“Argh, I feel so stressed out! I have no time to get everything done today.” This is me most days. I am always running a to-do list in my head, constantly monitoring and juggling what’s next, and focusing on the next task or activity that needs to be ‘checked off’.
The constant noise in my head as a result of this endless list chatter is pretty annoying actually. But I think it’s also pretty common for working mums. We perform so many roles (mother, wife/partner, employee, employer, friend, daughter to name but a few) that the number of things we expect of ourselves, including the number of things we expect to complete or achieve in a day, ends up bordering on the ridiculous. Tell me I’m not alone on this?!
I wish I could offer sage wisdom in this space, but as I just confessed I really struggle in this area. The whole to-do list thing is definitely a driver for me. I am very guilty of running it as a wife, mother and daughter, and occasionally, gulp, even as a friend.
I am often running a to-do list in my mind and so focused on getting something finished or done (like making the kids breakfast or packed lunches, or cooking dinner or replying to an apparently urgent email(!) or thinking about some future task), that I miss the little moments. Those little moments to just be with my kids, hear about their days, ask about their dreams, and engage in their games and stories. The chance to connect with a partner or friend at the end of a busy day or week, or to pick up on a half uttered sentence that might have heralded an opportunity. All missed.
This is a major loss and regret for me - I am not connecting with the people who matter most to me in the world.
However, I have set an intention to change! And feel like I have the beginning of a plan (admitting to the problem is half the battle after all). I am trying (although there is still much work to do in this area) to give the people that matter to me more of my attention and truly connect with them. I still have a to-do list running most of the time, but I make a conscious effort to enjoy the precious moments with my children, husband, parents and friends.
The strategy that assists with this is based in mindfulness, and involves 10 minutes of calm. Yes, just 10 minutes.
The idea of 10 minutes of calm is that you actively elect to NOT do something from your to-do list, and instead take 10 minutes to rest, restore and reset.
So, you might just sit for 10 minutes and do nothing that you can check off a list. Taking 10 minutes for calm is not hard if you are busy with someone or something you love!
You can play with your child or a pet, but not whilst doing something else (no multi-tasking!). If there is no child or no pet, or you are elsewhere from them, even reading a magazine or a newspaper and having a cup of coffee or tea can have the same benefit.
It’s all about being fully present and calm, and actively choosing to not rush to the next task. Be a human being rather than a human doing.
At first, you may struggle with this. That’s Okay! It is hard to break a habit that many of us have had for our entire adult lives, but worth persevering and practicing so that we can enjoy those little moments with our loved ones.
You may feel it is possible for you to rest, restore and reset in a shorter time period; say 5 minutes. Personally, 10 minutes works for me as it allows my heart rate to lower too, and by committing to 10 minutes I feel less stressed and less overwhelmed. And most importantly, it means I feel refreshed and replenished to then give more energy to other tasks and activities through the rest of my day, meaning I actually get more done! That’s a win-win!
What about you? Do you also struggle with trying to get a never ending list of tasks and activities completed each day, to the detriment of your relationships with loved ones? Have you tried the 10 minutes of calm approach? I’d love to hear from you. Please comment and share your experiences and what you do to manage the to-do list juggle.