this is the fourth part of the series-Mama Care. If you missed the last one ( Saying Yes to Our Children to Elicit Cooperation), click here.
Your alarm goes off & even before you can take the first step, your mind zooms its way to the third or fourth thing you hope to get done today.
Even if you don’t have kids, the amount of work and “stuff” we consume these days are enough to keep us spinning around like a cat chasing a ball of yarn and still feel unaccomplished.
It’s not your fault, technology has a way to get us all wrapped up in it’s tight embrace.
The good news is by being intentional (knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing) with your time, you schedule it in a way so that your focus is on one thing at a time, so playing with that ball of yarn feels like a good way to spend your precious time.
You’ve heard productivity gurus say it so many times, we all have 24/7 hours a day. The question is-
Why is it that some people are able to “crush” their day and hustle like a champ, and your left reading or watching YouTube videos on how you can crush yours.
Yup, this one can crush your self-esteem, I know.
You probably are thinking–
…because they don’t have kids.
…because they have a supportive family system.
…because their life is easy.
From your lens, sure.
You see, before you can find freedom with your time, you must believe it’s available to you.
If you always say,
I can’t workout because I don’t have time. You’re right.
If you say,
I’m going to workout first thing in the morning because it’ll give me more energy with the kids. You’re right.
Either way, your mind responds to what you believe.
Your Brain Responds to Your Time Mind-Set
How do you change this mindset?
A quick way is to ban yourself from saying, I don’t have time…..for the things that can potentially bring you joy.
And saying Yes to things that not only zaps your time but your energy because you fear being disliked by others. These fears are valid. We all have them but they don’t have to rule the way we manage our time & conduct this business called L-I-F-E.
If prayer time or meditation is essential to your self-care, caution yourself from saying, I don’t have time for prayer/meditation. Your brain responds to the DON’T part because it stores information to help you be safe and comfortable but not necessarily aim to reach your fullest potential as a person.
The brain is incredible in this. If you sat next to a bush & a mice jumped out, your brain send signals to your body to protect you so that next time you sit next to a bush or a look-alike, you get sensations or feelings of arousal similar to your first experience even without the minus mice.
There are a number of research that speaks about multi-tasking and it’s negative effects. Multi-tasking is doing a number of tasks at a given point of time. Whether it’s reading your email while listening to a podcast or watching your kids while posting on IG or your FB account.
According to research, our brain is meant to focus on one task at a time and studies even went beyond to say that multitasking can impair our creativity & hurt our relationships.
It does not take a psychotherapist to see this. If you’re sharing a story of your day to your husband and he’s constantly checking his email inbox, yikes! This doesn’t make you feel heard and important, it doesn’t matter if he assures you verbally for the 1000th time.
It’s the same for the many other things you do. As a general recommendation, try to focus your attention on what’s happening in the moment. If you’re simply doing mindless tasks like folding clothes, I think that it’s quite alright to catch up on your fav show. The key is not to mix up moments or tasks that are important to you or you can’t go back on and re-engage in the same exact way. For example, you can always go back to doing your laundry but not moments shared chit-chatting with your long-lost cousin or catching up with your teenagers.
How To Get More Time
I get many questions on how I can blog, do youtube videos (by the way, if you haven’t subscribe-please come by & say hi to me there. Follow link on the footer), work a couple of jobs including my private practice & constantly creating content while raising high-energy kids who are 4 years old and under. Pheww, I get tired just writing those out!
It might be a surprise to you that although I have moments of being overwhelmed, I am not on most days. It’s not because I’m super mom, not at all. I am far from being stress-free but my life is not stressful-there’s a huge difference there.
Since I was born & raised in the Philippines, I am quite rooted there including the friends I grew up with. I find that making friends as an adult in America does take time and nurturing. This can be a challenge when parenting entails the same commitment, time & nurturing. Since my friendship in the States was not established by the time I became a parent, it was not practical to focus on both for the sake of my energy and time.
When I had my twin babies, I was essentially alone with them on most days for their first 8 months of life. My husband worked long, grave-yard shifts and as much as he wanted to be helpful, his energy was drained by the time he gets home.
This left me exhausted, stressed and alone.
Parenting can be a lonesome job sometimes.
As a therapist, I knew that I needed to practice what I teach my patients: self-compassion and self-care. So, I did.
I also practice focusing on one thing, one task at a time. Some people call this mindfulness, but it doesn’t matter what you decide to call it, what matters is whether you practice or not. I have an earlier post on self-care, read more here—
Time Blocking Basics
One strategy that has allowed me freedom of my time and find more joy and presence in what I do is through time-blocking. What is time blocking?
Time blocking is matching a particular task to be performed at a particular time. It’s simply an appointment book where you match, for example-
Task: Read a chapter of a book
Task: Free-Play with kids
There are variations on how you can time-block depending on your style. I follow a more structured system because of my busy schedule.
The busier and more overwhelmed you are, the more structured system may be most helpful to you. If you have more support system around you or have less to-do in a day, you can get away with a more flexible time-blocking system.
Find what works for you. This is trial and error in the beginning but once you find a time blocking system that works for you, it will give you more freedom and a bit of space to catch your breath.
How I Time Block
So, this is an example of how I plan my week.
First step is to get a piece of paper to dump all your appointments & to-dos for the week.
Don’t categorize at this point just free-flow your thoughts. It’s important to break down projects into tasks. For example, if you want to paint your fence, you need to buy supplies for this project first.
So, your first task can be: purchase supplies from hardware store.
Before you move on to the next step, if you have more than 10 tasks on your paper, it might be helpful in the beginning to categorize them into:
- Must be done.
- Nice to get done.
- Bonus if done.
I think these categories are pretty explanatory but basically you want to work on your category number #1 first before moving to #2 and #3 can be optional.
Second, step is to categorize your tasks on the day you want them to get done. So working on your MUST BE DONE category first, you can place-
Next, is to decide when you will actually do them on that designated day. So, if you have the following tasks on Monday: workout, prep the kids, prep breakfast, take the kids to school, grocery for the week, it can look like this-
6:00-7:00 Prep breakfast & baon
7:00-7:45 Prep kids to school & breakfast
7:50-8:00 take kids to school
8:30-10:00 Study on-line course
Block your time for each task. If it takes you 15 minutes to do a task, block out 30 minutes so that you don’t feel hurried. If you want a more flexible system, you can divide your day between: morning, afternoon & evening and simply categorize your tasks on those varying timeslot.
When I’m spending time with the kids, I block that out. This gives me peace because I’m not thinking about the next thing to do because everything has a place in my calendar. I’m not only present, I’m quite joyful because my mind is at ease knowing that every moment I have is well-spent.
So, there you go, ladies, that’s how I stay focused and joyful with my wonderful busy life. If I have sick kids or things that didn’t go as planned, I don’t sweat it. I simply move to the next thing I need to do on my calendar and even move the task to the following week.
As always, I hope this was helpful. Let me know what type of scheduling system you’re doing that’s working for you. I love to hear what you guys are doing.