“You Can Do It All and Have It All…Just Not All At Exactly The Same Time!”
This statement is a bitter pill to swallow I know, not everyone will agree, and some people may even be downright outraged by it. After all we live in the 21st century - the technological and AI revolution - where time is money and the world stops for no one, not even during a global pandemic! But here's the thing... * You can't focus on your work, and at exactly the same time be entertaining your children
* You can’t focus on your relationship/dating, and at exactly the same time be setting up a business
* You can't keep a clean and tidy home, and at exactly the same time be at the gym improving your health
* And you can't find inner peace, and at exactly the same time be focusing on getting 101 things done each day. We can try...we all try (hell I started writing this blog whilst on an exercise bike at the gym) but then we end up doing a half-arsed job of it all! It takes us twice as long to achieve what we want; things get missed and errors are made. We beat ourselves up at the end of the day, even if we've not stopped for a breather, thinking about what we didn't do - or did poorly - and put ourselves down, making ourselves feel worthless, allowing our minds to be consumed with negative self-talk and doubt. And if God forbid we do take time to rest, relax or have fun, we then become consumed with guilt as we focus on all the things we didn’t achieve. Surely this type of torture serves no one?
And yes, we can try and combine responsibilities e.g. listening to an educational podcast, whilst out running, with the dog on a lead, and making a mental list of what to get from the supermarket ALL at the same time. But splitting our attention across multiple tasks like this means not investing the energy needed in order to benefit from each task fully. When we dilute the rewards of a particular task our motivation eventually starts to diminish, and increases the likelihood of giving up on it. Dividing our time and attention like this also provides the perfect opportunity for mistakes to be made, it can create stress, anxiety and low mood, and increases the risk of mental and physical burnout. Once we allow and accept this idea - that we CAN do and have all our heart desires, but JUST NOT AT EXACTLY THE SAME TIME something awesome happens:
* It brings a sense of relief and peace to the heart, mind and soul * It helps us adjust our expectations and focus on our priorities * It takes away the guilt of not being all things to all people * And it provides mental space and clarity to find solutions to and even enjoy the challenges at hand We can have it all, but we need to get better at knowing what our priorities are and focusing our time and attention on them.
So after all of that, here are my 10 Tips for Better Managing Your Time and Having it ALL!
1. Invest in a Diary, Calendar or Download a FREE Calendar App
Think about how much you are juggling - your work, your clients, your home, your finances, your family, your friends, your children, your health etc… the appointments, deadlines, meetings, special occasions. Each of these things requires at least some of your time and energy to be allocated to it. Relying on your already very overloaded memory to fire off a reminder at just the perfect time is setting yourself up to fail.
Having a time management system like a diary or calendar whether physical or online, allows us to record events and set reminders. Most online calendars have a To Do List function to record important tasks you want to complete with a timeframe. Outlook and Gmail are some of the most common online calendar systems used, although it may be easier to start using the calendar function already available on your smartphone or one linked to your email account.
Input important dates – birthdays, anniversaries, annual leave, meetings, appointments etc in advance, and look at your calendar every day to remind you what you have coming up and what you need to prioritise. If you have an Amazon Echo or similar device, you can ask it to set daily reminders or alert you when an important event is coming up. This is the AI revolution after all, we may as well start utilising its resources.
2. Get Real About How You Are Currently Spending Your Time
Living in the 21st century means many of us are being stimulated 24hrs a day with technology and information. Even while we sleep we are processing the day, its events, our thoughts, emotions and experiences. As a result, we often operate during our waking hours from a state of autopilot i.e. we don’t really think about what we are doing or why/how we are doing it, we just do things out of habit. This semi-conscious way of living helps give rise to unwanted habits we are not fully aware of, resulting in us utilising our valuable yet limited time like binge-watching tv, scrolling through social media, internet shopping, online gaming, procrastinating etc – and these habits very often suck up hours of our day.
The way to make the time to do everything that is needed to create the life you want, is to get real, step out of autopilot and become AWARE of how you are currently spending your time. Keep a record of everything you spend your time doing over 1 week - identify what each half hour of your day is spent on including sleep, travel, waiting, procrastinating. Allow this exercise to show you where and how you are spending your time, help you identify what changes you can make to free up time, and focus on what is actually important to you. We all get the same 24hrs in a day; how are you spending yours and what could you be doing instead that would make you happier?
3. Group & Block Out Time for Important Tasks
It’s helpful to group certain activities and block out time to complete them e.g. work, study, family time, chores, errands, admin, rest and self-care (yes this needs to be scheduled too or it won’t happen). Colour-coding tasks helps us recognise where our time and energy are being focused, and where we need to strike a better balance.
Try and avoid too much task-flipping i.e. switching from one type of task to another and another. The energy needed to complete one task properly is different to the energy needed to complete a different type of task. If you find yourself in a state of flow try and focus on completing one job at a time before moving onto the next. And if any important tasks get missed, simply block out time later on to complete them - adaptation is key!
4. Set Your Intentions in Advance
Personally, I like to set my intentions for the week ahead on a Sunday night. I think about what I achieved the week before, what worked well, what I can do better etc; and then I schedule tasks in my calendar for the week ahead – work, chores, shopping, admin, family time, exercise, rest etc. I look at my calendar every evening to readjust my schedule if I think it’s needed, and to remind myself what I have coming up the next day.
I also like to visualise myself working through the next day and completing the tasks I have decided to focus on. Doing this type of visualisation/daydream either first thing in the morning or last thing at night is especially powerful as that is when our brainwaves are in a theta state, our conscious mind is less resistant, and the subconscious mind is most receptive.
Visualising something going well allows us to work out in greater detail how we can make it so; imagining the worst helps us prepare for failure and disappointment. Visualising the best possible outcome for each task, even if it’s just driving to an appointment, allows me to prime my subconscious to be ready to execute my plan successfully. And very often visualising myself doing what I intend to do in advance, allows me to see what steps I need to take to ensure my success, often steps I hadn’t thought of before. The brain is after all very much like a super computer, it has access to more information than we can possibly comprehend or consciously process, and taking the time to allow the right ideas to ‘download’ will help ensure greater success in anything we try and do.
5. Remain Flexible
Life has a habit of disrupting our well-thought-out plans; the unexpected often happens and we are required to adjust what we do, when and how we do it. When we aren’t able to complete a task as intended, this is not a ‘sign from the universe’ that we should just give up; it’s simply a prompt to schedule another time to focus on getting it done. Sometimes having more time to plan and prepare is what ensures the task is completed the way we would want it to be. So staying mentally and practically flexible is key to getting everything done and ‘having it all’. Remember the overall goal is to keep all our balls in the air, it doesn’t really matter which order those balls are in.
6. Stay Mindful
One of the most important skills we learn through Mindfulness practice is the ability to focus on one thing at a time….and I mean LASER FOCUS! We can block out all the time in the world to complete a task, but if we are distracted by our thoughts, memories and emotions we can procrastinate, experience blockages, get caught up in perfectionist mindset, go round and round in circles and either get nothing done, make a multitude of mistakes or take forever to complete a simple task.
Meditating in the morning to set clear intentions about what we want to achieve, repeating positive affirmations, or listening to a guided meditation on Focus and Productivity, can help prime the subconscious for success. Staying mindful of WHY we want to achieve something, the benefits we’ll enjoy or the pain/discomfort we'll avoid by achieving what we set out to, can help promote laser focus and keep us on track. Eliminating distractions and focusing on the task at hand is what ensures success in the real world.
7. Stay Ready
Planning and preparing for important things we know are coming up in advance, helps ensure that they are completed to the standard we want them to be and we get the outcome we are striving for. After all "failing to prepare is preparing to fail” or so they say.
Of course there are many of us who work well under pressure; leaving tasks to the last minute allows for adrenaline to kick in which can help us focus and boost productivity. However it also triggers stress hormones like Cortisol to be released into the bloodstream, which can leave us feeling mentally and physically overwhelmed, depleted, stressed, anxious, helpless, sick and burnt out. Over time the build-up of stress hormones attacks the immune system and creates disease. Being productive doesn’t need to be so destructive on the mind and body. Make a plan, set realistic goals/expectations, write a to do list, schedule in the time to work through it, set reminders, delegate tasks, and acknowledge/celebrate everything you achieve every single day.
8. Get Clear on What You Actually Want & Value
Many people spend hours, days, weeks, even years of their lives doing things that they have very little interest in or little value for. These people stay up at night wondering how life got to be the way it has, feeling empty and unfulfilled and fantasise about escaping or living a completely different life. As social creatures we often get caught up in the expectations society has for us, but it comes at the price of our own personal happiness. Getting clear on what we want and WHAT we actually value, helps inform HOW we should be allocating our time and energy.
Of course, we all have things we have to do but don’t necessarily want to or enjoy. But we shouldn’t be spending the majority of our time, energy, thoughts and emotions on these things; we should be focusing on creating a world for ourselves and the people we care about that we can all love and thrive in.
If you’re not sure of what you actually want and value, check out my blog for some guidance and inspiration: Do You Know What You Want? (themindfullifecoachuk.com)
9. Throw Away Your Excuses
“If it’s important you’ll make time. If it’s not, then you’ll make excuses”
- Marie Forleo -
One of the main things that holds us back from achieving all the things we want to, is the stories we tell ourselves – “I can’t do this, there’s not enough time, the opportunities just aren’t there, life is working against me, other people make it impossible” etc. These are all just excuses, they are not universal facts; just ideas you think are true. The function of excuses is to protect some aspect of our ego, which is often consumed with fear and doubt. But the main outcome of any excuse is to block us from doing and having what we want.
As humans we are more resourced than we give ourselves credit for – the subconscious mind stores trillions of bits of information, tools and resources which we can access if we give ourselves the time and space to. Most people in the western world have access to books and the internet which allows us to learn just about everything within our solar system. And even at the most basic level, we know people who know things and can often help us find solutions to the challenges we face. So, our excuses are not reasons to give up or not even try in the first place. Excuses are indicators of what we need to figure out in order to move forward, and they show us where we need to be focusing our time and energy in order to move forward.
And sometimes we need to tell ourselves different stories about what is possible i.e. “I can do this; I will make time; the opportunities are there for those who search for them and are determined to succeed no matter what; I have the internal resources needed to overcome any challenge that comes my way; life is always working in my favour and showing me the way”. When we change our self-talk, we change our perception and our experience of the world ; empowered self-talk allows us to notice progress and success, negative self-talk allows us to notice only limitations and failure.
10. Get Comfortable with Delegating and Saying No!
As a self-confessed micro-manager (aka control-freak), I KNOW how hard this one can be. “If you want a job done properly, do it yourself” was my mantra for many years until I almost burnt out and went in search of ‘my chi’ and balance! It is hard giving up complete control of something we care about; we have our own standards and expectations and the disappointment of them not being met can be overwhelming.
However, we also need to acknowledge that this approach of doing everything ourselves only goes to cause us harm in the long run. Physically we cannot maintain all our responsibilities on our own; trying to will leave us feeling overwhelmed, lonely, disconnected and resentful for carrying all the responsibility for things that other people ultimately benefit from. Self-sacrifice as a demonstration of our love and care for others is an out-dated concept, because if we are harming ourselves in the process then we cannot give our loved ones and the people who depend on us the best of who we are; instead they get a shell of us.
Delegating tasks can be as simple as drawing up a rota for all family/household members to chip in with housework, shopping and errands; asking friends/family/neighbours to help out with childcare or outsourcing to a nursery, childminder or playscheme; hiring professionals to take certain responsibilities off our hands e.g. dog walking, house-cleaning. There is no shame in not being able to do it all personally – if anything it’s a sign of resilience and resourcefulness when you can identify and implement solutions to the ongoing modern-day challenges that arise.
And finally, when you are feeling overwhelmed and you are asked to take on more responsibility or do favours for others, as long as you explain calmly and honestly why you are unable to commit, then most people will understand and respect your honesty; they won’t necessarily like it, but they will accept it and find another solution. We are all part of a community, and respecting each other’s boundaries and limitations is a key part of maintaining healthy mutually beneficial relationships. Sometimes you need to say no to others in order to say yes to yourself.
I hope you have found this blog helpful in thinking about how you can better manage your time and achieve the things that are important for you, whilst maintaining a sense of balance. If you would like access to my FREE Morning Meditation and a FREE Focus & Productivity Meditation, please subscribe to my website www.themindfullifecoachuk.com by completing the Schedule a Consult or Ask a Question box on the bottom of the front page and enter FREE MEDITATIONS in the notes.
And if you would like to access Transformational Life Coaching with myself to get clear on what your priorities are and how to create the balance you need to indeed “have it all”, or you would like to develop your Mindfulness skills to allow you to focus, improve your productivity and overall emotional wellbeing, be sure to check out my Services page and complete the Request a Consult box with your details to arrange your FREE 30 Minute Coaching Consultation.