Time Management (and getting your sanity back) for Parents (Episode 235)
Last week was a fabulous interview with Elyssa Smith on getting out of survival mode, and this week we focus on the key component - time management.
Elyssa really laid out the science behind how our brains work when we are in survival mode, and how, when this happens, we biologically cannot do higher processing functions, like philosophize or reproduce, as those don't directly protect our actual safety in a moment.
And, while she helped us so much with understanding trauma and how we can fall into survival mode in our lives, she calls herself a "time strategist" for a reason. One of the main things that can put us into survival mode is our poor time management.
Are you running your days...or are they running you?
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The Root of it All
Getting out of survival mode is hard to do if you're constantly behind. I have been so guilty of this in my life. I remember when we were in the beginning of our family-making, and I was responsible for dinner every day. And, every day, at 5:30pm as Nathan was pulling in the driveway, I would be frantically running around inside trying to get my act together because I had failed to plan ahead to have a meal ready.
And did I simply say, "I'm so sorry, I lost track of time"? Of course not. I wasn't even seeing it for myself, much less ready to admit it. I would get defensive. I'd have justifications about all the things that demanded my time, and I'd get angry...at myself, however that often came out in reaction to the kids and Nathan. It was a losing situation where everyone was hangry, reactive, and defensive.
The root of it was that I filled my day with stuff vs. identifying my priorities at the beginning. There are always things to react and respond to. Any parent of toddlers knows there is likely to be a curveball of chaos every hour.
What is Important
So what are those priorities? Well, we'd worked through our family vision to lay out how we "explore, respect, listen, connect, learn and love." Then we looked at how that was happening during the day.
I saw that, being an entrepreneur, my work was always available. I could always find "just one more email" to address, or one more thing I needed to build or create or do. My "one more things" never had an end to them. When you are creating your own work and there is no ceiling on what you can do, it can sometimes feel like that huge looming task I can never check off. I had to stop approaching work as if I would one day accomplish it all. Work is constantly growing, changing, and constantly there. It was time to stop allowing that to suck me away from the life I was trying to create from the money made.
Yes, the work I do online through 48 Days and Mama Says Namaste are what puts food on the table. However, if the food isn't made, it doesn't matter how much I can talk about what work does for me...it's not working well for me in the moment if I don't create the space for it to serve me well.
I learned to stop my work and leave things unfinished. I learned that leaving things unfinished with work was so, so, much better than leaving them unfinished in relationships. I learned that it's so much easier to walk away from an email than to drop the ball on dinner prep. I learned it's so much easier to shut down the computer and address the family that is awake and present now than to muscle through all my work and hope everyone is patient enough to wait for me and have a good attitude about it. And, I've learned that, yes, there are times I need to be super work focused. And putting clear boundaries around it, including when I will be finished, greatly changed the trust level and support in my home as my family respected that space, knowing I would fully show up for them when I said I would.
That last sentence...I wrote that and re-read it. That's a sentence I am still speaking into truth as I struggle with it even now.
It Is What It Is
There are elements of life that are just a reality we cannot adjust. Anyone who has processed through grieving knows that statement, "it is what it is." We cannot bring back what is lost, or change what is outside of our control. If we cannot control every variable out there, it's a better reminder to focus on what you can control.
Instead of trying to manage the time so you have what you need, be aware of your own needs and reactions, and pull back when you need to recharge. I would oftentimes have great plans for how I'm going to create a beautiful art project with the kids or do some outing, and then I'd end up frustrated and resentful because it wasn't a true recharge for me, but more managing of kids and crazy. And then I'm maxed out and our "family time" isn't fun anyway! I learned it was much better to add in my own recharge moments without trying to include everyone else in the mix. Ironically, as I did that, I found others might jump in and join me (like doing art beside me) without it being all on me to orchestrate everything. It's been quite beautiful, actually.
The outside world isn't always going to give you what you need.
When you can learn to love that inner child and embrace it yourself, you are better able to show up fulfilled, knowing you can support your own needs without the variables of other's schedules.
Sprinkle in moments of delight that can help your life move along, so you're supporting and taking care of yourself along the way. Ensure you're not just running in survival mode. Don't clean your way through breakfast. Don't jump into your days with reaction - get intentional and work to dummy proof that.
Start with Today
It's not that we don't want to look to the future. It's not that we never dream about our lives five, ten years from now. However, nothing like 2020 and beyond to solidify that life is constantly changing, and what worked last week may not work again this week.
So instead of getting gung-ho with your ten year plan, we address our goals and intentions in a different way. Lay out those feelings behind the goals you set, and look at what needs to happen this week to move you further ahead. Try different things out with a red light green light approach, playing with what works for the season of your life you're in, and allowing grace for the fact that seasons - and your family - will change as you grow.
A Quick Reality Check
We are in a world where we're encouraged to be informed about everything. The internet has opened up the information access freeway, and not only is it overwhelming, there is a lot out there that is 150% not accurate, and not adding to your life. There is a lot out there that is mindless drivel, flat out inaccurate, or a mindset and perspective I don't want to be living in.
Be very clear on what the purpose of screens are in your home. Is your time on them focused and intentional, or are you or your children losing track of what the reality is in front of you due to the amount of time you're focused "out there" on a screen?
Take an inventory of your time and see what truly matters in your world. How much of it is focused on work? How much of it is focused on family?
A child is going to remember who was there, not what was spent on them.
kids outgrow a toy and outfits, but they never outgrow time and love.
The time you spend with your kids - is it on your agenda every time? Are you making space to simply check in with them and get to know them and what lights up their world? Sometimes our "time" with the kids is carting them to and from playdates where we're distracted with other parents, doing organized projects, or other agendas that are more about an event than a connection with a child.
- Sometimes, you remember your main goal of connection over accomplishment, and you throw out other plans because your child is right there, right now, ready to be seen and heard by you, and this is the support you can give them - your full attention.
- Sometimes you can manage time well by not having an orchestrated play date for your child, and simply inviting them into your world as you talk. Instead of building resentment that my child wants to talk and the house is a wreck, I invite them to pick up a dust rag and work alongside me as we talk.
- Sometimes you can manage the time well by addressing what you really need to do without kid distractions. And then - and this is the critical step - you clearly communicate to kids who is in charge and what is expected. This could be getting a babysitter or the other parent taking over. This could be older kids having focused independent work. It's not leaving people to wander around aimlessly, which is a recipe for chaos. Clear expectations and clear focus. Knock out the work with zero distractions so you can set it down and be fully present. Don't try to do both. Working from home can truly be overrated.
- Sometimes you can manage the time well by acknowledging that work will always be around, yet your priority is in the relationships you're fostering in your home, and the legacy that goes beyond you. And it's moving away from a screen, looking up, and being truly present.
- Sometimes your time management is scheduling in dates to just focus on one person at a time in your home. It doesn't have to be every day. Every intentional 1-1 time counts. When have you just sat down with each individual in your household and just asked them about what they were interested in?
- Sometimes time management is hiding away for a short brain break to watch a silly video or do a private meditation so you can get a little boost. Just keep this in mind:
Is your escape refreshing you so you can go back, or is it keeping you tied in?
Don't let your escapes and your needs be so monumental that all this hard work "for the family" keeps you away from ever enjoying them.
An intentionally timed life is nurtured and protected. It's not falling into reaction-mode and focusing on what is not in our control. It doesn't mean we have every minute scheduled. It means we've prioritized those things we want to nurture and foster most in our lives, and we're putting those "big rocks" in our buckets for the day first.
Your Weekly Challenge:
There are so many ways to whip up a cake. When you think about your life as cake batter, which we often reference due to our love of this little book that talks about it, there are many ingredients you can use. Too much or too little of something can result in a bitter batter, and no amount of icing will make it taste better. You've got to look at what your family "cake batter" is, where everyone is heard and willing to grow together - and that will be different schedules for everyone.
Play with this. Don't look for the one right way - see what flows and feels good for your family. When are you all feeling at ease, laughing, and engaged? When do you feel defensive? When is there tension? What are you tolerating? What one little thing can you tweak to better manage your time next week? We'd love to hear - let us know!
Now - watch this:
Remember those "big rocks" in your life. Fill those into your week first. The sand around it is never-ending, so ensure you prioritize the reason behind your actions and those people that make it all worthwhile. Remember those critical S's to get out of survival mode - finding safety, self-care, and support. We need each other around us - who are those big rocks? Celebrate each other by learning - and not assuming - we know how each other ticks. And remember, the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us.
- Goals and Word of the Year (Episode 233)
- Real Connection In A Connected World – Navigating Screens as a Family (Episode 205)
- Connecting, Screen-time, Challenges and Overwhelm (Episode 72)
- True Parent Struggles: Screentime (Episode 90)
- Working From Home Is SO Overrated
- Curious about "cake batter" and some of our other metaphors? Check out Timber Hawkeye's book, Buddhist Bootcamp
- Gratefulness App
- Unique Daily Affirmations App
- "I Am" Daily Affirmations App
- Tasks: Tips to Move Past Overwhelm and Make It Flow
- Tasks: They Are Taking Over My Life!
- Life Isn’t Compartmentalized…but if it were…
- The Burden of Overwhelm – Moving Forward While Always Feeling Behind
- 5 Tips To Focus For Frazzled Families (Episode 160)
- Get your free download of "Success Secrets for Home and Work" here
- Have Life Seasons Got You Stuck In A Funk? (Episode 179)
- Which is More Important - Skillset or Mindset? (Episode 218)
- Self-Love, or Self-Sabotage? (Episode 152)
- Ashley Logsdon, Relationship Coach
- Personality Styles
Questions or comments?
We love Q&A on the podcast, and cover all things that are a part of creating an intentional family.
Personality styles, marriage/intimacy, parenting, education, entrepreneurship, minimalism, travel...
What is pressing on your mind? Reach out and ask or comment - we may cover it on an upcoming podcast as well as respond by email.