As summer drew to a close and we slowly started to get ready to start the new school year, I consciously tried to maintain the calm and relaxed feeling that emerged over the summer holidays.
Sometimes the To Do lists seem never ending. There are often many lists. Some of the items stay on the lists for many months (get on top of social media, write weekly blog posts, sort photos, sort out pension and so much more). There are work lists and kids lists. There are home lists and general life admin lists. When I think back to just before last summer I remember losing things. I misplaced things on a daily basis. I was driving myself mad! I had so much going on in my head that it was like there was just no more space in my brain to process, complete tasks and just be fully productive.
I was thinking back to when the summer holidays came in early August. Even though I work for myself and it is so tempting to keep going, I knew that I had to turn my brain off for a few weeks and let it re-charge. The boss at Clearbird, kindly signed off three weeks annual leave which was a blessing. Even though I did check my emails occasionally and I didn’t manage to disconnect from Facebook, I did manage to disconnect from that world of Diaries and To Do lists where sometimes it is hard to differentiate between what is really a priority and not.
A family holiday with four children isn’t what I would call relaxing but it was definitely re-charging. Long walks on beautiful beaches, building sandcastles, hours of card games with the kids (we staycationed in Ireland that year!) and just spending time as a family and with friends was what the heart, soul and mind needed. It was a pleasure not to have to rush anywhere, be bound by timelines or make packed lunches.
So for the rest of the year, when we are back in busy mode and everything has ramped up again, I try to hang on to some of the things from holiday time to maintain that feeling of calm and keep that feeling of overwhelm at bay. Whether you are a SAHM, employed or self-employed, these strategies and tips might help you manage those days when everything just seems too much.
My current motto is ‘do less in order to do more’. I very often try to put too many things in a given amount of hours and can end up rushing from one task/activity/meeting to the other. This is definitely one of the things that I enjoyed most about the summer – not rushing and not trying to fit too much into a day. I know that we all benefit from it. I’m happier and less stressed and the kids are happier and feel less pressured. What does slowing down mean for you and what would it do for you?
Shorter Daily To Do Lists
I know that September brings longer lists with everything that needs to be done in the short, medium and long term. Trying to be realistic about what you can achieve in the day. Re-align your expectations of yourself with your reality. For the few weeks of the end of summer, when I am more of a full time mum and am spending a bit less time on my business, I limit myself to three work related things per day that I can realistically achieve around family time. I know that I feel like I am achieving more if I can tick off those three things instead of feeling like I am achieving little if I have a list of ten things and just tick off three. This list gets longer for the rest of the year but my intention is to keep the daily lists for business and life admin realistic.
Chunk It Down
When it just does seems like there is so much to do, it’s hard to know where to start. So you don’t. You push it back to another day. One of the keys to managing overwhelm is to chunk it down. Forget about the end result and all that you have to do for a moment. What is the first thing, and then the second thing and then the third thing that you need to do. Start with that, no more. The rest will follow.
Get Enough Sleep
For me this means going to bed just a little bit earlier. Going to bed on time means the morning flows better. Less rushing, more patience and a clearer head to be more focused.
However, that hour after everyone has gone to bed is so tempting to spend on mindless TV, mindless social media or catching up on a few e-mails or other things that I can do in peace. But as tempting as it is, I know that the pros for getting to bed on time normally outweigh the ‘in the moment’ joy of that quiet hour or two. Perhaps balance and earlier to bed even 2-3 nights per week is good enough for this one.
This came up recently when Orla Hyland (www.motherearth.ie) spoke at a recent Enterprising Women Network event. I know that journaling or in particular writing about gratitude is a great practice but not something that I regularly fit into my day however good my intentions are. But Orla helped me realise at a different level how lucky I am and how much I have to be grateful for. Sometimes it is good to stop and reflect on that. When the overwhelm comes back, I try to remember to be grateful for the situation I find myself in, the situation that I have created and also to know that I have the resources to work it through it.
Focus On Being Present
Easier said than done. At work, this means getting things done, working systematically through the list. If one item seems particularly challenging, daunting or overwhelming, break it down into bite size chunks so that progress is being made and keep moving forward. At home this means knowing that I am where I am with work and switching off the iPhone. This means sitting on the floor and playing, listening to whatever is going on with the kids and trying not to be distracted with cooking, tidying, emails and whatever else distracts me. This is probably the point that is one of the hardest for me.
Make Time For You
In September, honestly there isn’t much time for me. As we all settle in to a new routine, kids with new activities, new teachers, re-setting Clearbird for the year ahead. Every year, this all takes more effort and time than I remember from the year before. But once the dust has settled, it’s time to focus on what I need to do to for me. Prioritising ourselves comes up again and again with clients, friends families. Another easier said than done.
Say no more. At night when I am settling to sleep and my mind is racing. In the mornings when I am getting impatient with the kids to get dressed and ready and out the door. Throughout the day and at the end of the day when things get just that little bit too crazy, I try remember to breathe. And I might just get around to consistently using Headspace and practicing mindfulness more frequently.
Take Out Your Colouring Book!
Before the summer I had picked up on the new trend of colouring. As the end of year busyness kicked in, my colouring book (Art Therapy for Busy People) was left to the side. But now my very own colouring pencils are re-sharpened, my colouring book is back in my handbag. When I need to calm myself down or find a moment that I am not rushing, that creative, slower, mindful, simple activity of just colouring is a great technique to bring calm back into the day.
Taking the time to stop, reflect re-focus and re-energise helps you to set yourself up to succeed.
Helping you to find your mojo
P.S. If this blog resonates with you or think it would resonate for someone you know, please like, share, tweet or forward on whatever media you like. E-mail is still good! I’d love to hear from you.