I’ve had a great week and it’s all thanks to you and the very first post that I wrote this year when I was looking for a better way to manage 2018. If you remember, I was feeling as though I was being pulled in too many different directions and not doing anything well. Since then I’ve been spring cleaning my life whilst incorporating some of the tips you shared and at last I’m starting to see the difference.
Lots of you said that you were in the same boat so I promised a recap of the collective wisdom that poured in from Midlifechic readers. One change I’ve made has improved my life dramatically, giving me the equivalent of an extra day in my week. I’ll talk about that further on but first I want to go through the ideas that came from you that can be integrated into the everyday.
Work, family and life hacks from the readers of Midlifechic
Managing your workload
- When something new appears ask yourself:
1) Is it my core business and is it urgent? Then do it now.
2) Is it my core business but can it be planned? Then plan it and don’t do it now.
3) Is it my business but I can take my time to do it? Plan it further down the road.
4) Is it not my business? Then say no.
- It is all right for Monday to have a full agenda, but Tuesday ought to be less busy and so on to Friday. That means, when a 1) = urgent comes up on a Monday, you can transfer a job/chore from Monday to Tuesday which still has some room, and or from Tuesday to Wednesday etc. And if nothing urgent happens and you have time left, start doing 2) and or 3) earlier than planned.
- Only check your email three times a day: first thing in the morning, after lunch and an hour before leaving. In the meantime, shut it down so that you don’t see notifications pop in (incidentally I read yesterday that allowing yourself to be waylaid by an email when you’re in the middle of something else has the same impact as a night of bad sleep. Yes, science has shown that the interruption damages the quality of your output dramatically).
- If you work from home, carve yourself a separate domain to work from and ensure that family members understand that if you are there, you are working.
- Be selective with regard to events – only go if you’re confident they will add value.
- Give yourself a switch-off deadline (7pm?) and stick to it.
- Never work on holiday – holiday is holiday.
Managing your family and friends
- Eat together as a family at least four times a week if possible, no TV, no phones
- If working from home, turn away from your desk when a child comes home or move to another room for a ten minute catch up.
- During school holidays, carve time with them so they know they matter, even if it’s just “let’s have a hot chocolate and a chat, then we’ll both get on for a couple of hours…”
- Plan family movie nights and make them special.
- Book a date night with your other half at least once a month.
- Book a date with each of your children once a month – brunch is popular.
- Remember it’s ok for kids to be bored.
- Get up early every day (even at weekends) for some ‘me-time.’
- Ensure that your family respects your ‘me-time’ – eg gym sessions, pamper night, sacrosanct Sunday paper reading…
- Delegate – make sure everyone has their areas of responsibility and sticks to them.
- Be frank – give your family insight into your life and the different things that pull you.
- Mission control – a big diary in the kitchen on a recipe stand. If it’s not in the diary, it doesn’t happen (lifts / clean kit etc).
- Make the most of your time if you’re away – see friends as well as doing business
- Schedule regular, short catch ups with friends and family when you’re busy rather than not seeing them at all
- If you spot something someone would love, send a quick text to show them you’re thinking about them
- Centre yourself before you get together with someone so that you focus only on them.
- Remember that it is good for children to know that you have other priorities and that their father should be an equal partner in all of this
Managing practical matters
- Get an ironing service
- Hire a cleaner
- Fill the freezer from Cook
- Subscribe to Hello Fresh
- Stop rushing – give yourself 15 minutes now and then – have a walk before going home, listen to some music, phone a friend
Most importantly – remember that however hard you try, you’ll never get it completely right… life is never going to be perfect and neither will you.
There was so much generosity and wisdom in the comments that I really do suggest that you read through them. It’s a compendium of midlife advice from the heart.
The big change that has revolutionised my life
On top of these organisational changes, I have also withdrawn from a few committees and groups that were no longer meaningful but one thing has made an enormous difference… deleting WhatsApp. Not only has it had a huge effect on the time I have available but it has completely elevated my mood. I’ll explain but first I need to start with a quick explanation of WhatsApp for anyone who doesn’t use it.
WhatsApp, as you will have guessed, is an app that you can download to your phone and your desktop. Essentially it is a messaging service and it grew initially in the days when texting was expensive. Now it tends to be used by groups of people who invite others to join them. I was a member of ten different groups including village committees, a few groups of former colleagues, old playground mums, bloggers and people I once went on a hen weekend with. I thought it would be a bit like a message board where you could post if something important cropped up but I soon learned that it is much more intense than that.
For it to thrive, there has to be a continual thread of conversation and there is often someone with more time than anybody else who directs and dominates it. Sometimes this is fine and the chat is well managed but not always. I found that because of its closed nature, insidious behaviours that would usually be called out can proliferate on WhatsApp. When they do, they are generally delivered in a carefully worded way so that any challenge can be labelled as a misinterpretation or a sense of humour failure.
All of this means that you can find yourself in the midst of a toxic gossipy environment, listening to conversations that you would walk away from in real life. You then have the old playground dilemma of knowing that if you leave the group, unwelcome attention will most likely turn on you.
As an introvert (albeit an outgoing one), I should have realised sooner that it wouldn’t work for me. I need to concentrate during the day so I soon turned off the desktop chat. This meant that I was forcing myself to spend an hour in the morning and an hour at night catching up with over 1,000 lines of chat across the different groups, usually about nothing in particular.
A couple of weeks ago, Mr MC and the youngest came home from karate to find me with my head in my hands because of a particularly unpleasant conversation. They both sat down with me and suggested quite firmly that it was time for WhatsApp to go. They pointed out that the two hours a day that I was spending equated to 14 hours a week which is effectively a whole day. Looking at it like that was the impetus I needed.
And so it’s gone. I haven’t cut anyone out of my life, they all still have my number but I have axed the obligation to chit chat which is something I have always been rubbish at. Plus I no longer have to read through any of the more ‘loaded’ conversations – I can’t begin to tell you how good that feels. In fact I have the same sense of freedom that I had when I left my last job. No doubt I am unpopular in some quarters but I can live with that.
It might be worth looking at your own social media habits and reflecting on what they bring to your life. I have some that bring me pleasure such as my personal Facebook page which I use to keep in touch with my London friends – and of course everything Midlifechic related. Like me though, you may find that you are over committed in other places.
So, moving on. It’s been a very ordinary week made even better by the fact that I haven’t had to travel far. I’ve had the 14 extra hours to play with and nothing has made my heart sink. I’ve been home on time (or even early) every day which has meant that I’ve been able to get a quick ‘what I’ve been wearing’ shot too. As you can see, the quality varies according to the enthusiasm of the photographer but here we go.
What I’ve been wearing – Monday
On Monday I worked from home because the eldest was still here recovering from his rugby weekend. Even though he wasn’t at his most talkative it was lovely to sit down and have lunch with him. Typically by the time I persuaded someone to take a photo, the heavens opened and it started to rain.
What I’ve been wearing- Tuesday
On Tuesday I had to go back to the dentist’s first thing because the wretched abscess was back and the root canal work had to be reopened. I went on to work after that feeling sorry for myself and I was dressed for comfort.
What I’ve been wearing – Wednesday
Actually Wednesday was a lovely day. With extra time opening up, I have been able to do new things that give me pleasure. I met up with a Midlifechic reader who happens to live near here for coffee and we talked for two hours about… well everything really. No chitchat just a solid conversation, it was a real joy.
And then in the evening I went to a talk about local architecture. It was the sort of thing that I often consider but decide I don’t have time for. This time I booked myself on and met all sorts of interesting people. There’s even the opportunity to go on a Roman dig in the future… although being a fair weather historian I may wait to see what time of year it is before I commit myself to that. However I put my name down (and declined to join their WhatsApp group)!
What I’ve been wearing – Thursday
Yesterday was another good day because I said no to a Google course that everyone else had booked on to and so I had the rare pleasure of the office to myself. It was a good thing because I needed to dedicate myself to accounts – our year end is coming up and so we have to meet our accountant.
What I’ve been wearing – Friday
And today I used my extra time to go to an early Pilates class, the first time I have managed it this year. I was in such a good mood when I got back that I decided spring was here and so foolishly didn’t wear a jumper. Despite my layers underneath, I was cold…
Baukjen Striped shirt AW17; Stories midi skirt AW17; Sock boots
And so I’m feeling rather giddy as I head into a weekend that has an extra four hours (five if you include Friday night). Our French student is arriving tomorrow so I’m deliberating over what to cook. When I asked the youngest about the food in Lyon he said that everything was great apart from one house he had gone to where he had been served some ‘weird white sausages in cheese sauce.’ He really didn’t like the texture but made his way through them in an appreciative manner as we have taught him. Of course the mother was so delighted that (much to his friends’ amusement) she emptied the rest of the dish onto his plate. I decided it was kindest not to enlighten him as to the chewy ingredients that can be found in boudin blanc…
I hope you have a lovely weekend and that everyone who is celebrating Mother’s Day in the UK has a wonderful time. I’ll be back on Tuesday with a round up of great new garments that I’ve spotted.
Disclosure: ‘What I’ve been wearing… and how I carved out a whole extra day in my week’ is not a sponsored post
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2018 posts you may have missed