As corny as the phrase is, if I had a penny for every time someone said: ” I wish I had more time” – I would be mega rich!
Time management is a challenge in our Western lives. Covid 19’s biggest blessing – if there can be one – is in telling everyone to stop, and slow down. During lock-down we stopped and appreciated the birds singing, seeing a new flower blossom, dedicated more care towards our gardens or the plants on our windowsills. Suddenly we were at a loss with how best to be “efficient” and “productive” when we were not in control of our lives.
In pre-Corona times when one asked a friend “how are you?” the go-to response I often heard was “busy”. Does that really reveal how you are? How did we normalize “busy” in place of “doing well, thank you!” or “so-so today”?
Many friends of mine with multiple kids, careers and running homes are completely overworked, underpaid and overwhelmed, and are at a loss to find time for themselves. A good friend once advised me, you can be anything you want – but not all at the same time. If that means you want to stay home and cook nutritious, homemade meals all morning and be the “soccer mom” in the afternoons, don’t expect to be a powerhouse force in the workplace too. Something has to give. If you juggle being a career mother with house and kids, don’t expect perfection in any area.
So what can we do to stave off the “busy-ness” and tackle the problem head on?A practical solution I can offer is to work out your steps. For example, if I know I am having company over for a Shabbat meal and I am solely responsible for orchestrating the event from start to finish, my steps would be to 1) know what I am making (menu), 2) shopping for the ingredients, and then 3) when am I going to make this all? Am I choosing to make simple but delicious dishes or am I giving myself an insane headache of patchke-like work? If I decide to go all out and challenge myself, will I then have enough energy left for other things? Does this extra work buy into my one free day of the week? Is that what I want? Only you know the real answers.
Outsourcing help is an essential need today for most working families. If this is a financial burden be creative with ways to find that help e.g. a barter of services within your local community, or teenage helpers looking for summer/year-round jobs after school.
Productivity is one of our biggest life goals, in the West. If I am doing, then I must be useful. Have I accomplished enough by the hour, day, week, month or year in order to call myself successful? If by the time I am 40 I am a homeowner, married with at least three kids, in a career I choose and the ability to be financially autonomous then have I made it? These societal dictations kill us. There is a model or scale that we consciously, or subconsciously, feel a pressure to live up to in order to believe our worth.
Rid yourself of guilt because as superhuman as you already feel you are, stretching yourself even thinner is certainly not a sustainable long-term solution. Be comfortable with the decisions you make regarding how you choose to prioritize your time. If you are not comfortable with them, then sit down in the quiet of your mind and work out what you prefer to prioritize and/or change. Be kind to yourself. You are different to the next person, your friend, neighbor or colleague – you have individual needs that cater specifically to you. Life is most certainly a roller-coaster and covid19 has been instrumental in showing us that we are not always in charge of our time. Next time you are asked how you are, take a second to refrain from answering “busy”, and focus on why that is such a good thing.