Do you ever feel like you’re being pulled in different directions? And need to Declutter your life?
I feel that way all the time.
As busy working moms, we always have a million things to do at work, an endless to-do list at home, and absolutely no time for ourselves. I felt like this for years and years.
As a manager with 20 staff and a mom of 2 young kids (a 5.5-year-old and almost 2 years old), it felt like I was spinning my wheels, working harder and harder, but just falling further and further behind.
I know that I’m not alone. And neither are you!
A year ago, I learned by accident that I was massively underpaid (my colleague was paid 47% more money for virtually the same job).
This news was overwhelming and devastating. Then someone suggested I read the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown. It fundamentally changed the way I looked at life and improved my work-life balance (even though the book is not about work-life balance).
As I reach the one year anniversary of discovering that I was underpaid, I’ve been reflecting on how dramatically my life has changed, and how my mindset has shifted – I am busier than ever, but feel more balanced than ever before.
Imagine if you could feel more balanced, happier, and that life was just easier than it feels right now. You can absolutely have those things by decluttering your life and making things simple!
Step 1: Decide which aspects of your life to prioritize for work-life balance.
I was listening to an interview with SSusie Orman Schnall, author of The Balance Project. She talked about how people can only prioritize 3 areas of their lives at a time. You have to pick between:
Be thoughtful, be intentional. You can change what you prioritize over time (e.g., if you have a 2-month-old baby, you will probably prioritize sleep, but as your baby sleeps through the night, sleep might slip down the priority list).
I know some of you are probably thinking, “I need to prioritize more than that.”
There’s a great visual from Essentialism by Greg McKeown. It illustrates how we have a fixed amount of energy. If we split that energy among a lot of different goals, we will only get so far on each of them. Alternatively, if you focus your energy in one direction – you can make much more progress.
This is why we need to pick 3 areas of our lives to prioritize. If you are trying to do too much, you won’t succeed at anything. I know it’s hard, but it’s worth it if you are setting yourself up for success.
Step 2: Where can you Declutter your Life for Simplified Living?
Do you ever reach the end of your day thinking that you were so busy, but didn’t really get anything done?
This is so common – when I was a manager, I felt like this almost all the time. It was as if my days were filled with solving other people’s problems, but I never had time for my own work.
I also see this happening at home – I’m so inundated with making dinner, cleaning the kitchen, tidying up the house, packing lunches, planning playdates, that I don’t get time with my kids.
Chances are you have way too much going on and could really benefit from doing a little KonMari to your career. On top of that, you really need to figure out your one thing.
Thinking about your three priority areas, can you figure out what is the one thing that you could focus on first that would make the rest of your day easier?
This can be challenging, but so helpful. The idea of the one thing is that you start your day (or that portion of your day) by prioritizing this one activity. Sometimes, it’s not what you would expect.
For me at work, I’m a consultant, an academic consultant, where my role is to help people put research in practice. That means I need to have a really deep understanding of how people, organizations, and systems change. So I figured out that my one thing for work is to read.
The Start of my Day
Every morning I start my day by reading one academic journal article. I read things way outside of my normal realm, but I am able to tie all of these pieces of research together and use them in my day-to-day work and training I deliver.
At home, I want to prioritize time with my kids, and if I’m trying to cook dinner and spend time with them, it just really stresses me out. So I’ve started doing something that seems crazy, but has really made our evenings so much smoother.
Tip: I prepare dinner before I get my kids. Then when I get my 2 boys, I need to plate and warm dinner, but I’m not cooking. I am so much more patient and calm when this happens – essentially I’m a better mom.
With my Business
Finally, my third priority right now is Balancing Bravely, a resource to support working moms to create a life that helps them thrive, not just survive. My top Balancing Bravely priority is to write content – new blog posts, guest posts… It’s so easy to get sucked into social media and Pinterest, but at the end of the day creating content is much more important long-term.
So I currently wake up at 5:30 am and draft blog posts while lying in bed beside my sleeping husband. These early morning writing sessions are not ideal, but I have 2 young kids (5.5 and almost 2) and work full-time. I can work on Balancing Bravely in the evenings, but my brain is just too tired by that time to write good content. So for now, I wake up really early.
Make sure you pick your one thing!
It’s really important to pick the one thing that is specifically designed to address your challenges and needs. A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a colleague and she loved the idea of the one thing. She tried to put it into action, but she did exactly what I was doing – reading a journal article first thing in the morning at work. So, she tried it for a week, but it wasn’t working. Unfortunately, she couldn’t see how the journal article was related to her work, and it definitely wasn’t making her day easier.
The more we talked, I could see how she was battling some big challenges – she was feeling a huge sense of imposter syndrome linked to a lack of role clarity. She had taken on a new management position, overseeing half a dozen people, there had been structural changes within the organization.
There was a pervasive lack of role clarity throughout the organization. Her direct reports didn’t totally understand their roles, she didn’t even understand her own role and responsibilities compared to the other manager.
Reevaluate your approach and try something different
After a short conversation, we talked about how she could switch her one thing to spending the first 30 minutes of her morning thinking about role clarity for herself, her team, and the whole organization. By spending her time thinking about role clarity, developing a plan, and then putting that plan into action, she will be able to make the rest of her day run more smoothly. Chances are this will last about 2 to 3 months, at which point I would hope that the role clarity situation will be resolved, and she will get a new one thing.
This is why it’s so important to figure out what your one thing is, not the one thing your colleagues, your friends, or your spouse is focusing on, but the one thing that makes your life easier. It might be something unexpected, I have a girlfriend who goes for a walk every morning by herself (before her kids get up), to collect her thoughts, and that sets her up to have a great day.
What is the one thing that could make the rest of your day easier? Think about that one thing for each life priority. Click To Tweet
Step 3: To achieve the Work-Life Balance you Want, you need to Block your Time
Knowing your one thing, the thing you need to do first in order to make the rest of the day run more smoothly is not enough. You need to actually do that one thing. This is often the hardest part. It’s so easy to get sucked into the day’s latest melodrama, the new challenge, or disaster.
I know that if I did not have a concrete plan of exactly what I’m going to write about at 5:30 in the morning, I do not get up and I do not write new blog posts. On the days that I don’t read a new journal article first thing in the morning, I never get to it later in the day.
There’s always something that comes up that seems more important.
But on those days that I read an incredible new article that impacts multiple projects and helps me have stellar conversations with new clients, I know did that time reading articles first thing in the morning is very well spent.
So I need to block that time in my calendar with labels like “writing blog posts”, “reading articles”, and “preparing dinner”.To achieve the work-life balance you want, you need to block your time. Tell your time where you want it to go, so it's not wasted time. Click To Tweet
Are you ready to make your life easier?
What would it take for you to pick three priority areas, figure out what your one thing is in each of those areas, and block time to make that happen?
Would be worth it if you could make the rest of your day read more smoothly?
Would it be worth it if you could be calmer, happier, more for fulfilled?
What’s stopping you?
Julia Egan has a Ph.D. from Penn State in human development and is the founder of Balancing Bravely, a resource for working moms striving to create a work-life balance that allows them to thrive. Grab Work-Life Balance guide to get you on the path to success to advance your career, achieve financial freedom, balance work and family, and find a little time for yourself. Get connected with Julia Linkedin, Facebook Pinterest!