A short while ago, I attended a businesswomen’s social meeting (complete with festive nibbles and bubbles) and listened to the supremely calm and organized Emma Grey (author of our recent book giveaway Wits’ End Before Breakfast, and new AWO contributor) speak.
Emma runs WorkLifeBliss – a consultancy that helps women gain clarity, focus and balance in their harried work/life/family/kids/ health/house lives. I loved every word Emma had to say; this is one experienced, clever, insightful woman, who had us oohing and aahing and completely relating at the end of virtually every sentence.
One of the most insightful parts of Emma’s talk was when she spoke of planning and scheduling your year in advance. Ha! I laughed inwardly. Who does THAT?! With the way our years go, nothing could possibly be that pre-booked; things shift and change almost daily, if not hourly.
But Emma insisted this was a strategy to help women gain far greater clarity and balance in our lives. She then read out a list of items we should add to our calendar, in order of importance, starting with Great Life Moments – things we would like to do or see that only occur occasionally, like seeing a visiting rockstar or finally taking the plunge (‘scuse the pun) and parachuting or bungy jumping.
After inking in this Big Moment, we should then schedule vacations and trips away, followed by regular long weekends or ‘mini-breaks’, as she liked to call them. The list then went on through a series of scheduling ideas, ending with our children’s day-to-day extra curricular activities and – gasp – work.
Again, I inwardly laughed when she finished this list (and may have even have elicited a small outward giggle) because – quite literally – I could have completely reversed this scheduling list, commencing with work appointments and the kids’ activities, and ending with Life Moments. Of course, in my regular unscheduled year, by the time the year is over, the Life Moment events are never achieved… because they were never scheduled in.
So, plotting a yearly schedule in virtually the reverse order I would normally do it was like pulling my brain out through my nostrils. I could hardly get my mind around it. But I’ve done it. I did it on New Year’s Day (what better day?).
Husband and I sat down and slotted an entire year into our Family Planner – and we did it in Emma’s order, and… it was easier than I ever dreamed. And it was exciting. It looks wonderful and I can already feel the stress of The Unknown slide away from my shoulders. The relief of knowing what’s coming and planning for it accordingly is like taking a stress chill pill well in advance, and trust me – I’m all for minimising even a shred of stress in our family’s life.
You see, what Emma made me realise is that it’s so important to make commitments to your year. To your family, to your health, to your friends, to your work and to you. THAT is how we obtain a balanced and fulfilling year. It’s not rocket science. It’s that simple. Fundamentally, it’s vital that we honour our pre-planned schedule in the way we would honour our work commitments… you wouldn’t shirk on work or the children’s education, why shirk on exercise, travel, leisure and a bit of fun?
For example, we have allotted one weekend a month as a Family Weekend that will be set in stone. We’re not sure where we’ll be going or what we’ll be doing on those weekends, but we will not compromise that inked-out time for anything. It is booked in solid. And it’s SO exciting to know we’ll have a whole weekend to do something fabulous in.
The other scheduled item we’ve introduced is a weekly Date Night for Husband and I (even if it’s watching a movie or chatting over a glass of wine on the decking), and Parent/Child time. Every weekend, Husband and I will independently allot at least one hour (oftentimes more) to each child and just DO something one-on-one with them. Whether it’s scrabble, going for a walk, playing a game of their choice, having our nails done or kicking a football, it will be the kids’ choice, and we will commit to that. Rock solid.
I feel so happy about this more structured year. It still allows for plenty of spontaneity, but it also means a balanced and happy year with lots of fun and enriching experiences, inked in and ready to enjoy.
And, my oh my – isn’t life really meant to be enjoyed?