“And that, sweetheart, is what’s called a ‘life skill’” was my comment to my six-year-old when she finally cracked the enigma that is shoe-lace tying. This comment was met with curiosity as she then wanted to know how many life skills there were and when she will have learnt them all by!
I didn’t like to tell her the reality that at the age of 38 (and to her this age is positively ancient) I was still learning life skills …. a constant process that has ever moving goal posts! I have a list as long as my arm of things I am still trying to get my head around…how to make the perfect macaron, what all the warning lights on my dishwasher actually mean and sending a birthday card on time. However, I think I can safely say I am now officially giving up on being able to do a cartwheel…that ‘life skill’ can just ‘do one’!
One of the things I am asked about most often as a Life Coach is “Can you teach me how to manage my time better?” … and the short answer is Yes…but it is a competency that requires a huge amount of discipline, reflection and realism.
I have been on the receiving end recently of realizing that I haven’t been managing my time very well when I literally fell into half term and crumpled into a very tired heap. I had been working too hard, not prioritized enough and therefore my energy levels were bottomed out with no reserves left for the smalls once they were home and ready for holiday action. Luckily a week spent in sunny Wales full of beach walks, early nights, no cooking (beans on toast anyone?) and jigsaw puzzles saw the energy levels return but my body gave me a wake-up call; you are NOT super human and you NEED to readjust your expectations.
Time is our most precious resource – it is a finite thing; get a grip on your time and you will find you manage tasks, people and situations much better and you will achieve more. Get it wrong and you can end up in a soggy, frustrated heap. To prevent further time-poor, frenzied days, here are my five pointers on how to get your ducks in a row:
- Write a list and prioritise
If you read my last blog, you will know how much I love a list! They are essential to help you remember what you’ve got to do and help you decide how much time you need to accomplish each task. On your list, prioritise tasks in terms of how necessary they are. Rank them from 1-3, with 1 being essential, 2 being important and 3 being nice to do but can wait. Then you can crack on with a clear direction.
- Manage Distractions
It is so easy to set out on doing something and then other things crop up such as the phone ringing or someone coming to the door or being sent a really interesting blog to read (!!) Staying focused is essential if you want to get the job done, so set yourself times during the day when you check your emails/social media so you don’t get side-tracked. Also, you need to be disciplined when you are fulfilling your different roles…especially if you work for yourself…if its “work” time…behave as you would if you were in a formal work place… limit the cups of tea and under no circumstances can you start watching Judge Rinder before your task list is complete!!
- Liberate yourself and learn to say “no”
It is so hard as we all want to feel like we are kind, helpful and supportive people…but sometimes you have to be selfish and put yourself and your limits first. I have found in these cases honesty is the best policy; simply telling the person you would love to help but just can’t this week/month but to ask you again is better then agreeing to help and then feeling totally resentful as it is stressing you out!
- Avoid Multi-tasking
Multi-tasking is a serious skill and we all know that us women are programmed to be good at it. However, doing too much of it can be a bad thing, to the extent that it could take 20-40% longer to complete your tasks as you are unfocussed and will at some point ‘drop the ball’. Be disciplined and get one thing done at a time before you move onto the next.
- Eat the frog
This highly technical term is one I use with my Life Coaching clients a lot…it explains the mentality of doing the task you least like first thing in the morning and then you can get on with your day feeling very smug!