Time management tips for those feeling overwhelmed with life
Happy February! This month I’m having a bit of a ME month. Where I’m taking things a little easier in life and putting me, my sanity and self-care above all else. Where I’ll be working ON my business and life rather than just being IN it. And where I’m deliberately going to ensure that I have a much calmer pace for the month ahead.
The only reason I’m able to make this happen, is because of 1) Clever time management and 2) Giving myself permission to do what I really want and need to do 🙂
Many of my clients who’ve I’ve mentioned it to have said that they’d love to do this sort of thing but had absolutely no idea how on earth they’d make it happen when they are already so busy and feeling overwhelmed in life. And interestingly the guilt they’d feel as a result of putting themselves first / making changes that would mean putting some things to the side and letting other people down.
So I’ve put together this blog to share all the things I’m doing and how I’m actually making it happen – both with empowering self-permission AND prioritised time-blocking!
Last year I felt that my life snowballed a bit. I had a massive burn out (physically and mentally), then I had a big health warning that gave me a massive kick up the backside to look at my boundaries and choices as I was doing way too much (more on that on another blog!). And after a very big emotional challenge last autumn, I ended the year feeling pretty flat and exhausted BUT… determined to change things!
The day to day juggling of work, kids, emotions, finances, home and generally doing too much, meant a) I was nearly always IN my business and life rather than being ON it feeling like I was never coming up for air b) everyone and everything were taking my energy, focus and attention and I was being reactive to these c) time just kept whizzing by and I constantly felt that I wasn’t completely in control of my own life and time… and feeling constantly overwhelmed as a result.
As a mindset coach of course I carry myself through most chaos and plot twists with a smile on my face and as much positivity as possible. But I felt the chaos and overwhelm building. And I saw a quote that inspired me to take command… “You’re the boss of your own life”. No one else can change things that aren’t working or are making you feel overwhelmed…. So I knew I needed to switch things up, I knew I needed to get some support and I knew that I needed to take it seriously.
So I’ve grasped my time, boundaries and choices like never before and you can too!
So here’s what I’m up to in February along with a LOAD of time management, productivity and mindset switches that you can take away with you right now, so you can implement them straight away 🙂
You can transfer all these tips to whatever sort of focus you want for yourself , your idea of a ME month might be totally different to mine or like I did in January maybe you want to have a work-focused month. Whatever you need or need to change, you CAN make it happen!
1. Firstly… Time blocking
OMG this has been my biggest game changer of recent years! I learnt it from my business coach Lisa Johnson last November and it has helped me be SO much more productive with my work, I mean off the scale more productive. Which has given me extra space and time for me, home, rest and relaxation around that as a result.
Essentially you look at what the most important things that you need to do that week / month that takes you towards a very clear goal and you time block it. In fact you time block everything just about!
You put the most important blocks or the ones where you need to be switched on in your prime energy peaks, e.g. I am very switched on in the morning so my focus work typically goes in there. You ONLY do things that take you towards your objective (this takes practice and discipline!). And you STOP doing things that don’t take you towards your goal or aren’t necessary that week / month etc.
You stick to your time blocks and MOST importantly allocate more breaks in in your day – where you can allocate time for distraction / social media / your go to thing when you don’t feel like doing what you’re supposed to!
I’ve adapted what I was taught by my coach and added little Janey-isms to it and it has helped so many of my clients (especially my small business coaching and my stressed Mum clients) absolutely nail productivity, time management AND most importantly it’s lowered their stress levels and given them more time for them as a result!
Scroll down to the bottom to see some examples of my daily time-blocking 🙂
2. I’ve decided to take my foot of the gas a little and give myself some well deserved space from work and life
Just making the decision to take your foot off the gas can be enough to make your shoulders drop and you to feel more relaxed! I’m someone that can often be like the horse bolting out the stable door full of energy and enthusiasm to get things done! But by allocating more planning and reflection time than ever before, I’m approaching my work and life as a busy Mum in a much calmer way.
As an example, at the start of January I spent 2 days mapping out January (work and home) and at the start of each week now I spend at least two hours planning my week in a bit more detail. February is the month where I want to give myself as much space as possible to help me work out what to do for the rest of the year – both at work and with my kids / home / fun. If you’re thinking you don’t have time for things like this, then you need to take some space more than anyone!
This space can be so hard to find unless you deliberately create it. But I honestly think it is the most valuable way to spend your time. When you have those long to do lists and have so many things going on, it’s so easy isn’t it to tell yourself that you don’t have the time to take that time. Trust me, you have it, you need it, you just need to prioritise it and make it happen.
3. So it really is all about prioritizing your priorities!
Ask yourself what are the things you want to prioritise this month? No, you can’t prioritise everything! Just trying will make you go mad Instead, think of a big focus and then maybe a few small things around that. It doesn’t have to be all consuming either. By using the time-blocking techniques I mentioned above and illustrate below, I’m able to create slots for my health, my most important work, space to do some reading and training and lots of guilt free ME slots, wahaaay!
Although I’m having a ME-focused month I am still working a fair bit, but my priority is ME and being ON my life. And my work slots are more about being ON my business rather than in it, but of course I’m still IN my business too.
For me I have about 8 categories that I need to allocate time for this month. And using my time blocking methods AND being really clear on what my priorities are, I have allocated the following as my main slots in the week – which only take place between 9.15am and 3.45pm each day – the time I have once I’ve done school drop off and do the pick up.
1. Fitness – 5 big sessions a week Monday to Friday this month! February is a big fitness month for me as January was a very business focused one where I just ticked over fitness wise.
2. BEST / client management – My most important work that needs to be done as this is my core work that needs my energy and focus (where I look after and help my current clients on my programs or in my coaching practice). This is me being IN my business. Some of these are put in my peak energy slots where I need to mega switched on and others are later on in the day when I have less brain power, but can interact in my groups etc.
3. A ME day each week – Where I spend most of the day doing something that makes me smile / feel good / feel relaxed etc.). I also have a ME time slot in the evenings once my youngest is in bed and where my older two have a tech / TV slot. Then we have a slot together where connect / chat / watch TV etc. I also have a couple of 30-45 minute ME blocks for a couple of days of the week too.
4. Business Training / Reviewing – The being ON my business is something I haven’t allocated enough time for in the past but I have some training to catch up on and about 6 books I want to read. These are put in a peak energy slot as they need my upmost focus and brain power!
5. Business reading / planning – Again another being ON your business slot that means I’m taking the time to reflect and think about what I want, rather than bolting out that stable door into action which is what most people (yep including me!) tend to do in business because we always have so much to do. These I can do in the afternoons where my energy is lower. But they have to be blocked in.
6. Lymphatic drainage body brushing twice a day -This is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself and what I was advised to do it twice a day last spring to help clear out toxins and help your lymph system. I do one before the school run at 8am in the morning and one just before the school pick up or in an afternoon break around 315pm – it is SO energising and so good for female hormonal / cancer-prevention help. I find if I don’t time block it in, it just doesn’t get done. CLICK HERE to watch a video by someone called Rosa from Medical Thermal imaging demonstrate the 5 minute routine.
7. Social media – It’s hard to take a month off social media when you run a business as you’ll be punished by Facebook and Instagram and lose momentum with followers! But by planning it a month in advance and putting in time slots a few times a week, it’s completely manageable to keep up with social media whilst having a ME month. I also have 10/15 minute slots booked in my day around my other time-blocking so I can enjoy social media without it taking over my life. Proper planning has helped me use MUCH less time on my phone and it means I don’t wake up stressing about it either. I love being on social media to catch up with friends, clients and family, but I find if I don’t time block it, I can loose 45 minutes without the blink of an eye!
8. Home / daughter – This is for making changes in my home / having additional training for me to help my daughter who has some sensory processing stuff going on. I can’t do these things when my kids are around after school and at the weekend as I’m by myself, so these still need to be time blocked as they are important. I don’t need loads of time but again if I don’t block it in, it can be easy for other things to take over this. I used to find that I’d get stressed by having to do non-work things in my working day, but I block these out in the afternoon mainly after really productive work slots so I find I embrace these rather than fight them.
9. Finances / money management – If you’ve done my money manager program, you’ll know that weekly money management slot is essential, I can’t take a month off from this, goes against the grain! It’s something that is always slotted into my week otherwise I lose control of my finances and spending 🙂
10.. Sea swimming twice a week – I know I’m probably nuts starting this up in winter but these are going to be health ‘dunking’ sessions rather than proper swimming sessions that are likely to take place straight after my fitness sessions where I can jump in a warm bath when I get home! I love swimming in the sea and it’s a good place to focus on your breath and life for a few minutes and escape from the chaos! I had my first swim yesterday and I was really resistant to doing it (I was dreading the cold!), but as I’d time blocked 30 minutes for it, it really did make me accountable!
Here I am afterwards with a hot water bottle taking in the glorious afternoon sun, best time block of the day!
Outside of these time blocks are my home blocks, where I allocate time for dinner chores / fun and relaxation etc. Plus I have a new rule of no laptop before 9.15am and after 3.45pm and my phone goes on airplane mode for a few hours in the evening too. I don’t check emails from 3pm on Friday to 915am on Monday. And over the weekend I have social media / fun / job / doing nothing slots which have really positively impacted my weekends too!
It might seem a big task to time-block everything and work out what to prioritise but I promise you it’s worth the effort, especially when you reap the rewards of extra time, less overwhelm and feeling more calm with lowered stress levels. And it’s really not about whizzing through the day getting everything done in a super hero style mode, it’s actually about TAKING THINGS OUT…
4. You can’t do everything!
If you’re new to time blocking and even putting yourself first (!)… one of the biggest mindset switches is that you simply can’t do everything. So if you want to have a ME month, or indeed a focus on something else like work or home for example, some things have simply got to give. This can be learning to say NO more (to things AND other people!), telling yourself that whilst you might want to do it and you think it needs to be done, it CAN wait!
When you make your priorities list, you need to then mentally park all the other things to one side so you can get stuck in and be productive. If it helps, write a list of the things that you might want to make a priority next month. For example, next month for me is a bigger work month where I am having shorter ME time slots but still the exercise slots, remember this is just a month. Just 28 days. We live life thinking everything is life and death and that we HAVE to do things. NO WE DON’T! And I think having a slightly different focus or set of priorities for each month can make a really big difference 🙂
For me personally I’m choosing now to have big months of work focus followed by recovery / reconnect months where I have more space and time for me. I’m also booking off a week after Easter where my kids are in school and I’m not working – the biggest self-indulgence EVER! I did this before Christmas and it was the best week of my year, so much so I’ve time blocked one in April and July.
I’m just giving examples of how I’m using these strategies, you can adjust them to make them work for you. I’ve helped my clients do different things based on their needs / wishes / circumstances, but you can see how the principles work I hope.
I also had a really good look at what I was trying to fit into my working life – I’m a food, fitness and mindset coach. But when I really looked at my overwhelm and why I wasn’t getting things done, it’s because I was categorically trying to fit WAY TOO MUCH into my working life. So this year I’ve decided to focus 90% of my work on mindset and just park the food and fitness side of things for a little while. It’s not forever, but a quote that really inspired me to make the changes I needed with this was this
5. Be the boundaries boss (or boundaries bitch as one of my clients likes to call herself now!)
This is about giving yourself permission to be brutal with your time, choices and boundaries! This means NOT answering calls when you’re in a time block (I even unplug my office phone in work slots now!), learning to push through the things you might not want to do when in a time block (especially if you know it’s the only time block you’ve allocated for it that week!) and to keep asking yourself whether what you are doing is taking you towards or away from what you’ve set out to achieve that day / week / month etc.
It’s about NOT getting involved with things that take your energy and focus away. Or allocating a small amount of time to deal with these things around the most important things where you want to be allocating the most time for.
If you see an email come in from someone for example and it stirs up an emotion or you think you must reply now, DON’T be reactive and respond straight away. Don’t waste your time blocks like this! That’s why I have mini email slots throughout the day and only time block with details a couple of days at a time. I also have a few blank time block slots (usually one a day) which means you can slot in the things that come up from time to time in them. Do NOT waste your important time blocks where you’re doing important things be ruined and wasted by being pulled into the crap things going on!
I also teach my clients something I call the “Mcdonalds analogy” … When you’re working in McDonalds, you’re working in McDonalds. You’re flipping hamburgers or salting fries, or serving at the counter. You don’t take calls, you don’t get caught up on whatsapp messages, you aren’t scrolling on social media, you friends can’t contact you, you can’t look the weather up, or the news headlines. But most ‘working’ people now are SO unproductive and SO distracted.
When you’re in a time slot working, BE in that time slot working, honestly it really is a game changer, ESPECIALLY if you work from home or for yourself but also in an office environment too. When I share this with my BEST program on a Q and A one woman implemented time blocking and taught the McDonalds analogy to her team. They loved it and guess what? Focus and productivity shot up!
6. Guilt free ME time and guilt free changes
You really do need to give yourself permission to take control like this and allow yourself to do the things that are really important to you. I’m not someone that struggles with putting themselves first (albeit it I can fall to the bottom of the list from time to time!), but I honestly find that time blocking makes it easier to make time for you and means you can do this with no guilt at all… especially if you can see that you’re being productive in other things you need to be doing. As I shared above, the space you create for that ME time is so underrated but it really does positively impact those around you and the things that matter so much to you. I know for a fact that when I have more space and time for ME, my children benefit and my clients and business benefit.
So if you’re someone that really struggles to put yourself first or feels guilty doing things for you, perhaps the reframe for you is the ME time is for THEM!
Another guilt-free tip is by doing the MOST important things, the things that have the biggest impact and doing these things REALLY well (because they’re in peak time blocks and being so much more productive as a result)… you’ve EARNED that time by being clever, so use it on you!
Productivity breeds happiness and….
7. Practice not perfection!
When I first started time blocking I found I was getting it all wrong! Underestimating time I needed for things, still fitting too much into my day, having too long slots, slots that weren’t long enough. Just getting in a pickle and I nearly gave up. But I kept practicing and it is best to see this as ‘work in progress’. Because the more you practice, the more you make progress, the easier it becomes, the more it becomes the norm. I’m nearly 3 months in and I still find I need to make adjustments.
What I do is have a clear goal or focus for the month (you can do for both business and personal). I then look at all the things I can do to reach that goal, then I get a list together and then work out the time it will take roughly and where it needs to go in a rough week by week plan. So I do this once a month. Then I have my weekly list, which I then break down into time blocks. And I then map out my week going into more detail every couple of days.
Remember in life, whatever you aren’t changing.. you are choosing. Don’t settle for overwhelm and lack of time!
Some examples of my time blocking!
Example 1 – this is one from this week (remember I am in a ME focused month where fitness comes first!)
NB I don’t have an au pair at the moment when I do I get an extra slot 7-830am for exercise or for work (yaaay).
- 630am to 830am – Kids / home slot, body brushing at 8am, no technology / laptop (this is a full on time and I realised that blocking out all tech was a game changer, I don’t even check my phone / social media now here)
- 830-915am – School run & 10 mins of social media for last 10 mins as I get back about 9.05am
- 915am to 1045am – FITNESS SLOT – Gym workout, shower and home (if any time left in this slot use for emails / social media). I also do business training audios / videos whilst power walking on the treadmill a few times a week which I time block in.
- 1045am to 1130am – WORK SLOT 1 (for important / focused work) NB I work best in 45 mins blocks & 15 mins breaks
- 1130am to 1145am – Work social media / emails
- 1145am to 12 – BREAK (either rest, empty the dishwasher / fold washing / make personal calls / personal social media)
- 12-1pm – WORK SLOT 2 (for important / focused work)
- 1-15pm Lunch – I have Mindful Chef left overs 3 days a week usually and then I have very easy 5 minute lunches I do on the other days.
- 115pm-130pm –Work social media / emails
- 130-230pm – WORK SLOT 3 (for important / but less focused work)
- 230-245pm – Work social media / emails or BREAK (either rest, empty the dishwasher / fold washing / make personal calls / personal social media)
- 245pm – 330pm – EMPTY SLOT (can be turned into a ME slot, a sea swim slot, a spare work slot if I’ve run out of time on something)
- 330-345pm (Body brushing – listen to music whilst doing as an unwind)
- 345pm-415pm school pick up
- 415-615pm – kids / home slot, dinner / chores / hang out with kids and phone is away
- 615-7pm Bath / bed routine with my daughter
- 7-715pm – Quick tidy up house slot
- 715-745pm – a ME slot (Sometimes have some social media time other time is reading / chilling / watching TV)
- 745-815/830 – pm 30 mins of quality time with my twin sons
- 815/830pm – another ME slot or bed!
NB in summer, this will change as we tend to be outside / at the beach until 8/830pm ish.
This is what is great about time blocking, each season you’ll adjust things depending on what you want to do!
Example 2 (on a day I need more work slots in the morning) – I tend to do these more at the start of the week too
- 630am to 830am – Kids & home slot, body brushing, no technology
- 830-915am – School run & 10 mins of social media for last 10 mins
- 915-1015am – WORK SLOT 1 (big focused work) NB Sometimes I do need an hour’s solid block for tasks)
- 1015-1030am – Work social media / emails
- 1030am to 1130am WORK SLOT 2 (big focused work)
- 1130am to 1145am – BREAK (either rest, empty the dishwasher / fold washing / make personal calls / personal social media)
- 1145am to 1230pm – WORK SLOT 3 (big focused work)
- 1230-1245pm – LUNCH
- 1245pm to 1pm – Work social media / emails
- 1pm to 2pm – WORK SLOT 4 (for less focused work)
- 210pm – 325pm FITNESS slot (sometimes catch up on work social media and emails
- 330pm -345pm Body brushing
- And then the evening routine as above
Another example of having a more ME focused / easier day
- 630am to 830am – Kids & home slot, body brushing, no technology
- 830-915am – School run & 10 mins of social media for last 10 mins
- 915am to 1015am – WORK SLOT 1
- 1015am to 1030am – Work social media / emails
- 1030am to 1130am – WORK SLOT 2
- 1130am to 1pm – FITNESS slot
- 1pm to 130pm – lunch
- 130pm to 2pm – Emails and work social media
- 2pm to 330pm – HOME slot
- 330pm Body brushing
- rest of evening routine as above.
Can this really give you enough time to get things done?
Oh yes. And some! I can do 3 times as much in my 45-60 minute morning focused work slots by taking little breaks and having no distractions than I can in 3 hours in the afternoon being interrupted / not at an energy peak.
I’ve stripped out the non-essential work (that you can often get dragged into when you aren’t in command of your time) and I’ve allocated distraction slots (things like emails, work social media, personal to do, house stuff as I work from home most the time). All these combined make such a difference. And I’m only doing things in my work that take me towards my specific goals, rather than just having to do lists and doing what I’ve always done.
Even if you don’t work for yourself and you’re in a team, you could work out your peak energy slots, book out focused work slots, have meetings later in the day that don’t require such brain work etc etc.
If you’re a Mum, you can use these time blocks to do certain things in certain blocks, even breaking down different things into different says which is exactly what our Grandmas used to do! And sticking to a timeframe really helps my overwhelmed mum clients too, when your time slot is done, that’s it. You can match tech time slots with kids to time you want to do things uninterrupted. AND most importantly, make sure you have something FUN planned for YOU each day amongst the chaos!
Hope this helps and you become MORE productive and create MORE time for you as a result of reading this:)