Ask any working mum and one of the hardest things about combining work and motherhood is often the lack of time.
We can feel under siege with competing demands, obligations and distractions. Too many of us are rushing through each jam-packed day and falling into bed feeling like we’ve not even scratched the surface of our mental and physical load.
If this sounds familiar then I’d like to share with you my four strategies for reclaiming your time.
What I know from supporting working mums is that we’re all trying our best. Already working hard, getting too little sleep and down time. If, like me, you’ve read most time management books on the market and attended a few productivity courses too, you also know that managing your time better isn’t actually the answer to our problems.
As Albert Einstein brilliantly said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
If we’re trying to approach managing our time from the same paradigm that leaves us time poor, then we’re already doomed to failure. Not because we are failing, but because the system in which we’re trying to succeed is failing us.
We have to rethink how we approach the concept of time and reimagine how we combine our work and motherhood. So this isn’t about trying harder, getting a new diary/schedule/app, getting up even earlier or going to bed even later. Because most time management and productivity approaches just give us another stick to beat ourselves up with.
If you’ve tried every time management system on the market and still feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day then check out my four strategies for reclaiming your time. They are strategies that have enabled me to reclaim my time and help me to support other women to do the same.
Chuck the busyness badge in the bin
We live in a culture that glorifies busyness. The busier we are somehow the more important we feel. We speak of our busyness like it’s a badge of honour. As Catherine Blyth shares in her book Enjoy Time:
“Busy is a word that acts like a shield. It tells other people to expect less of us, and it obscures our choice and responsibility for how we use our day.”
It was only when I was able to accept that my time poverty wasn’t actually a measure of my success that I could retire my badge of busyness. When I realised it was a form of powerlessness that was keeping me trapped on the hamster wheel, I could start to reclaim my time.
Drive by the vehicle of your values
Everyday we’re bombarded with infinite possibilities of how we can use our time. These competing demands can drag us in every direction and leave us with our head in a spin.
The world will drag you by the hand, yelling,
“This is important! And this is important! And this is important!
You need to worry about this!
And this! And this!”
And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back,put it on your heart and say,
“No. This is what’s important.”
The only way to ensure we’re spending our time in a meaningful way is to align the way we choose to spend our time with our values. Values are our internal compass; helping provide direction and meaning for our life and decisions.
When we know what’s truly important to us we can start to live our lives on purpose rather than reacting to the daily onslaught of demands on our time. We then get to live from integrity; making micro decisions throughout our day that align with what’s most important to us.
Manage your energy not your time
When we can make the shift to focus on our energy we can transform our experience of time. But this requires a real paradigm shift. It’s not about being productive but about being effective. Productivity will tell us to push through and sacrifice what our body really needs to be most effective. If we can make the transition to focus on giving ourselves optimum energy each day, we can actually achieve so much more. But often it feels counterintuitive to do this.
Most of us operate from a very masculine paradigm of time. Which assumes we can keep producing at the same rate. It has a very linear perspective on our energy as men’s hormones work more in this way. However as women we have a more cyclical nature, not only with our monthly cycle but our daily hormones. As a result we have to care for our bodies in a different way to maintain our optimum energy.
So when we can unhook ourselves from the productivity wheel and start to live by our natural energy needs we can unleash our true effectiveness. When we can make the shift to focus on our energy we can transform our experience of time. In my podcast interview with James Glover from the Energy Project he brilliantly explains:
“The great thing about energy, unlike time, is it can be expanded, renewed and used more efficiently.”
As we already know as working mums the demands on our time can be endless. For many working mums that I support they often sit in the eye of a perfect storm. The very things that make them successful in life mean that they also don’t get to enjoy their life as much as they want to. They’re hard working. They’re conscientious. They’re achievement orientated. They care deeply about others. They have people pleasing tendencies.
This means that we’re often dancing to the music of time but it’s not the music we want to listen to or even enjoy. As humans we’re wired to match the tempo around us. This is known as entrainment. We literally synchronise with any rhythm or beat in our environment. Whilst there are many benefits to this, it also leaves us susceptible.
We’re more vulnerable to our time being manipulated by others. Even down to the music being played whilst we shop that makes us less likely to resist the urge for an impulse buy. And we’ve not even talked about the impact of technology on our time. The incessant beeping of our smartphones hijacking our time throughout the day.
The only way to counteract these demands is by setting boundaries. Setting boundaries can feel uncomfortable. But getting clear on what your boundaries are and how to communicate them clearly and with compassion can be transformational. In doing so, rather than marching to the beat of someone else’s drum, you can start to march to your own beat.
As with anything in life, the theory is often easier than the practice. So if you’d like to learn how to put these strategies into practice. If you’d like to learn practical but profound techniques to bring these alive in your own life then come join the Wisdom For Working Mums’ community of like minded women.
About the author
Nicky Lowe, Founder of Wisdom For Working Mums, is a qualified and accredited Executive Coach who is an advocate for achievement orientated, motivated and ambitious women who also want to be amazing mums. She helps them to combine their work and motherhood without losing their sanity or wellbeing. Nicky is invited by some of the world’s most well known organisations to support their leaders. Many of these are working mums. As a busy working mum of two children herself, she knows only too well the challenges of combining motherhood with the work that fulfills her. Prior to becoming a coach Nicky had a successful corporate career in the IT industry managing global teams and has first hand experience of working in fast-paced demanding environments.