Using Time Effectively When There’s Really No Time to Spare
Using time effectively is so hard to do these days. In my house, we are living life at a warp-speed-wonderful pace, trying to fulfill commitments and responsibilities while making time for the extra passion pieces that make life worthwhile.
Admittedly, we've probably bit off a bit more than we can chew (publishing two books in one week with a child's wedding in a month, for starters!). But at this point – even with a multitude of "juicy no's" that we decline daily – there is nothing extraneous on our plates to eliminate. This is, quite simply, an extra-busy time of life for us.
And it’s extra-busy for you, too, I know!
But here’s what I'm learning from it. When life gets hyper-busy – and let’s face it, warp speed was commonplace for many of us before the pandemic, and now it's a whole different kind of busy. And… it's all the more important that we use our time effectively and intentionally.
Now, if I were an uber-organized-super-mom-entrepreneur, I might start to talk about time efficiency and organization. But – here's a true confession – I'm not an expert on organizing others, and I could benefit from using time more effectively or improving efficiency.
And what I've learned clearly is that to manage a full plate, it is critically important to learn to use my time effectively. It's a subtle difference with a significant impact.
Using my time effectively has to do with being clear about what I’m doing at any given moment (or on any given day), which allows me to be present for the task.
Effectiveness Comes from Clarity and Presence
When I’m working:
I try to be specific about what I want to accomplish and articulate simple goals so that I know when I’ve achieved them (e.g., I want to finish this blog today). The presence part is challenged by my tendency to give in to distractions, so I manage it best by closing doors, carving out time limits, and doing mini-mindfulness exercises when I notice distractions. When I set a clear intention to something, I’m much better able to be present to it.
When I’m parenting:
I try to be fully engaged and available to my kids when I’m with them. I'm aware of "family" time and allow that to guide my actions as much as possible. I try hard to check in with my kids and connect with them – daily for the one still at home and at least a few times a week for those who are living elsewhere. I ask them what they need from me, so that I am able to provide it whenever possible. And sometimes, when I’m not as present as I'd like to be, I even apologize and let them know that I feel like I’m falling short of my best intentions. That, in and of itself, reminds them that I want to be there for them – and they appreciate the reminder.
When I’m partnering with my spouse:
I try to be clear about when we're working and when we’re playing. We try to blend the two as much as possible in terms of attitude (work should be play, after all!), but it's important to know when we’re off the clock. With the volume on our plates, quite frankly we're both feeling stretched, and it’s difficult to make time for relaxation. But it’s critically important, and worth a little less sleep to make sure that we're connecting on something other than the business of our lives, be it work or family.
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The Trick to Using Time Effectively
The trick to all of this – to being clear and present – is actually to articulate the purpose for any given moment. Sounds silly, in a way, but it’s amazing how helpful it can be!
Often times, when we aren't specific about what we plan to do in a given time period, we let the weight (and length) of our “to-do” lists impinge on every waking moment. The anxiety that comes from constantly feeling like you're "supposed to be" doing something else can be debilitating – and actually prevent you from doing anything effectively.
On the other hand, when you know that this afternoon is playtime, and you'll get the logistics handled after the kids go to bed, or visa-versa, then you can enjoy the play time with some confidence that the work will get done.
For example, I helped my daughter plan her schedule for the week (she’s studying for a big standardized test) so that she could enjoy her evenings without feeling pulled to always be studying. She wanted to make sure she was clear about when her downtime would be as a way of managing her stress.
If you’re like me, with a full plate and a busy schedule – who isn't these days? – sometimes it’s hard to enjoy the free time you have and use time effectively The trick, I’ve learned, is in the clarity of intention. That makes way for the ability to be fully present. It may not always be the most efficient use of time, but for this busy mompreneur, it’s proven to be critical to me using time effectively!
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