Whitney spoke to members of The Riveter community, during which she shared the foundations of her coaching program, Take Back Your Time, and answered questions about reclaiming time in the midst of a culture that worships overwork.
The Riveter is an online community where over 30,000 working women and allies can come together to support each other, advocate for what matters, and drive change.
How do you create a to-do list that helps you get it all done and still focus on your priorities?
We all have things we need to get done — whether it’s a big project for work or picking up more dog food. To-do lists are a helpful way to make sure we remember it all. But, when you fill your to-do list with both big priority items and daily minutiae, it can be hard to separate out what’s important and what’s not.
Whitney pointed out that when we put everything on our to-do list, it feels like it’s all the same priority. Preparing for a presentation and checking the mail both need to happen, but they’re not equally important.
She suggested a few key ways to get control of your to-do list and get more done:
- Separate your high-priority and low-priority items to get more clarity on your list
- Group small, related tasks together (i.e. clean the kitchen, do laundry, check the mail)
- Block off time on your calendar to get related things done (do all your small housework, run all your errands, etc.)
Psychologically, you don’t want to feel like the small things are equal to the big things. You don’t want to get the same level of excitement and accomplishment from taking out the trash as you do from completing a project for work. By grouping smaller tasks and getting them done as efficiently as possible, you’ll have more time and energy for more important things and you’ll feel more accomplished as you check things off your list.
Sometimes I have free time to do things that matter to me, but I don’t have the energy to do them. How do I conserve and manage my energy?
The lack of energy to do things that are important to them even when they have the time has been a common thread with many of Whitney’s clients. The first step is reclaiming your time. If you’re dedicating all your time and energy to just getting things done, by the time you have some breathing space, you’ll be burnt out.
Instead of working yourself to exhaustion in the hopes that you’ll have time to rest later, Whitney suggested carving out time for the things that recharge you, now. This is different for everyone – it may be cooking, reading, working out, or meditating.
A small but powerful way to create space in your day to relax is by taking a lunch break. So many of us eat at our desks or rush to get lunch so we can get back to work. Try taking a regular, hour-long lunch break and do something you enjoy — read a book, watch a TV show, or sit and enjoy nature.
When we do things that give us life and energy, we’re able to show up in all the parts of our lives — for our jobs, for our families, and for ourselves. Prioritize taking time on a daily basis for the things you enjoy, and you’ll find you have more energy to do the things you need and want to do.
How do you make cuts when everything on your to-do list feels important (health, family, work)?
Sometimes it can feel like everything on your list is critically important and you can’t let anything go. We’re socialized to put ourselves last, and this is especially true for women. Whitney has worked with clients who felt like there was no way to free up time in their lives because they had to do everything on their to do list themselves.
Whitney said there are always areas where you can make some changes and create space for yourself. This is true at home and at work. The important thing is to dig into the specifics and look at your life piece by piece. When you do this, you’ll start to see areas where you can implement new strategies and reclaim your time.
- Ask your partner or housemate to cook one meal a week and plan to order takeout another night. Make these nights part of your ongoing schedule to create space in the week
- Enlist your kids to help with the chores. It may take them longer to learn and to complete tasks than when you do it, but it takes chores off your plate and teaches your kids valuable life skills at the same time!
- Identify things you’re doing that aren’t part of your job description. If they’re not necessary tasks, stop doing them. If they are necessary but not in the scope of your role, reassign them
- Learn to delegate! There are team members who want to take on more responsibility and face new challenges. By giving them the opportunity to step up, you can get more breathing room to complete your high-priority projects
It can feel like we’re the only ones who can get things done, both in our personal and professional lives. But, if we take care of everyone else first and ourselves last, it’s only a matter of time before we’re completely burnt out. Take a look at the areas of your life where you feel overworked and overwhelmed. Figure out ways you can create space by enlisting the help of others, delegating, or removing things from your to-do list altogether.
In a culture that values hard work and being busy to the point of burnout, it’s challenging to carve out time for ourselves. To do more with our time, it’s important to recognize the high priority areas that require our time and energy.
Communicating with both your family and your coworkers and restructuring your to-do list can help you get clarity around priorities. Remember that dedicating time to do things you enjoy is a high priority, too. Make time every day to do something that recharges you and gives you more energy. Take a look at your life and your schedule and find ways to create space by delegating work to others and recognizing unnecessary tasks. By implementing a few simple strategies in your daily life, you can reclaim your time and live the life you want right now.