|Alan Cleaver, Flickr
Quote of the day: "My goal is to build a life I don't need a vacation from."
(Rob Hill Sr.)
Response: "Wait 'til you have kids!" (unknown)
Fact: Life is busy for most of us, and particularly for working parents. How do we reclaim our time?
What we do with our free time is telling. Vacation is a perfect illustration of the multitude of choices we face when we aren't working. Interestingly (and sadly) enough, we sometimes choose to not take any vacation, or we use most of that time to... work: house chores and projects, entertaining/taxiing kids, etc. The same logic applies to evenings and weekends.
Those activities might be - at least partly - enjoyable, they still qualify as work. When I became a mom, for example, I soon realized going to the beach would never be relaxing again: little ones require constant supervision near water (even in the presence of qualified lifeguards).
When we keep working "after hours", we might feel productive, efficient, organized, and devoted. But we can also end up feeling deprived of life enjoyment and even meaning. No matter how busy, we all deserve to take care of ourselves. We shouldn't worry this will take time away from serious and necessary tasks: when we start with fulfilling our needs, we become more efficient at everything else. And no, all those things we do aren't absolutely necessary. It is possible to cut back. Not only is it possible, it is crucial. Otherwise, we pay the price, in the form of exhaustion, stress, crankiness, unhealthy habits, and the general feeling that our lives are slipping through our fingers.
First things first. Let's set priorities. There are only 24 hours in a day, and last time I did the math, it's impossible to do everything that needs to be done and everything one wants to do in a day. It just doesn't add up. So I decided to start with the basics.
1. Make sure you sleep enough. If you start your day insufficiently rested, nothing can be expected to flow nicely. To sleep enough, you might have to go to bed earlier. If a full night of sleep is unrealistic (eg. you have a newborn), make sure you nap later in the day (during baby's nap). If this is still difficult, a nap on the weekend might be better than no nap at all.
2. Exercise. Exercise is necessary for your physical and mental well-being. Since few of us are in the mood later in the day, might as well get it out of the way as soon as we leave our bed. Go for a run, a walk, a swim, or simply do some strength training and cardio at home (there are plenty resources online for that, no equipment necessary).
3. Stretch and/or do a short meditation. Nothing better than starting your day calm, centered and grounded.
4. Shower (and other personal hygiene). Keep this short and sweet. Endless grooming is a waste of time. Nobody notices the difference. Your hair is fine. Leave the bathroom. (But not before applying sunscreen.)
5. Have a healthy breakfast. This is the first meal you're fueling your body and brain with. Choose wisely. Also: start hydrating right away. Have a glass of water before anything else.
6. Before parting for the day, hug your loved ones. Give them a kiss. That includes your pet, if you have any: an easy way to lower your blood pressure is to cuddle your furry friend!
7. Work. We think of paid work first, but other responsibilities fall within that category. Anything productive counts as work: developing skills, networking. raising kids, doing chores, maintaining the property, running errands, honoring appointments, making phone calls, paying bills.
8. Take a break. There should be a moment, during your day, when you leave work aside altogether. Eating lunch at your desk just won't cut it. Ideally, find people to chat, go outside, take a walk.
9. Back to work.
10. Have a sit-down supper with your partner or family. Some nights, this is not possible, but try and make it happen as often as possible. The benefits of eating together are innumerable and have been confirmed by studies. This is especially important if you have teenagers.
11. There might be a little more work to do after supper (such as doing the dishes or driving a kid to an activity), but try and keep it minimal. And ensure that some nights are free of any obligations. By now your body and mind are ready to slow down. Honor that. You deserve it. And no, children don't need an extracurricular activity every single day of the week.
12. Have a tender moment with your loved ones. You might not see each other all that much during the day. Make this count.
13. Do something you like. Yes, something YOU like. Something pleasant. It can be creative, but it doesn't have to be productive. The day was long, and you worked hard. You deserve to have fun. At this point, it is totally acceptable to watch TV if that's what you like, but if you find yourself unable to do anything else but slump on the couch and pour yourself a glass of wine, night after night, you might have neglected one or many of the previous pieces of advice. Revisit your approach tomorrow.
The reason we skip those basics is precisely because we think we don't have time for them. But the truth is, when we are properly rested, exercised, well-fed and hydrated, etc., our levels of energy and concentration are so much higher that we achieve way more in less time. We also engage in less self-destructive behaviors.
One note on multitasking: it is seldom recommended, but sometimes useful. Personally, I like to use my exercise time a a socializing time as well (by running with a friend) or as a learning opportunity (by watching at TED talk as I lift weights, for example).
WEEK 31 IN REVIEW
I asked the kids to sort through their clothes and hand me anything they don't think they'll ever wear. We got rid of (donated) a few pieces.
I almost bought a hammock, but D gently reminded me it's not a need. Guess it will have to wait.
Your turn to share about your struggles and victories of the week! What did you resist? Did you donate or get rid of anything? Did you face any challenge? Please comment below! And...
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