We’d all like to manage time better. In an ideal world we would do what we need to get done, what we want to do, and have time to spare. We’d have that work life balance thing worked out, have a clear To Do List and be stress free.
In reality, most of us get overwhelmed from time to time, worry how we’re going to fit it all in, and feel guilty that we don’t spend enough time on our business, our family, our house, our health… Especially those of us with small children or small businesses. Or indeed both.
I’m a mum with two children and two businesses. I must admit I rarely walk past a book or click past a website that claims to have the secrets to time management, without a lingering pause. Often my cursor hovers over that Buy Now button, wondering if this one finally will give me that 25th, 26th and 30th hour that I’ve been looking for.
If I’m honest I’ve probably spent no insignificant amount of time and money on the search for this holy grail. I’ve picked up some great gems along the way, and I’m still looking.
In the meantime, here are a few pitfalls to be aware of, five ways to ensure you never have enough time:
1. Trying to control time
Somewhat like “childproof”, the term “Time Management” is quite deceptive really, as we can’t really control time itself. We try, boy do we try. Just as we try to control children, animals and the aging process. Sometimes it appears to start working, but it never seems to go quite all the way.
You can however choose how you spend your time. You always have a choice – to do it now, put it off, do it differently, do something else, ask for help, change your mind, bury your head in the sand and much more. There’s no one right answer. It’s your choice to choose whatever’s right – or wrong – for you at the time.
2. Always focusing on what’s wrong
Ok hands up, who finds themselves saying “there’s too much to do”, “not enough time”, “I’m too busy”. Just rolls off the tongue doesn’t it?
My great friend Andrea Bradley once said to me that our minds are like Google. If you put “Problems” in, what do you get? About 395,000,000 problems.
Instead, focus your mind on what you want to go right, and your mind will start working at how. And never underestimate the power of acknowledgement. We see how children thrive with praise and affirmation, so give yourself that acknowledgement for what you have done and are doing already.
3. Have no plan
The thing I found hardest about newborn babies, was the total unpredictability. Just like you can’t predict when they’re going to arrive, those early days, months or even years, as it sometimes feels, require us to be so reactive. Just when you think you’ve finally got something figured, it all changes, and so often we find ourselves reacting to whoever shouts the loudest.
Life, especially with young children young businesses, often requires us to be flexible and think on our feet. There is a difference though between running around like a headless chicken and fire-fighting like a pro. And the difference is having a plan. Fire-fighters plan for the unpredictable, they make preparations and act when situations arise.
If you’re a creative, spontaneous type, Mark Forster paints a great picture: think of it as the banks of a river that allow you to go with the flow, without which there would just be a stagnant pool of water.
And for control freak types like me, it’s not about the plans and structures themselves, it’s about what they enable you to do. So when things don’t go to plan that’s fine. You know you have a plan to make the most of the windows that do come up. When baby finally does take a nap, you can get on with what you want to do, rather than spend the time figuring it out, and be frustratingly interrupted when surprise surprise, baby wakes up.
4. Just work harder
We’ve all heard the expression “Work Smarter, Not Harder” but when the pressure’s on it’s all too easy to flog ourselves harder, beat ourselves up and put rest and play indefinitely on hold. And when the adrenaline runs out we find ourselves running on empty. Deep down we all know that we are and do so much better when we’re operating on a full tank, so maybe we need to resist the temptation to be our own boss from hell, and start investing time, thought and energy into how we develop and utilise our finest asset.
5. Say yes to everything
Whether it’s due to over-enthusiasm, lack of confidence, guilt, politeness, people pleasing or not wanting to rely on others, if you say yes to everything, carry it all on your own shoulders and continually take on more than capacity it’s a sure fire way to say no in effect to everything.
Saying no, like going to the gym, is something some people find easier than others. There’s no need to go overboard and obsessive about it, it’s about finding a healthy balance and doing it in a way that’s right by you. And the great thing about exercising your muscles is that the more you do it, the easier it gets. For those of us who’ve had children, here’s a great tip from Amanda Alexander: think of it like your pelvic floor exercises.
So focus on what you want, acknowledging your achievements along the way, have a plan, make choices, work smarter by investing in you, learn to say no. While these things may not give you all the time in the world – it will certainly help you be more effective with the time you do have, more satisfied with how you spend your time and find life that little bit richer.
PS. You may have heard some of these before. Most of it is common sense. Some of it is inspired by others. What matters most is what you do with it.