Do you ever find yourself going into robot mode? Wake up, shower, get dressed, get the baby dressed, head downstairs for breakfast, pour the cereal, turn on a show, clean the meal, then start your day?
Let me just cut to the chase right away. The secret of balance is choosing to do simple and easy things consistently and saying yes to the things that bring you closer to your best self instead of giving in to things that entertain, but do not serve you.
Let’s break that down through looking at real life. How about my real life?
Here are 2 realistic schedules I’ve followed. One chooses easy and the other chooses hard.
Let’s start with choosing hard:
Wake up when my son wakes up, grab my phone, scroll through my notifications and newsfeed, finally drag myself out of bed after my son’s antics get to be too much, find clothes on the floor, tie my hair back in a pony tail, go downstairs, make breakfast, remember I have somewhere to be in an hour, turn on cartoons for my son, run upstairs, get ready, drag my son the the appointment, decide to run errands while I’m out, come home, look around, decide to either work from home or do a DIY project based on how I feel at the moment. Start on it, get interrupted a million times by my son, get annoyed because I just want time to get things done, finally take breaks for snacks, lunch (usually something boxed, canned or sugary), then back to the grind until I reach a stopping point or until my husband gets home. By this time, I realized I forgot an appointment, the house is chaos, I’m feeling like a robot/slave and the moment my husband gets home I’m annoyed, angry and expecting him to take over. And when he doesn’t, I throw my hands up and get back to work feeling like I have no help in the world. Throw dinner together and put our son down for bed all by myself, glaring at my husband from afar. I then sit on the couch and scroll through my phone until I fall asleep on there, wake up around 1am and move upstairs to bed.
Now, let’s look at choosing easy:
Wake up about 10-30 min before my son wakes up. Leave my phone charging and pick up a book and read. Feeling grounded, I head to the bathroom, jump in the shower and get dressed as my son wakes up. I get him dressed and we head downstairs for breakfast. I step into my home office and look at my whiteboard for the daily plan. I see if I have work or home deadlines and know what to expect for the day. After breakfast, I start the laundry and dishwasher and head outside for a morning walk with my son and meditate about the future. I then get back ready to either work on the house or work from home (I switch off based on deadlines). When my son interrupts, I take welcomed breaks to help him get engaged in an activity or make a snack or meal for the both of us. Because I’m not panicked for time, fresh foods and healthy options actually stand out. Then go back to finish up my project or work day about an hour or 2 before my husband gets home. I use this time to straighten up the house and freshen up. I turn on some music and get my son engaged to pick up his toys on his own. When my husband gets home, feeling accomplished, I welcome him, ask about his day and give him time to unwind and play with our son. We make dinner together and finish up the night watching Netflicks and going over the plan for the next day and tag team the toddler bedtime routine. Then, we both go to bed before 10pm, read and relax before falling asleep.
So what happened in these 2 highly realistic daily schedules? The difference lies in these 5 habits.
1.) Create a schedule
Something as simple as taking 20 min on Sunday or Monday morning and mapping out all the events, appointments, activities, play dates, grocery runs, mommy/son outings, work days vs house days, etc for the week make a huge difference in how in control I feel about my life. I use a white board in my office and each week I put all the top priorities into the schedule. Don’t get too ambitious here, just put in your top deadlines and must-haves (over-scheduling can lead to feeling overwhelmed and lead to failure–so just put in the basics).
2.) Make a checklist
Next to my weekly calendar on my whiteboard, I write out a list of tasks I want to get done for that week for myself and for my husband (I let him do his own list). This way, we both know what to expect out of each other. Plus, there’s some science behind this too–if you don’t write down a priority, chances are, it won’t happen.
If there is a book I want to read and a house project that needs to get done, I will listen to the book on Audible while painting or whatever it is that I’m doing. If I need to work that day, before I sit down at my desk I’ll make sure the dishwasher, washer and dryer are all going and my son is set with either a puzzle, paint set or movie. When I look at my task list, if there is anything that can double up, I make it happen. If I’m driving and running errands, I find this the perfect time to make phone calls. My son is strapped into his seat and I have the freedom to call who I need to. Plus, I have some anxiety with the phone, so distracting myself with driving actually makes it easier for me to make my calls. “Hey I’m on the road but wanted to touch base really quick about our meeting last week, do you have a minute to chat?”– is so much easier than staring at the phone in my hand in my office–plus it’s multi-tasking!
This could be anything that works for you, but for me, reading calms my mind, keeps me grounded and helps me feel like I’m progressing towards my goals. I try to read 10-30 min every morning and night. I choose personal development books or anything non-fiction. Reading uplifting and progression based material helps put my mindset in the right place to get things done. I notice a huge difference the days I skip this vs. when I take the time. Not a fan of reading? Well, I’d suggest become one (so many success & monetary benefits). Or do anything first thing in the morning that helps get you grounded and in the zone for success.
What are your self-care must-haves? The secret combination that works for me and many others I have coached is: mediation, avoiding negativity, working out, eating healthy & showering/baths. These activities should go in your schedule and weekly checklist until they become a firm habit. When I stop doing any one of these activities, I feel myself getting impatient, emotional, cranky, slumpy and depressed. Feeling those emotions should be a huge flashing red light that you are not doing enough self care.
How to apply these habits:
Is it hard to do these 5 habits? Actually, no, it isn’t. That is the thing with balance and success. It is easy to do but even easier not to do. And skipping one or 2 or 4 of these things won’t kill the balance in your life. But consistently not doing them will. The difference lies in your daily choices and the daily habits you create.
It is just as easy to pick up your cell phone first thing in the morning and scroll your newsfeed for 10 min as it is to not pick up your phone and instead pick up a book. (Believe me, I have this mental debate every morning! But resisting my phone for 10 min and picking up a book is truly NOT difficult–they even weigh about the same).
And choosing to take 20 min a week and map out your schedule, again, is not difficult. It’s easy to do and so easy not to do. The secret of balance is choosing to do simple and easy things consistently and saying yes to the things that bring you closer to your best self instead of giving in to things that entertain, but do not serve you.
Finally, let’s be really real here. Is is hard to load a dishwasher before doing something else? No, it really isn’t. (I know sometimes it seems like a big deal, but dishes are just dishes). Is it hard to choose a healthy snack over candy? No, it really isn’t. It takes the exact same amount of effort to reach for either one. Is it the end of the world to wake up 10 minutes before your kids do? Nope, you’ll be just as tired or awake either way. And if any of these things do appear to be overwhelming, habit #5 needs to be your top priority and become your best friend. The crazy emotions pop up when self care habits are out of whack. (In fact, I have a whole other blog post in the works specifically about self care. So stay tuned for that soon.)
So, long story short, choose simple, choose easy, and say yes. Say yes to reading first. Say yes to making a schedule and checklist. Say yes to making self care a top priority and say yes to adding simple ways to multi-task. Choose simple and easy consistently and over time you will notice a major shift in your life for the better.
Need more convincing? Don’t take my word for it. Check out the book, “The Slight Edge” by Jeff Olsen.