Friday, 8 April 2016

How To Do it All and Stay Sane: Time Management and Self-Care

Over the last 12 months, I've lost count of how many times I've wished for another few hours in the day. Leading up to Christmas, I found myself wishing for a whole extra week. That was in part because, I chose to launch my new online accessories boutique Lizzy O in mid-December instead of waiting for the new year. I built the website from scratch and it took hours and hours. I'm glad I did, because from a business point of view at least, it was worth it. But it came at a price. I didn't decorate the house for Christmas as much as I do normally, I didn't host quite so many girls' nights in and I didn't enjoy those precious few exciting days leading up to Christmas with my children, because I was exhausted and was trying to catch up with everything else.

Lizzy O Boutique
Lizzy O Boutique

I vow that this will never happen again. There is only a finite number of years left to enjoy that excitement with my children while they still want to spend time with me. My daughter has just turned 15 and my son is nearly 13. I'm guessing that in the not too distant future, they will have holiday jobs and will want to spend their time with their friends and perhaps even their partners. I don't want to miss out.

But, I have to work. And I have to work hard.

I'm a lone parent to two gorgeous teenagers, (this is why), and with no practical support from my children's father, and an ongoing battle to receive financial support from him, the buck stops with me. My outgoings are the same as for any family yet there is only my income. I'm self-employed and have several income streams. My main is from Aspire Magazine where I am the copywriter and editor. I write a monthly column for Optometry Today, I run the aforementioned online accessories business Lizzy O and alongside these are ad-hoc writing and guest-blogging jobs.

I run the home, cut the grass, help with revision, sort out phones that have fallen down the loo, re-attach blinds that have fallen off the wall and mend leaking washing machines. I cook, clean and do everything else involved in raising a family. I also go to the gym three times a week to stay healthy and fit so I can do all of the above, because my greatest fear is becoming ill and being unable to earn a living or look after my children.

So all things considered, I'm pretty busy.

I'm not complaining though. On the contrary. I've never felt as happy or as fulfilled. It just means that I have to be incredibly organised and although this comes quite naturally to me, I could probably manage my time more efficiently.
What doesn't come naturally is rest, relaxation and "me time". My mind is never still- there are way too many tabs open and I simply don't get enough sleep.

So when I attended The Blognix Retreat in February, two workshops proved invaluable. The first about time management, the second about self-care.

Time Management for People Who Want To Do All The Things
This workshop was given by Holly June Smith, (a multi-tasking woman if ever there was), and although it was aimed at bloggers, most if not all of her advice could be very well used by busy people everywhere, especially those who run a business or are self-employed.
Below are the points I brought home with me along with how I have implemented them and the impact they have had two months down the line.

Goals
1. Set big goals
I want to gain an income from my blog.

2. Set clear goals.
I want to become a brand ambassador by the end of 2016.
I want to have an Instagram following of 10k by the end of 2016.
I want to have a Twitter following of 5k by the end of 2016.

3. Set SMART goals: Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant Timebound.
My clear goals are all of these.

4. Smash "limiting beliefs"
I no longer say my blog is just a hobby. I say my blog is my hobby and I can make it pay because I'm good at it and I work hard at it.

What Lizzy Loves Instagram
My goal is 10k followers on Instagram by the end of 2016

Schedule
1. Schedule time strictly:
I break my day down into two hour intervals, the first 7-9am when I check emails and social media, put the washing machine on, shower and have breakfast and ask 15 times if the children have got everything for school.
I timetable the rest of the week to include:
Gym: Three mornings
Food shopping: Twice weekly.
Housework: As required and a weekly "big clean"
Ironing: Twice weekly
Prepare supper: Daily (I aim to make everything from scratch)
Writing and research: Daily for Aspire Magazine, Optometry Today and the week's three blog posts.
Photography: Three days per week I get photographs taken for my blog (depending on the availability of my photographer children), and take photographs for Lizzy O and for my two Instagram accounts. Upload, edit, optimize and download.
Social media: An essential part of building my blog and achieving "The Big Goal". Several daily- Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook posts. Comment on and follow others' social media.
Blog Housekeeping: Daily, I reply to comments, comment on other blogs, join link-up parties. Monthly, I check analytics, update my media pack and check broken links.

2. Create Habits:
I follow the same routine each time at the gym so I no longer need to think what's next. Each month, I increase the weight or the intensity.
I break for lunch at pretty much the same time each weekday
I check my favourite bloggers' social media daily and blogs regularly.
I publish my blog posts on Tuesday afternoon, Friday afternoon and Sunday morning.
I do my paid work first followed by my blog.

3. Schedule Downtime:
Must try harder with this one because, given any chance, I will work on my blog, answer another email or do something work related, even over the weekend
Since Blognix, I do schedule an hour or so once a week to go for a cup of tea and a chat at my friend Sally's. I count the gym as downtime and I'm trying to read more. The second workshop gave me a lot of ideas to help with this, so more of this below.

4. Multi-task:
The very nature of my work means that I multi-task almost without consciously realising. I sometimes flit from one task to another where it would be more efficient to complete one task before embarking on the next. I need to be smarter with my multi-tasking.


Recognise What Is Urgent and What is Important
Urgent: Not doing this will have an impact. For example, the food shopping, paying bills, meeting work deadlines.

Important: In relation to "The Big Goal". Ask yourself does this get me closer to achieving it. For me, an hour on Instagram or organising my Pinterest boards is better than one spent watching tv. Reading a magazine, be it about fashion, travel or Blogosphere will hone my writing skills for both work and for my blog.

When time poor, write a to-do list and categorise everything. Unless it is urgent or important, it can probably wait.

Make Life Easier
1. Automate everything:
I'd forgotten about this until fellow blogger Catherine shared a link about how scheduling Tweets will make life easier and will drive more blog traffic. I have been using Buffer for three weeks now and it has indeed increased traffic and taken the thought out of this particular aspect of promoting my blog. It's a very intuitive app and I highly recommend it.

2. Turn off notifications:
This one has proved nigh-on impossible for me! I can't help but respond to every email, message and social media notification. I need to put my phone and iPad out of sight when working at the laptop. I should also switch off both devices earlier than I do in the evening too.

3. Ask for and accept help:
I've always been very independent and never really needed help before, but my current circumstances led me to ask for help from my parents and friends and I couldn't have managed without them. I'm getting better and better at asking for and accepting help.

4. Recognise that you are one awesome human.
Ok, if you insist.

Self-Care
The self-care talk was presented by Laura Agar Wilson.
She started by defining self-care in the broadest sense: "Love yourself. Have enough appreciation and love for yourself so that you take care of yourself and of all your needs."

She went on to explain that self care is two ends of a scale. At one end are the day to day essentials such as sleep, food and health, analogous to petrol in a car. At the other are the deeper, life-changing things, analogous to the road map of the journey.

Blognix retreat
Laura Agar Roberts at The Blognix Retreat
We can't reach our destination, if we don't stop and fill the tank. This can be something as simple as switching the laptop off half an hour early or making a healthy salad. Self-care, is vital for us to keep going.

Self- Care Ideas
Say yes
Say no
Go for a walk
Make a smoothie
Go to bed early
Get up early
Pamper yourself
Spend time with friends
Read
Cuddle
Book a massage
Work with and face your fear
Eat your favourite food and don't feel guilty
Watch a film
Dance
Treat yourself
Stop caring what others think
Ask for help

Laura'a advice:
1. Focus on the five most effective forms of self-care (petrol).
For me, this includes trying to get more sleep and maintaining my fitness at the gym.

2. Figure out what you want from life (road map).
On a personal level, I want to be the best mother I can, to give my children the most secure and loving environment and to give them the self-confidence and self-esteem to equip them for life so they will be the successful young people they are destined to be.
For work, I want to build my brand (my blog, my business and my writing portfolio) to earn a sustainable and decent income.

3. Write a gratitude list.
I am so, so, so grateful for my loved-ones and for our health.
I am so grateful to live in a comfortable home in a beautiful town.
I am grateful that I love my work.
I am grateful that I have an honest and sensitive nature and a very positive, optimistic and upbeat outlook. I am very good at finding silver linings and for that I, and everyone that loves me, is grateful.
I am grateful that I'm good at most subjects and can help my children with their homework if necessary. (My honest nature insists I add a caveat here to exclude geography, history, politics and art).
I have a very close relationship with my children who love and respect me.
I make friends easily.
There are so many more, my list is seemingly endless. For that, I couldn't be more grateful.

4. Cut out negativity.
I choose not to follow those on social media whose posts are negative or that make me uncomfortable in any way. (I must point out that this is very different to supporting those with anything that causes genuine upset, sadness or stress)

5. Be authentic
This is who I am. This is how I feel. This is what I want from life.  This is what I believe. This is how I dress. This is me.

6. Be the most fabulous version of yourself
I try!
Feeling loved, secure and supported helps to make me feel fabulous as does positive feedback. Reciprocating makes oneself feel as good as the recipient. A positive feedback loop, I suppose.
I don't save things for best (within the realms of practicality).
I celebrate at any/every opportunity.

What Lizzy Loves, chocolate birthday cake
I love to celebrate

The Over 40 Collective
Supporting one another, blogging friends, The Over 40 Collective.

I work hard, very hard to deliver the best of everything and that makes me feel good. In the same way, I try to be the best mum, daughter, sister, girlfriend, friend, auntie, godmother I can be.

And...it feels fabulous!

Rose gold heart pedant

Updated on 22nd March 2017
It's almost a year since I published this blog post and it continues to be one of the most viewed, so I thought it might be useful to give an update and to remind myself of the advice I received last year at Blognix.

I set three clear (blog-related) goals:
1. I want to become a brand ambassador by the end of 2016.
2. I want to have an Instagram following of 10k by the end of 2016.
3. I want to have a Twitter following of 5k by the end of 2016.

Did I achieve them?
1. Yes! I became a brand ambassador for Kaleidoscope in July last year. Every month I write a piece for their blog and I get an outfit which I share on my own blog. I attend press days and meet the team to look at the upcoming collections. I have made some great friends and contacts because of this and I love the role.
2. No! Well, yes I did but 3 days late! My Instagram following hit 10K on 3rd January 2017. So I'm going to treat it as a yes.
3. No! Nowhere near! I really haven't devoted any time to increasing my Twitter following and being honest, I don't think I will. Instead I will focus on increasing my Instagram following further along with that of my Facebook page.

Write a gratitude list
I am STILL grateful for everything I listed first time round but there are a few things to add:
I am grateful that since I wrote the original post, I have met the loveliest man I could ever have wished for and I am grateful he reciprocates my feelings. He has changed my life.
I am grateful that The Over 40 Collective is going from strength to strength and I am grateful to be in touch with these women on a daily basis.
I am grateful that my blog is going from strength to strength and that my hard work is paying off.
I am grateful to still have the passion, drive and energy to make me strive to improve myself.
I am grateful that my children continue to astound me and to make me proud and that we are all healthy and happy.


Love Lizzy x

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36 comments

  1. Hi Liz, my husband and I run a manufacturing jewellery company making pieces from wax castings. We use a range of metals, silver, gold etc. I thought we might be useful to you if ever you wanted to expand or create your own pieces. Best wishes Faye Jhf castings ltd

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    1. Thank you very much Faye. I've seen your email- thank you- so will get in touch in due course! xxx

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  2. Wow what an amazing post! You are so right about taking time to care for yourself mentally and physically. I am going to have to re-read this and think about how I can make some changes in my life. You are most definitely an awesome, inspiring person - good luck with all your goals for 2016!

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  3. Thank you so much Bee and thank you for your ongoing support of my blog, my business and my Instagram. It really does mean so much. We all need to stop once in a while and be kind to ourselves. Lives are busy and we sometimes forget to stop, even if it's just for a few minutes! Have a lovely weekend xxxxx

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  4. Liz, the last photo says it all, really. You look radiant, beautiful, HAPPY, confident, and ready to take on the world. I'm pleased to have a front row seat! Love to you xxx

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    1. Thank you so much Lisa. I'm very much looking forward to working with #theover40collective and taking my blog in a slightly different direction xxx

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  5. I've just quickly scanned this post but aim to sit down later and have a proper read as so much of it makes sense but are points that can slip in the bustle of everyday life. I love the way you split the day into two hourly chunks. Thank you for an inspiring blog x

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    1. Thank you so much for the lovely feedback. Yes, I have found that by splitting the day into two-hourly chunks, it makes it easier to manage everything but also affords some flexibility too. Thank you again for taking the time to comment. It really does mean a lot xxxx

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  6. Wow loved this post Lizzy, I will definately be taking some tips away for myself too. You are a real inspiration and wonderful person and it sounds like you have made great goals and prioritise the right things. I wish you all the luck. Gemma x
    www.jacquardflower.uk

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    1. Thank you so much Gemma. I get the impression you're somewhat of a multi-tasker yourself! I have set my goals and hope they are both achievable and realistic!My children will always be my priority,as with almost all parents, but I am enjoying setting my own challenges too xxxxx

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  7. Brilliant post, Liz, thank you so much for summarising the presentations especially since I didn't attend the "Time Management" at BLOGNIX. I love your goals and can really relate to all what you have put together. Let's make 2016 our year!!

    Much love,
    Annette | Lady of Style

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    1. Thank you so much Annette. Yes, Holly's Time Management workshop was excellent. I am so excited to have met you at Blognix and am very much looking forward to working together this year as #theover40collective. And yes, here's to a successful 2016 xxxxx

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  8. Hi Lizzy,

    Wow -what an amazing read and an inspirational lady. I have really enjoyed working with you and love the fact that we can all learn and inspire from each other. I think your positivity and trueness really shines through your writing. Takes care. Isabel xx

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    1. Thank you so much Isabel. I love working with you too and am very grateful for the opportunity to work with Danon, a brand I truly love. We can always learn from each other, support and inspire each other and you too are a very positive, true person and a true (if very new) friend. Thank you xxxxxxxx

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  9. Dear Liz,

    a tweet of Annette, Lady of Style, led me to your blog post. And I am deeply impressed. You are simply fabulous! Thanks for this wonderful insight into the life of such a strong woman!

    All the best for You!

    Stephanie
    from the German blog "Modefl├╝sterin" (English translation: "Fashion Whisperer")

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    1. Hello Stephanie, thank you so much for reading my post and for taking the time to comment and for the lovely compliment. I met Annette at Blognix in february and we have been in touch almost every day since then. She is an amazing woman and so stylish. I will come and see your blog now! Thank you again Stephanie xxxxx

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  10. Wow Lizzy, this is one well-written, well thought out, informative piece! I love that you have taken the time to share what you have learned in and easy to understand, implementable way.
    You certainly seem to be thriving on it - you look absolutely radiant!
    Michelle xxx
    http://www.thebarefacedchic.co.uk

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    1. Hi Michelle, thank you so much. I think the tips can be implemented across many businesses and lifestyles. I suspect you need to switch off earlier st times too, being in charge of multiple businesses and blogs. Thank you for your support. I'm sure this year the #over40collective will go from strength to strength xxxxx

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  11. O.M.G... you're an inspiration! I'm a married woman with no children and my only 'job' is as a self-published author (not that I earn very much money, it's more like spending money for holidays) and I wouldn't have the time to do everything that you do. You put me to shame!! I know you will achieve your goals this year, I can just tell you've got what it takes. Best of luck!
    Suzy xx
    www.suzyturner.com

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    1. Thank you so much Suzy and for always being so kind to take the time to comment and retweet my Tweets etc, I am very grateful. Now that I have said my goals out loud, I really do hope I will achieve them. As I said, I am surrounded and loved by the most positive and wonderful people which helps make everything a million times easier! Sending love to The Algarve xxxx

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  12. Sticking to timetables and schedules ought to be easy for me (Was a teacher before stay at home dad) but I'm so bad with that!

    You've given me some great ideas here so thanks for sharing.

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    1. Well I'm guessing you'll be pretty good at multi-tasking then in that case!! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I hope some of the tips will prove useful! xxx

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  13. Some really good advice here. I've always been one for lists on a weekly basis but this has made me think about the bigger picture. Full respect for you to be a single mum and working so hard all the time. I can see how you struggle to get 'me' time into the agenda! #BrillBlogPosts x

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    1. Thank you so much Cheryl. yes, "Me time" has always been quite far down the list, but I'm trying to make sure there is some somewhere along the way! xxxx

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  14. Great piece liz and so helpful. I've been thinking a lot recently about self-care as I've really started to let my diet fall by the wayside and I really need to get back into the gym. I've been feeling a little overwhelmed with everything and going to bed far too late - I really needed to read this! #Brillblogposts xx I'll be sharing on Pinterest and stumbling!

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    1. Thank you so much. It very hard trying to do everything and all of us mums, of course, have to put other people before ourselves so it's not surprising that we get overwhelmed. Good luck with the gym. I love going and find it really does help me to unwind xxxxx

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  15. This was a very enjoyable, insightful and inspiring read! Lots of great tips and ideas to take on board. You are a true inspiration and such a lovely person, Liz. xxx
    www.justemma.co.uk - natural beauty, affordable fashion, everyday life

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    1. Thank you very very much Emma. You're always so kind and thoughtful with your comments xxxxxxx

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  16. Oh Liz I adore this post, your blog is incredible, a must-read and it is wonderful to read your goals, you can smash them all. I wish I could have made Blognix, I love Elizabeth and the whole event sounded incredible. Self-care is so important and like you, I am so good at cutting negativity out, it's crucial xx

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    1. Thank you so much Vikki. Yes, Elizabeth was brilliant and the whole event was outstanding. I have read so many of your inspirational posts and have admired your decisions to cut out negativity. It is difficult, but as you say, essential xxxx

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  17. I love this post! So much great advice and tips, lots to take in! Down time is something I need to improve on and going to bed earlier! #BrilliantBlogPosts

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    1. Thank you very much. I really hope it helps give you some ideas as I think so so many of us women don't have the down time we so need xxxx

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  18. I can't describe how much i love this post, as a mum and multiple business owner, blogger and soon to be working part time i'm REALLY working on time management and self care. i've got so much better since the new year but still nowhere near where i'd like to be. There are lots of women who will be able to relate to this.

    - Cydney x
    #brillaintblogposts

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  19. Gosh Cydney you sound so incredibly busy. I really do hope you are able to use a few tips to help you have some time out. So many women are multiple multi-taskers and it doesn't come naturally to put ourselves first from time to time. But we must, because we can't look after everyone else if we don't. Good luck and thank you for the lovely feedback xxxxxx

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  20. My dear, I was going to send you (and others) a mail to say things became too much for me and I cannot visit blogs of blogging friends as much as I want to, let alone comment. I have a full time job too. But compared to your list I have a leasure time and I am almost ashamed of feeling so exhausted. Is it age with me? I am 62 after all. I don't know, but I think you are doing a miracle job. Take good care dear. The time management thing .. very good. Been there, done that (doing it). Saying NO is a very good one too.
    Greetje

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  21. What a great post- really helpful. I've just started using Buffer too and it saves me so much time and means less time on Twitter! #brillblogposts

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I love receiving your comments. Thank you for taking the time, Liz xxx

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