I read this article about all of us having the same amount of time in a day as Beyoncé or Oprah or anyone who seems to be super human. I’ve seen that saying before, and I think it was intended to be encouraging to think that someone can accomplish super human feats in the same amount of time I am allotted. But, I don’t accomplish much in a given day, so that sentiment pretty-much just adds to the guilt and self deprecation that already plague me at the end of another long, exhausting day.
I think about this a lot when I consider how I want to work on my family culture. I want to be able to take the time to sit down with my husband and children and come up with stellar goals and a family mission statement. I want to take the time to uphold our family traditions and habits, and take the time to plan them out in detail. I want to take the time to respond consciously to my kids when they need discipline and correction. I also want to be able to have the time to accomplish my own goals on top of all of my responsibilities. I will be the first to admit that it is hard!
It’s also important to remember that when moms and dads aren’t productive, or we aren’t feeling 100%, the whole family suffers. We are the ones to lead out in our family culture and make our homes a place where we can thrive.
So I thought of some ways that can help me to maximize my time. This list is a reminder for me, and I hope it helps you too!
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- Self Care. You’ve heard that you can’t pour from an empty cup, or draw from an empty well. It’s true. You won’t have anything to give if you aren’t taking care of yourself first. Get a full night’s sleep if you can. Don’t wait until your kids are in bed to enjoy some much-needed “me” time and then stay up too late binge-watching Netflix (see number 2). Plan for and eat healthy meals, but also allow yourself a treat every day every so often. Take time to exercise. Hydrate. Be aware of what you need. Have a good morning routine if you can: check out The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. I’m finding that an unhealthy body can do very little to keep up with the demands of the day. Use essential oils. Soak in a hot epsom salt bath. Get proper health care. Take a night out with your friends if that is your thing. Pause sometimes to create something, or write. Break up the monotony of the day. Which leads me to the next item on the list.
- Balance Your Energy. I recommend one of my favorite books: The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr. Everything I know about how to balance my energy comes from that book! Our energy ebbs and flows naturally throughout the day, week, month, year, etc. We are constantly in a rhythm between stress and recovery. Usually our energy ebbs every one and a half to two hours throughout the day. You might have noticed yourself being in a groove, getting stuff done, but then you start to feel your energy waning after a couple of hours. But, what do you do? I can bet you do the kinds of things I often do: you go grab a power drink or a snack, look at social media, or maybe you just power through it so that you can keep going and continue being productive. Maybe you get a second wind, and feel your energy come back, but then you’re more tired, less focused, and maybe not as productive as you’d like. Or maybe, the stress starts to build up over time, and you are forced to take a break because your health and relationships begin to suffer. What you need to do is honor the ebb in your energy because you need to recover! When you ignore your natural need for stress and recovery, you are basically flatlining – as in, dying. We have four basic elements of our energy: mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual. In general, we get too much stress emotionally and mentally, and not enough stress physically and spiritually. But, the amazing thing is that these four elements can balance each other out. Exercise and mediation stress you physically and spiritually, but they are great for recovering mentally and emotionally. So, whenever you start to feel your energy ebbing, take a moment to honor your need to recover: go for a walk, sing a song, doodle, meditate, get some fresh air, read or watch something that makes you laugh, and by all means, have a healthy snack, just as long as you pause to enjoy it! Schedule it in if you have to. Honor the ebb and flow of life.
- Prioritize. There might not be a way to get to everything on my to-do list for today. But, it isn’t helping to procrastinate or ignore what needs to be done. Here’s another great book that I recommend: The Now Habit by Neil Fiore. Start by prioritizing your tasks. Once you figure out what needs to get done, start at the top of the hour and set a timer for thirty minutes. Focus on that thing for thirty minutes without distraction. After thirty minutes, reward yourself for a job well-done! Come back to it in another hour or two, or tomorrow, and do it again. Keep it up until you have accomplished your goal. This is one of those “less is more” things. How often do we focus on one thing without distraction for any amount of time? Don’t multitask. Don’t look at your phone or watch TV. And, don’t try to wear yourself out over that thing or you will be less likely to have the energy to return to it again (see number 2). I’m honestly trying to do this with the amount of time I spend with my kids, with them in their element, without distraction, thirty-minutes at a time. It’s harder than it sounds. You might also like The 12-Week Year by Brian P. Moran for staying on task for a 12-week span to accomplish more in a year. MJ DeMarco said in my interview with him that “you are the CEO of your life.” You need to be strategic about how you spend your time. Spend more time focusing on your strengths than trying to fix your weaknesses. It’s good to remember that we have to choose to address the “important but not urgent” tasks on our to-do list because those are the ones that require discipline to accomplish (First Things First by Stephen Covey). Which brings me to number 4.
- Choice. In the article I mentioned above, the author says you have a choice. She is not wrong, but this is the part that people don’t usually want to hear! “Here’s the truth… you have to choose. You have to want something bad enough to get up an hour earlier, to shut the TV off, to play Legos with your 5 year old even when you’re exhausted. You have to make the choice and keep making it all 1,440 minutes of every 24 hour day! That’s how you get to where you want to be… that’s how you get to who you want to be” (Rachel Hollis). I haven’t read The 5-Second Rule by Mel Robbins yet, but I have heard it has some good tips for a kick in the pants to be in action. I have, however, read Leadership and Self-Deception by the Arbinger Institute, The Tools by Phil Stutz, and The Sweet Spot by Christine Carter, PhD, and they all have great advice for following your instincts, pushing through the discomfort of doing something hard, and overall good advice for being productive! When you get the prompting in your mind to do something, do it. When you know you need to do something but it is uncomfortable, force yourself to push through the discomfort, or as Brené Brown would say, lean in to the discomfort, and get it done. While there is a place for chillaxing and shutting off your brain, doing it too frequently leads to a habit. Form new habits by replacing old habits with new ones (The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg). (Can you tell this is my biggest weakness??)
- Presence. I read in a book somewhere that meditation can actually slow down time, or maybe our perception of time (could have been Eckhart Tolle or Deepak Chopra, or any one of those “new age” authors I like to read sometimes 🧘♀️). I know Gay Hendricks PhD touches on this in The Big Leap when he talks about what he called “Einstein Time.” Basically, when you just relax and stop focusing on time, things actually work out. A couple of great books I recommend are The Hands-Off Manager by Steve Chandler, and The Rhythm of Life by Matthew Kelly. The important thing here is about being present and mindful. Maybe we need to simplify our tasks. Maybe we need to let go of what is outside of our control and not let it rob us of our energy. Presence also allows us to be aware of what needs to be done rather than frantically running around and missing the whole point. Being present opens you up to gratitude which can make time seem to slow down, too.
Bonus: Trust the process. Beyoncé and Oprah weren’t created in a day. What you don’t see when Michael Phelps wins another gold medal is the hours and hours of training and practice that went into his craft. If your goal is to lose weight, a healthy rate is ONE POUND PER WEEK. That can feel like a very slow process. The point is, one, we cannot compare ours novice selves to someone else who is an expert. So when I see that Beyoncé has the same amount of time in a day as me, it doesn’t mean I need to be at the same level of hustle as she is because she’s been at it for a lot longer than me (not to mention the resources she has now). And, two, anything we want to accomplish takes time and consistency. Consistency is the key to accomplishing those goals. Trust the process.