At the end of 2018, I felt myself completely drowning. I knew in my bones I was heading into a crazy year, and I began to backslide into poor habits in my day-to-day life. I needed to give my routine a ‘Queer Eye’-level makeover to achieve my very big career goals while managing the mounding family responsibilities barreling toward me.
First and foremost, I needed to find the time I was most focused.
I started by auditing my workdays – and I got detailed. I wrote down everything I did each hour over the course of a week, getting brutally honest with myself about how I spent my time.
That resume I cranked out on Tuesday morning? Logged it. The Facebook spiral that extended far past my lunch break? Logged it. The two-hour meeting that left me drained and ready for a nap? You get the picture.
At the end of the week I analyzed the times of day I was most productive, and the effect that different activities had on my output. From there I uncovered specific, tangible problems in my daily routine (or lack thereof).
Problem 1: Starting my morning on defense
The days I opened my eyes to a small human with demands about cereal and the exact princess shirt that needed to be worn, I was already behind the ball. My work suffered because I rushed into work mode immediately after drop-off, or worse my day started late because I needed to get myself ready once I got everyone else out the door.
The Fix: 5 a.m. Club!
Yep, it is as simple as it sounds. I am out of bed and getting my day moving a solid hour and a half before anyone else in my house starts to stir. I go over my calendar for the day, get some writing in, drink a hot cup of coffee and get myself dressed before anyone at home or work adds to my list.
Having a hard time getting up? This Fast Company article has some tips for getting up earlier.
Problem 2: Scheduling too many meetings
If you have met me in real life, you would probably guess that I am an extrovert – I am the person who will talk to just about everyone at that industry happy hour. On an airplane, I am not bothered by the chatty toddler or inquisitive solo flyer, and I am usually the last one out of class at the gym, because someone has struck up a conversation with me about something topical that I couldn’t pass up.
But what you don’t see on a first glance is that I am a true introvert with the learned ability to navigate social interactions. In truth – meetings, networking and most human interaction leaves my batteries needing to be recharged.
Don’t get me wrong – I love pouring everything I have into giving everything I have for clients. But the minute I get in my car from a meeting or hang up the phone I find I need to rejuvenate myself before I dive into my writing and strategic content development.
The Fix: Meeting Buffers
My audit uncovered that meetings, although necessary, resulted in a drop in my productivity. To fix that I implemented key mental breaks between meetings. that helped me allocate my energy throughout the day to put my best into my writing and save critical energy for my family. Here are some additional great tips I found on strategically structuring meeting schedules.
Problem 3: My Phone.
Without fail, if I pick up my phone I will get sucked into a vortex of current events, family updates and entertaining memes. Why is it that the time goes by so much faster when you are mindlessly scrolling the internet?
I have noticed that this crutch is something that kicks in when I am the most stressed – my body pulls me toward the most mindless thing within reach, as if to say, “hey dummy – take a breather”.
The Fix: App Limits
There is a very handy feature on iPhone that allows you to put a limit on when you can open certain apps, and the amount of screen time you can consume on any given day. I limit my usage of social media apps during work hours and typically work with my phone out of my line of sight, so I am not tempted to “grab and scroll”.
Check out these simple instructions for setting your app restrictions here.
Problem 4: Dividing My Attention
My audit also uncovered exactly what pulled my attention away and compared it to what my intention should be during any given hour. I noticed that times I focused on work when my kids were home and playing with each other, nothing was getting accomplished. Even if my husband was home, my productivity level dropped. Moreover, I was constantly feeling a sense of FOMO about missing some theoretical milestone moment, which ultimately started to make me feel resentful of the time I was giving to the job I LOVE.
The Fix: Mastering Compartmentalization
I decided this was going to be a year of intention and purpose. The most important goal I wanted to achieve was to maximize my focus and energy with my job and my family. I put a hard stop on mixing my work hours with times when I could be doing something with my kids. My kids don’t see my laptop anymore and I still work plenty outside of their learning hours. The minute they are up, the laptop closes, and I am probably not checking email again until I get through morning drop off routine. After school, I close shop until the kids are squared away at an activity or our gym’s kid center.
It took me a LONG time to learn how to give everything I had to my kids and my job at the same time, but the result has given me the freedom to work harder and smarter, not longer.
If you are looking for some of your own inspiration for creating a routine that puts structure into the balancing act of whatever adulting looks like for you, check out a few of my favorite reads on the subject: