According to the results of my personality test a few years ago, I have the personality of a CEO or a field marshall. I could be running a major company, but instead I’m running a major household consisting of a husband with two full-time jobs and four children. This year I started subscribing to Michael Hyatt’s blog and have really enjoyed the variety of topics he addresses. Recently he had a blog about what to do when you feel overwhelmed. I feel this way as a full-time mom and found his words of wisdom helpful. I’ve adapted his list to make it more “mom-friendly.”
1. Decide to make a change. Some of us are overwhelmed almost every day, but we don’t know what to do to change or maybe aren’t convinced that we need to change. Sometimes we think this is just how it is or that it’s just a season we are in. All we have to do is hang on until it’s over. Personally I’m tempted to believe that once all the kids are in school every day, my life will truly begin and I’m just holding on until that day. Sometimes we tell ourselves it’s just our personality to be disorganized and frazzled, and we can’t do anything to make sense of the chaos. I’ve found though that the first step to solving any problem is to recognize that it is a problem and admit that you are overwhelmed. You can change it until you see it.
2. Identify your three highest payoffs. The questions Michael Hyatt asked were “What are the things that only I can do? Where do I add the most value?” First of all, no one else can be my husband’s wife and no one else can be my kids’ mom. I add value to my husband and to my children when I take these roles seriously. I know women who would honestly say that spending time gazing into their baby’s eyes or playing on the floor with their pre-schooler was one of their biggest payoff activities. I do those things, but they are not a big payoff for me. I love being a wife and a mom, but there are other things I also love doing.
Outside my vocation as a wife and a mother, my biggest payoff activities that I have been uniquely created to do are leading, teaching/speaking and writing about the Bible for women. These are the things I love to do and that I’m gifted at doing. When I take on activities outside of the home, they have to fit into one of those three categories. This year I am leading a new ministry for our women’s ministry department at church. I had the unique experiences and qualifications to do carry out the task because it was a ministry I started in my community a few years ago. Teaching and speaking is on the back burner this year in that I am not teaching a weekly Bible study at church. However I am open to other teaching opportunities as they present themselves. I decided not to teach on a weekly basis so that I could focus more on writing. This year I am planning a few “writing days” into each week and looking for publishers. I’m not in a season where I can do all of my big payoffs at the same time as the same level. But I do try to keep pieces of those things in my schedule. Sometimes I feel guilty for having a meeting at night or hiring a babysitter to watch the kids so I can write. However I have learned that when I come home from a meeting or out of my room on my “writing day,” I have more energy and smile a little bigger. It’s easier for me to devote my full attention to my kids and be fully present with them. Figure out what your biggest payoff activities are, make the time to do them and stop feeling guilty when you get to.
3. Identify my biggest productivity sinkholes. These can be things that need to get done, but just sap your energy for doing your payoffs. For me as a mom, it’s the laundry and the dishes. Those things are never done, no matter how much I do in a day. As soon as I turn on the dishwasher, dirty dishes appear in the sink. If I spend my whole day doing those things over and over, it’s mind-numbing. So I’ve limited these sinkholes, and it’s working well. I only do two loads of laundry each day during the week. Saturday is my catch up day, and Sunday I rest from laundry all together. Once my two loads are done for the day, I give myself permission not to do any more. It’s allowed me to put an end to how much time the laundry sucks out of my day. I also typically only run the dishwasher once a day. Television is also a productivity sinkhole for me. I will ditch something I know I should be doing for a movie I’ve been wanting to see. This morning it was really hard to turn off the Today show and come write a blog. But I traded a sinkhole for a high-payoff activity and will feel better all day. What are your productivity sinkholes?
4. Review the productivity basics. Michael Hyatt referred to the book The 4-Hour Work Week (Ha! He should try being a mom!) by Tim Ferriss and the basics of elimination, automation, and delegation. Elimination: What are you doing that is no longer worth doing? As my family has grown I had to let go of some of the things that I used to do. I am no longer on the Homeowner’s Association Board. Even though it was a leadership area, it was not something only I could do. I don’t knit baby blankets anymore. I used to do this while I watched TV, but my TV-watching became less of a priority as I made my writing more of a priority. Now I give myself permission to buy baby gifts instead of making them.
Automation has been the most effective in the area of our finances. I am the money nerd in our family, and now that we have a steady paycheck, I have put a lot of the bills on automatic draft. This is very helpful and means I don’t have to “pay bills” every day. I typically sit down and do it once every two weeks. The other part of automation is routine. We have a consistent routine for the kids in the morning and after school. They know what is expected of them and what they need to do. Occasionally they do it without a reminder. But even if I have to remind them, it’s a not a battle because it’s an automatic that you finish your chores before you have a friend over. If you are new to making routines, I strongly recommend that you write them down (or draw pictures for the pre-schoolers). That way everyone is on the same page.
The last aspect is delegation. I think this is something modern moms often overlook. You might be thinking you don’t have anyone to delegate things to, but you do. I have four kids that I delegate work to. They make their own beds, pick up their own rooms and on Saturdays they are the ones cleaning the toilets (even my two-year-old likes to help). Honestly the list of household chores I ask my kids to do is longer than I can list here. Kids can work too, and it’s good for them! It builds self-esteem when they are a contributing member of the family. Carpool can be another great way to delegate! It’s also a great way to build community and have touchpoints that build friendships with other women.
I have three other sections from Michael’s blog to talk about. But we will save that for another post…In the meantime, which one of the four sections hits closest to home for you? What are your biggest payoff activities?