Never give up on a dream because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway. ~Earl Nightingale
True story. We are all given the same 24 hours in a day. We all have commitments and responsibilities and family that take up much of our time. I know this first hand! I am a mom of 3–5-years old, 3-years old, and 5 months old–I am a full time high school teacher, and I am an online healthy lifestyle coach. I am also a wife and a daughter and a sister and a friend and a neighbor, much like all of you. I’ve written before about the fact that we each wear different hats. We each play various roles. We each juggle so much in a 24-hour period. On top of that, life has seasons. Sometimes one commitment out weighs all the others or one project requires more of you than it did a week ago. This doesn’t mean we don’t have balance.
I believe balance is achievable when we are aware of the constraints on our time, make our priorities clear, and go easy on ourselves. You can be balanced and spend less time with your kids today than you did yesterday because work required more of your time. You can be balanced and still have a load of laundry that you didn’t get to today. Balance is a state of mind, not a completed to-do list.
Here are my top 7 tips for feeling balanced, a feeling that I believe it relies on finding a hidden hour in your day.
- Prioritize your to-do list. This takes for granted that you actually have a to-do list. If you don’t, make that step 1a. I follow Chalene Johnson’s advice and spend a few minutes each morning and again each night having a brain dump: I make a to-do list for all of the elements of my life: family, school, coaching, household. I list everything, from buying birthday presents to following up with a prospect to grading a set of quizzes to filling out a permission slip for my daughter’s class trip. Everything I can think of! I then go into each category and star my top one or two to-dos and make these must dos. I strive each day to achieve these musts. If and when time allows, I’ll do more. If it doesn’t, I still feel a sense of peace–a sense of balance–because I met my priorities. We moms feel like we can do everything, but we can’t! These lists help us see that, and also lead to my second tip.
- Delegate responsibility. You are not Superwoman. And, here’s a little secret: you don’t have to be! Speak up and delegate. My mom always said men are not mind readers. Neither are kids. Don’t expect people in your life to help or to do what you believe they should do. Speak up and tell them. My kids help me meal prep and cook. I’ll tell my husband to pack school lunches while I clean up from dinner. No household chore should belong to just Mom anymore. On the flip side, I also help with the chores more often completed by the man of the house: yard work and taking out the trash and such. I am healthy and capable and know that if I have two minutes to bring the recycling to the curb, I’ve also given my husband two minutes to add to his found hour. Life is cyclical; you give what you get. And you will be surprised at just how much your kids enjoy doing chores when they seem fun. My kids would run around the house for an hour with a sweater sock on their hand dusting just because they think it is silly. I also allow them to help me cut up fruit–bananas and berries–for lunches and smoothies and to portion all of our veggie and fruit snacks for the week. These responsibilities give me some extra minutes and also make my kids more likely to get in the habits of cleaning and eating well.
- Wake up early! This is an unpopular one and the tip that receives the most push back. Talk to most of the women in my coaching network, though, and you will find the shared value in this. I love having a little quiet to myself in the morning. I feel most well and calm and patient and, believe it or not, awake! when I wake up early, workout, and shower before my kids and husband stir from bed. There is something about the solace in a dark-living room workout and the the sense of accomplishment that just make my day better. I love running my fitness challenge groups because so many of the challengers also enjoy early-morning workouts. Many of us are moms or teachers and hold one another accountable to this morning ritual. Yesterday, I overslept my alarm and felt more sluggish and tired as the day wore on. I don’t workout early every day, though. Some mornings, like this one, I wake up early to make dinner to do laundry and just be me, in my own head and at my own pace. Because I had our meatloaf muffins baked this morning, I was able to do my PiYo after school and still have dinner ready as soon as I picked up my kids. We even made it to the park for a dinner picnic and got water ice at Rita’s because I found the hidden hour this morning to make dinner. Time with my kids trumps the extra half hour of sleep, at least to me.
- Meal plan and prep. I have written extensively about these, and will continue to do so! I don’t know where this practice had been all my adult life. Yes, Saturday evening I spend about a half hour meticulously planning our dinner menu and sketching out lunches, but I do so on the couch next to my husband while he reads James Patterson. And on Sundays, I spend hours in the kitchen baking protein bars and prepping overnight oats and making various dinners, but my kids are involved and my husband preps his own lunches and I save so much time during the weeknights that I don’t regret it one bit! Check out some of my other blog posts or join one of my monthly 5-day clean eating and meal prep groups to see how this practice can transform your life!
- Create a cleaning and laundry schedule. Will someone hold me to this? Yes, I do general straightening of the house every day multiple times a day (I repeat, I have 3 kids 5 and under. And two dogs!), but I do not clean from top to bottom every day. I would never speak to my husband or read a story to my kids if I did! Instead, I’ve created a cleaning schedule with particular deep cleaning or laundry that is done on a particular day of the week. I should publish this somewhere, though, for a little more accountability. Of all my tips, I find this one the most difficult to stick to. Maybe now that I have shared it with all of you I will make it happen!
- The up&down rule. This is good for anyone in a multi-story home. If I have to go upstairs for any reason, I bring something with me that must go upstairs: my daughter’s hairbrush that is some how on the kitchen table, my son’s blanket for bedtime, the clean laundry. I also make it my mission to bring something down when I return, like the bathroom garbage that can get tossed or a basket of dirty clothes. My multitasking my household travels, I eliminate time wasted later on. No, my house is not spotless and tidy. Far from it. But I am working on this and tip #5 as ways of getting closer to that.
- Break your rigid rules once in a while! Go easy on yourself. Sleep in when your body needs to. Skip today’s scheduled load of laundry because your kids ask to go for an extra walk around the neighborhood. Read the extra story at bedtime knowing lunches have been prepped since Sunday anyway. Live a little and embrace that flexibility. Those stolen moments are the ones we really want to find, anyway! You do this, and you will have balance–even if your house is a little untidy and the laundry basket is a little fuller than you originally intended.
I’d love to share more! Leave your email below and subscribe to stay up to date on my tips and recipes. And if a fitness challenge group or clean eating group sounds like something you may be interested in, let me know as well. No obligations! 🙂