How can a simple idea help us balance work life and family?

work life balance
  • SumoMe

To balance work life and family is a daily task for Mums (and single Dads) running their own business.

A moment’s distraction turned into 30 minutes on things that still had to be done, but not right then.

Back at my desk, it took a few minutes to get back into gear.  So how can we get better and balance work life with family?

Why is the tap (fawcet) in the kitchen always right next to the sink?

Thinking from the customer’s point of view is not as easy as it sounds.  Here’s a good example.

Plumbers are out in the field working with and for their customers.  More often than not, they don’t attempt to run a family and look after children at the same time.  So they think it makes good sense to have a tap above a sink.

But let’s think from the customer’s point of view for a moment.

When you are running a business from home, every so often you need a cuppa.  You go to the tap to fill the kettle and look!  Right there are the dirty dishes from breakfast.

The children headed off to school and kindly cleared the breakfast, well as far as the sink at least.  But as you fill the kettle, your instincts around running the family as well as a business kick in and you are tempted to just wash those couple of plates and a cereal bowl.  It won’t take a moment.

That has just happened to me, but unfortunately I also remembered I left a dish in the oven after dinner last night and that needed to be washed.

Now my mind is on ‘house’ not ‘business’.  A moment’s distraction turned into 30 minutes on things that still had to be done, but not right then.

Back at my desk, it took a few minutes to get back into gear.  All because the plumber didn’t think about me, his customer, a single dad running a business, and put the tap next to the sink.  How thoughtless of him.  Or is it me?

Luckily, over the months and years, I have become much more disciplined and this type of split concentration is largely behind me.  But it still happens.  Ohh, and I should have mentioned I forgot all about making the tea.

One simple idea to help balance work life with family?

For me, ToDo lists….agghhh!

I know, I’ve heard it all before.  I was introduced to ToDo lists in the ‘80s when the choice of one’s personal ‘planner’ for the coming year became something of a ritual, with Time Managers and Filofax appearing everywhere.

Been there, done that, I have tried so many ways of ToDo lists and I still struggle to keep to one system.

But what I do know is simply that the more I stick to the ritual of writing down tasks and prioritising them, the more I get done.

Here are some related ideas that may help you:

  • Write out and prioritise in the evening before bed, re-prioritise in the morning as our sleeping brains have made some choices for us.
  • A, B, C lists – Where A is important and urgent, B is important but not urgent and C is neither (and honestly, will it get done?  No, but keep it on the list because one day it might rise to a B or even A).
  • Say “No” to things, especially if you are a pleaser and people ask you to do things.
  • Break tasks down.  “Redo my website” is not a ToDo type task, it is a project.  My ToDo tasks need to be of the magnitude that I can achieve within the time slots available or they run on and don’t get finished.
  • Start at #1 and don’t move on until each one is done, then mark it off.  The visual effect of marking the items off…ahhh, can’t emphasise enough, lovely.
  • Allocate blocks of time and do not expect tasks to get done in ‘spare time’.

Brendon Burchard (High Performance Academy and other great productivity initiatives) talks about first listing Projects, People (to reach out to, like prospects and clients, as well as waiting on, where you may need to chase) and then Priorities.

Of all these, I personally find marking each task off the most effective and motivating way to stay focused.

Back to the plumber for a moment.  If he really saw things from his customer’s perspective, in the case of Mums (or single Dads) running businesses, he might think of putting the tap next to the desk (with a kettle).  But I’m thinking that wouldn’t catch on and we would have wet carpets.

So perhaps I can’t blame the plumber for my own distractions.

As I returned to my desk, minus tea, just now, I decided to write this article but once the first draft was done.  I stopped for just a few moments to reassess my own ToDo list for today.

The fact is I didn’t have one.  Not really.

Some post-its that I was aware of, but if I had, I would not have done the washing up in the middle of work time.  The ToDo list really does help me to balance work life with the rest of the world around me.

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Leave A Reply (12 comments so far)

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  1. kirri
    6 years ago

    Ah, so its not just me then! It can be such a mixed bag working from home. Everything is so accessible and comfortable, which is great but with no one to be accountable to and the constant niggle in the back of my mind that its almost 1pm and I have not yet made the beds or prepped dinner…it’s just soo tempting to spend three hours a day getting distracted by housework, or social media or…well you get my point..

    As for Brendon Burchard….he’s someone I really enjoy learning from.

    Very relevant article,
    Thanks again!

  2. Emily
    5 years ago

    I LOVE lists and think they are the only way to survive as a working mum.
    And that ‘crossing off’ feeling, you can’t beat it. In fact I sometimes add things to the list that I’ve already done, just so I can cross them off!

    My top tip is to write the list before you go to bed at night. Then your subconscious seems to work on it overnight and some easier solutions appear!

    • Terry
      5 years ago

      Emily, hi and thnx…

      Yes, crossing them off is so important. Too many times we forget to acknowledge what we have done and just beat ourselves up over what we have not. Yay, for getting things done…:) Great point.

      And good luck with the new website. Need any help?
      Terry recently posted..How can I make time for Christmas?My Profile

  3. Sharon
    5 years ago

    This is so true (…for me at least! – When hubby works from home he has no absolutely no problem leaving dishes AND even adds to them…for me! That’s another topic for elsewhere)

    I am a ToDo list writer, I use a chalk board at home for chores and projects, my iPhone mostly when commuting, notebook and outlook at work and diary! My trouble is consistently following all these lists!

    With the Summer holidays fast approaching, I have started my lists, to juggle; my “day job” working two days from the office, two days from home and one day devoted to the children, plus my EllaPure business. They include, ToDo, ToGo and ToBuy!

    In the past, to tackle the “washing in the sink” and “hanging the laundry” dilemmas, I try my hardest to do these straight away, before my “working day” begins or (laundry) last thing at night before I sit/collapse on the sofa. Typically, doesn’t always go to plan but when it doesn it’s a great day!

    And even more satisfying when I can tick it off my ToDo list as well. It is great to know I’m not alone with this, thanks.

    • Terry
      5 years ago

      Sharon….thnx for the comment. I have an idea for you, a ToDo list blackboard with a column for you and a column for your husband. Then when you add ‘washing up’ on your side, you can strike it out and put an arrow across to his column.

      Then as the children get older, they get columns as well. It will make them feel very grown up…and get some chores done…:)

      Technology is great, but it does sometimes introduce a further dilemma, which to use and how to co-ordinate.

      Greatest of wishes for the Summer Holidays and do let us know how it all goes.

      Terry recently posted..Want to increase sales? Think service.My Profile

  4. Debbie
    5 years ago

    Interesting article, I always have to do lists, without them nothing will get done, but re-do my website has been on my list for ages…and is becoming more urgent! Having read this I’m going to make a second list of tasks to do for the website, which will hopefully mean I’ll get a couple of them done! Et voila one day I will have a new website. Thanks for the tip 🙂

    • Terry
      5 years ago

      Debbie…hi, “bite sized pieces” indeed. Could you let me know your url…that way I can watch for changes… Or is that too much pressure?

      Good luck with it and do tell us when it is done. Need any help, let me know…:)

      Terry recently posted..Lost in the haze? Where next?My Profile

      • Debbie
        5 years ago

        Thanks Terry,

        Already made some uegent changes after reading this, just got the info bit done without worrying about the fancy stuff, fancy stuff to come…, I am meeting with someone at the end of next week who is going to help me with the technical side!

  5. Karen Williams
    5 years ago

    That reminds me, I did have a to do list for today, where did I put it? I wonder if anything on it has been done yet?
    Karen Williams recently posted..Hello world!My Profile

    • Terry
      5 years ago

      Karen, the answer is almost certainly “yes”. You are the sort of person who gets things done, almost regardless of the Todo list. The list is there to tidy up loose ends perhaps.

      Bye the way, the commentluv link for your article “Hello world” is broken, but for anyone else reading this…all blog posts worth reading…:)
      Terry recently posted..I hate book-keepingMy Profile

  6. Karen
    5 years ago

    Great blog post terry and so true i never get that cup of tea because i always get distracted by some sort of mess someone has made in the kitchen i find it happens in all rooms that walk into i get easily distracted and end up doing things i hadn’t planned into my day and leaving the things on my list xx

  7. Dave
    4 years ago

    Great post Terry as always !

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