I recently had one of the most relaxing, rejuvenating, fulfilling and productive weekends in a while.
What made the difference?
I challenged my all-or-nothing thinking and made do with what time I had.
Because lately I’ve noticed myself slipping into, “If I can’t do this right then I’ll wait and do it when I have enough time to do it right.”
You can probably see where that plan was doomed to fail. There never is enough time.
So things slip further and further down my to do list until I feel myself approaching crisis mode.
So towards the end of last week I caught this mindset red-handed and started to challenge it.
It started at work. I had been struggling to find time to read a report, so in the end I printed it off and read it bit by bit on the train. And you know what? I finished reading the report in a couple of days – the report I’ve been trying to find time to read for about six weeks.
So on Friday, I was working my half day from home. I had planned to log off at a certain time and go to the gym to swim laps before I had to rush to get the boys from school and nursery. But then I got stuck into things at work and – surprise! – ended up running late. I very nearly didn’t go to the gym, but I remembered the promise I had made to myself to exercise, and how much better and happier I feel when I exercise.
So I scrambled out from behind my computer, threw together my gym bag and rushed out the door. I ended up swimming laps for only 20 minutes instead of usual 30 minutes.
But you know what? Maybe because I knew I had less time, or maybe just riding on the wave of frantic rushing around that preceded me getting into the pool, I swam at a much faster pace than usual. In fact, I felt like I got a better workout than my usual slightly more leisurely swim.
Balance for the time poor means little pockets of a range of experiences, pursued frequently.
Working parents don’t have as much spare time as our non-parent counterparts. Our evenings and weekends involve a host of mandatory things to do – baths, homework, bedtime routines, children’s birthday parties, educational outings…even things that parents and non-parents have to do, like cleaning, take on a new dimension with kids. (I swear I hoovered yesterday but you wouldn’t know it.)
So this means we either give up some of the stuff we fill our lives with, or we do things little and often. Most likely a bit of both.
And while I’m all about decluttering literally and figuratively, we crop valuable, enriching, enjoyable things from our lives at our peril.
So sure, I am the first to cut out bullshit. For me, that means rarely going on social media, keeping it to a cursory glance once a day, usually five minutes or less. And I have zero time for drama at the school gates, so am careful about which friends and acquaintances I devote my time and attention to.
But that only creates so much extra time and mental space for me. So I’ve had to buck the all-or-nothing thinking and accept little-and-often instead. And while it’s still a work in progress for me, when I have lived life according to ‘little and often’, I feel more fulfilled in all my various roles – as mother, wife, friend, employee, coach, colleague, and simply as myself.
Imagine you have a day to do whatever you want. How would you spend your day?
Maybe you’d meet a friend for a long lunch? A romantic dinner with your partner? A walk in the park with your child(ren)? Writing your novel or painting in a light-filled studio? Maybe curl up with a good book or a boxset and binge? See what comes up. Don’t get bogged down in the practical right now.
What does your dream day signify to you about your desires at this point in your life?
How is the above exercise a clue to what you crave these days? Maybe there’s a theme of alone time, or spirituality, or connection with others. Maybe it highlights a few areas of your life that feel neglected, or some unmet needs you may want to plan for.
How can you incorporate aspects of your dream day into your real life over the course of a week?
Look back over your dream day. Maybe the long lunch with a friend could become a coffee at the weekend. Writing your novel could become spending 20 minutes a day on the train working on it or signing up to a creative writing class you can attend one evening a week. Your romantic dinner could signify that you really want to connect with your partner as people (not parents), a desire you could meet simply sharing a cup of tea and a real conversation with the TV off after the kids are in bed.
It isn’t about trying to force your ideal day into reality, as that is often doomed to failure. But if you can interpret the need behind the daydream, you may find there is a simple, often free, little-and-often way to meet the need, even if it isn’t everything your heart desires.