Make Room For Your Goals! With Practical Tips and 3 Steps To Ruthless Time Blocking

#MomsSelf-Care #MomsLearningNewThings #MomsPutJoyOnTheAgenda

Discover the tools, techniques and thinking needed to energize your plan!

Learning, New Ideas and Changing Habits

“I want to tell you something.” She said it quietly, holding something tightly against her chest. “What’s that?” The girl’s teacher, Marie Levey-Pabst probed gently. The teen walked to the front of the classroom, held up ‘Speak’ an amazing young adult book, and beamed with pride.

I asked Marie, a seasoned teacher, to describe her experiences teaching new habits.  “This was a student who hadn’t done much in class until then. Her look, one I’d seen many times, said it all…‘this was the first book I finished, because I wanted to and now I want another one!’” How beautiful is that?

Marie’s student was not alone in struggling to build a reading habit. Humans struggle with change. US News reports only 20% of New Year’s resolutions are kept. More troubling, in an often referenced study by Dr. Edward Miller of John Hopkins only 1 in 10 critically ill patients made lifestyle changes to improve their chance at survival.

Moms, however, bring advantages to the change game. From navigating the myriad of carriers and pumps, to school schedules and changing emotional needs, as our kids grow we’re forced to adapt and reinvent. Constantly. How can we harness this capacity for self-care? Moms regularly scale mountains to meet family needs, as reflected on the hierarchy.  Yet, for personal goals (whether singing lessons or an advanced degree) the limited discretionary time, sleep and mental energy feels insurmountable.

There are, however, smart hacks to put more of what you value onto the agenda. “The learning process for kids, adolescents and adults is more similar than different.” Marie explained.  While she still teaches writing to younger students, Marie now also teachers parents how to use systems and habits to create a balanced and joyful life. The teaching methods are similar.  

Closing the ‘Idea to Action’ Gap

“I strive to get people doing things to connect to the path that’s right for them.” I was introduced to Marie by Moms excited about her practical tools to reduce stress and improve balance. She focuses on moving people from “hearing about making it happen to actually making it happen.” How? Marie shares her clever framework to get unstuck.

Time Really is Finite.

“We keep thinking we can stretch time!” I laughed having suffered this illusion many times. She said, “Some want more time for themselves, others more play time with their kids…versus just managing them. Whatever the goal, something has to get carved out to create room.” Wise words. Most Moms lack predictable discretionary time. Marie, mother of two, deeply understands this and shared how she helps uncover the workarounds.

Start with the Smallest Possible Action

“Some Moms want to work out more. They start thinking, ‘I need to join a gym or go for a 30-minute run’…this can be daunting.” Marie asks questions to help break the goal into small steps. “What would it look like to do something for just 5 minutes? How about 5 minutes each day for a week?”  She then encourages them to do it, reflect on it and talk about the experience afterwards.

She also uses hands-on writing exercises. “Recently, I held a workshop about ‘how to make time to connect with other adults.’ People wanted more time with their spouse or friends. I asked them to write a list of actions, starting with what takes the most time to the least amount of time, to accomplish this goal (reconnecting with other adults.)” For example, a small step, could be sending a text or making a quick call. More time intense activities would be meeting for lunch or seeing a movie together. “I ask people to choose what to do tomorrow.” She added, emphasizing a focus on what is possible NOW. “For some people that’s all they need. They’re off and running…they don’t even need me anymore!”

Change Your Inner Story

“It’s easy to label something as impossible.” Marie explained, “…people believe they don’t have the skillset.” She described a Mom interested in reducing the mental load (always-on, invisible to-do list) and better organizing her projects at home. “We couldn’t easily find a system that helped her manage her home projects until I asked how she sets up projects for her business. She shared this gorgeous color-coded project sheet and then the lightbulb went off.  She realized…wait, I can do this for home!” She already had the template and it’s been working beautifully for her. Marie explained, “…we may already have the skills needed, (but just have to) transfer them to other areas of our lives.”

3 Steps To Ruthless Time Blocking

There are ways to etch productivity from small moments – listening to podcasts commuting or chopping carrots while making a call. What about the BIG goals? The ones that require real time? You know…uninterrupted-I-am-fully-engaged-and-mentally-clear-time? Marie shared her process used successfully with clients and in her life.

1. Name It!  

She asks clients to get specific about what they’re actually doing. “If it’s invisible you can’t act on it.  Take the theoretical and make it concrete.” Here, here! In another exercise, she asks, “…If the magic time unicorn showed up and gave you an extra 3 hours (and you’ve had enough sleep) what would you do with it?”

2. Create The Right Space

“Ask, what do I value for my family in this phase of life?” Marie revisits this for herself every three months. “Sometimes there’s a season…for a particular week my work might matter more than my kids liking me. Just for that week. It’s temporary!” A good reminder.

Over the summer, when she realized her kids were getting frazzled by too many activities, she canceled plans to create more unstructured time. “I hate doing that, but being able to do what they felt like doing as much as humanly possible was the best thing for my kids at that point. I had to be okay with being a social pariah who cancelled plans.” Sigh. The dreaded Mom guilt is hard to escape, although she knew her friends would understand, she gave herself permission to change the plan.

3. Reimagine Your Schedule

Marie loves writing and it’s a big part of her work, “I realized I don’t write nearly as well after 2 pm. I’m a morning person and needed to carve out early time to write.” To do this, she had to revamp the morning schedule. Yes…including sleep. “I had to get up earlier to create space during prime writing time. I used to grade papers in the morning, however I realized that was a task I could still do well later in the day, so I shifted it.” Her husband took over what she affectionately called ‘the breakfast train’ with the kids.  

Questions To Consider:

  • How can I not be responsible for this activity?  
  • What are the consequences if I delegate it?  Even if it’s not done exactly the way I would do it.
  • Can it move somewhere else or to another time of day?
  • Can the task be ‘batched’ for example, instead of doing it every day can it be done twice a week?
  • What would happen if I didn’t do it at all?  Her favorite question for people to consider.

Marie’s process is accessible and can apply to any goal: “Decide what you want to do, make it visible and concrete, name where you want it to go in your life and then, figure out what has to be pushed to the side to make it happen.”  

Clear, simple, brilliant. Seriously, you’re already a multi-tasking, time-bending acrobat!  You’ve got this! Now, go bake self-care and what brings you happiness into the schedule.

Many thanks to Marie Levey-Pabst for a wonderful conversation and practical steps to bring more of what we really care about into daily life.

Marie, is a life-long educator, coach and founder of Create Balance, a life-balance consultancy. For a free copy of her ‘Get Real About Your Resolutions’ planner and access to information about her upcoming virtual program Create Balance on Your Terms, please sign up here or visit her page on Facebook.

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