Sometimes, life is simply overwhelming. There is so much to do and think about, it’s hard to know where to start. We all feel the squeeze sometimes: there may be an extra-busy time at work, or a building project at home. When we feel up against it, even a simple trip to the supermarket seems like an epic task.
The run-up to the summer holidays is one of those overwhelming times. We may be trying to fit lots in before heading off on our hols; and many parents start to worry about how exactly they are going to keep all those juggling balls up in the air when the kids are home full-time.
I can’t reduce your task list but I can help you manage it. It is possible to be really active and still feel calm and in-control. Here are my tips, based on time-management methods and relaxation techniques, for happy juggling.
Diarise your time
During busy times, a diary is your new best friend. Whether you use something like Google Calendar or prefer the old-fashioned desk diary approach, keeping track of everything helps you lose that feeling of chaos or the fear of forgetting anything.
It also helps you be sensible about your capacity. Seeing everything written down is a great reality check, sometimes you glance at your calendar and realise that your schedule simply isn’t possible. Cross things out and reallocate them. You can’t begin to manage your activities if you don’t know what’s happening when.
Can you outsource?
We all understand what that means in the workplace: but it can be done in general life too! There are all sorts of people out there who can lend a hand, and you don’t need a massive budget to hire in help when you need it.
A virtual PA for just a couple of hours a week could tide you through busy times and this doesn’t just have to be for work, although if you are a self-employed parent, admin assistance could make all the difference when school’s out. Try an ironing service for busy periods or before a holiday, or find someone who can help you tame your garden so it’s lower maintenance (and a space to enjoy). If you have school holiday children to manage, arrange play date swaps with other parents, so each of you has some child-free time in turn (and you can relax knowing that your kids are having fun with friends). Look into local holiday clubs for older kids.
Handling the housework
A personal chef is a step too far for most of us, but there are always takeaways for those evenings when you can’t do it all! You can also have food ready in the freezer for busy weeks (and drop the guilt if you haven’t made any frozen batches of wholesome casserole. The freezer section of your local supermarket is fine!). Grocery delivery is an absolutely brilliant help.
We’ve discussed hiring in help, but realistically, the housework falls on the householders. But don’t forget that you might have potential helpers! Even little kids can help with simple tasks such as putting the dishes away (and older ones can always be bribed…).
Combine, don’t separate
In an ideal world, work and family would be in two nice, neat boxes! Sometimes, that’s simply not possible, and working from home can actually reduce time pressures. Sir Richard Branson claims to not divide work and play, and that involving his children with work has always brought a new perspective. Mothers trying to work to the background sounds of CBeebies may raise a tired eyebrow; however he has a point. If your partner, children or elderly relative is used to you working in the same space as them, it becomes business-as-usual.
Explain to the kids if you can complete x, y and z before deadline o’clock, you’ll have the afternoon at the park/cinema. Set up craft activities to keep younger kids engaged, and accept that there may have to be a bit more screen time occasionally. When you do go out, you can still keep an eye on work. Being able to access your emails 24/7 could be seen as a bad thing or as a way of preventing work from building up and getting out of control. Of course, your working hours may mean you need to arrange childcare for at least some of the summer. If this is the case, separating work and family life can be important to make sure you enjoy time together. Again, that diary helps!
Don’t forget yourself!
When people mention ‘me time’ during busy periods, the most likely response is hollow laughter! But really, a break from everything recharges your batteries and actually makes you more productive. Dog owners are often very good at this, as their pets make them go out a couple of times a day! Go for that run or swim, take a fun lunch break with friends or family, join that book club for a once a month get together, make sure you get a relaxing evening bath, and only burn the midnight oil in times of extremis.
If you have kids or dependent family, book a babysitter or smile nicely at a local relative, and go out with your partner or friends.
What relaxes you? Is it that lovely bath I mentioned above, or half an hour with a book before bed? We all have a ritual that makes us feel relaxed and comforted, and that is so important when you’re feeling overwhelmed, and if you learn breathing and calming strategies, you can keep bringing them into play all day when things start to feel too much.
You can visit someone like me, and by using solution-focused hypnotherapy, I can work with you to develop coping strategies for dealing with your hectic lifestyle. There’s a fine line between busy-ness and stress, and hypnotherapy, along with these time management tips, helps you stay on the right side of the line.
I’m Debbie Daltrey, the founder of Great Minds Clinic. I have clinics in Timperley, Altrincham, and Manchester City Centre. Please call me for a confidential chat and I’ll help you keep all those juggling balls up in the air.