2019 is here! In the past, as each new year arrives, I set my annual ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ only to break them within a matter of weeks or months. My intentions are always good. I promise myself I will go to bed earlier, I will exercise more, cook more, be more organised, get on top of the laundry and spend more time with the kids rather than being tied to my desk.
However, despite my best endeavours I return to old habits, promising myself that I’ll start tomorrow but tomorrow always gets pushed back a day. It’s frustrating! There just never seems to be enough time.
The reality is, that there will never be enough time to achieve all the things we want to do, if we have no idea how we’re going to achieve them in the first place! It’s a bit like saying we want to build a house we’ve imagined but without drawing up the blueprints first. We may well start off okay, but without a clear plan in place, it’s likely that at some point we’ll lose our way.
The good news is, that the New Year represents new beginnings. It’s a time to reflect on the previous year, celebrate our successes but also move forward and learn from our failures or losses. We can effectively ‘wipe the slate clean’ with hope that this year will be our year.
Last year for me was filled with some amazing moments and experiences, I travelled, had adventures, met some great people and built lots of wonderful memories with my children and family.
Yet, there was also on many occasions, a feeling of spinning too many plates, of not being organised, of not having enough time. Something had to change for me to feel I was getting the absolute most out of my life.
So this year I’ve vowed NOT to set New Year’s Resolutions. Instead, I’ve come up with a plan to shake up my life in all the right ways and it’s so simple, I really don’t know why it’s taken me so long to work it out!
In 2019 my priorities are simple. Create structure, get organised and be more disciplined.
STEP ONE – TIME BLOCKING
I had never heard of time blocking before but on discovering it, it has already started to revolutionise the way I work and how I run my day. Time blocking, in a nutshell, is simply scheduling your ‘To Do list’ against your calendar.
Its key aim is to help you manage your time better. You put your tasks in your diary or on your calendar and give yourself a certain amount of (realistic) time to complete them. By doing so, you help limit your distractions.
You are setting yourself deadlines, meaning you will be more focussed and in turn will complete your tasks faster. You action your workload in order of priority, throughout the day. If things get pushed back, at least the less important stuff can get rescheduled for the following day.
Time blocking is really a commitment to yourself to show up and work on what needs doing. It’s about prioritising and creating realistic daily goals without feeling overwhelmed by lengthy to-do lists.
My Time Blocking Example:
6 a.m. Get Up
6.10 – 6.45 a.m. Check Emails / Plan Day
6.45 a.m – 7.45 a.m – Get ready for day / make bed etc
7.45 a.m. – 8.45 a.m. Breakfast / kids / School Run
8.50 a.m. – 9.20 a.m. Dog Walk
9.20 a.m. – 9.45 a.m. Tidy / put laundry onto wash
9.45 a.m. Start work (add in various tasks up to 12.30 p.m)
12.30 p.m. Break for lunch / gym
1 / 1. 30 p.m. Start work again
and so on… By working to these time blocks I am strict with what I do each day and don’t deviate from my plan unless I really have to or there is an unexpected emergency or situation.
STEP 2 – GET ORGANISED
Creating structure in the day and blocking time for the tasks that need to be completed, is part of the organisational process. However, for me, getting organised is both in the detail as well as the big picture. It’s a chance to give your life an MOT. You can look at what’s working and what’s not. What you’d like to improve.
I found it really useful to sit and write down all the areas in my life I wanted to tackle. To address what wasn’t working and what I could do better. I realised that ‘my life’ required a 360 degree approach when it came to improving certain things. A bit like a jigsaw puzzle – I needed all the pieces to fit together in order to create a successful big picture.
I broke it down into four key categories: home life, work life, health and wellness and social life. I then wrote down what I wanted my life to look like in these four areas.
In my home life, I wanted more quality time with the children, more control over the laundry and keeping on top of everyday tasks so the house didn’t overwhelm me with its constant demands!
In work, I wanted to spend more time doing the things I was passionate about, to be more consistent in producing content and planning more effectively my marketing and seasonal activity.
In health and wellness, I wanted to make a commitment to incorporate more exercise into my life, to create more variation in my food choices and to look after my mental as well as physical health by feeling more in control of things and therefore reducing my sensitivity to stress.
In my social life, I wanted to make time for my friends as well as building new friendships with people who inspire me and who share my passion for creativity.
Under each category I then looked at how I currently ran things and began working on organising my time more effectively in each area. Once I’d addressed the big picture, I was able to focus on the minutiae of every area and start changing things. Being organised, gives you a much better chance of succeeding.
To quote A. A. Milne: “Organising is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up”.
STEP THREE – BE DISCIPLINED
Time blocking can be invaluable in helping create structure in your day, but only by being disciplined! Being disciplined can prove harder than it seems. With so many distractions such as social media, a phone call, or a quick internet browse, valuable time can be lost. By losing time unnecessarily, you’ll struggle to complete the tasks you set for the day.
I know how hard it is myself to stick to a time schedule. It’s much easier when your children are in school. When they are out of school, particularly if they are younger, it can seem impossible to stick to a plan as children naturally require your attention. That said, children still enjoy being part of a structured environment themselves as it’s proven to make them feel secure. If it’s the school holidays and I’m also trying to work, I try my best to be realistic about what I can achieve. I set my six year old up with an activity and plan regular breaks.
While time blocking may prove more challenging if you have children at home, it can still be done. I simply plan smaller tasks on these days, rather than lengthy ones that require greater concentration, as know my chances of being interrupted are far greater!
Finally and possibly most importantly, I’ve become much more disciplined about what time I go to bed during the week and what time I get up! Historically, I’ve always been a bit of a night owl, meaning I would struggle to get up in the mornings. However, most successful people (certainly that I know) begin their day early and are strict about their regime and how much sleep they get.
It doesn’t matter how good our intentions are, if we are overtired, we are much more likely to fail and be less productive than if we’ve had a good night’s sleep. So being disciplined when it comes to our sleep, is key to starting off the day right!
These are the three steps I’ll be taking in 2019 to make sure I’m getting the absolute best out of my life this year and beyond.
Maybe these are things you’re doing every day already, if not then why not try some of these ideas out yourself and see if they work for you! I’m finding books like the ‘Get Your Sh*t Together’ Journal, by Sarah Knight great for helping me along the way!