How do I prioritize when there are so many demands on my time?
Question of the Day:
“I’m on summer break along with my kids. I’ve got a 7 week break from my job but I’m overwhelmed by all the competing priorities on my time. I want to use this time to relax with my kids by the pool, declutter and have a garage sale, teach my kids how to cook, get more exercise, see my friends and family, plant a garden, take my kids to Six Flags, and get a hold of my finances, organize my files… see what I mean? The list just keeps going on and on. I don’t want August to come along and find I haven’t accomplished any of it. These 7 weeks could easily be filled with the daily tasks of motherhood. How do I prioritize my to-do list when they all seem equally important?”
Parent Educator Answer:
When you work on the school calendar, it is very easy to put pressure on the condensed summer vacation to accomplish things you are unable to get to during the year. But thinking about all the things you want to do creates an attention bottleneck. Too many ideas swimming around our brains makes us move slower and accomplish less. Call it analysis-paralysis or overthinking, but it is a Supermom kryptonite for sure.
No one else can tell you what your priorities should be, only you know what’s right for you, but I can give you some guidelines and questions that can help you prioritize.
Too much to do and not enough time to do it? Focus on the D’s:
- Declutter – Is there anything on this list that you KNOW will get done? Perhaps relaxing at the pool is automatically built into your summer schedule so you don’t have to THINK about doing it, you’ll just do it because it’s in your routine. I don’t have to THINK about doing the dishes because the daily mess will remind me to get it done. If you enjoy gardening, perhaps you can trust yourself to do it and clear out some mental space. Holding tasks in your head unnecessarily takes up valuable mental real estate that will drain your energy. Declutter your brain by putting some tasks on autopilot.
- Discipline – Is there one thing that impacts everything else? A good night’s sleep makes everything else easier. Exercise gives you physical energy, mental clarity, and sometimes a social outlet. Perhaps getting a hold of finances will make you relax and enjoy your summer more? Use your discipline on the one thing that has the greatest impact on everything else.
- Delight – What will you regret NOT doing once school starts again? If August comes and you have a clean house and organized finances, but you never had the chance to connect with your kids or relax by the pool, you may live to regret it. Think about the ages your kids are this summer. When your kids are out of the house, what will you wish you had done with them at the ages they are today? Prioritize the activities that delight you rather than the “shoulds” and your kids will get the best version of mom.
- Decide – Is there a decision that needs to be made? Closing a loop by making a decision will give you a big boost of energy. Put a date on the calendar for your garage sale. Book a weekend trip with girlfriends. Sign up for a 5k. Hire a money coach. Also, ask yourself “What am I avoiding?” and make a decision to move that needle forward. Making decisions and committing to forward action will clear out the mental clutter and help you feel accomplished.
- Delete – Is there anything on this list you can choose NOT to do? Maybe the reason you are avoiding it is because you don’t WANT to do it and deleting it is the right thing. Kids love Six Flags but you don’t? Drop them off and enjoy a day to yourself. Is Swim Team more hassle than it’s worth? Quit. Closets can stay messy another year. Kids can teach themselves to cook on youtube. Deleting things frees up energy in a flash.
- Delegate – Is there anything on your list you can delegate to someone else? Maybe have Sunbasket or Purple Carrot meal delivery kits teach your kids how to cook. Send the kids to the pool with your neighbor while you clean closets. Let Dad spend the day at Six Flags while you work on finances. Invite your green thumbed friend to socialize and plant a garden with you. You do not need to do it all, Supermom!
- Delay – What on your list can you delay until next summer or wait until the kids are older? Intentionally deciding to delay an important task can free up some mental and emotional energy. Delay the tasks that don’t bring you delight. Delay starting a garden until spring. Delay teaching your kids to cook until they seem interested in learning. We end up delaying things unintentionally, might as well delay them on purpose so you get the benefit of feeling in control of your life.
- Do – Sometimes, the fastest way to feel better is just to DO THE DAMN THING. Spinning around inside, feeling too overwhelmed to take action, can make you feel terrible. Go for a run. Roll out your yoga mat. Put your hands in the dirt. Taking productive action fuels us and motivates us to take more productive action.
Life Coaching Answer: What gets in our way?
Worrying – Analyzing – Overthinking – Discussing – Researching
All of these things fall into a category called “Intellectual Action.” It FEELS like we are doing something because our brains are so busy. It feels like we don’t have TIME for actual, real-life action. When we are spinning around in intellectual action we have no CLARITY. How can we move forward when there isn’t a clear step to take?
We research, we discuss, we weigh pros and cons, we try to please everyone involved (and even those not involved) but all this intellectual action does is keeps us stuck and stagnant.
What we want is BIG, BOLD ACTION. This will give us energy and momentum. Big, bold action makes us feel confident and in control.
We think we shouldn’t take action UNTIL we feel confident but it’s these big steps that actually provide confidence! We want the PERFECT path to illuminate itself to us so we can be guaranteed we won’t make a mistake.
We avoid big, bold action because we feel vulnerable and scared. So we wait for confidence to come along but it never does. Instead we feel tired and drained from NOT taking action. We feel embarrassed by our lack of productivity instead of PROUD of all we’ve accomplished.
If you are having a hard time prioritizing and feeling stagnant, you have 2 choices.
- Worry, discuss, and analyze which will keep you feeling tired, confused, and nervous.
- Feel the fear and take action anyway. Make decisions, take bold action to move the needle forward WHILE ALSO FEELING FEAR. This will keep you proud and energized.
Supermom Kryptonite – People Pleasing
When you are a card-carrying people pleaser like myself, it can really get in the way from knowing how to prioritize.
There are many people out there who have no problem prioritizing because they know who they are and what they want. They don’t dwell on how others might feel about it. This makes it so much easier to prioritize.
If your mom thinks your kids should be able to cook for themselves, and your husband can’t stand clutter, and all the neighbor kids are swimming in the community pool, it can be really hard to know what the right thing to do is FOR YOU.
But it is really, really, really important for you to know what you want, and give yourself permission to prioritize it.
No one else is going to take care of you. It’s your job to keep YOU in the driver’s seat of your life. Your higher self knows what you need to be at your best so make sure you are asking yourself on a regular basis.
What do I really, really want?
What would make this my best summer ever?
When I look back at this time of my life, what will I be most proud of?
Keep YOUR desires, your spirit front and center, and you will know how to prioritize.
Supermom PowerBoost – Let your future self be your guide
Think about your future self. Doesn’t matter if it’s 5 years in the future or 25 years, but really spend some time thinking about the person you want to be. What will you regret NOT having done during this stage of life? What accomplishment will you be most proud of? What forward momentum could you put into place now, that you will reap the rewards of later? What obstacle will you be so happy in the future that you overcame?
When I look back on my life 10 years ago, the things I am most grateful and proud of are hiring a life coach and using my tools to overcome anxiety, going all-in on my coaching business, investing in real estate, and being involved in as many areas of my kids’ lives as they would have me.
We tend to be proudest of the things that are the most difficult to do. Go make your future self proud!
Quote of the Day:
“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe