We live in a culture of busy. Think about it - when you ask someone how they are doing, the standard reply used to be “Oh, I’m good.” Now when you ask someone how they are doing they are likely to say “Busy!”
Busy is the new normal.
Women especially are busier than ever before. It estimated that a working mother spends 98 hours a week working in and outside the home. That’s more than two full time jobs. It’s no wonder that American women are experiencing an all time low in personal happiness.
How'd We Get So Busy?
When the eight hour work day was introduced by Henry Ford back in the 1920s, it was with the idea that the American worker would have 8 hours for work, 8 hours for rest and 8 hours for recreation. I don’t imagine Henry Ford thought those 8 hours of recreation would be spent on housework, shuffling kids between birthday parties and soccer practice or volunteering year round for the PTA.
So ladies, how do you feel in your current life? Are you working two full time jobs or more, trying to balance a career and family? Is going to the bathroom by yourself the closest thing you’ve had to a vacation, lately?
Do you want more out of life, but are frustrated and overwhelmed by your daily to-do list? If so, read on for five simple ways to take back your time and create a life you love.
Let Go of Being in Control
Moms are often the decision makers in the family. They’re usually the one planning family vacations, holidays and birthday parties. They schedule doctors check-ups and dentist’s appointments. They manage the family finances. They make sure the all the moving parts of modern parenting work together to create a balanced home life. And this responsibility makes it hard for some women to relinquish control to others, even their spouse.
When I coach women on how to have more time for themselves to create a life that they love, I ask them if there are things they can let their spouse or children do, like housework, grocery shopping or dentists appointments. Many of the women I coach were adamant that their husbands could never manage to get the kids to appointments on time or do household errands such as grocery shopping. “It’d be a disaster!” a client told me in one of our sessions. “He’d buy all the wrong stuff.”
Really? Letting your husband get the groceries would be tantamount to an earthquake or a tsunami? What my client was really saying was that her husband would not do the grocery shopping in the same way she would. She felt like he might might spend too much money or buy the wrong brand of mayonnaise. That is not a disaster. And it is nothing that a specific shopping list and gentle reminder couldn’t fix. But my client felt like it was just easier and better if she did the family grocery shopping herself.
So instead of taking time to exercise, which is why she was talking to me in the first place, she spent two hours a week after work driving to the grocery store, shopping, driving home and putting everything away because she did not feel like her husband was competent enough to manage a trip to Wal-Mart.
Are there areas in your life that you are reluctant to let go of, because you don’t think anyone else will do them as well as you? Letting go of control means allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable. Maybe the other person won’t do the job as well as you or will mess it up - but really, will it be the end of the world?
Ask For Help
Along with letting go of control, another area many women struggle with is asking for help. I see this all the time. Women are reluctant to ask others to do things that they can do themselves, because they don’t want to put anyone out, or cause trouble, or make work for others. Well guess what ladies? Nowhere is it written that mom has to do it all. Just because you can juggle many things at once doesn’t mean you should.
I am super guilty of this. For example, in my day job I work with a team of awesome women at a small community nonprofit. We have lots of programs and initiatives happening and there is always more than enough work for everyone. Because I’ve been at the organization longer than a lot of the other employees, I know how to do lots of things related to our organization - but many of those things are now outside of my current job responsibilities.
So it’s necessary for me to delegate tasks to the rest of my team. But I always feel a little guilty when I ask one of them to do something that I can do myself. To help combat this guilt, I remind myself that my time is better spent doing things that others can’t do.
If you struggle with asking for help, remember that taking time for yourself will help you show up better both at home and at work. Burning yourself out by trying to do everything is not helping you, your work or your family.
Get More Sleep
So, technically this doesn’t give you more time per se, but it will help you have more energy, which, in my opinion, is better than extra hours in a day. The average American gets about 6 hours of sleep each night - less than the recommended 8 hours. Less sleep leads to all kinds of problems from weight gain and high blood pressure to depression and low sex drive. Sleep deprivation can also contribute to a lower quality of life all around.
If you have trouble getting your 8 hours, try unplugging from all electronics at least 30 minutes before bedtime. This lets your brain unwind and get ready to rest. If it’s too tempting to check your phone from bed, keep it in another room.
Cull, Don’t Cram
If you take nothing else away from this post, let it be this: STOP TRYING TO ADD MORE SH!T INTO YOUR DAY. Ladies, just because you can do it all, doesn’t mean you should.
My favorite example trying to do more instead of less is watching someone try to establish a new exercise regime. I see it in my coaching sessions and pretty much with all of my female friends and acquaintances on some level.
Busy Working Women: “I’m so busy!! I don’t have time to exercise. I’ll just have to get up an hour earlier and work out.” [Even though I’m already not getting enough sleep. And I am generally exhausted all the time as it is. And I already can’t get everything done that I think I should be doing. Yeah, adding another obligation to my day seems like the right move.]
Really? The answer to creating a life you love is not about make your day LONGER or adding MORE to your to-do list. It’s about creating space and breathing room.
Rather than adding, look for things to get rid of. These can be obligations that you don’t have to do right now, like volunteering or coaching (this does not make you a terrible person, BTW) or it can be those household chores that you’ve been putting off delegating to your spouse and kids.
Freeing up space in your schedule by getting rid of specific activities that don’t serve you also means identifying time wasters, which brings us to number five:
Know How You Spend Your Time
It’s easy to feel busy and stressed all day long if you are wasting a lot of time and energy on non essentials, like checking Facebook (which the average American spends 40 minutes doing) or mindlessly watching Netflix or YouTube. Time is like money and it is easy to fritter away small amounts here and there.
Try treating your schedule like your bank account and track where all your time goes. Recording how you spend your time for a few days or even weeks can reveal major time and energy leaks in your daily schedule. And just by making a few tweaks to your daily routine, you may end up with a hour or more of extra time each day.
To help you track your time and identify those time wasters, I’ve created a free Energy & Time Tracker, as part of my Perfect Day Workbook, which can help you create a realistic schedule that will leave you with more energy and more time at the end of the day.
Taking back your time is essential if you want to create a life that you love. Big goals and dreams aren’t going to magically happen, so long as you are putting your own needs and desires last. Making room in your schedule for self care doesn’t make you selfish. Asking for help and learning to let go of control are life long skills that will help you establish long term happiness. And who doesn’t want that?
Are you ready to create a life that you love? Be sure to connect with the Barefoot Creatives over at Facebook, and join a community of other awesome working women who are ready to take their lives to the next level.
Make It Happen