Family life gets really chaotic at times. As parents we learn to manage heightened levels of organisational maelstrom because family life demands flexibility, adaptability and multi-tasking as standard. Sometimes though, we reach a threshold of disorder at which we can’t cope and we become overwhelmed by the expectations upon us. We get stressed by the unmanageable to-do list and become irritable and easily angered by the unpredictable and crazy pace of life. Stress levels rise and we can feel life spiralling out of control. We find ourselves working incredibly hard whilst still feeling that we are dropping the balls and failing. How do we calm the storm of chaos? We need a system. If we were to carry on doing what we had always done, chaos and overwhelm would continue to thrive. To put this system into place, you just need some small notepads, a packet of reasonably large post-it notes and a treat for you.
The first thing to do is to put pen to paper and write a to-do list of all the jobs you currently have to do. Don’t try and order or prioritise them, just pour them out of your head and into a notebook. Keep one notepad by the bed, one in the kitchen and one in your bag or pocket. You have set your brain the task of filtering and sorting out the responsibilities and jobs that you have, so you will find yourself remembering to-do list items all over the place! You want to capture and write them all down. You may have remembered them whilst cooking dinner, whilst trying to sleep and whilst helping little Johnny with his homework.
When chaos reigns, you will remember important things that you have to do and then forget them again just as quickly. This causes panic because you know that something important has been missed. Each day, write all of the jobs from the different notebooks onto one master to-do list. Accept the fact that you cannot complete the whole to-do list straight away. Instead, as you scan your master list, notice that many of the items are less urgent than others anyway. Some items may not even need to be done- cross them out. See! You’re already reducing the list and you haven’t done anything yet!
Place a post-it note on the front of the master to-do list notepad. Scan the jobs on the master-to-do-list, choose the five items you want to get done today and write them onto the post it. Number the top three in order of priority and just aim to get those done, with numbers four and five as bonus items.
The treat comes next. This is a looking-after yourself treat. It’s not a reward for getting stuff done; it’s a little gift of self-care and TLC. Being overwhelmed and overworked is tough on a parent, and as a result can be tough on our children if we are grouchy, shouty and tired. Do yourself and your family a favour by helping yourself to be more relaxed and happy. Choose your treat, relax and enjoy it. It could be a bath, a night out, time to read a good book, an early night or a chat with a friend.
The next day, update the master to-do list. Cross out completed jobs, write down any new items from your other notebooks and add jobs you didn’t complete back onto the master list. Then choose the next five items that become that day’s to-do list. Write them on a new post-it note, again prioritising the top three. Repeat this process each day and slowly but surely work your way through chaos and overwhelm to a place of manageably busy. Do you know how to eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Do you know how to manage overwhelm and chaos? One to-do-list action at a time.