For a while now I have wanted to put together a blog post about time management and work/life balance as a momma that doesn’t involve a recommendation of using dry shampoo in the morning. I mean, honestly, I do use dry shampoo (like a LOT), but I wanted to focus on some bigger picture idea and regular practices.
By trade I’m an attorney, but most of my interests in everyday life in no way related to the practice of law, so fitting it all in has always been a juggling act, even before becoming a mom.
Law firm life can have grueling hours. As you worry about billing enough minutes in the day to hit your target year end goal, you somehow also have to find time for simple things like running, yoga, dinner with girlfriends and travel. It can get really complicated. I made the decision to go in-house (working as an attorney for a company instead of working at a law firm) in hopes of having a lifestyle more conducive to having a family. Ancient legal world myths and legend lead you to believe that in-house work is less stressful and in-house lawyers work less hours. Maybe, but just a little. My husband just made partner at his firm, and I do work less hours than him, but my job can be equally stressful and I’m on call 24 hours a day.
Several years ago I was diagnosed with a number of fertility issues. We did IVF for four years before conceiving our son Max. In addition to the heartaches, IVF treatments are also time vampires. Each cycle consists of many blood tests, multiple shots per day, medications at certain times, ultrasounds several times a week, and unknown procedure dates up until the last minute. I couldn’t travel much because I needed to go in for monitoring all the time, and when I did travel I would need to bring coolers and medication with me on the airplane (and I’ve even given myself a shot in an airplane bathroom (yeah, gross)). But I found a way to find the time.
Oh the great balancing act… If I can figure that other stuff out, I’ve got it down, right?
You would think. Until that sweet little boy came along.
As a new momma, feeding times, bedtimes, naptimes, bathtimes and tummy time rules your world. One moment washes into the next and suddenly you it’s the end of the day and you are still in PJs and haven’t had a moments rest.
When I went back to work, I would juggle meetings all day and block out time so I could pump before my chest exploded, skip lunch because I felt guilty for using time to pump, then try to make it to daycare in a respectable time. I felt like I was constantly late, short changing one area of my life for another. As we started IVF treatments again as a working momma, I find time to fit that in too. Gah?!#!@$/!
And I only have one little minion running around. I have no idea what managing 2, or 3, or 4 kids would be like!
It’s a crazy life. It’s mom life. It can an uphill battle. It may want to make you want to pull your hair out some days trying to make time for it all, but it’s so worth it. Below are a few tricks I try to use to help balance my life a little, and make the most of the time I do have. (I’m far from perfect with some of these tips, but striving for these every day helps keep me in check.)
As the intro to Lion King says, “There’s more to see, than can ever be seen, more to do, than can ever be done…” Truth. Make a list of your goals, obligations and all things important to you and rank them in importance and necessity. We will call this your “Wish List”. For me, Family, Work, Running and Friends are at the top, followed by Photography, Travel, Blogging, and Yoga.
2. Time Budget.
Once you set your priorities, use time buckets to make a time budget (just like you would set up a budget for to manage the expenses in your home). You can do this on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Figure out how much time you can dedicate to each item on your Wish List and try your best to stick to it. Even if you aren’t done with one of your tasks in a specific time bucket, stop, and move on to the next task. If you are busy at work, it’s easy to push that workout to the next day, and then the day after, and the day after that. I have enough work in the office to keep me busy 24/7 for the next year, but I make myself leave at a certain time because it’s a priority to me to have at least 2 hours with my boy each night. Make the time – it’s totally up to you to enforce it.
3. Just say no.
If you are invited to go to an event or do a task that doesn’t align with your Wish List, it’s OK to say no sometimes. Despite being a superwoman, you can’t do it all. If you are going to be totally stressed out trying to do too many things, politely decline an invitation in a timely manner. It doesn’t mean you are a bad friend or coworker if you pass up a happy birthday happy hour now and then. It’s just that sometimes maintaining your own sanity is more important. Hopefully you will be able to make it next time. (Try your best not to just bail at the last minute, but it’s ok if sometimes that happens too.)
4. Don’t beat yourself up.
Sometimes it will be impossible to put a check mark next to everything on your to-do list. That’s OK. Give yourself permission to be perfectly imperfect. Focus on those things most important to you. If the laundry sits out unfolded another two days, the world won’t come to an end. Use the time to read Room on the Broom one more time to your baby and happily give more bedtime snuggles instead. You won’t be sorry you did that 10 years from now.
5. Get up early.
Admittedly, I’m not great with this one. But when I do wake up early, it is amazing how much I can get done with that extra time when everyone still snoozing in the the house. For me, it’s a great opportunity to get in a quick workout or spend some time blogging without interruption.
6. Maximize Efficiencies.
I’m an admitted Amazon Prime addict, mainly because it makes my everyday life so much easier. I can order presents for a baby shower, buy mascara, and order a new pair of shoes in less than 60 seconds. With Amazon Prime you get free music, television shows and movies on Amazon Music and Amazon Video too (and Amazon Video carries old episodes of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, which I love for Max.) With the advent to the door grocery delivery services like Prime Pantry you can minimize your time spent meal planning and shopping. I recently started listening to audio books on Audible while driving to and from work – currently I’m listening to a book trying to learn Italian. You can get a free 30 day trial of Amazon Prime by clicking here, and you can try two free audio books on Audible here.
7. Pace Yourself.
Life is a marathon, not a sprint. I’m a marathoner, so this analogy rings very true for me. Slow and steady wins the race. Focus on the big picture and chip away little by little. If you have a larger goal, figure out a way to allocate a certain amount of time to your new goal on a regular basis to accomplish it over a reasonable amount of time. Last year I decided I also wanted to get my Florida Real Estate Salesperson license, so I committed to studying at least one hour a day is possible. It may have taken me a few months of studying, but I found a way to make it work and by studying a little bit each day over a longer period of time, it wasn’t stressful or overwhelming.
8. Be Present.
When you are at work, work hard and commit yourself 100%. When you are with your children, put down your phone and play with them, cuddle them and read to them. When you have a ½ hour to work out, give it all you’ve got. You can’t change the amount of time you have – every day you have only 24 short hours. Make a commitment to live in the moment and make that time you do have count in whatever you are doing.
9. Make time to make memories.
Life is short, so don’t get lost in the work and obligations of life. Plan time to have dinner with girlfriends, take trips, and go to your kids soccer games. Life will always be busy and you wonder how to make it all work, but in 20 or 30 years you will look back and forget the chaos and remember that outdoor concert you went to in the park or that crazy weekend trip to the beach. Those are the things you will notice, and that’s why we are all in this game called life. Find a way to make time for the joyous moments that matter the most.
10. Hit the pause button.
Try to take a few minutes each day to do nothing and clear your mind. Simply sit and be. Without obligation. Without making a mental to-do list in your head. These few moments will help you think more clearly, reduce stress levels and increase your self-awareness. My favorite mental vacation is going to my yoga class, but if I don’t have the time, I will listen to guided meditation, peaceful music or just focus on deep breathing.