For most of my working years – and all of my college experiences – I have been a mother. I barely recall any job where I could work a shift without worrying about how much my family affected those hours. This has only intensified as the kids grew up. Instead of getting easier, things definitely got more complex.
Being a mother means balancing all the nuances of womanhood: self, partner, children, spirituality and work. And doing it without losing your sanity, authenticity or productivity. Now, it took me a few years but I pretty much had this thing figured out finally…and then quarantine hit.
What I didn’t have was a solid way to deal with the new order of things.
The best thing I did for myself and my business was start to organizing my day. I have always used a paper planner in addition to any virtual calendars, and that would become the center of my hyper-organized new life. I was turned on to two techniques that really helped balance my work-home life: quadrant planning and time blocking.
If you’re a fan of highlighters and lists, one or both of these may work for you, too.
How to Begin Quadrant Planning
The first thing I do to organize my week is to make a list of every task that needs to be done. Work, personal, and family tasks all count if you either need to do them or just need to be aware of them. This is done using quadrant planning, or more formally known as The Eisenhower Matrix.
Then I take a piece of paper and make a quadrant. You do this by drawing a line down the middle, and a second line midway down the page, to intersect the first line. You end up with four blocks. These blocks are then labeled A, B, C, D – starting at the top left, top right, bottom left, and finally the bottom right.
The “A” block is for Urgent and Important tasks – must be done by you, and soon
The “B” block is for Important, and Not Urgent tasks – planning and prioritizing work, to be done by you
The “C” block is for Urgent, and Not Important tasks – things you are not directly responsible for, but need to happen
The “D” block is for Not Urgent and Not Important – these are usually busy work or distractions that should be avoided or delegated.
You will use the quadrants as a visual reference for task time management, as well as to help you do the next step.
Time blocking is when you take your day and assign blocks of time to various activities, using a paper or virtual calendar.
You could fill the entire 24 hours in, or just highlight predictable and important events. For example, on my calendar I put a time block for Sleep from midnight to 7:00 a.m., and then use a highlighter to fill in that space. Other major static blocks for me are my daily team meeting, office hours, mealtimes for my children, nap time for the baby, workouts, family appointments, and anything else that needs to happen.
Using both of these techniques together has helped me find a balance during this time of major adjustment, and has prevented productivity stalls. And while it isn’t a magic wand that solves all my problems and the challenges of life in a pandemic (and in general with kids and a job), it helps me stay ahead of the chaos. And that is really the most I can hope for.