I am starting a new series about making small changes in my work-at-home life to become a happier, more productive person in 2012. I am the primary caretaker in my home and we have businesses that we run from home, too. We don't have any outside help at home or in our business. I ended 2011 knowing that things had to change because I was miserably trying to do everything and doing a crappy job at it all. I was not feeling productive, I wasn't happy with the quality of my housekeeping or by business work, and I was constantly feeling stressed and inadequate.
I have been slowly working through some goal setting tools and I know that I must make 2012 about doing more of what I love and less of what I don't. It's going to be very hard to make some of these small changes, but I know they will make a huge difference in my daily life. I may actually wake up every morning and not feel dread for all the things I need to find time for but don't really want to do.
The first lesson I am working through is finding more time in my day by scheduling smarter and recognizing time sucks. My daily schedule has changed in what I thought were subtle ways over the past year. I added a boot camp class here and there to accommodate loyal clients, I had to start driving my kids to and from school when we moved, and I have more occasional events like speaking engagements, leading a book club, meeting business contacts, having client meetings, returning phone calls and emails, etc. Over time I became more and more stressed and less able to get anything done, but the changes were so gradual that I didn't realize why I was so miserable. I kept taking things on, thinking I had time for them, and then not doing well at anything!
It slowly dawned on me that I was stretched too thin and don't have enough dedicated blocks of time to do the work that will really make a difference to my businesses and my household. I got caught up in thinking that one little meeting or 2 more hours per week teaching Boot Camp wouldn't make much of a dent at all in my weekly schedule, and over time that attitude led to a dead end. My business is flat, I'm not exercising enough, I don't have enough time to get things done around the house, I don't feel like I am doing well at the things I am responsible for in our businesses, and I certainly never feel justified in sitting down and relaxing. Yet through all of this I felt like I was being lazy and that I should be able to get more done!
All that is to say that I finally see this situation more clearly and I am making hard decisions that make me feel incredibly guilty but that I know I must make. FOr example, I moved a Boot Camp class to a day when I already have class so I can do them back to back and open up Tuesdays to work uninterrupted at home. Before, I would not have more than 4-5 hours at any one time ALL WEEK to get work and household duties done before I had to be somewhere or do something else. I was so burned out on the constant moving from one commitment to another that any time I did spend at home was unproductive spent zoned out in front of the TV or computer. Now I have one day a week that I can work from 8AM-2PM in one place. Not necessarily uninterrupted time, but time where I don't have to be somewhere and time when I feel a bit less rushed and frazzled. I can dig deeper and I can build on ore complicated projects and ideas. I am still working 6 days a week (teaching a class, I mean) but I made a little pocket of time appear by moving things around.
Yesterday was the first Tuesday since I made this change and I was able to spend more time than normal to finish our newsletter and edit it obsessively (so that I was actually proud of it instead of thinking it was just good enough to send out), and I had my apron on TWICE! I got to bake something in the morning AND make homemade pizzas (regular wheat flour and grain free gluten free) for dinner. I also did something I haven't done in a LONG time - I went to a store and browsed. It was pleasurable and leisurely. I wasn't stressed or in a hurry. I wasn't there with my coupon binder, grocery list, and meal plan for the week. I was just a person feeling a bunch of fuzzy bath mats and admiring 30 varieties of salad plates.
In summary, little commitments add up very quickly. Don't make the mistakes I made and think that a little commitment for an hour here and 45 minutes there won't make a huge difference in your life, whether you work from home, work in an office, or are a homemaker. I tried not to multitask from in the moment but didn't realize that my entire life had become one big multitasking nightmare because I never had enough time to do anything well before I was needed somewhere else.
My next small change will be in how I schedule work time and where I do my work (not my teaching but the blogging and behind the scenes business development). More on that next time!