Would this simple change make your day less stressful too?

simple change

I’ve realised something about my life recently. It’s not actually as busy as I believe it is.


I’ve been reading this book “I know how she does it” by Laura Vanderkam who  researched the lives of women to understand how many successful, high achieving (and earning) mothers manage to balance family life and a successful career. The main part of this research involved them to take a record of their weeks, hour by hour.


At first I thought, whatever, I have small children and 3 jobs. I know I have no spare minutes in my day. And for the most part, this IS true.


I am busy.


But mostly my brain is just very busy. There are a lot of hours in my day that look like relaxation but they don’t feel like it.


And again, yes I could pull the ‘small children’ argument again, about how I’m never really off, so it doesn’t really count as relaxing.


But in all honesty, I enjoy hanging out with them.  Our days have found a nice little groove lately.  Sitting in the sunshine in the backyard while they play in the sandpit or jump on the trampoline or hanging out with them while they run wild at the beach IS downtime.*


I should have been feeling like I had a lot of space in my days, but actually I was feeling like I didn’t have any downtime.


I felt stressed and overworked.  But also like I didn’t actually have any time to DO the work, which felt even more stressful. Because although the boys leave me to sit peacefully and stare at the clouds when we are outside – the minute I sit at a computer or attempt to do something that looks like ‘work’ they need my immediate attention.


(*I should note that our days are not all idyllic and sometimes resemble more of a zoo than the nice little picture I painted above, but there are definitely pockets of time that are peaceful. And I choose to block the others! 😉


So I decided to experiment and do a little bit of obsessive recording of the hours in my day and see what I was actually doing with them.


After a couple of days recording, it became pretty obvious that I spend a fair chunk of time each week either being busy for busys sake – moving stuff around, thinking about what I have to do, distracting myself with social media and pretending it was work, or generally trying to multitask something which inevitably means the tasks I’m doing take twice as long as they should…


I waste downtime by not realising that it’s actually downtime. (Does this sound crazy? It probably is?)


What I mean by this is instead of leaving my phone somewhere else when I’m just hanging out in the sandpit with my kids, I have it with me.


It inevitably beeps to let me know that an email has arrived (actually that’s a lie, my alerts are off.  Instead I obsessively check it to see if something new has arrived. Yes. it’s a problem. I’m working on it.)


So where was I?


I check it, know I don’t have time (or the brain space) to respond while sitting in the sandpit, so I leave it and tell myself I will return to it later.


It all seems very innocent. I was probably on my phone for 30 seconds max. I am still in the sunshine, chatting with the boys and making sandcastles.


I’m having downtime, right? I’m just enjoying being a Mum, right? I’m just relaxing, right?


If only it were that simple.


Instead, I’m mentally writing that email while playing in the sandpit. I’m rehearsing the words I will choose when I finally get a chance to respond. It may only be minutes or it could be up to an hour I spend going over what I will write (if it’s something important or something I’m worried about).


So instead of feeling like I got an hour to sit in my backyard and chill out with my kids, it ends up feeling like I spent all of that time ‘working’.


The worst part is that my body can’t actually tell the difference between actually doing the task, or thinking about it.


So my body thinks I’ve been working all day too. So it has been stressed for that time as well, instead of just the 10 minutes it should have taken to just deal with the email and send it off.


It’s no wonder I collapse into the couch once the boys go to bed and can’t bear to even send the damn email once I get a chance!


So doing this little time audit made a couple of things really clear.
1. I spend less actual time doing the work I do from home, than I do thinking about it.


2. I need better boundaries between my work and my downtime so that the two don’t blur and I actually feel like I get a break.
So what’s step one?


I’ve deleted email off my phone.


I’d like to say I was just disciplined enough to leave my phone at home or upstairs, but I do like to read books on my phone while the boys are happily playing so deleting email off is the next best thing.


At first I was resistant.


My mind started protesting…

But what if there is something that is urgent?

But what about that time when you get stuck somewhere, like the hairdresser, and getting some emails done while you wait can be a good use of time?

But what will people think when I don’t get back to them promptly like I’ve always done?



Email is rarely urgent.

If it was urgent they’d ring.


As for that time ‘wasted’ that I could have been using productively, the pay-off of having more space (and less stress) in my days and being forced to have down time in those spaces actually means I’m more productive when I do get to work.


Email takes me 10 – 15 minutes max each day. That includes emailing back long-winded catch ups to the beautiful Mums in my community who reach out to me regularly.


Instead of feeling like I’m all over the place and that I’m constantly forgetting to do something I’ve found I’ve actually started feeling like maybe I could be working more, that maybe I can do another couple hours one other morning or night when they’re in bed.


Instead of getting to naptime and feeling like I want to collapse from the exhaustion of it all, I feel better that I’ve been more present with my boys for the morning and don’t feel guilty at all when I let Eamon have an hour on the ipad while Rory sleeps so that I can work.


And because I’m not trying to juggle a million things at once I find that I plan more intentional activities for the boys and enjoy them more, rather than feeling like I’m trying to constantly multi-task and doing a sh** job at everything.


Such a simple change, but one that has completely changed my days.

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