Time and Mamahood are not friends. It’s like the Gods gave us 10,000 more responsibilities but forgot to give us more time. You are a responsibility juggling Mama with a to do list the length of 10 buses and the same amount of time as an average 19 year old that is child free and living at home! Oh to have some of the time you had when you were 19 back again now…
Since my son was born in November 2016 I have been experimenting with different productivity methods. I’ve been exploring how to find myself, and how to feel contented and fulfilled in my new life as Mama. One thing is clear to me — living a contented and satisfying life takes design. If you are looking at someone else’s life and thinking how wonderful it looks, then I bet you don’t realise how much design went into that life. It didn’t just happen and it’s probably still a work in progress.
My life is far from my dream life and far from running as smoothly as I would want, and yet it sure looks good to others! I often get asked questions like:
How do you do it?
How do you fit it all in?
How do you wake up so early?
The answer lies in knowing what is important to me, time blocking my life and knowing my why. You can follow these steps to create more order in your own life so you can have that wonderful feeling of, ‘I got this’.
1. Know what’s critical enough to fit into your day
The first step towards designing the life you want is to know what is important. Seriously. So many people haven’t thought about what they actually want. If you don’t know what you want then you can’t work towards anything and you’ll pretty much keep doing the same old thing and getting that same old feeling of dissatisfaction. So, ask yourself these questions.
What things do you have to do in life?
We all have non-negotiable things that just need to be done. You probably have to work to create some kind of income for your family to live on. Feeding your family, tackling never ending piles of laundry, doing school runs and attending activities you’ve signed up for - they’re examples of non-negotiable things that you just have to do.
What things do you want to do in life?
If you listen to your heart, what do you feel you really want and need in life? These might be things like time with yourself, your partner, and your children. It might be more money, more success, more fitness…
As much as I adore my family, I have discovered that I need alone time in my life. I need this time to develop myself, feed by soul and work on things for me. My quiet alone time first thing in the morning, before everyone wakes up, sets me up for the day and makes me a significantly better person. I want more money so I wake up early to focus on things that will result in more income. Teaching my son in fun and interactive ways is important to me so many an evening project involves working on how I can bring things like numbers and the alphabet to life.
What do you want in life? Allow yourself to become aware of your needs and desires.
What things ought to fit in your life?
Are there things you ought to be doing? Maybe that’s giving your children more one to one time. Maybe it’s building in things like tidying up into your routines so you feel more at peace with your surroundings.
For me, my ought to do’s are working out, eating well and generally trying to stay on top of the order I create around me.
Things we ought to be doing tend to slip by the wayside because we can get away with not doing them. Plus if they’re not being done you won’t realise what a positive difference they could make to your life.
So maybe it’s time to experiment with some ‘ought to do’s’ to see if they could make a difference in your life.
2. Use the magic of time blocking for productivity
One of the biggest challenges of motherhood is the constant interruptions. You are probably always doing at least 10 jobs at the same time. You’re prepping dinner, putting a load of washing on and getting a drink for your kiddo. Your laptop is on the side and you’re halfway through a food shop. You’ve caught site of an important work email that has just popped up on your phone as you play chase round the kitchen for the 59th time. You haven’t had time to properly clear up the mess from the last meal and you’ve got a bill you must pay tonight. Oh, there’s also the gym class you promised your friend you’d do together so you must be on time with bath and bedtime tonight. Your-mind-does-not-switch-off-ever. I can completely relate!
Spending all day everyday like that does not feel good. That is so far from ‘I got this’ and too close to losing it. How do you go from that to ‘I got this’? Hey Mama, the answer you are looking for is time blocking….
Time blocking is the art of allocating specific times for specific types of activities.
Time blocking stops us from thinking we are some kind of failing robot that can live life like the scenario I just described. You are human. You have feelings. You deserve to give yourself the time to figure out a better way of doing things.
Time blocking takes away the need to make constant decisions about what you are going to do with the time just ahead of you, thus removing significant stress.
Time blocking helps you increase your productivity because you allow yourself to focus on one thing. By focusing you’ll get more done. And then you’ll feel more satisfied. It’s like a magical circle of positivity!
Time blocking allows you to design your life around what’s important to you and the needs of your family.
So far, different ages have thrown different challenges at me. I can see that this pattern will continue. I no longer have to deal with teething (last molar just peeping through - yay) but I’m knee deep in toddler tantrums and will one day be handling school runs and homework! My point is that whatever stage of Mamahood you are in, whatever challenges you face, you can design your life around your responsibilities and challenges so you can find more fulfilment.
I’ve shared my current daily and weekly routines below and I strongly recommend that you design yours. I have designed my daily and weekly routines around the realities of life and what is important to me. I accept that these daily and weekly routines evolve with the needs of my family. For example, I’m not sure how much longer Marley will have an afternoon nap for. Right now he most definitely needs them, but I am worried about what life will look like when I lose this 1.5 hour afternoon slot!
When my alarm goes off at 4.30 I know I’m waking up to work on me and my personal projects. When Marley is at nursery or my mother-in-law’s I know it’s 100% work time. Time blocking means I don’t have to face the task of figuring out what I ought to be doing all-the-time.
The, ‘What shall I do?’ in the moment decision when you’re faced with a very attractive few precious hours to yourself can be incredibly overwhelming. So much so that when we get those very few hours that we dream of, it can cause panic or falling into the trap of justifying something that is totally not worthwhile, like ‘I’ll just finish that programme I was watching’. Because you deserve that right?!
To avoid making myself feel overwhelmed and panicky I depend on my carefully designed and constantly reviewed weekly and daily routines.
Monday - Nursery half day - main focus is work
Tuesday - Nursery full day - main focus is work
Wednesday - Nannie day - main focus is work
Thursday - Mummy day - main focus is Marley
Friday - Nursery half day - main focus is work
Saturday - Daddy day - main focus is family and home
Sunday - Daddy day - main focus is family and home
Here’s what my daily routine looks like
4.30-6.30 am - Me routine - working on my soul, mind, writing and future income
6.30 - 8.30 - Morning routine - switch to motherhood - getting dressed battles, packing lunches, doing breakfasts, tidying up, all whilst entertaining a toddler
8.30 to 12.30/4pm - nursery and Nannie day routine - Marley goes to a wonderful nursery 2 mornings and 1 full day a week. When I pick little man from a half day at nursery he’s had lunch and is ready for his nap. There are many variables but I can usually work from 1 to 3.30. He also has a ball at my mother-in-law’s 1 full day a week. His ‘Nannie day’ is probably his most favourite day of the week! Nursery and Nannie days are when I focus 100% on my work work. For me that involves being part of the leadership team that is growing thebestofzambia.com
3.30 to 6.00pm - Afternoon routine - Post nap time involves playing and dog walks interspersed with household chores like and tidying. Sometimes we go easy on the household chores and take a trip to the library or have a cuppa tea with Marley’s great grandparents (Liam’s grandparents are a short dog walk away and my grandmother is a short drive away).
6.00 to 7pm - Bath and bed routine - Warm milk, vitamins, bath time fun, reading stories and sometimes waiting up an extra 10 minutes for Daddy to get home.
7 to 8pm - Relationship routine - I try to have cooked by the time Liam gets home so we can eat and catch up. Sometimes we’ll be 100% focused on each other, sometimes we have a job to do together, and sometimes neither one of us is very chatty so we’re happy to let each other do whatever we need to do. Liam tends to enter his world of Youtube, music, eBay or Rightmove and I tend to enter my world of Instagram, reading or learning. At least we’re in the same room together!
8-9.30pm - I work out 4 days a week. I don’t have specific days for my workouts because I’m lead by how my body feels and how the day has gone. I find that with this body aware approach, I can fit in 4 workouts a week, usually every other day. If I’m not working out or if there’s time after a workout I’ll push on with a project I’m working on. My current project is sorting out and printing albums of 2 years worth of photos. Some evenings I have to ‘catch up’ with some work or I’ll relax by reading or listening to a podcast (my favourites are Do It Scared and Mind Love).
9.30-10pm Bedtime! I am quite strict about this because if I’m too late I struggle to wake up early. I aim to start getting ready for bed at 9.30. This allows for bedtime routines and conversations without eating into my precious sleep hours. I also try and squeeze in one early night a week, especially if I am feeling tetchy, overtired or a little unwell. Even an extra half hour of sleep before midnight makes a huge difference to how I feel.
I follow this routine Monday to Friday. Weekend day times look very different but I still generally follow my early morning ‘me routine’ and 6pm onwards evening routines. The weekends have a little more flexibility thrown in, to allow more relaxation, fun and time together.
Our weekends focus on us as a family and our home. We spend time together, go for longer walks and just have lots of fun together. We tend to do this around the jobs related to running and doing up our home. We get Marley involved as much as possible. He plays nearby, watches us and copies us.
3. Find a good enough reason to stay motivated
One of the questions I get asked most often is, “ How do you get up so early?” The practical answer is I go to bed early and don’t watch much TV. The deep answer is I am very clear about why I am getting up early.
I know I need 6.5-7.5 hours sleep to be an effective and positive human being. Therefore, I’m strict about when I go to bed and I can’t stay up to watch the latest TV drama. In fact, I deliberately avoid getting sucked into them because they take up time that I do not have. If TV is problem for you, keep a TV diary then decide if you want to swap out some of that TV time for productive time.
Whenever you are doing anything hard, anything out of the ordinary or anything that most people won’t do, you need to be clear about what is driving you, otherwise known as your why.
Why are you putting yourself through this? Why are you going to ignore the desire to stay snuggled in bed and wake up early? Why are you going ignore the desire to veg out on the sofa and go for that run? Why are you going to snack on fruit instead of your favourite bag of crisps?
If you’re going to do hard things and form new life habits then you need to know why. What are you yearning for that will make you put the work in? What can you use to push you through the hard work that comes before the reward? What do you so desire that you are willing to sacrifice short term loss for long term gain?
My why is people. My why is my son, my husband, myself. I have other people and reasons that drive me but my son, my husband and myself are my biggest drivers, my biggest why’s.
A lot of my life goals with Marley are tied to improving my personal financial success, and I have a strong desire to ease the financial burden on my husbands shoulders. I wrote about this in my recent post, “29 reasons why money is marvelous and why you should do your personal ‘marvelous money’ exercise”.
When early mornings get tough I think of my son and how I’ll be able to add to his life experiences by increasing what I earn. I think of my husband and how he is significantly less stressed when I can contribute more. I think of myself and how I love to treat myself and others.
I wake up early because it is the only time available to me to grow this blog into something I can monetise. I wake up early because my soul yearns for quiet me time and early mornings are the only time I can get that. I wake up early because I am willing to sacrifice short term cozy duvet time for long term success and the achievement of my goals. I wake up early because it allows me to work on myself, my mind and my soul first. This starts my day right and I can go fourth positively into my day.
Living the life of your dreams starts with you.
So remember the three ways to design your life so you can kick ass and feel fulfilled:
Know what’s critical enough to fit into your day
Use the magic of time blocking for productivity
Find a good enough reason to stay motivated
Living the life of your dreams requires you to know what is important and what you must fit in your day. Knowing this enables you you to design your life around what is most important. Knowing why you are making changes and why you are choosing the road less traveled will help to keep you focused on what you need to do. Like a light to a moth, being clear on your why will keep pulling you back and keep you walking that thin line towards the life you want for you and yours.