Time Management for Manic Mums (by Allison Mitchell): A review

time management for manic mums

So recently I thought – enough is enough, I’ve been trying to fit things in to my life which it just hasn’t felt like I have the time for, and yet every day I read other people’s blogs and wonder how on earth they manage to do so much, be so creative and juggle so many demands. OK, OK, of course I realise that people portray themselves with a little spin every now and again and we don’t always know the full story of where they find their little oasis of ‘me time’ (with small children – is it having the luxury of paid childcare without having to work too, or is it just children of a certain ‘manageable’ disposition? Is there such a thing?)…

Then I started thinking about being more accepting of my situation after reading this post by Judith over at Secrets of the Sandpit, and wondered if maybe I should get into meditation and ended up buying Mindfulness (for Dummies) (which is quite a shameful thing to admit to!). I haven’t got around to reading much of it yet, however at the same time as wondering about the benefits of cultivating a zen attitude to life (think the motherhood version of Kung Fu Panda and Yoda all rolled into one) , at the other end of the scale I realised that learning some ‘secrets’ of how to live a calmer more ordered life at a moment which could well be described as ‘time-poor’ would not be such a bad thing either, so I also invested in Time Management for Manic Mums by Allison Mitchell.

This one I made time for (it seemed more urgent than learning how to empty my mind somehow although, ironically, meditation is encouraged within this volume) and I have to say it took a bit of wading to get to the good stuff. The author spends a good few chapters asking us to examine our thought patterns in minute detail, even providing lists for us to fill in which confirm that, yes indeed, we are complete idiots who could not organise a piss up in a brewery. She also liberally sprinkles in random ‘Tip!’s which somehow seem a bit surplus to requirement (“Use the speed-dialling function on your phone”). Eventually though, she does provide some good guidance and solutions which include introducing a ‘Daily Diary’ and a ‘Destiny Diary’ into your life with a code for prioritising each item.

There is also a lot of talk of focusing on your goals and thinking positive, affirmative thoughts instead of negative ones. She argues that, whilst people often tend to believe that they are either ‘glass is half full’ or ‘glass is half empty’, anyone can train themselves to live in a more positive frame of mind and therefore, live a happier, more fulfilled life. I have to say that, if this is anything like remembering to do pelvic floor exercises, I’m not starting from the greatest position here with regards thought training – lets just say trampolining has been crossed off my to do list since giving birth…

Anyway I like her idea of making a 14-day meal plan with rolling menus and having a rolling schedule for annual or bi-annual stuff that gets easily forgotten or overlooked. I got a bit caught up in her advice which is clearly aimed at parents with older children but I like the fact that I can come back to this at a later date. I also agree that her idea of ‘living by lists’ is one I am pretty sympatico with – getting stuff out of your head and down on paper (whether it be ‘to do’s’, rants or just diarising [why am I uncomfortable with the way that last word sounds in my head?])¬† it always feels like a way of moving forwards unburdened by spaghetti brain.

I have to say I found her style at times to be somewhat patronising, it feels like the reader is being treated a bit like a dim kid who needs ‘cute’ metaphorical stories and anecdotes to fully understand what is, essentially, a simple case of writing lists and positive thinking. Focusing on goals, eliminating unneccessary time-wasting, overcoming procrastination and learning to delegate and make ‘use’ of other people’s time feature heavily.

On the whole I like the fact that reading this book has made me immediately sit down and create a list of things that need doing (or which I would like to do/accomplish/achieve) in 2014 – this is probably the right time to be getting one’s head in gear for forward planning a year in advance.

With that said I’m off to organise my Birthday celebration (in August!). So if nothing else thanks for the kick up the a**e Allison Mitchell!

Mindfulness and the Slow Movement #PoCoLo

tortoise+and+hare

I recently read a post by a blogger I haven’t come across before (found through the Britmums My Best Post of the Week linky) called Josie, who’s post on managing and coping with motherhood (primarily, I feel aimed towards a complete newbie who hasn’t yet had a chance to get their head round the life-altering change a baby brings) got me thinking about mindfulness and how to live more ‘in the moment’ in general.

Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I tend to be quite an anxious person and often find myself worrying about one thing or another. I get stressed out quite easily and having a child exacerbated this no end! Having two children has cranked it up to stress volume overload! I even began developing a ‘stress rash’ – a small area on my left arm which flares up into an angry, itchy, raised rash the day after a particularly stressful, angry or overwhelmingly negative experience. Its a classic example of the mind alone bringing¬† something that’s not really real into full physical existence.

In the last few weeks I’ve had two or three really stressful experiences and my arm has been flashing itchy red like a demented traffic light.

A few years ago I wrote my Masters dissertation on the subject of Information Overload – another experiential stress zone. I now remember that while I was researching this piece of work I stumbled across Carl Honore’s paen to something called the Slow Movement, “In Praise of Slow”. (I’ve just discovered he has a website www.carlhonore.com) He talks of the way in which our culture teaches us that speed is the key to everything – from fast cars to multi-tasking and earning a fast buck. I love the fact that he was inspired to write his book after reading a newspaper article encouraging parents to condense well-loved classic children’s stories into minute-long soundbites in order to get out of the nursery quicker and pick back up on all those must-do adult activities.

At first glance, the One-Minute Bedtime series sounds almost too good to be true. Rattle off six or seven “stories,” and still finish inside ten minutes – what could be better? Then, as I begin to wonder how quickly Amazon can ship me the full set, redemption comes in the shape of a counter-question. Have I gone completely insane?

I think this thought captures what so many of us think and feel on a daily basis. I want to be a good parent, but do I have the time? And then there’s “I want to be a good partner, but do I have the time?”. Life with small children can not only be a stressful experience in itself, but can also make you feel like everything else you do that doesn’t involve them has to be done at breakneck speed in order to make the most of this precious little time. Hence if I find myself with one day off while they’re both in paid childcare I must squeeze in a house-clean, cook two casseroles, fill out a passport application, do two loads of washing, write a blog post, have a cervical smear, etc, etc, ad infinitum – sod relaxation and escapism! And fitting in the needs of a relationship on top of this? Forgive me for the utter selfishness but if I find myself with ten spare minutes I’m going to want to pick up a good book/soak in a bubbly bath/research some fun activities that I like the look of and help me remember who I am and who I want to be.

I feel that sometimes I’m on the edge of a minor breakdown and something has to change. I need to slow down, live more in the moment, let go of this constant need to “keep up with the Joneses” (which is exacerbated no end by the cult of social media one-upmanship) and learn to live on less and value more of what I’ve got.

Linking up to #PoCoLo over at http://vevivos.com

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