The last few weeks have been… How do I even begin to describe them?
Chaos? A total blur? Filled to the brim?
Exhausting. Because that has been the prevailing feeling, through all the blurry chaos and time-jamming. Above everything else, it has been exhausting. Safe to say, I haven’t done a very good job at starting 2014 off with good bedtime habits.
Now, I’m not here to moan about how tired I am. It’s actually been a really exciting time, because everything that will come of all this work I have been putting in will be amazing and exciting and just… everything I want to be doing right now. Which is awesome. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about either.
I’m here to help you, by describing how I’m helping myself get back on track. I’m here to give you a method, mamas. A method to stay sane and stay energised amongst all the madness.
I’m sure all the mamas out there, whether you work at home, working outside of the home, or stay at home, can relate to the feeling of there’s just not enough hours in the day.
And I’m sure at least some of you, like myself, have ended up in a place where you think aha! There’s those pesky night time hours that we waste just sleeping! I could be SO productive in those hours! I should use them!
That’s where I’ve been these past few weeks. In that terrible place of midnight-workings and early-morning-awakenings. That terrible place of feeling foggy all day, then being hit by a huge wave of energy the minute Tyler is in bed and powering through most of my sleeping hours. Lather, rinse, repeat.
See, Tyler is on school holidays. And I’m a single mum. I don’t have an ‘other half’ to take T to the park all weekend, and I don’t have the financial resources to put him into vacation care or holiday activities at an extra cost. Therefore, I currently have zero work hours during the day. So it becomes all too tempting to take advantage of those hours that I should be resting, and turn them into working hours. (Not an excuse to sacrifice my health, just… a reason.)
It’s not a fun place to be in. I almost fainted the other morning, and I’m pretty darn sure it’s because my body was literally screeeeeaming at me to stop. To rest. To forget about my to-do list once the clock turned to 10pm, and to do what I’m usually so good at doing; nourishing my body. I can put all the good, real food in the world into my body… but if I don’t sleep, I will be just as unhealthy as if I were eating McDonald’s all day.
Well, my episode the other morning was a loud enough scream for me to wake up and pay attention. And to pull an old hat out of the bag, and stick it right back on my head again. To employ what I have found to be the best method of ‘enforced switching off’ and going to bed at a decent hour.
It’s actually a pretty simple concept. It takes practice and motivation to do it and do it right, but once you get it working for you – boy, will it work for you.
Power blocking is this:
Choose items on your to do list that absolutely must be done tonight. Work out approximately how long you think these tasks will take. Always be generous in your estimates, ladies. You’ll see why in a minute.
Then make a new to do list, just with this evening’s tasks, but in blocks of time.
Block out and program every minute of your evening (it doesn’t have to be all work!), from 15 minutes after the kids go to bed until 15 minutes before your bedtime.
Slot all of today’s tasks into their own neat little block of time. Make sure you write down the time you will start that task and the time you will finish that task (or the time the next task begins).
Next to your blocked-out-tasks, write a few down-time tasks. These can be tasks you actually enjoy doing, tasks that are somewhat relaxing whilst still being productive, or something that is actually completely relaxing and only relaxing.
Then it’s all systems go.
Work through your blocks/tasks one by one, until you reach the end of your list OR bedtime. Whichever comes first.
I recommend ordering your tasks by importance so that you’re not tempted to stay up just that little bit longer to get it all done; so that it’s not a major drama if you have to abandon the last task on the list because it’s bedtime.
Note: If you have estimated accurately, this shouldn’t happen anyway. That skill comes with practice.
Now, about those down-time tasks…
I set these up as my little ‘rewards’ for completing a big task in plenty of time. These are the ‘fun’ tasks (for me, these are things like cooking or prepping something in the kitchen quickly, pinning on Pinterest, replying to facebook comments on my HHH page, updating instagram, or even just sharing other people’s recipes etc on facebook – yep, I count that as ‘work’!).
I find that, with down-time tasks in place, I plow through my big important tasks quickly, so that I have a few minutes spare between tasks to do a down-time task. But because the rest of my time is strictly blocked, I tend not to get ‘stuck’ on a down-time task (this morphs into procrastination)! So if I finish task 1 at 7:55pm and task 2 is not due to start until 8pm, I spend that 5 minutes doing a down-time task – but as soon as it is time for task 2 to begin, I stop my down-time task and push on.
On this note, I highly encourage you to set timers on your phone while you are working, so you know where the boundaries lie.
If you can’t set rewarding ‘jobs’ for your down-time, or if rewarding jobs wouldn’t work for you… Choose something else! Read the headlines. Do a few quick yoga poses. Wash a few dishes. Make a cup of tea or have a little snack. It doesn’t have to be work. That’s just what works for me. Find what works for you, and do it.
These little blocks of ‘reward’ jobs or activities in between the more tedious tasks mean that getting through your work is easier. The whole power blocking system means that you have a clear-cut beginning and, most importantly, an end. A time at which your schedule agrees with your body and says – great job, now get to bed.
Below is an example of one evening of power blocking, to illustrated my planning stages.
And this is (roughly) how it played out in ‘real time’ that evening:
7:45-8:05pm – blog (finalise)
8:05-8:15pm – schedule FB
8:15pm-8:25m – emails
8:25-8:30pm – cookie dough
8:30-8:50pm – WP prep
8:50-9:00pm – FB comments and general stuffing around9:00-9:15pm – PMP prep
9:15-9:30pm – edit photos for recipe
9:30-9:50pm – FS part 1 (research, write)
9:50pm-10pm – more facebook stuffing around and organise possible dates for SS
So, some of my down-time tasks didn’t get done. No big deal, that’s why they’re down-time tasks. Task 1 (finalising a blog post) took longer than expected, so I powered through til I got ahead of my schedule before doing the first down-time task. Not a bad sacrifice when it means getting to bed on time.
I was in bed by about 10:20pm. Not too bad, hey?!
I’m a big fan of the 10pm bedtime club started by Pat of Heal Thyself, and I’m keen to get back on the bandwagon.
I’m doing my best to commit to stopping work by 10pm, and getting into bed by 10:15pm – hey, it’s close enough. I know I feel a million times better if I get to bed earlier. And here’s hoping I won’t have any repeat episodes of the other morning’s events once I get my work and sleep schedule back into balance, by re-implementing my power blocking routine. Who’s with me?