I remember a time when we were always running late for everything.
We used survival tactics rather than addressing our problem of never being on time.
Before the days of shared calendars, we had many shared arguments and our bandaid solution was to set up roles in our family. We thought that this would stop the accusations of who double booked, or who forgot what each child needed for their activity. I was delegated the role of event co-ordinator in our home, which looking back meant, that it something went wrong in terms of anyone doing or not doing something, it was my fault, and it was not ideal.
Thinking I was saving time, I scheduled the children’s dance classes one after the other – which ultimately meant my stress levels were at their highest trying to get all these little people to the one venue at the same time, with everything they needed. Then, when I got there (and I was there for hours) – I had to quietly entertain the children who were not dancing, until it was their turn to pirouette on their toes. While all this was happening, I’d be thinking about what I was going to feed them that night (considering I’d forgotten to pull anything out of the freezer to cook), who needed their sports uniform the next day (which was probably at the bottom of the huge laundry pile), who had been invited to birthday parties on the weekend (that fell on the same times as weekend sports), and many more things that just swam around in my head. It was chaotic at the minimum. Nothing really was getting the full attention it deserved. If I couldn’t get my personal priorities right, how could I ever manage to satisfy each of my clients.
The crux came one night at dinner. It was almost seven o’clock and just getting dark. My husband and I had been running around that afternoon with kids in tow – swimming lessons, grocery shopping, dropping our eldest at her part-time job. We sat down exhausted and started the normal family catch up banter and we realised we were missing one child. Did I mention it was nearly seven pm? Our hearts didn’t stop at first. Where was he? Why didn’t he come to dinner when we called? Mr 13 was in his first year of high school. He had a little more independence than he’d had the year before – but we couldn’t remember where he was. And then it dawned on me. That morning, in the rush, he’d told me he had interschool sports that afternoon, at a playing field about 20 minutes from our home. He told me that he needed to be picked up about 5 o’clock. I remember telling him that I would be maybe 10 to 15 minutes late, swimming finished at 5. “Stay put”, I said. “It won’t be dark”, I said. Surely there would be other parents, children, staff around. I’d throw the kids in the car (wet) and then come and getting him.
Somewhere between that thought and the swimming lessons finishing, I decided that to save time that night, the swimmers could shower at the pool, wash their hair, put their pyjamas on and I’d be saving time when we got home. We did just that. We drove home and started out evening routine. We dished up dinner, we sat down to eat and then finally realised Mr 13 was missing, well not missing – just forgotten. We jumped in the car with our hearts pounding and drove to the playing field with every worse scenario playing over in our head. When we got there, two hours late, here is Mr 13, sitting exactly where I’d told him I’d pick him up. (Side note – I think this is when we decided he needed a mobile phone). I was so apologetic, and he was so sweet. He told me he knew how busy we always were, and at that point I knew I needed to manage our time better.
I decided to manage my time and plan and prioritise in a more efficient manner. I learned to say no or wait until I see if we can manage that. I decided to delegate tasks in our home. If our children were old enough to swim or dance, surely, they were old enough to pack and unpack their gear? I learned to let go of the guilt if I missed doing something because I couldn’t accommodate the time.
I delegated more at work and learned a valuable lesson here. I was backing my team to grow and that made an enjoyable workplace.
Most importantly, I scheduled time for myself and embraced self-care. I planned more realistically and encouraged those near and dear to me to each own their schedules. My stress levels declined so much I’m often asked how come I’m always so calm. It’s simple. I choose calm, and I choose living life to the full – just by managing my own time expectations, and then everything else just falls into place.