Dividing Time: March Jam Session

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We met up online on March 20 to talk about how we divide our time. For those with kiddos at home (whether homeschooled, in preschool, or coming home mid-afternoon from school), parents who work from home have to manage their time differently.

There is no “pinnacle of perfection” in how to meet the time (and other) demands of running a business and raising humans to be good (great!) people, in addition to meal making, house keeping, health promoting, down time. However, it was helpful last night to go through some of the struggles and strategies that can make this feel “better”.

Here are some of the key points we talked about last night. (And we covered a LOT of ground!):

  1. OUTSOURCING

I recently posted about the theory of the “Four Burners”. If we look at life as being like a stove top with four burners (family, friends, business, and health), it is easy to see how difficult it is to keep all of our burners on all of the time without letting something burn. But if all these burners are important to us, how can we stoke the flames of each of our priorities without it all going up in smoke? That article is here, on James Clear’s website.

So, if we can’t keep all four burners on, what are our options? Especially if we look at all these burners and don’t want to give any of them up?

One of the options in the article that we also discussed last night was “outsourcing” one of the burners. Getting meal boxes delivered to the house outsources cooking. Getting a housekeeper outsources cleaning. Enrolling kids in school outsources education. And hiring someone to manage your social media feeds or website outsources some of the “delegate-able” tasks of your business. The notion is that we cannot do it all all of the time in a way that gets good outcomes.

2. BLOCK YOUR TIME

I have reached a point where getting bits of work done here and there, sprinkled throughout the day, just isn’t working anymore. Things get missed. I don’t get “flow”. I am more easily distracted. And I end up half paying attention to everything all at the same time.

Blocking our time (either by outsourcing some caregiving, setting up older kids with an activity, or carving out time when our spouse is home) can be helpful. Blocking time is setting aside focused, deliberate chunks of time to work on specific tasks or projects.

I’ve complained (to myself) that this doesn’t work with homeschooling, but the fact is that what I have been doing isn’t working either. Instead of hacking away at an email in 2 minute intervals over 8 hours while also answer questions like “What would happen if Minecraft were real?” and “What’s for lunch?”, what if I went all in on one task? What if I acknowledged that the “homeschool” burner was going to be turned off for a couple of hours (not necessarily for them, but for me as a facilitator!). I likely would be more satisfied with what I accomplished, more comprehensive in what I got done, and more fully available when the homeschool burner got turned back on (while simultaneously turning off the “work” burner).

It doesn’t solve the problem of overall time required to get stuff done, but it sure helps with productivity and task management (and sense of accomplishment and focus).

3. FLOATING BLOCKS

With young kiddos at home, fixed blocks of time are not always possible. However, if the notion of blocking time is appealing, perhaps “floating blocks of time” can work. Having specific tasks (finish draft of article, contact referral, send invoice), and a time estimate (2 hours) means that when a spontaneous block of time arises (they all are intensely playing lego, or a friend drops by and they suddenly stop asking me what they can do) I can set the intention that that is work time. Not “wash the dishes” time, “finish the laundry” time, or “escape into the rabbit hole of facebook” time. Work time. Go time. Productive time. Focus and ‘get it done’ time.

This idea solves, for me, the problem of not knowing quite how our day will unroll. I’ll be trying this out and reporting back!

3. A DEDICATED OFFICE

It came up last night that one of our members will announce she is going into her office, and that it is work time for her. She then shuts the door. And it’s dawned on me that since moving to our new home we have not had a dedicated office. Instead, I have a laptop and an office bag that contains everything I need to move anywhere I need to to get work done. Unfortunately, this means that it has sometimes been at the breakfast table, or in front of “Trollhunters” because they really want me to watch a scene with them. Typing this, I see how not ideal this is. Although the portability of it all works great, the focus to shut off all other burners just never happens. Perhaps it is time to etch out one consistent space that is set up to ooze the message “Shhhhhh……Mommy’s working.”

4. RANDOM THOUGHTS FOR FEELING BETTER ABOUT DIVIDED TIME

Themes of “failure is ok”, and “fake it till you make it”, as well as “be reasonable with myself” came up last night too. And, surprisingly, a thought provoking comment to “be more like a male CEO”. I don’t really like being told to be more like a man, but when we parsed this out it started to make at least a little bit of sense. If we are trying to do it all, and we have all four (or six, or twelve) burners on a stove on, we are more likely to burn out and fail. If, however, we consider outsourcing to be a valid way of managing time and tasks, and if we consider that the goal is not to be a martyr of motherhood, then perhaps we (and I mean I) ought to give up the notion that I can be master of all of my priorities all of the time. Perhaps the priority shifts over the course of a day, or month, or year. And that is ok. But to keep all priorities “on the front burner” is simply not sustainable, and not satisfying.

5. CRACK THE CODE

When we are learning something new it is time consuming and we make mistakes. When we are able to get to a certain competency –by learning from these mistakes, and making that process a useful one– we reach a certain level of efficiency, too: as someone said during the Jam Session last night, we can “crack the code” on how things work, which lets us make the time spent on it worthwhile. After we’ve cracked the code, we have an easier way of getting something done just as well, but with less time and energy invested.

6. “SUCCESS CIRCLES” FOR EMPOWERING EACH OTHER

The idea of a “success circle” of supportive women with shared ambitions as moms and entrepreneurs has power. Some success circles are in person, some can be through formal Masterminds with people coming together from far away, and some are entirely online. Although Nurture Squared provides connection online rather than in person, the value of connecting with one another, brainstorming, and supporting each other makes personal growth and relationships a worthwhile burner to keep hot.

Nothing takes the place of face to face, though, for its power to connect, to build on relationship, and to grow our sense of common struggle and success. If there are those who follow Nurture Squared who would find an occasional local-to-you get together helpful, feel free to start a thread on our facebook page, Nurture Squared.


Next month, our Jam Session builds on what we talked about tonight, as we explore “Holding Space for Our Vision”: How to protect and build on our vision, when progress can be slow and the faith of others to see this vision is low. The date is set for April 23. You can RSVP on facebook, and will, if you are signed up via email, receive a link to the Jam Session video meeting. I hope you’ll join us!

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