Have you ever thought about what your dream life would look like if you had the time to do everything you wanted, even with small kids? If I were living my dream life, I would start every day with a short yoga sequence to ease any stiffness from my 8-hour beauty sleep. Then, I would have breakfast with my family, prepare for the day ahead, drop my son off at school, and start working.
I would exercise two to three times a week and take 10,000 steps each day, ideally spending a few hours outside in the fresh air. To take care of my mental well-being, I would meditate every day for at least 20 minutes. We would stay on top of all necessary house chores, living in a moderately clean and tidy apartment, and we would always eat healthy, homemade food. Even my son would love broccoli! We would also stick to Dr. Greger's daily dozen.
Wouldn't this life be wonderful? On top of that, we would make time for family, couple, and friend activities, as well as self-growth and development. I would study something exciting that inspires me every day.
Of course, this sounds fantastic, but as a mum of a small kid, I am just like all the other mums. I don't have time for half of the things I want, and there are days when everything seems to be a mess. But then there are days when I get surprisingly close to achieving my perfect life, and that feels amazing. On those days, I see a significant difference in my mood, and all the changes in my habits and time invested in myself pay off. I become happier and more patient with my family, and I'm able to play with my son the game called "Let's hide and not get dressed in the morning" without any stress. This is the biggest evidence that improving our time management is worth it.
So, what is the secret sauce? How can you live the ideal life, or at least something quite close to it?
1. Perfect imperfection
First of all, I want to clarify that the goal here is to strive for an almost perfect life, recognizing that there will always be things that are out of our control such as illness, increased workload, or unexpected visitors. The idea is to create a flexible structure that allows you to adapt to changing circumstances without feeling guilty or overwhelmed.
As a coaching tip, it is a very typical mistake to immediately take it as a failure when you don’t follow your plans for a day or a week, and just ignore all the work and the results that you already achieved and call your attempt a failure and sink back into the daily rush. Accept that there is no such thing as perfect, life is about planning, progressing and learning on the go from the challenges and obstacles.
2. The why
Secondly, to initiate change, we must have a strong inner drive. This drive can come from a deep desire to improve our current situation or a vision of a more rewarding future. So, what is your drive? What motivates you to want to live your dream life? What are you searching for? As a mother, exhaustion and the demands of managing a family, household, and career can be overwhelming. But what if you could change that? What if you could regain your energy and become the vibrant, creative, and funny person you used to be?
As a coaching tip, instead of relying solely on willpower, focus on your "why-power." Consider why you want to live your dream life, what you want to achieve, and who you want to become. This will help motivate and guide you towards your goals, for example, focus on a project, get a promotion or exercise regularly.
3. Imagine it to create it!
To achieve your dream life, it's important to visualize it. What does it look like to you? What makes you happy and satisfied? What do you need to make it happen? Creating a vision board and writing down the details can help your subconscious mind work towards making it a reality. While our conscious mind sets goals and visions, it's the subconscious that helps us achieve them.
Coaching tip: To design your dream life, you can start by planning your perfect week on paper or Excel. What time do you wake up? What activities do you engage in? What energizes and drains you? Can you eliminate the activities that deplete your energy and focus on the ones that replenish it? What are the mandatory tasks, what are the tasks you could be flexible with, where could you ask for help, what could be outsourced to your partner/kid/neighbour/ grandparents/etc.? There is always a way to improve your schedule, for example, a typical low-hanging fruit is to remove or reduce the dead time like scrolling through social media posts for an hour or watching 5 episodes of a new series (you could compromise and watch two instead).
You can save a lot of effort by preparing in advance for the obstacles and challenges that might come on the road and creating a plan to overcome them. For example, if you plan to dedicate some time every week to study something new, it is good to find an accountability buddy to support you. A client of mine found it extremely difficult to stick with her plan and wake up early in the mornings to work on her project, so she dropped me a WhatsApp every morning for months and it helped her to crawl out of bed.
4. Handle the change as a project
You are an expert at work and you know how to work on immense projects, how to prioritise, and how to set measurable objectives. You know how to be responsible for your performance, and how to take ownership of your results. What if you take one step back and you handle your own life as a work project that needs improvement?
Considering your personal life as a work project can help you to tackle it like an expert. Analyze your life, identify the necessary changes, and communicate them effectively with the impacted stakeholders. You can use your knowledge and experience from work to improve your personal life. The good thing at work is that we are hardly ever as involved emotionally as we are at home, so what if you can be super professional when it is about a never-ending discussion with our family about the distribution of house chores?
5. Checkpoints and goals
When setting personal goals, it may seem excessive to define them in a SMART format, but taking some time to think about the desired outcome can be helpful. Consider what you want to achieve and how you will know that you are on the right track. Think about the person you want to be and what kind of life you want to lead.
It is important to take time to evaluate your life and consider what you love and what you would like to improve. We tend to think and analyze too much, always chasing the next thing, so taking time to evaluate can help us find peace and celebrate our successes. Regularly stopping to evaluate can be done in a variety of ways, such as journaling, meditating, talking with an accountability partner, or working with a coach.
6. Actions speak louder than words
While dreaming and planning are important, taking action is what ultimately leads to success. Go and do what you need to do: talk to your husband to take over the kids every Tuesday so that you can study, get an accountability partner and go for a run every Wednesday, or find a kid-friendly yoga place and recharge your batteries there. Whatever you want into your life, be as creative as you would be at work and find a way to make it happen.
Coaching tip: plan on the long term and don’t expect yourself to achieve everything overnight, focus on consistent work instead and make small improvements to your habits. You might be familiar with the idea of Atomic Habits – if you improve every day just a tiny little thing in your life, let’s say you have a 1 % improvement every day, after a year your life will be 37 times better! What could be your 1 % improvement for today?