This post is part of a series on slowing down you can find the rest of the series here – Slowing down.
It is important to note that for me slowing down is an ongoing process. It is something I will always be mindful of but that doesn’t mean there won’t be times when I lapse into my old way of operating and find myself rushing or that there won’t be times that I consciously choose to take up opportunities knowing that it will increase the busyness of my life for a period of time. This is part of who I am and I am okay with that.
What I want though is for the majority of time that life is at a pace where I am enjoying my family, my work and my friends and not feeling stressed or rush; that I am not simply tearing through life to get stuff done. To help me with this I use these three strategies:
With constant access to the internet, lines have now very much blurred between work life and home life. This is particularly the case for me as I work for myself from home. It is easy to jump on my phone or computer for a “quick minute” to do one “quick task” and then look up 30 minutes later to see a half made dinner still needing attention or a child waiting for help with their homework or have their reading listened to.
And going online isn’t just for work purposes either. The same scenario above could be applied to looking for a gift online, checking facebook, researching or sending personal emails. The lure of the internet can be a massive distraction and time waster.
The best way I have found to deal with this is to set myself firm boundaries about when I can go online. For me they are as follows:
- No internet until the kids are at school.
- No internet after school until the younger two are in bed (with the exception of when I am waiting for them at after school activities).
- No working at night. The only exception is if I choose to take a couple of hours out during the day to lunch with friends, volunteer at school etc, then I can catch up at night, but cannot be online later than 10.00pm.
This works for me. Self regulation is a personality trait that comes quite naturally to me. I know for others this isn’t the case, but it is a trait that can be worked on. Self regulation is like a muscle; the more you practice it the stronger it becomes.
ACTION: Set boundaries around activities you know that distract you and can be a time suck for you. It maybe TV, internet or reading magazines. It doesn’t mean you can’t do these activities, but it means you put boundaries on how much time you spend on them, so it doesn’t have a detrimental impact on the pace of your life.
How busy are we really? Yes the to do list is long, yes kids have lots of activities on, but how much are we doing that is unnecessary and how much time do we spend procrastinating, over thinking, gossiping, checking facebook and the like?
We need to be honest with ourselves and find out why we feel so busy. Even though I have things at a much better pace now, there have still been an occasional time when I have found myself frazzled, thinking how did I get so busy again? The answer when I was honest with myself looked a little like this. In the same week I had:
- Volunteered for canteen at the kids’ school
- Had two separate catch ups with friends
- Went out on the Friday night
- Spoke at a local group
- Went for an extra run on top of my normal exercise routine
- Spent 30 minutes online looking at new gym gear (didn’t buy any!)
All of these commitments/activities were created by me. They took time away from work which meant I needed to work in the evening, which meant I didn’t have as much time for general tidying, folding the washing etc, which meant the house was messier than I liked, which meant I felt disorganised, which meant I felt frazzled!
It is okay to have weeks like that if we choose them consciously. But we need to be honest with ourselves and realise that we have made ourselves busy.
ACTION: When you feel like you are too busy, stop and look at what you have booked into your week. Are you happy with it? If the answer is no, don’t be afraid to reschedule if you have time to give people notice. Just sticking to the schedule because you want to avoid an awkward conversation is a short term approach.
Batching is one of my favourite ways to make the most of my time. Batching is where you do like tasks in bulk. Batching saves you time because you are focused on one thing, are less distracted and don’t have to repeat yourself as much.
Some simple examples of home tasks I batch are:
- Menu planning – I will create four weekly menu plans at a time. You can see my exact process here. Before batching this task to create menu plans for the month, I would do weekly plans and it would take me 15 – 20 minutes per week. By working on the process and doing the plans in bulk I can now menu plan for a month in 35 minutes.
- Cooking – I do a weekly food prep session each weekend which is batching my cooking. This saves me significant time during the week with lunch boxes for the kids and for my lunches. It makes sense though doesn’t it? Cooking tacos for dinner? Cook double the ingredients for the meat so I can have it for lunches. There is also less cleaning up which is always a good thing.
- School notes and newsletters– we have a mix of paper based notes and e-communications from the school. By Thursday afternoon I have all three school newsletters. Thursday night once the kids are in bed, I will go through and read the newsletters online and add any dates straight into my online calendar. With paper notes, the kids put on the kitchen bench and once I have done the lunch box prep and the end of the day, I will go through the paperwork then and put any forms in the kids’ lunch boxes for them to take back to school the next day.
ACTION: Look at the regularly occurring tasks you have at home. What can you create a process for and batch? It not only saves you time, but allows you to feel that you are on top of these tasks and there are less surprises with things sneaking up on you!
Have you tried any of these strategies?