For most of my adult working life, especially since becoming a parent, I have had to struggle with finding that proverbial work/life balance. Hundreds of articles and books have been written about the subject, and for me, I never found any magic formula; I just took each day as it came and tried my best. I think most of us probably operate that way with greater or lesser degrees of success on any given day. Certainly, there is an amount of prioritizing that has to be considered; for example, laundry could be put off if everyone still had clothes to wear the next day, but when I worked, there were customers of mine that couldn’t wait for a response from me, so answering emails and phone calls would often take precedence over housework or even playing with my kids.
Part of our sales training years ago when I worked for Houghton Mifflin involved a session on time management, and I remember my dear friend Melissa Zantello, one of our trainers, explaining Steven Covey’s grid that divided tasks into quadrants – Important, Not Important, Urgent, Not Urgent. Most of us spend the majority of our time in the Not Important quadrants. His system was simple and useful, but the big takeaway for me was this line of Covey’s, “Always remember that whenever you say ‘yes’ to something, you are saying ‘no’ to something else.” If you are with a customer, you are not at your child’s school play or soccer game. If you are cooking dinner, you are not getting that spreadsheet finished. If you are at the movies, you aren’t painting your deck. If you are with customer A, you aren’t with customer B. Any decision that we make on what we do with our time involves NOT doing something else during that time. So, the key is to choose wisely or you find yourself doing a lot of things that aren’t bringing you the results that you want, either in your work life or home life.
So now that I am retired and work isn’t a part of my daily life, I have realized that I am still in need of a balancing act. What I mean is that now that I can devote my time to almost whatever I want, I am finding that I have so many interests, I have to figure out a way to prioritize them and impose some kind of time management system upon myself. I never saw that coming! I want to write but how much time should I devote to it and when? When do I exercise? Declutter all that crap in the basement? Work with that non-profit? Try out a new recipe or craft? Visit with friends? Take an online course? Reconnect with someone I haven’t seen in years? Weed the garden and plant perennials? Help my husband or son or daughter with a project?
I love the flexibility and spontaneity of my new freedom, but I need to find a way to follow another Covey maxim: The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities. The challenge for me now is to figure out how I can better prioritize my time so that I get what I want accomplished while at the same time maintaining the flexibility and spontaneity that I now cherish. I don’t want to end up scheduling my time to the point where I feel like I am juggling too many balls again, but I also don’t want to end up juggling too few. So, until I figure this out, I will continue to make it up as I go along. Any comments or ideas are most welcome.
Thanks and Happy Mother’s Day to all the queens of time management out there, my fellow Moms!