In my last blog, I shared the first step in my own recipe for being able to “do it all”. More accurately, I explained why I believe that “doing it all” (much like the perfect pavlova) is a mirage and hence a self-defeating endeavor! As such, I do not do anything close to it “all”, despite being a super-freak for organisation, having a huge work ethic and being an active relaxer.
For what they are worth, here are two further steps in the personal “(not) doing it all” recipe that works for me.
Choose carefully what to bake. Its OK not to make cookies and scones if you prefer cake.
Like a lot of family lawyers, I juggle full-time practice, 2 side hustles, volunteer work for 2 (soon to be 3) organisations, and being a mum, stepmum, sibling, spouse, and friend. Sometimes I ignore all of that and just shamelessly binge-watch “Real Housewives”.
Walk into my home and you will find a list on the fridge of domestic projects to do for the month of February. It is August. You will see an overflowing laundry basket and the debris of my ten year old, left scattered throughout the house, wherever he let it fall. On my home office wall, there are post-it notes of fabulous ideas. Most of them will never come to fruition. Speaking of coming to fruition, look closer and there are packets of seeds in the scullery that needed planting last summer.
My life is full of missed school activities, work opportunities turned down, social events not attended, unwiped dusty corners, recipes cut out and never cooked, and projects not started.
And that is OK. I consciously choose not to feel guilt about what I choose not to have done. As Sheryl Sandberg says, “Guilt management can be just as important as time management for mothers”. Central to my guilt management strategy is choosing to commit to that part of “the all” that I believe:
I have been put here to do;
Is the best use of my skills (hence I do not volunteer to be parent help at school camp! Don’t allow your mind to go to the disaster that would be!);
Is going to deliver the most “bang for my buck” (the buck being my time expended on it);
Is important to me. Sometimes it is important for no other reason than it brings a small joy to me or someone else; and
Enables me to do more of the above.
What passes the above test, becomes my “all”. I focus in on doing those things as well as I am able and celebrate that. What passes my “all” test constantly shifts. For example, last week I broke my ritual of a weekly blog because it did not make the cut in the face of taking time to support a friend.
Cream the Butter and Sugar. Forget that, Get Someone Else to do it!
I outsource A LOT of my life. Sometimes, its a wonder to me that I breathe for myself.
This does not come naturally to me. As the daughter of working-class parents, outsourcing aspects of my life is something I have wrestled with and had considerable guilt over. A few years ago, I went on holiday and stayed at a friend’s tropical island luxury mega-home. A cleaner and a gardener were at our disposal. I could not bear it and cleaned before the cleaner arrived. I quickly learned I had to recover from this mindset if I was ever to achieve what I set out to in any given week. I could not go it alone.
There are myriad ways I outsource my life but the most impactful is in my home. I started with a regular cleaner. However, sick of the madness of the pre-cleaner tidy and realising I needed more than a cleaner, I created a role for what I call our "household concierge”. Her title could justifiably be "Personal Superhero".
Every day is different for her, depending on what we need help with. One day she can be doing my paperwork and filing and organising my appointments, the next she can be buying gifts and unpacking groceries. Later in the week she may be cleaning the oven, prepping vegetables for our dinner while cajoling my son (who she has magic powers over) to tidy his room. She has been dispatched to the homes of my friends when they have needed practical, household support in times of illness or overwhelm, rather than me providing this. She even helped me prepare Christmas dinner. Best of all, she anticipates what needs doing and does it with absolute positivity and integrity. She is integral to our household and is my own personal superhero.
I recognise and am grateful that, while I am far from being one of those wealthy "Real Housewives", I come from the privileged place of being able to choose to afford such help. I know that is not possible for everyone. My mother could only have dreamt of having a household concierge! My reality is that the cost of having others assist me frees my time so that I can earn more than I would if I were struggling to juggle those jobs myself. Even in times of financial belt-tightening, other things are sacrificed to maintain her. Sometimes, outsourcing aspects of my professional and domestic life may be a zero-sum outcome but for the fact I am HAPPIER doing the things I choose to focus on and outsourcing the rest.
If outsourcing to free you up to do your “all” is not financially feasible, I am a firm believer in looking to use alternate currencies. What currency do you have that someone else wants? For example, my son’s currency is time to play on device. I can trade him that for help with him attending to extra chores I would otherwise be doing. A student’s currency may be getting work experience for his or her CV so they may be willing to volunteer to assist you with a project you have. Someone else’s currency may be wanting somewhere to call home in exchange for practical help around the place. The possibilities are endless!
So, what’s your “all” test and what passes it? What can you outsource and to who so that you can focus on achieving your all?