Linda Nicol has become an expert at managing time. Business owner, farm manager, mum to five children under 8 whose husband works away during the week: she shares her story and lessons on shedding stress, saying no, and arriving on time…
Do you feel so busy that it’s like you wear more hats than a centipede has shoes? You’re not alone! The good news is, it doesn’t have to be like this. In fact, you can get it all done by doing less, and you’ll feel more fulfilled in the process.
With all of today’s demands and the never-ending phone beeping, pinging, vibrating and popping up grabbing our attention, it can be a challenge to get ‘everything’ done. We’re distracted and our time is consumed by potentially unimportant activity.
To conquer this, we must live our days consciously and with intent, otherwise we will be swept along like a leaf in the wind. How do we take charge? The key is planning.
The act of planning your day forces you to focus on what’s important. By taking time to plan, you consciously think about how you will spend your time. This awareness of how you will be spending your day then helps eliminate one of the biggest drains on time: other people’s requests.
If you’re aware that your day is full, and you have no free time, you’re less inclined to say yes when other people ask for help. Learning to say ‘no’ is one of the most important skills you need to practice if you want to be in control of your day.
Get your priorities right
Identify urgent and important tasks. These are the only things that should be added to your to-do-list.
If a task is urgent but not important, delegate (that includes to your children). If the task is neither important nor urgent, don’t do it.
By looking at your to-do list in this way, you can drop tasks that are not taking you towards your dream life and are freeing up time for things that will.
Learning the hard way
I’d love to be able to say that I’ve always been organised and productive, but the reality is that I had no choice but to learn. In a relatively short space of time I went from being a single, corporate career girl, to being married, an entrepreneur and mum to triplet boys.
If I’m honest I’m not sure working in itself would have made me so organised but throw in a set of triplets and oh boy, I had to get my act together. I went on to have another two children (I had five under five), set up two more businesses and bought a farm. But the real clincher was that my husband works away from home.
I found myself working late at night and weekends, I was tired and snappy. The easy going, laid-back person I used to be was gone. I was missing precious moments with my family, there physically but not mentally. I realised something had to change. I had to figure a way to make this work, after all, my situation wasn’t going to change – I had to change.
Changing ways of working
Not having a support network and my husband only home on weekends, I began to draw on my routines from the corporate world. Through trial and error, I devised ways to be productive and efficient, in my businesses and my home life. I realised I could not sweat the small stuff. I eliminated time wasting tasks, delegated what I could and adopted the 80/20 rule (or Pareto principle which states that 80% of our result is achieved with the first 20% of the effort). Perfectionism was gone.
I saw friends with one or two children stressed, unable to keep time. They would slide up to the school gates as the bell was ringing, lunch forgotten, sports uniform missing, permission notes late. I know it’s not easy and was grateful I’d worked on being able to arrive on time with my five children, with all the necessary items, and importantly for everyone, without the fuss or stress. Clearly my world operated differently to theirs.
When I met these mums for coffee, it was apparent these traits were symptomatic of their whole life. Their stories were chaotic.
I shared tips to make things easier which was always appreciated. Often, I’d receive the comment and compliment, ‘I’d pay to know how you do it!’
At first, I didn’t take it seriously, after all I was just a working mum. I researched productivity courses, only to discover few focus specifically on helping mums. So, I had the idea to launch my own productivity coaching business. Every tool I use is a two-minute implementation exercise and has lifetime benefit. I – we – do not have time for complicated solutions.
Having gone through this journey I have come to the realisation that being able to do it all, stay sane and have ‘me time’ IS possible. You do not need the entourage of Beyoncé to de-stress your life.
I have a regular life with regular problems, I just happen to have a lot of children. Getting it all done is not something the requires specialist knowledge, it’s something anyone can do. Put the time in first to plan, and gain time back tenfold.
7 ways to get more done while feeling less stressed
- Plan your day ahead of time
- Don’t be afraid to say NO to requests
- Stop being a perfectionist
- Mark tasks on your to-do list as ‘urgent’ and/or ‘important’ – if both, prioritise those tasks; if neither, drop them from your list
- Delegate what you can (remembering again, it doesn’t have to be perfect)
- Turn off notifications on your phone or computer, including for email – most of the time they’re unnecessary distractions from the task at hand
- If you’re particularly productive in the morning, get up a little earlier and make the most of that time.
Linda Nicol is a productivity expert who coaches busy working mums on how to find calm, be efficient with time and ultimately how to get it all done. Sign up for her FREE productivity challenge, and find her on Facebook.