shifts in a row and then I’m off for a week. My work week is survival mode and we just don’t plan much for days I’m working. It’s not going to get done and I’m not going to have any extra energy for it.
There are a lot of ways to think about planning out what you want to get done. The key though is planning ahead.
Checklists can be very satisfying. There is actually some science to it. When we’re able to check off a line on our to do lists, we get a release of dopamine that gives a feeling of pleasure and may motivate us to keep doing that again. To do more. To check more things off our to do lists.
Calendars and planners can also be helpful. I like to use a planner that has a monthly calendar followed by weekly pages with room for lists on the sides. I like to write down what I generally need to get done so that I can block out my schedule into daily chunks that I can then fill in with my general to do list. If I have an appointment in the morning, I can then fill in my afternoon with something else I need to get done.
Writing things down can help you remember better than recording things digitally. A recent study published earlier this year showed that writing down a schedule was not only faster (11 minutes on paper vs 14 minutes on a tablet and 16 minutes on a phone) but writing down the schedule leads to improved memory and stronger recall. Digital calendars and schedules are easier to share with others and also have available on the go so that can be a big benefit. I do a combination of the two by adding appointment times in my phone and then writing them down in my planner later as well.
Lay it all out
WIG in the whirlwind (The 4 disciplines of execution)
Talked about this a little a couple of episodes back in episode 20: So why not… live better at home? (with Dana King)
A couple of attainable goals within a certain time period. Too many and it’s too overwhelming. No goals leaves you without direction.
Weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually?
Episode 5: So why not… prioritize your own interests as a parent? (with Lacey Parr) has more great examples of how to find your interests and how to fit them in.
Lay it all out
Look at what you need to get done
Want to get done
Look at whatever increment works best for you
Month, week, day
Block scheduling for the day
Morning, afternoon, evening
To me it seems less overwhelming when I shoot to complete a specific activity (or maybe a couple small ones)
Where are you spending your time?
Phone apps to monitor your time
Put the phone in another room
Is there a different time of the day that you could do something?
Making lunches in the morning for the next day (do not want to make more meals after dinner and trying to clean up and get ready for bedtime)
If there’s something you’re waiting until you put kids to bed to get started and then you’re too tired after a long day, would you be more alert and focused if you got up earlier instead?
What’s the most frustrating part of your schedule? Is is it something you could eliminate? Do differently? Need help? Hire it out?
Can you justify the cost of something someone else could do for you so that you can have more time to do what you want to get done? (Lawn care, house cleaning, laundry, etc.)
Is there something you’re doing over and over that you could batch? (We’ll get into this more with the last letter—S)
Do you need some accountability? Maybe coaching or therapy? Maybe a friend?
Would it be helpful to make an investment in a course or class or equipment? Would that incentivize you to make it happen? For example, would you do that free workout you found online or will it help you prioritize exercise if you’re paying for a class or membership each month? Not saying that needs to happen for everyone but it can be motivating to get your money’s worth for some people.
What do you need to say no to to be able to say yes to something else?
Example: I want to prioritize exercise every day. To do that, I have to say no to spending much time getting ready (wash my hair every few days, not straightening or blowdrying my hair)
There are some times when I decide to say no to a social activity because I want to be able to spend time with my family or have a work conflict or am just too tired to add one more thing to the list.
There are other times when I decide that the floors aren’t getting vacuumed that day or the laundry will wait because I need to catch up with a friend.
Automated bill pay
Automated contributions to retirement funds and other savings
Monthly reminders from your phone
Minimal meal plan (Miranda Anderson)
Subscription services (household essentials, community-supported agriculture or CSA)
Having a fixed routine on set days of the week (e.g., Mom’s cleaning schedule)—like having a set day of the week for trash collection.
For me, if the house is a mess or there’s clutter everywhere, it’s hard to focus on what I want to get done (and maybe I have some guilt over not getting work done before I start on a project or something just for me). Having a system in place like starting a load of laundry at night or putting dishes away first thing in the morning helps with the overwhelm. There are cleaning schedules everywhere on Pinterest that can help organize your time so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming to clean the whole house all at once.
Habit stacking: make a goal into a habit. Add it on to something you’re already doing consistently.
For example, I’m terrible about flossing. I will commit to flossing before I brush my teeth before I go to bed, no matter how tired I am.
After I eat breakfast, I will write down something I’m grateful for in my journal.
When I wake up, after I make my bed and brush my teeth, I will put on my workout clothes so that I will be ready to exercise.
Time is a privilege. Not everyone has free time that’s not consumed with obligation. We get to decide how we fill what free time we have.
Having a supportive partner who is on the same page is paramount. You can’t get help without asking. Rarely does someone know how to help you unless you tell them. Having a planner or calendar or designated checklist where you can organize your thoughts and others can see could be helpful. Or having a weekly meeting to make sure everyone’s on the same page.
Teach your kids little by little with age appropriate tasks for things they can do to help. It’s not reasonable to expect a teenager to just know how to independently know how to do laundry or cook a meal without being exposed to it over time. It can definitely slow me down in the beginning but I’m consistently surprised by what even my 4-year old can do when I let him.
Things are going to come up. Things won’t go as planned. If you pack everything in one day into your schedule and you you can’t get everything done, it can get discouraging to not be able to complete anything. Start with small steps to accomplish a big goal. Sometimes done can be better than good.
If you have a baby, or you’ve experienced an injury or a health crisis, or whatever the transition may be, you may not be able to bounce back immediately to doing whatever you’ve done before. But you will find your groove again, whether it looks the same or not. It’s worth looking at your scheduling and your ways of doing things from time to time depending on the season of life you’re in.
The most important thing to remember to schedule is downtime and rest. It’s not sustainable to go go go all of the time. We all need time to rest, relax, and recharge. You may find that you’re more productive after you’ve had a little time for stillness.
You’re doing a good job! Your to do list doesn’t look like anyone else’s. It’s ok to ask for the help you need when you need it. Remember that no one does it all.
Something to think about as you’re deciding what you want to get done…
Priorities: focus on a couple of attainable, measurable goals in whatever increment feels best for you (daily, weekly, or monthly)
Lay it all out: list out the whole to do list—big and small, so that you can remember what you need to fit in when you have time. Don’t forget to allow for some downtime in that list!
Analyze: Where are you spending your time? What’s working and what’s not?
No: What do you need to say no to do that you can say yes to something else?
Systems: What systems can you put in place that will help alleviate some stressors or provide better efficiency and time savings?
As always, I hope you can use these ideas as tipping off points to channel the ambition, curiosity, and desire to create the life you want to live. Thanks so much for listening. Our time is so important and I am so appreciative that you spent some of it with me.