Wednesday 9 March 2011

Juggling Your Time

'A' Writes:

Here's my current situation and queries.

I am an experienced writer, but suffered redundancy last year from my main job as a careers advisor after nine years of service. I have a new part-time job, but I am currently also setting up a freelance writing business.

My main problem is trying to split my time equally between my paid job, the new business and looking after my home and three children as a single parent (oh, I sing in a band as well!).

I easily find myself running round like a headless chicken trying to do everything and be everything and having lots of unfinished jobs. If I take time out to be creative, which can take a lot of hours, I find that everything else quickly unravels and takes a long time to catch up on.

How can I achieve a balance that works?

Confidence is also a secondary issue after suffering redundancy, divorce and debt (left by my alcoholic ex husband)-all last year-so any tips on this would be gratefully received.

Many thanks
I replied:
Hello A and thanks for your email (which I've posted with permission).

Redundancy is a biggie. The loss of income alone is serious enough, but a job can be so much more than a way to pay the mortgage. It can provide recognition of value and for contribution, a sense of place and of self. A reason to get up, and a sense of stability. The loss of these things, coupled with the sense of rejection which being made redundant often confers will probably be major contributors to your loss of confidence.

Dividing time according to your priorities is notoriously difficult. A good place to start is to list the competitors for your time, and then to allocate priorities. Real-world pragmatics aside, which are most important?

You have listed: Paid Job, Building New Business, Domestic chores, Parenting thee children, Being in a band.

One technique to help with prioritizing it do do the old balloon test - you're in a sinking hot air balloon, and you need to lose weight or crash - what do you throw out first? (Even that's not usually easy - so think about the overall impact on your whole life of losing each thing. When coaching clients, I have a raft of other techniques which I apply depending on how the client behaves. I can't really cover that here, but anyway - the first thing out is your lowest priority).

Now keep throwing stuff out until one one thing is left. Now you have your prioritized list. Don't try to be too scientific - it's not possible to do this entirely analytically. Be content with a rough-cut answer.

Let's imagine you've prioritized them like this:

1. Parenting three children
2. Paid job
3. Being in a band
4. Building a new business
5. Domestic chores

You'll need to remember that you also need to sleep, eat, and so on, and you'll only be productive for maybe 70% of your up-time.

Now allocate a time budget to each item. The paid job may not be negotiable - you just have to be there, so in a sense that one's easy. Parenting - block out the must-dos (school run, child sitting). How much time to get traction on building a new business?

Again, these questions can be impossible to answer off the bat, but I can help. For example, to answer the business one - come at it from the other end. How would you feel if the new business was not earning penny one in a year? Six months? What is the final objective of the business? Keep testing your internal thinking by posing it questions.

Anyway, when you complete this exercise, you'll have some kind of answer. But you may well HATE it!

In which case, you just learned something powerful. They say you can have anything you want, but you probably can't have everything you want. So face it. Horse trade. Be ready to let go of stuff you don't want to, at least for now. You can perhaps work smarter (automate, delegate or decimate) but you can't change the hours in the day or the laws of physics.

Now you have your time budget in theory but the world will wash it away in a trice unless you do stuff to make it stick. Run a diary. Book appointments with yourself and honour them as though they were meetings with your bank manager. That means saying "no" to lunch with a friend if you've got a meeting with yourself to push the business forward. This is where the tough get going, and the rest of us fail.

And that takes me to the last element of the framework: YOU. Your motivation, your stamina and your belief. Find ways to re-engage your actual life with your dream. Use Talismans (see my website). Stay fit. Sleep well. Hire a coach, dammit! :o)

Making big changes in our lives is intrinsically difficult, A, but these ideas should give you a huge leg up and I wish you well with them.

To your success!


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