IF YOU'RE STRUGGLING TO 'GET IT ALL DONE', YOU NEED TO READ THIS!
I've often had people ask me "How do you get it all done?". They know I homeschool three kids, gig, manage two businesses and they stare at me in amazement (or possibly pity!). In any case, their question is about having the time to get everything done.
I wasn't always productive. In fact, ten years ago, I was the dictionary definition of chaotic, purposeless, and unproductive. Now I'm a lot more productive and I'm continuing to grow.
Before my current schedule came about, I had a few others that were, now that I think about it, quite unrealistic. Even now, I'm still slowly easing into this new schedule and so it may be a few weeks yet until I know how it will stand up to my current lifestyle.
Before I go through my schedule in detail with you, I'll just fill you in on my current season of life right now at the time of writing this.
I have three children ages 15, 10, and 7 whom I homeschool. We attend church, and I blog and run a stationery membership site. I also sing and do gigs. My kids all attend drama classes, they also all have piano lessons, two of my kids do swimming and tennis lessons, one of my daughters does ballet and my son also does football. We also attend 1 (occasionally 2) homeschool meet-up groups in the week. I'm also the family accountant as my husband and I are both self employed. AND I run and manage a jazz events company where I host multiple events in London every month. Phew! I feel tired just saying all of that!
Let's rewind a bit shall we? Back in the day (like back when my first born was an infant), I was never one for having a structured life. Being a jazz musician, I embraced the easy-come, spontaneous lifestyle of a creative. But after having my first child and realising that kids kinda need some sort of routine, I started thinking about creating one.
So I read 'Laura Vanderkam's book '168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think'. In it, she talks about how we all have the same 168 hours in a week as the next person. So, basically, what are you doing with yours?
What was I doing indeed! Often my husband would come home and ask me what I had done that day and a foggy expression would drift over my face as I struggled to remember the day's events. I was so busy. I was sure of it. But exactly what I had done had escaped my mind. I blamed it on "baby brain". But 'baby' was fast approaching a year old... I would soon need some fresh excuses! All I knew was that I felt constantly drained, exhausted, and beat.
So I wrote a list of all the things that I do in my week. Including all the things that I wanted to get done even if I wasn't doing them right now. I calculated the hours needed for meals, housekeeping, play groups, activities, work, and even sleep. I wrote every single thing down. And you know what? I ended up with MINUS HOURS!! My 'time bank' was overdrawn. No wonder I felt completely spent!!
So next I thought I'd be clever and see where I could skim off a few hours. I initially estimated at getting 8 hours of sleep a night, but realistically I knew that I never really got that many hours sleep, so I took that down to 6 hours (I don't recommend you do this by the way). But that didn't make much difference.
So I took out some of the things that I wanted to get done but weren't vital to our survival. You know, you've probably got some of these up your sleeve: things like the landscape watercolour painting I'd hope to do when I got a minute. Or the ministry visits I intended on paying to ladies in my church.
But my bankable hours were still overdrawn! I was so frustrated that I gave up! I felt completely and utterly overwhelmed! It was obviously impossible to get everything done!!
I complained to my husband.
He knew I was totally deflated. When another kid was added to the mix, the house was a mess, there were no clean clothes to be found. Schoolwork was barely getting done. My blog was getting nowhere and where on EARTH did I put my phone??!! I was so despondent about it that I couldn't even cry (although I really wanted to). I knew that if things didn't change, I'd be heading for depression.
My husband is a font of wisdom and suggested we get a maid. After all, he needed some clean clothes to wear! But a cleaner would cost around £160 a month! We really needed that money for other things. But he convinced me that it was worth every penny. He didn't want me to go down the road of depression. And he contended that I shouldn't worry about the expense because a cleaner would help ease my frustration. So I (very) reluctantly agreed.
Question: Do you often feel exhausted at the end of the week?
Have you tried to tally up the number of hours you use to get everything done? Do you think you will have hours left in your time bank or will your time account be overdrawn?
If you need help, see if you can bring in friends, neighbours, family members (or their kids) to help. And if you can afford it, hire someone even for a couple of hours a week. It might not sound like much, but it'll be a start!
I figured that shaving off a couple of hours here and there wasn't enough to squeeze all of my tasks into my week. I still needed to do something more drastic! So I decided to cut some things out completely.
Basically, I decided to do a reset.
This part was very difficult because everything seemed so important or valuable to me. But I had to face the music, and my 'music' recently wasn't a tune I liked very much! So I took out a couple of the kids' activities like swimming and drama club (I hear some mums gasp!). And I brought everything down to the bare essentials - the things I felt we absolutely HAD to do. Things like homeschool, church, basic household chores, personal hygiene, and meals. That was IT!
Once I had the bare bones of my schedule down. I could slot in other things. The first thing I put back in was work associated with my blog and stationery business. 'Why wasn't that in there before?' I hear you ask! I know!!! If my blog had to stop for my life to get sorted, then it had to STOP! Drastic measures people!! Once that was in, I added some self-care, the kids' activity classes, and one homeschool group.
My husband and I worked on a schedule where he would take the kids to drama and I would take them swimming.
I also delegated the grocery shopping to my husband. At first, it was a bit painful. My husband is not a visual person, so all apples look the same to him. And we'd often find soggy fruit and veg when he returned from the supermarket! He's been getting much better, bless him!
This is often the case with delegating any job. Things might not be perfect at first, but you've got to allow others to get better instead of jumping in and taking back the reins.
I also included a bit of buffer time. I felt that if everything was going smoothly in my week I could use the buffer time to do some of the things I had previously cut out, like ministry visits to ladies in my church, painting, organising, or hanging out with the kids!
Today, my schedule still looks quite full. But I have buffer periods here and there in my week. And also, I built up to this schedule. Remember the Big Reset I mentioned earlier? Yeah, during that time my schedule was pretty bare. And over time, I added things back in based on what I felt I could manage.
My schedule serves as a guide for my week and I don't follow it strictly. For example, I don't have any of my gigs blocked off in my weekly routine because my gigs happen at random times. And when I gig, I definitely don't wake up early the next day - I need to have a different routine for those mornings.
So here's a detailed analysis of my schedule. My mornings all have roughly the same routine: quiet time, self care, laundry, and then getting some things ready for our meals that day are all part of my morning ritual. Then I often do some work-related tasks.
When my kids wake up, they have breakfast and start going through their morning routines. Then we do school together. Blocks labeled 'Home Care' refer to my household chores. Everything else on my schedule is pretty self-explanatory I think.
Finance Friday's are when I sit down to do my accounts for the week.
Plann & Tailwind scheduling refers to a business task I try to do weekly.
Gifts, Notes & Cards is where I've blocked off time to write birthday cards, send a note to someone or wrap gifts for occasions that may be coming up.
I usually hang out with my husband on Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday evenings, depending on what's going on during the week. And I'll move my pamper evening around accordingly. Ladies, whatever happens in the week, give yourself some pamper time! You'll never look back!
The empty spaces are a kind of catch-all/buffer period. And I can use it for anything I like.
Every week I do a weekly review and fill out my plan for the upcoming week. This isn't in my schedule as it any time between Friday and Monday depending on what's happening over the weekend. My schedule is a guide, and I'm completely flexible with it - as I think you should be too!
I use the Weekly Review and Weekly View - items included in our monthly bundles. And I'd feel totally lost if I didn't do this every week! It helps to make sure I'm not overloading myself (which is very easy for me to do).
So there you have it! This is what my life looks like right now! Is it perfect? No. I would love to fit in more exercise or coffee with friends, and other things. But this is the season of life I'm in right now. And I'm cool with this for the moment. And like I said, it's a guide.
So I do have coffee with friends, but not every week. And when I do, I'll move things around to accommodate those less frequent activities. Having a schedule that protects my most important priorities helps me to make better decisions when it comes to adding in new or infrequent events. It's how I get everything done that's important.
What does your week look like? Do you have some breathing space scattered around your week? Do you need to get drastic and just cut some things out of your schedule for now? If you're feeling overwhelmed by your schedule, it may be time to do a reset.
"Productivity is not just about getting things done, it's about finding the balance between your work and your life, setting your goals and prioritising them, and above all, taking care of yourself in the process."
PAPER ME PRETTY
I’m a huge stationery fan, homeschool mum, and a professional jazz singer who began creating lists and sheets years ago to keep my busy life organised.
The result? An international stationery club that helps women all over the world become more organised and focused on the things that matter.