Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could stretch the number of hours in a day to fit your needs as both an accountant and a mom? Where the horrible days that your children are out of control or your spouse is super demanding could end in just a few hours, and the times where more work needs to get done like tax season or quarterly deadlines could extend past 24 hours?
Like most working moms you’ve probably said a few of the following:
- I don’t have enough time
- There aren’t enough hours in the day
- I wish I had more time
- There’s too many things on my to-do list
- Time just seems to get away from me
Whether you work for yourself or someone else, being able to get everything done for your work obligations, as well as everything you need to do for your family, can often seem impossible. Those infrequent, magical times where you are able to actually get it all done, can seem like a fluke and non-repeatable.
Sometimes no matter how hard you try to get organized or how productive you plan on being, time can often seem like an enemy, causing you stress, overwhelm and frustration. On the other hand, time can also feel like a gift, like those amazing days on vacation that you want to be able to stretch out and have them never end.
Before I share how to create more time, I want you to first consider your relationship with time. Would you consider time like:
- A demanding boss that micromanages you and never stops looking over your shoulder
- A challenging child that, just when you think you’ve got a handle on them, they give you new challenges
- A critical older relative who judges your choices
- An adversary in a never-ending game of tug-of-war that you always seem to be battling
- A supportive friend who helps you accomplish things and makes life exciting and fun
If your relationship with time is like anything other than a supportive friend, then this episode is going to be really helpful. When you learn how to create more time, you will be able to view time differently, and be able to not only be more efficient and productive, but also enjoy it more.
When it comes to the issue between working moms and time, it can be a real game changer when you understand your female brain better. By learning how to schedule and follow through on your time, and knowing that you will accomplish what you say you’re going to, will not only improve your relationship with time, but more importantly, improve your relationship with yourself.
The truth is that in order to create more time, you also have to understand how you are wasting it. By learning the reasons why it seems like there’s never enough time, you can then take back control and create more of it.
This week I’m going to discuss the two main causes of wasted time and how to create more time.
The two main causes of wasted time
If it seems like there’s never enough time and that time is always slipping away from you, you’re probably right. There are things that you may not realize are getting in your way and wasting a lot of your time.
The first main cause of wasted time is actually overwhelm. This may sound strange because the more things you have to do, the more time you probably feel like you are spending on things, not wasting on things.
The issue though, is that your female brain uses overwhelm in a surprising way. It may feel uncomfortable and challenging to be overwhelmed, but in a warped, sneaky way, your brain actually uses overwhelm to waste time.
As I’ve shared before, the lower part of your human brain is motivated by three things – to seek pleasure, avoid pain and to expend as little energy as possible. As your personal and professional life gets more demanding with more tasks and more things to do, you are also constantly filling your brain day in and day out, to the point of overflowing.
The more there is to do and the more you keep filling up your brain, the more your brain offers thoughts like, “There’s no way I can accomplish all this”, “I don’t have enough time” and “This is too much”. Thoughts like these then naturally create the feeling of overwhelm.
But the kicker is that when you have a lot of things on your mind or a lot of things to do, you are in effect increasing the pain that your female brain wants to avoid. In essence, you’re making it much more challenging for your brain, as you keep filling it to the point of overflowing, increasing the difficulty it has trying to process everything you’ve dumped into it.
It’s also important to point out and to understand that your female brain is designed to process things, not to store them like a computer’s hard drive. As you overwhelm your brain, it wants to avoid the pain and difficulty of too many things vying for it’s attention, therefore it turns to the pleasure of distractions like social media, Netflix, easier tasks or avoidance altogether.
For example, with the current pandemic, you probably have even more things on your mind than ever, whether its current thoughts related to your work and your family, or future thoughts about finances and health concerns. With all these added concerns and things you believe you need to do, you may have noticed the desire for more distractions or the inability to focus on the task at hand.
To your lower brain, the relief it gets from distractions is much more appealing than doing what you said you should do or need to do. As your working mom demands increase, and you feel more and more overwhelmed, it’s no wonder why you don’t feel like doing a lot of things, making procrastination and avoidance easier and easier.
The key though, is that the reason your female brain likes overwhelm is because if you’re overwhelmed, then there’s less action that you’ll take and less that you’ll feel like doing. You can keep putting things off, allowing yourself to give in to distractions, and inevitably wasting a lot of time.
Do you see the connection? Your brain likes to spend as little energy as possible so when you’re overwhelmed you’ll take less action, therefore overwhelm seems to be the answer to spending less energy; more overwhelm = less things to do.
Basically, the relief your brain seeks from overwhelm comes in the form of avoiding more pain, expending less energy, being less productive, and therefore wasting more time. It doesn’t care that you now feel even more overwhelmed since you distracted yourself with other things, instead of getting things done; it only cares that it feels less pain, more pleasure, and has conserved its energy.
The second main cause of wasted time is perfectionism. With the accounting profession being a breeding ground for perfectionism, this is often one of the biggest time wasters for accountant moms.
Since perfectionism is the belief that you could always do and be better, then adding your accounting career to the personal pressures of being a mother, can create a losing battle in the pursuit of perfection. It’s important to note that just because your life doesn’t seem perfect, or might even be a mess, doesn’t mean you aren’t a perfectionist.
If you still don’t think you are a perfectionist, or that this is what might be wasting your time, answer this – how do you feel about doing B- work, or the saying “Done is better than perfect”? If it makes you a little queasy and anxious, then you probably have more perfectionist tendencies than you realize.
The problem with perfectionism is that, not only is it unattainable, but you also spend and waste so much time thinking, rather than doing. Again, your female brain is motivated to expend as little energy as possible, and when you spend so much time thinking about how to do things perfectly, you wind up exhausted and unable to be as productive as you’d like to be.
For example, you’re finishing up a hectic day at work and deciding what to make for dinner tonight. Instead of choosing something pre-made at the grocery store, you start scrolling Pinterest for the healthiest recipe you can find, considering every person in the family’s likes and dislikes, and worrying about how many vegetables your children have eaten lately.
Since your female brain can’t tell the difference between what you’re imagining and what’s really happening, the time you spend thinking about how to get it all done, and done perfectly, is just as exhausting as if you’d actually done all the things. Unfortunately, you are expending so much energy in your brain, and wasting so much time trying to do things perfectly, that less is actually accomplished.
No matter how much time you may now realize you’ve wasted with things like overwhelm or perfectionism, there is a process that will help you learn how to create more time. When you learn how to create more time, you also learn how to create more freedom and balance in your life.
How to create more time
Being an accountant and mom myself, I know how difficult it can be to get everything done, to stay organized, and to be productive while also having a sense of balance in your life. I’ve been in public accounting my entire career so I know all about the pressure of deadlines and the sense of both work guilt and mom guilt, when it just doesn’t feel like there are enough hours in the day.
But the system I’m going to share with you has made it possible for me and my clients to do more than we ever thought possible, in less time than most people. It is how I have taken on even more work, and still be able to be incredibly productive, efficient, and also have a very balanced life.
The acronym for how to create more time is GPA – Get items out of your brain, Put in on a calendar, and Assess your follow through. That is the system that I learned and that I use everyday, which makes it possible to create more time:
Get items out of your brain
As I mentioned before, your female brain isn’t meant to store things, it’s meant to process things. The problem is that when you go about your life and every demand is coming at you, like the 50 emails waiting when you turn on your computer, or your child’s teacher sends a list of things that need to be done, or your mother’s birthday is next week and you need a card and gift, your brain can easily become overwhelmed.
Remember, overwhelm is a time-waster because your brain will look from relief from overwhelm in the form of distractions. If you try to keep everything you have to do in your brain, this will naturally create overwhelm, forcing your brain to turn to easier things, other than emails, teacher’s lists and birthday presents.
Not only do you have a lot of things on your mind that have to get done, but you also have a lot of thoughts about those things as well. Those aren’t just 50 emails you have in your inbox, they’re also countless thoughts like “Should I delete this?”, “Do I need to answer this right now or can it wait?”, and “I can’t believe they’re asking me to do that”.
So the first step in this system is that you have to get the items out of your brain, and onto paper in order to free up much needed space and so that your brain can work optimally. When your brain is working at its best, you are beginning to create more time.
Put it on the calendar
Once you’ve dumped everything out of your brain and onto paper, it’s time to put it onto a calendar, not just to be left as a to-do list. This is the step that a lot of working moms skip or resist, thinking that a to-do list is the best way to get things done.
Unfortunately, that backfires because when your brain sees all the things on your long to-do list, it shifts into overwhelm mode, which again is a time waster. As a typical working mom, if you dumped everything in your brain onto paper, that list would probably be incredibly long and daunting, defeating the whole process of creating more time instead of wasting it in overwhelm.
So for this step, it doesn’t matter whether you choose a paper or online calendar, just as long as you take what’s on the paper you wrote everything down and then you schedule it on your calendar. Before you jump to filling up your calendar, I suggest scheduling your down time or free time first, this way you are showing your brain there’s definitely going to be “dessert” at the different points in the day.
When it comes to putting things on a calendar, what I suggest is that the more you can break down tasks into easier, bite-size pieces the better. What really matters, more than the type of calendar you use, is that you have a place that you know you can go to, that dictates the actions and gives you the directions you will take at any given moment in time.
Although the process of getting items out of your brain, onto paper and then onto a calendar may take a little time to get used to and to implement, I promise you that it is going to help you create more time than you can possibly imagine.
Assess your follow through
This is the last step but is an incredibly important part, if not the most important part, of the process of creating more time. You really want to understand what is going on in your unique brain that is either stopping you from following through with what’s on your calendar, or helping you to follow through.
In order to assess your follow through, I suggest that at the end of the day or first thing the next morning, you answer some of the following questions:
- Where was my time well spent?
- Where did I really follow through and why?
- Where was my time wasted?
- Where did I not follow through and why?
- Where did I dwell in confusion or overwhelm?
- Where were the places I got distracted?
- What would I do differently?
- What could I learn from this and apply it to my schedule for today or this week?
The more you evaluate what’s going on when you do or don’t do things you say you’re going to do, the more you will naturally transform your relationship with time. As I said in the beginning, if your relationship with time is anything other than a supportive friend who helps you accomplish things and makes life exciting and fun, then you’ve got some work to do.
In order to create more time, every week (I usually do it on Sundays) you need to dump out everything in your brain onto paper, not allow your brain to get overwhelmed when it initially sees your long to-do list, calendar it, and then assess your follow through. And I left the best part for last – you get to throw away your to-do list!
If you’ve written everything down on paper and calendared it, there’s no reason to keep your to-do list. You might put a few things down on a separate index card or piece of paper for next week, but for the most part, everything on the to-do list will be calendared, allowing you to throw this week’s list away.
Hopefully now you can see that creating more time is a gift you give to yourself, your family and the goals you have for your future. Let go of the time wasters of overwhelm and perfectionism, and start using your powerful female brain to create the gift of more time.
- Whether you work for yourself or someone else, being able to get everything done for your work obligations, as well as everything you need to do for your family, can often seem impossible.
- The truth is that in order to create more time, you also have to understand how you are wasting it.
- As you overwhelm your brain, it wants to avoid the pain and difficulty of too many things vying for it’s attention, therefore it turns to the pleasure of distractions like social media, Netflix, easier tasks or avoidance altogether.
- The acronym for how to create more time is GPA – Get items out of your brain, Put in on a calendar, and Assess your follow through