Even ‘downtime’ is ‘action time’ for working mums!

Christmas is a special time of year and for mums, it’s a hectic time too!  The main present buying and card writing responsibilities usually fall to us and we also have to prepare the house for guests, plan activities for the kids who are off school and home all day, keep on top of the food shopping and decorate the place.  The planners amongst us will also anticipate potential situations and prepare a contingency plan for them.  This usually includes buying a couple of extra ‘general’ presents for unexpected visitors and ensuring the medicine cabinet is stocked with headache pills, hangover remedies and something to aid digestion!  We are like swans on the surface, seemingly gliding through the water – bringing it all together effortlessly, but under the surface we are paddling like mad!

For many people, Christmas is a chance to relax but for working mums, this ‘downtime’ is still ‘action time’!

What is special about mums is that what looks to people on ‘the outside’ like basic housekeeping is actually the most important job in the world – we are making memories for our children and providing the framework that they are to grow up in.  Think back to your childhood.  Did you have happy memories of Christmas?  Why were they happy (or why weren’t they?)  Was the house dressed up with tinsel and baubles?  Did you have a tree to decorate?  Someone had to organise these things.  Did Christmas feel like ‘an occasion’?  Our experiences form part of our environment and I believe that people are a product of their environment.  Mums across the world are shaping the people that their young children are going to be so even whilst we’re ‘relaxing’, we’re still ‘working’ on the most important job in the world.

If you are one of these busy mums, how can you sail through the festive period and enjoy the fruits of your labour, whilst still getting everything done and finding time to wind down?  Well the most successful ladies have done some pre planning on this, so work this out for next year.  The first task is more of a life strategy and you will find life run more smoothly in general if you have identified this for you.  Take some time to consider what your values are.  By this I mean what are the qualities that are the essence of YOU – what is important to YOU.  The reason that this is important is knowing this information is helpful in empowering you to say “NO” to activities or responsibilities that others try to hang on you, so knowing your values ensures that every activity you do is strengthening who you are and what is important to you.  We’ve all had an invitation that we say ‘Yes’ to when deep down we really don’t want to go.  What a waste of time!  If you know ‘up front’ what is important to you, you will feel less obliged to ‘keep the peace’ by agreeing to everyone else’s priorities if they don’t sit well with your own.

For example, one of my values is fun.  For some people this may not be considered as important a value as something like ‘kindness’ or ‘truth’, but it is a firm part of my make up.  What I do has to be fun or sit within one of my other values to be worth doing.  If you know that one of your core values is integrity and you are asked to so something that you don’t agree with or are invited to a charity event that support something that isn’t a priority for you, if you have a clear idea of your values, you can politely decline without feeling bad, because you are being true to yourself. Time is precious, so why spend it doing something that doesn’t benefit you by providing enjoyment or taking you nearer toward your goals?

My idea of fun is having a spa day, some pampering, having a meal out, socialising with friends at an activity like bingo or the cinema.  I do not find it much fun to go to a packed bar where you cannot get a seat and you have strange men you don’t know, trying to chat you up!  I know that this particular activity is fun to some people, but as I find it boring, I can say ‘No’ when I’m asked, and just tell them its not my thing.  Since I was honest with myself about what I actually enjoy, rather than trying to please other people, I have always looked forward to every outing with anticipation and excitement, rather than dread!  When I was younger, I cared about seeming ‘cool’, and knowing the hot places to go, or knowing who the latest bands were – I wasn’t as interested in that as I was about fashion, but my friends seemed to know all the music scene info so I thought I should too.  However now I just admit that I’m not ‘cool’, I don’t know about bands and to be honest, I don’t care!  I like to be comfortable on a night out – not standing all night on achy feet.  Part of this is growing up but also it is knowing my values, so know in advance what you like and what you don’t.  It’s okay to say ‘No’, we don’t always have to do everything that is asked of us.

Another thing you can do is to carve out some time just for you over Christmas.  Negotiate with a partner or parent to take the kids out for the day whilst you have a bubble bath or get your home back in order!  I like to have time to myself to write my blog, read a magazine and have a lie in so I arranged in advance to do this today whilst my husband takes the kids to the supermarket to restock our kitchen!  What do you need to have or do to feel like yourself again?

Managing your time during ‘unstructured downtime’ like Christmas or a summer holiday is just as important as managing your time when you have your business or a job which makes demands of you.  It’s the same skill just with a different principle.  The outcome of managing time in either situation is to gain something; in downtime, it may be to gain relaxation whereas in work time it may be to move forward with workload. So keep your eye on the prize and spend some time curled up with your journal or planner and work out what is important to you.  As the kingpin that your family revolves around, it is essential to look after yourself first too!

If you want to know about prioritising effectively, just ask the Time Management Mum!


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