Okay maybe that’s dramatic. I don’t think our situation is unique, so to speak. Of course it’s unique because no one else has our personality mix or exact household dynamics. But I know we aren’t the only busy household in the world – heck we aren’t even close to being the busiest. And all that aside, our schedules just got incredibly busy.
Mike’s work-load increased significantly as his department is implementing a new learning management system at our university; he is also teaching a new class online. The semester also just started for me. I’m taking 3 classes (1 online and 2 over weekends), plus interning part-time for an advocacy organization. I think we both got used to me being unemployed and now that I have far less free time, it has been a shock to our household!
Even just the first week of this new arrangement was a little bit of a disaster. I don’t mean we’re fighting or anything terrible. Although there have been a few hilarious meltdowns – picture me wandering around and then crumpling to the couch as if I don’t even have the energy to hold myself up. I just mean our place was a little dirtier than normal. Lunches were no longer pre-packed. Dinners were no longer made on time (if at all?) and other chores just flat out didn’t get done. We both came home several nights totally exhausted and stressed about to-do lists that included far more items than we wished!
I know the normal suggestions to reduce stress: practice yoga, eat better, make time for sleep, make time for yourself. I thought I’d reach out to the world (or rather, my Facebook friends) to get their suggestions. Most suggestions included some aspect of the following: get organized with a calendar and alerts on your phone, lots of wine, say no and don’t over commit, make time for yourself, and know your priorities. There were varying degrees of sleep suggestions – some say plenty of sleep, others say reduce the sleep and be more productive. One suggestion I really liked was not to avoid items on the to-do list but to do them in order instead of putting less ‘fun’ items aside. My friend Danielle only schedules meetings during 10 AM – 2 PM which always leaves the mornings and afternoons for blocks of focused work.
A few of the things I do or am trying:
- I’m a big list person and color-coded kinda person. I have no problems being organized. I have a detailed calendar with task reminders and daily goals.
- We are trying to eat better! Even if we tend toward what’s convenient as the day goes on – starting the morning with a nice green monster smoothie (spinach, proteins & fruits) helps start the day on the right foot.
- New for me is to reduce my multi-tasking – focus on the task at hand, and get it done.
- Canceled cable – I love (addiction level) television and movies. This goes hand in hand with my multi-tasking. Hopefully by eliminating the temptation of cable, I won’t pretend I can watch and read at the same time. It also saves money – hooray! However…I just got hooked on The West Wing via Netflix, so that’s not helping.
- I now get my clothes and everything ready the night before. My bag is packed and lunch is made the night before so that my morning routine can be easy and quick.
- I got the most amazing coffee maker for Christmas (thanks in-laws!) and the feature I’ve never had before….automatic start! Have you ever seen me before coffee? It’s not pretty. It might be hilarious, but it’s not pretty. So my coffee starts brewing when my alarm goes off – I can have a cup while I get ready, and a travel mug for the commute.
- I’m saying no. Sometimes it is not what I want to do – sometimes I really want to attend XYZ event or hang out with my friends. But I’m trying to be realistic about my time and energy levels. Within another couple weeks, I should have a handle on my time commitments and begin to say ‘yes’ a little bit more.
What tricks do you use to keep a handle on household chores and other responsibilities? Do you have practical tips for balancing your time?