A few weeks ago I wrote a blog on the modern day curse of being busy (if you need to catch up you can read it here). This has resonated with a lot of people and I’ve been asked to follow up with one strategy we use here at Boost to balance our time and energy levels and minimise the stress caused by having a lot of demands on our time. The method we use (one method we use….others include meditation, mindfulness, exercise and gratitude) is called a Default Diary.
You might look at the default diary and see it as another busy schedule or way to map your time. And to an extent it is. The key thing with a Default Diary is that it allows you the luxury of knowing that you have time in your week allocated to all of the important things in your life and allows you to see that you don’t have to be doing 5 different things at all times. Many successful business men and women will tell you, it’s not your time management that matters as much as your energy management. We all have 7 24-hour days in our week. No amount of scheduling will change that. However the energy that we attribute to different tasks can fluctuate. It is the tasks that we love that usually get dedicated a lot of energy, and those that we hate (like ironing!) that we dedicate low or no energy too.
By having a default diary we have a resource that we can look too at any time of day. When we are feeling stressed or flustered or lost we can look to our diary and see exactly what we should be doing. And then we can go and do that. By including everything that is important for the running of our households and families we can default to what we should be doing at that time and know that there are other times allocated for us to dedicate our energy to other tasks. When you know that there is time for everything a level of stress disappears, as 90% of the time our stress is caused by our perception of not having enough time. Of course there are times when our stress is the direct result of something else; for example an Adrenalin surge from a car accident, the illness of ourselves or a loved one. However, in day to day life, once we look logically at our Default Diary we can remove or at least reduce the perception of not enough time.
This concept became particularly pertinent to us when we were trying to balance running a business, raising a family of 2 young children and planning a wedding. We were trying to do all 3 things all the time and our stress levels were rising and nothing was actually getting achieved. When we were in the back office at Boost we were talking weddings not work. When we were playing with the kids we were talking about work and not fully engaging with the children. When we were trying to make wedding plans the kids were vying for our attention because we hadn’t given it to them fully at any other time. It was a mess! So a plan was made. The kids would go to their Grandparents for the afternoon and we would sit down to make a default diary for the whole family. Each individual has their default for the week on which all of the important things are included.
So now, on a Monday at 2pm I know that I can turn off my work brain and turn on my kids brain. I don’t have to think about work again until 8:30am on Tuesday and I can focus purely on engaging with my children, which often includes having them help gather veggies from the garden and cook dinner after we have spent a few hours reading, playing and spending quality time together. I also know that at 2pm on Monday Tom is getting ready for his afternoon at Boost and I won’t be able to make contact with him until he finishes at 7:30pm unless there is an emergency as I know he is focused on work. At any given time we can focus ourselves 100% on the task at hand with plenty of time allocated for work, family, recreation and sanity! By having a copy on display at work and in the kitchen at home the kids can look at it anytime as well and see when Mum and Dad will be home.
There’s one more thing that is KEY to having a successful Default Diary, and that is to align it with your priorities. There are things we love to do which are an important part of our lives (for me it’s Yoga, Stand Up Paddle boarding, Work and hanging out with the Kids) and things we have to do (Housework, Groceries, Checking emails). The absolute key to a hugely successful Default Diary is to first input the things you LOVE. Your non-negotiable “Me-Time” things that keep you happy and energised. They are the things that will help balance out your week and that you look forward too and that are important enough that you want to do them every week. I can’t tell you enough how cranky I get when my Paddle board is hanging in the garage for weeks on end and I am doing nothing but loads of laundry and mopping the floors. Laundry and mopping don’t energise me and restore my energy and sanity. They do have to be done. But they don’t fill me up. So I have time allocated every Saturday to going paddling and the only thing that stops me is poor weather, in which case I do another re-filling activity. I do not fill that time with housework. It’s my “me-time” and its valuable.
So to recap on building your own default diary:
- Have each member of the family do their own default diary so you can all know where you are at
- Have them on display
- Default to it. Change your focus at the allocated times.
- Input your non-negotiable’s first.
- Try it for 7 days and tweak it if needed.
- Don’t be afraid to change it should your priorities or circumstances change.
- Know that sometimes things happen out of our control. A closure of the highway due to an accident. It’s OK. When you get to your destination just check in with the diary and get back on track. And breathe!
Below is an example diary that could be for a working mum with school aged children. Each one will be different. The key is that it allows you the peace of mind to know that you have time for everything; that your focus and energy can be on one thing at a time and that you have time for yourself to re-fill and re-charge. Give it a go and see just how much it helps to lower your feelings of stress!