Does it feel like you’re processing a constant to-do list in your mind, from the minute you wake up, until the last minutes (or hours) of the day you spend trying to turn it off and go to sleep.
Walking from one room to another involves picking things up on the way, calling out to your child to find their PE kit, phone in hand scheduling appointments for the weekend, mentally processing a shopping list, noting the handle needs tightening, and the bin needs emptying. Does this sound familiar?
There’s always ONE person in the house whose brain is on that permanent cycle. And that person keeps everyone else going on the right path while they are mentally burdened.
My experience visiting different families each week tells me that 99% of the time this person is the mother.
And that mother will be the one who sought me out, asked me all the questions to make sure I could help her kids, scheduled the appointment with the family’s entire weekly schedule committed to memory, put the appointment on the calendar to make sure everyone knew I was coming, made sure the bill was paid, made me a cup of tea when I arrived, and was there at the end of the lesson to ask how it went.
While my time management tips are generally shared with overwhelmed GCSE students, lets face it – Mum is the one who needs to make time for a gin on the sofa today.
So what can you do about it?
Yes, I know. That got your back up. You wouldn’t be doing things if you didn’t really have to.
But most of the time when we absolutely have to make time, like when there’s an emergency, or we break a leg, things don’t get done and it’s OK. So make sure you’re very aware of what your priorities are.
Ultimately, you could drop absolutely everything if you were comfortable with the consequences. But presumably you want a roof over your head and food in your stomach. And you might want the same for your dependents.
Basically, decide what is really important to you. Perhaps you can drop some of the stuff that isn’t.
Take some time now to write out literally everything you have on your mental to-do list. Or maybe you already keep a list somewhere, in which case make sure you’ve done a complete brain dump into it. Get if all out of your head, and all in the same place so you can see it. Marvel at its epic glory. That is not even all that lives in your head at any one moment. It’s now easier to see why we forget where we left the car keys, and put the hairbrush in the freezer!
Pick out from that list the things that are really important to you. Can you put them into some sort of order? Or perhaps highlight them in different colours – top, middle, and bottom priority.
These two are often confused, but they’re not the same. You can put your tasks in order but if you still try to do them all you haven’t saved yourself any effort. Focusing is about letting go of the things that don’t serve you right now.
If something has been on the list forever and doesn’t ever get done, maybe it can just be taken off and forgotten about. If you’ve lived this long without it, do you really need it?
Have you made something really important in your mind when really it isn’t, and it’s just causing you stress? Let it go.
If you struggle to let them go, try writing them down and literally binning the list. Burn it, shred it, whatever you like. But show your mind it’s gone, and it can be forgotten.
3. Deal, delegate, dump
Work through your list now deciding what you can just do in 5 minutes to tick off, what you need to delegate to someone else, and what’s getting added to the burn list to forget about.
I like to schedule a power hour every so often to blast through those 5 minute jobs and shrink the list a bit. It’s very satisfying when you feel overwhelmed and need a boost.
4. Morning and evening routines
I keep seeing these on Instagram, where some health guru has their vitamin rich smoothie at 4am, meditates, reads their motivational book, runs 5 miles, hugs their kids, and then goes off to earn their 7 figure salary.
That’s not what I mean. Those guys did that once, put it on Instagram, and are now trying to live up to it like the rest of us.
But you can build handy habits into your day by ‘linking’ them to something. And the beginning and end of your day are a great place to start.
What are the things you’d like to do each day?
- Get enough sleep
- Brush your teeth
- Eat breakfast
- Take any medication / vitamins
- Check your email
- Review your schedule
- Stretches / physio?
- Empty the bins
- Wash up
- Clean surfaces
- Meal plan / food tracking
- Sort the mail
They quickly stack up, right? When are you going to do all of this? It already seems like a full day.
You can do this in the first hour of the day and the final hour of the day by linking them into routines and building good habits.
I would recommend the Fabulous App for this, but you can do it on your own. Decide what you want your routines to look like, and tweak them over time. Go from one thing to the other in the simplest order each day. It becomes habit, and you don’t even think about it.
5. Limit your time cleaning
There are some tasks that will never be finished, and housework is one of them. The phrase ‘A woman’s work is never done’ was coined by some non-feminist who otherwise knew what they were talking about. You could clean for as long as you can clean and you’ll still find something that needs a Hinch. Forget it. Unless you’re Mrs Hinch and you get paid to obsess, don’t! No one cares as much as you do. And actually I bet guests would LOVE that you aren’t perfect so they can relax and be imperfect too.
It’s great to take pride in your home, but preserve your energy for where it better serves you.
My trick is to pick a room a day, set a 20 minute timer, and clean like mad for that 20 minutes. As soon as the timer ends, I’m done. I do that every day and my house stays clean. Now I don’t have a big household so you might set a longer timer, or you might get more people involved in it. Just don’t give it too much of your time.
If you can afford it, get a cleaner. It isn’t extravagant if you have the money. It doesn’t make you a diva and it provides income to someone, and time to you. Why not?
I could not live without my calendar now. Everything I’m doing goes in there. I know I have that to the extreme, but I’m sure you have some way your organise your appointments at least.
Don’t try to keep it all in your head – that’s how we get the mental overload. Keep a paper diary, or a whiteboard, or a calendar app on your phone. Whatever works for you.
Obviously appointments will go in there. Maybe also for other members of the household. But you can also use this to plan out time for getting things done.
- Schedule an hour when the kids are out for your ‘dealing with quick win tasks power hour’.
- Make time for yourself, to do something relaxing.
- Plan when you’re going to do the big shop – when the shop will not be jammed.
Turn your top priority to do list into your schedule for the week and month ahead, so that you can see things will have time to get done.
But make it realistic. Planning to file your tax return in the morning, jet wash the patio through lunch, and decorate the bathroom in the afternoon is setting yourself up for a crumbling fail. Be kind to future you.
7. Make time for wellbeing
The big mistake we all make is to keep pushing through when we need to rest. If you don’t look after yourself, you will reach a point where your mind will start pushing back and you will struggle. If you ignore it, you will feel it physically. Eventually, you will have to listen. And in extreme cases, you can do real harm.
Resting is not laziness. Everyone needs sleep. Athletes sleep for 9-10 hours a day in order to cope with rigorous training and diet regimes. Sleeping makes you stronger!
But it isn’t just sleep. You need to do things you enjoy. It nourishes your soul.
- Take a, walk
- Visit a farm
- Visit friends and family
- Go clothes shopping
- Watch a film
- Read a book
- Go to a craft class
- Play an instrument
- Take a bath
- Light a candle
- Call your Mum
- Hug someone
- Do some gardening
Anything that makes you feel good, without doing harm, will nourish your soul, and you need that regularly.
And there’s one thing you can do right now to take a worry off your mind – message me to see how I can support your child with their exam preparation, and turn GCSE Stress into Exam Success.