Okay…admit it. We’ve all got at least one friend whom we love to hate. You know the one – always well-dressed and on time, all her kids are on the honor roll, and her house looks like it’s ready for a CityScope feature story! How does she do it, you ask? The last time you checked each day contained only 24 hours, but your time seems to evaporate like rain on August asphalt!
Take Control for Your Health and Happiness
By Linda Benton
Why is it that some people can flow through the day with the greatest of ease while others feel like a dog chasing its tail? Ah, yes…time management. But you’ve heard it all before – set priorities, just say “no,” delegate! It’s not working!
Jean Cates, a licensed counselor, says that advice works for some, but not for all. She adds, “Everyone is wired differently and so what works for one person may not work for another.” Her preference is to teach “life management, not time management.”
Life Management vs. Time Management
Before one can get a handle on managing time, it is important to get a grip on just where your time is going. Find a time to be alone with your thoughts and reflect on your daily routine and “time drains.” It helps to write down your responsibilities. How do each of these relate to the overall happiness of you and your family? Does it make you happy? Does it make you stressed? If the activity is a non-essential (i.e. – life can go on without it), reassess its importance.
In addition to “time drains,” women are also susceptible to “energy drains.” These can be relationships that are too much take and not enough give. It could be a friend who takes away precious time on the phone; it could be a volunteer commitment for which you have no passion; and it could be your own children if their needs and activities override all other things.
Because women tend to be pleasers, Cates says demands on their time can be difficult to manage. She encourages women to be assertive in a positive way. “So you say to the chatty friend ‘I’d love to talk and I’ll call you back when I’m not heading out the door,’ or respond to the request for a volunteer job, ‘I’m flattered you considered me, and I would love to accept at another time.’” When it comes to our children, saying “no” becomes more difficult, but Cates says that children can be taught to be considerate of others, and it is important for them to realize that Mom has needs and wants, too.
The Big Three!
Before attempting to take on the challenges of a busy family, women must learn to take care of themselves first. Cates likens this approach to the use of the emergency oxygen mask in an airplane cabin. “How can we take care of the needs of our children if we, ourselves, are unable to breath?”
Rest, nutrition, and exercise need to be priorities for every busy mother. “I hear women stressing about not having enough hours in a day to get everything done,” says Cates. “I like to remind them of two things: first- there are 168 hours in a week so you do have time if you plan properly, and secondly, remember that life is a journey not a destination.” She says she sees many women who get caught up in a “hurry and worry syndrome.”
This counter-productive state of mind actually stresses the body and ultimately causes chemical changes which affect one’s immune system. Exhaustion, depression, and sometimes disease processes like diabetes and high blood pressure can be triggered by the chronic stress. Women are bombarded today with pressure from all sides to be the “perfect” mother, the “perfect” wife, and the “perfect” friend, but this unachievable goal to be perfect is actually toxic – toxic to the individual and to the entire family.
Sometimes a woman tries to validate who she is as a person by the number of appointments, committee meetings, and social engagements she can cram into a day planner. Being busy is not the same thing as being productive. Mothers need to set priorities and goals in order to be healthy, content, and effective “life managers.” While setting priorities may seem like an exercise in futility, the process gives mothers a road map to follow – if you don’t know where you are going, how do you plan to get there?
We all make to-do lists, but a daily list scribbled on a scrap piece of paper rarely provides us with the big picture of what we’d really like to accomplish. Often lost in the bottom of your purse or gathered up in the trash of your car, these lists reflect what you NEED to do that day. They offer no continuity from day to day.
Instead, create a to-do notebook (and keep it with your calendar so you don’t waste valuable time looking for it)! Your new and improved to-do list has three simple categories: things you MUST do (like pay taxes and get your mammogram), things you NEED to do (like make a hair appointment or clean out the garage), and lastly things you WANT to do (like run three days a week or read at least one book a month). Each day, look at three tasks you can accomplish that day.
By putting the MUST, NEED, and WANT to-do items in writing, it is easier to weave them into the mandatory demands of the day. And, don’t forget to purposefully and regularly include an item from the WANT list. Happiness is a great productivity stimulator. When we are happy with ourselves, we have more energy and we are less resentful of the demands of others.
Liz Davenport, mother of three, co-owner of Dream Dinners, and an avid runner, says the secret to balance in her life is putting the WANTS in writing on her calendar. “One of my goals this year was to run the New York Marathon,” she shares. “I knew I had to make the training runs happen on a regular basis so I put them on my calendar just as I would a doctor’s appointment or school meeting.”
Adopt an “All About Me” Attitude
Dr. Janelle Simpson, a family practice physician who is now a stay-at-home mother of three, says she was accustomed to sacrificing before motherhood. “I sacrificed years to study and train to become a physician and when I was practicing medicine, I sacrificed countless hours to care for the needs of my patients, but when it came to motherhood, wow—it was a whole new kind of sacrifice,” she admits. “I realized pretty quickly that in order to be a good mother, I needed time for me.” An avid runner, yoga enthusiast, and cyclist, Dr. Simpson says she and her husband, also a physician, incorporate fitness into their ‘couple-time.’ Instead of getting a sitter to go see a movie, she and her husband are more likely to go for a long bike ride or take a yoga class together. “Fitness is like my Prozac,” she confesses. “It keeps me happy and if I’m happy, I know I’m a better mother and I have more energy for my children.” She also feels the time she spends with her husband strengthens their marriage. “My motto: a couple that plays together, stays together!” she adds.
With the holidays just around the corner, the temptation to be like Martha Stewart weighs heavy on mothers. We all want the perfect holiday with perfect gifts, a perfectly decorated home, and a perfect holiday greeting card, but Cates warns mothers to pick and choose what is most important to you. “Don’t try to do it all,” she stresses. “Over-commitment can be the domino of disaster when one little thing doesn’t go as planned.”
We’ve all heard the saying “each day is a gift; that is why we call it a present!” Each of us gets the same gift of 24 hours in a day but what we accomplish and how we feel about ourselves at the end of the day is totally up to us. So make that to-do list and check it twice, and don’t forget to be nice…to yourself! Happy holidays!
Linda Benton is a resident of Signal Mountain. She earned the distinction of Magna cum Laude with a BBA in Marketing from the University of Memphis. Linda has been an active member and leader of community and health organizations. She is married to Dr. Oliver Benton III and has three children.Resource websites: www.webmd.com; www.hotmamas.com