Making the Most of Your Time — For Yourself, Work, Parenting, and Partnerships
A long, loud cultural battle is being waged in an attempt to determine ways that busy adults can manage the competing expectations of self, work, family, and marriage. It is a topic of morning news shows and elementary school pick-up lines…how can we get it all done and still stay sane, we ask ourselves? Mothers in particular seem flustered on how they can keep all these parts of their lives buoyant and healthy.
Since the topic is always on the minds of busy parents, I was interested in the intersection of two articles I recently read (Washington Post, Harvard Business Review), followed by a Real Simple podcast I heard while (multi-tasking!) on a jog last week. All three sources (linked and listed below) were puzzling out the ways in which adults can manage both energy levels and time in order to complete the work that needs to be done and still nourish themselves and their relationships. All three offer interesting ideas and methods for perfecting this balance, so I write this post hoping to synthesize the ideas from the articles and include some of my own thoughts.
In short, the arguments laid out by all three sources conclude that with only a finite amount of time each day, we need to spend a dedicated amount of that time doing things we find pleasurable and relaxing. An hour spent doing something we do not want to do is draining and stressful, but that exact same hour spent on something we love can be energizing and restorative. All three experts agree that our days need to include some (small) pleasurable moments…but how?
While I certainly am not an efficiency expert, I am a real life woman who manages – pretty well on most days – to work a part-time job, volunteer with several organizations, help her husband raise three busy sons, be a partner in a loving marriage, and still fit in daily workouts and household chores. Oh, and read books and write this blog of course!
In this two-part post I explore coping skills and time management ideas — Part one focuses on work, Part Two on Self-care, Parenting and Partnerships.
WORK WITH PURPOSE BUT NOT SLAVISH DEVOTION
“Confronted with relentless demands and unexpected challenges, people tend to slip into negative emotions—the fight-or-flight mode—often multiple times in a day. They become irritable and impatient, or anxious and insecure. Such states of mind drain people’s energy and cause friction in their relationships. Fight-or-flight emotions also make it impossible to think clearly, logically, and reflectively.”(Harvard Business Review, see notes)
Do the work that needs to be done, do it well, then log off. Especially when you are working at home, it can feel like you are never done. You are compelled to read a few more (nonessential) emails or do a little (extra) research. Don’t! Finish your assignments and get back to your life. Unless you are performing life saving operations for Doctors without Borders, lives will not be saved by your overworking.
When you are working, give it your full attention. Set aside time when you are alone and alert, have a written to-do list with deadlines at hand, and turn off all devices so you can work better, with fewer errors, and be done sooner. Being able to multitask and perform well is a myth. Nearly all the research shows that we cannot do things simultaneously without making mistakes.
Only offer more to employers or supervisors who recognize and appreciate the extras. If you have a job where all that matters is filing the TPS report on time, don’t kill yourself spending extra hours formatting it. Save the extras for the people who care, your family and friends.
Remember that work is NOT more important than life, even if your employer wants you to feel that way. If you are sick, stay home. If you need to skip a budget meeting to make the school talent show, do it. As Laura Vanderkaam points out in the podcast, “it is very self-indulgent to think you are so extremely important” that you cannot take any time off work. Skip the false guilt, the office will NOT come to a stand still because you went to the gym at lunch.
Labor of Love Podcast (Real Simple Magazine on Panoply)
“Making Time for Us” October 21 2015
“Clock Management and Parenthood,” Jennifer Meer,The Washington Post, October 13 2015
I Know How She Does it, Laura Vanderkaam, 2015
“Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time” Harvard Business Review October 2007
Tony Swartz and Catherine McCarthy