When you are a parent trying to work and keep everyone happy, the juggle struggle is real. While searching for solutions for a better life, I discovered that “balance isn’t something you find, it’s something you create, by crafting your life with purpose“. These words from life coaches, Kate and Debra from Flourishing Mothers inspired me to design my own happier and more balanced life.
1. Decide what ‘balance’ means to you
The first step is to get clear on what you need and want in your life. This is where your values come in and consideration of where you are at in your life right now. Flourishing Mothers suggest that we “make sure we’re giving our energies to the things that are most important to us. Because, when we live our lives in balance with what’s most important, our life makes sense to us, feels ‘right’. We feel satisfied, energised and motivated. And when we don’t, we feel sluggish, irritable or unhappy,” says Kate and Debra.
2. Write your Essentials, Important & Dream Lists
• What are the essential, non-negotiable tasks in your life? These could be the things that you do for your children that you cannot share and the work hours you have committed to and cannot change.
• What are the next most important tasks or events in your week? You might include exercise, housework, meal- logistics, connecting with others and self-care.
• Lastly, write down everything else you would like to add to your life but is not essential. This is your ‘dream list’.
3. Introducing ‘Block Scheduling’ for your weekdays
Block scheduling or ‘time-blocking’ is a game changer for working parents. Put simply, it is a way that you decide when you wear your ‘parent-hat’ and when you wear your ‘working-hat’ each day.The beauty of this daily plan is that it ensures you get your tasks ticked off each day but allows you to roll with the punches of parenting as well. It will take some time to get used to and become disciplined to stop what you are doing and move from block to block, but it is worth persisting with.
Tips for creating your own Block Schedule:
• Grab a piece of paper and divide up each weekday into blocks. It is best that all blocks are 2-3 hours long.• Label the blocks whatever you like, but keep them simple such as: Morning, First Work, Lunch, Second Work, Afternoon, Dinner & Bedtime and Evening Block.
• Take your Essentials, Important and Dream Lists and start slotting them into your Block Schedule. Start with your essential commitments, then your important tasks and then see what time you have left over.
4. Divide and conquer
If you have a partner or someone you can share the load with, now is the time to get them involved. Set up some time to talk. “Communicate your needs with your partner and work out how you can divide essential tasks, suggests psychologist and busy mum of two, Brigid Foster. Divide up the kid-transporting and meal-logistics with your partner. “Organise pickup and drop-off of kids and share childcare with your partner and friends. Utilise your supports and help them out in return,“ says Brigid.
5. Make planning a priority
Add ‘planning time’ to your essential tasks list. Business & Marketing Coach, Claire Riley suggests that you gift yourself time & space to focus and ‘set up’ every day. Taking some dedicated time each morning to enjoy some ritual grounding activities always equals a more productive, effective day and more connected to how you show up as a parent. Make it a habit each morning to transfer tasks from your to-do list into the block of time they are best tackled in. If you have a partner you are sharing the load with, try and schedule in a planning chat at least once a week so your social, home and kids’ schedules are sorted out for the week.
6. Get focused
“You’re not doing anyone any favours by trying to do it all at once. Pick one thing at a time to focus on. There will be time for the other things later,” says Claire. The key to making this system work is to focus on what ‘block’ you are in and sticking to your task list. Set a timer for when your planned block is ending and focus until your timer goes off. Stop what you are doing and move onto the next block. What you don’t get done, you can move into your next work block. When the timer goes off, you won’t always slide from one task to another seamlessly, but you will get better over time.
7. Be kind to yourself
Make self-care a daily consideration. “Pay attention to self-care – you can’t pour from an empty cup,” says psychologist, Brigid Foster. “Practice mindfulness and be present in your downtime.” It is also important that you know your limits. Not everyone goes at the same pace. If you are awake in the night with a baby or have an illness, then factor in the time you need to rest and don’t expect to tick off as many items on your to-do list. “Be honest with yourself about what you can achieve,“ says Brigid. This is when delegation and outsourcing can help.
Following these tips will not result in a perfectly balanced life, but have a go at blocking your time and sharing the load. You may soon see that over time, a more balanced life is simpler after all.