Well, it’s almost
February JUNE 😮. How are you doing on your goals? Or have you even set any yet? Or are your resolutions already dead and gone?
(Okay, full disclosure here. Yes, I started writing this post towards the end of January, but then life got crazy and I never got it posted. 🤷🏻♀️ And then Coronavirus shook everything up. BUT this was THE THING that got me back on track and out of survival mode during quarantine too! It’s still applicable even though our days looks very different now. Read on for more good news!) 👍🏻
Are you looking for a REAL and tangible way to be more purposeful with your time and actually get something done? Are you tired of feeling like you’re just extinguishing fires all day and never get to the stuff you WANT to do? I have a solution for you!
There is a very valuable tool called an Ideal Week. Now I know what you’re probably thinking “Ha! Ideal week! My weeks are anything BUT ideal! I don’t have time for fairy tales and ‘pie-in-the-sky’ silliness like coming up with a mythical ideal week.” At least, that’s what I thought when I first heard about this exercise. I first heard about creating an Ideal Week by Michael Hyatt, creator of my favorite planner. And I thought “Sure, if you spend most of your time in an office, you probably can arrange your time more like you want, but I’ve got kids and craziness, so nothing is ever going to fit into a beautiful little box. Thank you, next.” But then I heard about it again from Kendra Hennessy in her Homemaker-ish U course (which is fabulous BTW). And I avoided listening to the lesson forever. I thought, I don’t need to waste my time on Ideal, I need real and now. But then almost every other lesson I listened to of hers kept going back to the Ideal Week. And I thought, “Okay, fine. I’ll at least listen to it, so I can check it off and move on.” Great attitude, right? But hey, this is REAL LIFE, not some prettied up Pinterest post, remember? But what I heard when I listened to her module instantly made sense to me! It finally clicked!!
I’m getting ahead of myself though. What is an Ideal Week in the first place? Well, it’s a way of setting up your ideal schedule. Like if everything was running optimally, this is what it would look like. If you got to choose what things would help you, your household, and your family to run smoothly like a well oiled machine, this is what it would look like. See why I was skeptical? 🤨 It’s not a “perfect” schedule, because let’s be honest, if we were designing a perfect schedule it probably wouldn’t include laundry or dishes or carpooling, right? But just putting all those big rocks in your schedule down on paper really helps you see where you have time to do some other things and where you don’t.
So what was the secret sauce that made me suddenly think this was actually a good idea? It’s when Kendra explained that this isn’t meant to be an ACTUAL schedule. I’m not setting myself up to fail when I inevitably won’t be able to get it all done in the small time frame I allotted for it. It’s not a set-in-stone timetable, but more like a TIME TARGET. Something to shoot for. An idea (or ideal) to guide me through those slippery slopes of survival mode and perfectionism. **aaaahhhh** It’s what I needed but I didn’t even know it.
So I thought, “why not, I’ll give it a shot.” AND BOY WAS I GLAD I DID!!! What I found when I actually put the thought and effort into it was FREEDOM!! Not a rigid schedule that would restrict me and stress me out. But the freedom to bend and flex when life threw curveballs and then GET BACK ON TRACK. **Insert happy dance right here!!**
Convinced yet? Want to know how you can find this magical freedom formula too? I’m glad you asked!
So how do you even get started creating such a thing? The first step was the hardest for me, but it sounds like it should be the easiest. Ask yourself “What do you want to do?” Why is that so hard? Well, I think as mothers, we often times get conditioned into helping everyone else, and doing all the things they need help with that we simply put our needs on the back burner. But then we get so busy putting out fires 🔥 that by the end of the day when we have a little time to ourselves we’re too exhausted to do anything. Sound familiar? But what if I told you it didn’t need to be this way? That’s survival mode right there, and that is exactly what we are trying to get out of and avoid. But with the time target excercise you think of your time more like money in a budget. You tell your time where to go rather than wondering where it all went! Give yourself permission to dream and think a little!
Honestly, if you only get the first step done, you have accomplished a lot. If you never get the Ideal Week written down on paper, BUT you’ve thought out what you want to do and how to do it, you’re still winning! But don’t quit yet, the rest is good stuff too!
So after you’ve thought about how you actually want to spend your time and what actually needs to get done, now you simply start filling in the time slots. Now, for some of you, like me, there might need to be a middle step before writing things down. Call it step 1.5 if you will. Now that you know what needs to be done, you need to know how long it actually takes to do it. And you know what I found? Things don’t take near as long as I think they will, especially if you do them everyday! I could do a whole other blog post about the efficiency of routines, and maybe I will, but for right now, focus on the tasks you’ve already come up with. Switching the laundry over really only takes about 3-5 minutes, not the 10 I first thought. Emptying the dishwasher can be done while I wait for my coffee to brew. A lot of times we avoid doing things because we think they’ll take too much time, but when we actually do them, it doesn’t take much time at all. Before I figured this out, I probably spent more time stressing out about getting things done, than it actually takes to just do the thing. 🤦🏻♀️ Don’t know how much time a certain task takes? Time yourself! Just do the task 3 different times, time each attempt, and take the average. If you want to get crazy about it, try the task at 3 different times of the day! (Here’s a hint- basically everything goes faster if there aren’t little people underfoot 😉) But since I don’t want to get up at the buttcrack of dawn and get everything done before anyone wakes up, find the pockets of time that you can fit them in with minimal distractions. And who knows- you might be surprised (like I was) how excited your little people get about “helping” you do the things. And while yes, it takes longer, it sets the stage for later when they can actually be a help and do it FOR you! 😮 Competitive type? Set your timer for 5 minutes and see if you can get it done before the timer goes off!
Okay- you know what you want to get done, you know how long it takes, now let’s PLAY! This is basically like Tetris for adults. #TimeTetris Get out a sheet of paper (or spreadsheet or graph or whatever floats your boat) and break it into 30 minute time slots from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. Then add columns for each day of the week. Like this:
Start with what I call your “big rocks”. There are always things that have to get done at a certain time- getting kids to school, going to work, nap times, bedtimes, extracurricular activities, church, whatever it is. Put those things down first.
Next, simply “plug and chug”. Fit your tasks into the remaining time slots. 👍🏻 There is a word of caution here though. ⚠️ On paper, it can be really tempting to line all your tasks up back to back to back and fill in all the slots. I’m telling you from experience, that is doomed to fail. #bummer But if you jam pack your schedule with no wiggle room in between, you will either be exhausted and never want to do it again, or stressed out and give up. Allow time for life to happen. Give yourself some grace. Resist the urge to have all the little slots filled and accounted for. Don’t worry- they will get filled up LOL.
And if color makes you happy, like it does me, feel free to have a little fun with it. Pssst- you can even add stickers if you want to- I won’t tell… Here’s what mine currently looks like. (I say currently because it changes about every quarter.) Don’t be afraid of a lot of white space!
But how is this helpful? Isn’t this just another to-do list that never gets done and just taunts you from the sidelines? NO! This is your lifeline for when life happens. You’ve set up your targets, you know what you are aiming for, and when life throws you a curveball (which it always does), you simply look at what the next thing is, and like Anna just “do the next right thing”. Do I get all my things done every single day? Nope! Do I stress out about it? Nope! (Okay, sometimes, but then I remember it’s okay) BUT in those times that I start to feel like I’m drowning and I don’t know what to do and overwhelm is knocking at my door, I can simply look at the target, reach out for that lifeline, and GET BACK ON TRACK.
The beautiful thing about this is when you see your time budget, and you’ve thought about what you ACTUALLY WANT to do, you might be surprised to find a few little pockets of time to fit in some FUN activities too.
This was obviously my ideal week BEFORE COVID-19 changed our lives, but it’s just an example, so deal with it. 😉