If you have been caring for an aging parent or loved one, you have probably had times when you feel as though you are drowning in a sea of demands: Work from 8-5:00 every day, the car needs to be serviced, kid’s tennis match, dinner to be fixed, laundry piling up, nothing in the refrigerator, and now Mom has ‘a few requests’. Family and a work life by themselves are two full-time jobs; when you add in providing help and support to an aging parent, well, now you are handed a third part/full-time job without a pay increase or extra time in your day!
It is easy to allow the long list of tasks and demands to suck the energy right out of you and leave you feeling like you are going under fast! You contemplate all of the ‘to do’ items and wish that somebody would throw you a life-preserver! Quick! Wouldn’t it be great in this situation to have access to a ‘Lifeline’ like you do on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” You know, phone a friend, ask the audience or 50/50.
Establishing routines can play a big role in helping you to get it all done. If you create a schedule and get a task on your calendar the likelihood that it will get done is increased. I know that you have heard the saying, ‘if you want something done, ask a busy person.’ Well, those busy people who get things done are usually organized and have established some sort of routine in their lives. All of those things don’t just happen by default. They have a plan and they work the plan!
If you need to begin to create a plan and routine for yourself, start by taking time on the weekend to look at your next week. Make a list of the things that you need to do at home and those things that need to happen at work. Really. Write it all down!
Now, call in those lifelines! Rally the troops! Can the mother of another kid on the team deliver your daughter home after practice? Could your spouse be responsible for dinner one or two nights a week? (Notice I did not specify ‘cook’ as my husband really does not, but if he puts the meal in front of me, I really don’t care if he cooked it or it came from Applebee’s!) Assign your teenage son, or hire a neighbor, to mow the lawn. Sign-up for a grocery delivery service to save you that trip (and if Mom depends on you for groceries, sign her up too!). And any child, my youngest started helping in first grade, can learn to do laundry!
Identify those things that you need to do and create your calendar with those tasks. Determine what day of the week each of the tasks can or must happen. Don’t let the day-to-day tasks and chores pile up. By breaking it down in to manageable chunks, and sticking with your schedule, you will accomplish more in less time and avoid the draining fatigue of thinking about all of the things that need to get done…… or didn’t get done.
Routines can also help you stay on top of things at work. Take a look at your assigned duties and look at any recurring deadlines that you might face. Plug those into your schedule first so that you can schedule the other tasks around them (it will also help you to avoid scheduling extra demands during a week that you know you need to focus on an end of month deadline). If you can map out your work life a bit, you will then know that scheduling a doctor’s appointment for your mother or kids during the 3rd week of the month is just too stressful and you can plan around it.
As, to the best of my knowledge, they have not perfected the process of human cloning, you are not going to be able to double down on your efforts in that way. Wouldn’t it be nice to let ‘tired me’ sleep while a ‘rested me’ continued with the mountain of things that have to get done. You could rotate yourself out and maybe even have one you taking ‘me time’ while the other you was needed for ‘Mom time’. Hmmm, while I have never really thought of cloning people as a great thing (feels a little creepy to me…another me running around) I see some possibilities here after all!
But until that science is perfected, we are left with getting organized as best we can, calling in our Lifelines and making the best use of the time that one person has.
Establishing routines and rhythms in your life will help you to maximize your efforts and minimize your stress. You will be able to get more done in less time and maybe even leave yourself some time to do something just for you!
In the wise words of A. A. Milne, “Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed-up.”
If you are a working caregiver, organization is your ‘Lifeline’; know when it is time to use it…….
On the journey with you…….Kathy