By Sarah Pervez
I heard a TEDTALK once on the magic of a washing machine. The speaker, Hans Rosling spoke about what a huge difference the invention of a washing machine made to the lives of him and his mother. He was 4 years old and he remembers it as a momentous occasion in his house when they finally bought it. His grandmother, who had never seen one before, sat down and stared at it the whole time the first cycle ran. Due to this amazing contraption, his mother’s time was freed up and she was able to take him to libraries and read books to him. The simplest of pleasure, unthinkable for a woman of two generations ago.
Today, the 21st century woman has all sorts of machines imaginable to make life easier. We are truly in the time of The Jetsons. It has also given women a chance to tap into their potential, to utilize the time freed up by machines in a productive manner and not be bogged down by house chores like women of the past. But has it really? The thing is, our workload has also increased about 20 times. We’ve all been there; we have all complained of a lack of time and not having enough hours in the day. So how do we stay afloat?
I spoke to everyday super women asking them what their secret is to stay on top of things and identified 8 key themes which help them manage their lives and career, and lets them enjoy the magic of the washing machine.
1. Have an early start to get ahead
We have all heard the adage, “Early to bed and early to rise” but for most women, only early to rise works; they wear so many hats during the day that some days seem to go on forever. Sumayya Bari, a teacher and a mother of 3, starts her day approximately an hour and a half before everyone else at home. “I like to pray and meditate a bit. And naturally, being a mom of three, that shower and cup of tea in silence tastes like heaven!”
Anum Shahid Nawab of Super Creative Mamas, an educational Facebook group, agrees. “I like waking up earlier even if it compromises my sleep. It helps me organize my calendar for the day, set up any posts that must go up and answer emails. Clears up my head and relieves my mental load.”
Now you might not be a morning person (like me) but try to wake up at least half an hour earlier than your usual time. Wrap your hands around that hot cup of coffee and drink in some silence to give your thoughts clarity and your day a fresh start.
2. Lists, lists and more lists
Muniza Khan works full time, lives in a joint family system and has two children. She stays sane by dedicating 2 hours every Saturday morning to planning for the week ahead, “I spend my Saturday mornings writing out lists; grocery shopping list, to do list, list of what goes in the kids’ packed lunch box for every day of the week, a weekly menu and a list for the house help with extra chores that need to be done for that week; this helps save my kitchen time when I do not have to remember to tell her what to chop/fry for that particular day. This is also because I am not a spontaneous person and quite forgetful.”
That is some heavy-duty list of well, lists! But it makes sense; when you have multiple things on your plate, you need to sort through and clear up the clutter. Writing things down can also help keep track of things that need to be prioritized.
As long as you make a realistic list that is. Adding 25 things on your to do list which are not physically possible to do in a day is only going to let you down and have a negative impact on your motivation to do them.
3.Free yourself. Free your mind!
Most people rely heavily on their memory and that adds another level of stress to an already encumbered mind. Sonia Petafi, a mother of two and a teacher, uses calendars extensively, “I make lists and put alarms for what needs to be done when, in this way I don’t have to worry about remembering things.”
Sumayya and Muniza agree, this helps reduce the burden of not having to think of too many things at the same time, so they put everything on google calendar too. Sumayya explained, “I use it to mark important dates and meetings. Once the event has been marked, it comes off my head and I don’t need to fret about it.”
Anum was far more matter of fact about it, “If it’s not in the calendar, it simply isn’t happening.”
4. Eat That Frog!
Rabiya Hamid, a creative director at an Ad agency, starts her day by looking at the biggest or the most difficult task on her to do list and attempts that first. According to her, “I like looking at the elephant in the room early on because postponing an important task that needs to be done only creates feelings of anxiety and stress in me. Tackling it early in the day helps, as my mind is fresh and ticking it off my to do list makes the rest of the day so much easier.”
Mark Twain once said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
Eat that frog is also the title of one of the best sellers of Brian Tracy, the American Canadian motivational speaker and author of over 70 self-development books. In his book, he explains how by “eating that frog” or doing the most difficult chore will give you the satisfaction of knowing that it is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day. When you discipline yourself and build a persistent habit of tackling your major job first thing in the morning, you will be far more motivated to breeze through the rest of your to do list. So just eat that frog! Bite that bullet! Get it over with.
5. Say No to Multitasking:
Sadia Anwar, a businesswoman, author, mother of two and entrepreneur extraordinaire admits that she is terrible at multitasking. She cannot handle it and most of the women conceded that they find multitasking difficult too.
It is better to set timings for everything and follow a routine, doing one thing at a time. Compartmentalizing your chores and dividing your day in chunks helps you focus better at the task in hand and improves your productivity. But of course, as mothers and designated homemakers, most of the burden falls on women and sometimes it is impossible not to juggle a couple of things together. The rule of thumb for that is to pair up a complex mental task with a simple physical one.
Hira Modan is a homemaker and a mother to three kids, a 5-year-old girl and 3-year-old twins. “I don’t have a choice but to multitask as I don’t have any help and always have the kids around. I manage by doing a high priority task with a low priority one. So, while feeding the kids dinner, I’ll bring out their books and get some reading done. This also helps keep them seated and engaged.”
Fareea Yasser, a work from home mom, agrees, “I have to multitask a lot. So, I’ll put a chicken in the oven to bake and simultaneously do a laundry load while checking my emails. This helps me tick off 2-3 things at once.”
Society has fuelled the myth of the superwoman who can do it all. That is because society loves dumping all the unpaid labour on women. As women take on newer challenges, they are also forced to handle the old ones. But we need to remember that science has proven that women brains are not naturally superior at multitasking than a man’s brain and we may have evolved into it, because most of us don’t really have a choice. So even though multi-tasking and setting priorities helps, it is still okay to drop the ball and let go of incomplete tasks; the laundry can wait, as can the dirty dishes or a messy house. It is okay to say no to things.
6. Ask for help and learn to accept it:
No man is an island. Neither are women. We need to be a part of a community, a tribe of our own to thrive. I can understand being an independent person, it is hard to ask for help, but remember… Every superhero needs a sidekick.
Everybody needs different degrees of help, but all women agreed having some sort of house help, a husband who shared the load equally or a strong family support system was key to them managing all aspects of their lives and keeping their sanity intact. Rabiya was quick to point out that it is important in knowing who to ask for help-professionally and personally.
I believe it is also important to be comfortable in delegating anything that doesn’t absolutely need “you”. Learning to say no to certain tasks, outsourcing them and letting go of ‘control’ over quality (accepting ‘how’ others are doing chores vs your own way,) are just some of the crucial points in managing things and staying organized.
So go ahead and build that support system for yourselves and ask away ladies; ask your kids to clean up the living room before bedtime, ask your spouse to share chores with you equally, order in vs cooking when there is too much else going on, ask for counselling if life gets messy and you can’t figure it out. There should be no shame in asking for help because our wellbeing is as important as anything else and we should be the first ones to re
7. Invest in Yourself:
Self-care is where all women slack. It is a given that this thing
will not even come up on our priority radar. Where most of us go like, “self-care? What is that?”
In this day and age where everyone is busy being busy, we need
to recognize that self-care is of utmost value to our physical, emotional and mental well-being. We need to recharge ourselves so that we don’t burn out. You wouldn’t let your phone battery get depleted so why take risk with your own energy levels? The acknowledgement of self-worth and self-care may be a privilege right now, but the world is slowly changing to accept it as a basic right rather than a privilege and we need to play our part.
Everyone has different ideas of what is downtime for them. It could b
e switching off everything and everyone to have a quiet day, leaving everything to catch up on your sleep once a week, an everyday workout no matter how short to let off some steam, Netflix after the kids’ bedtime, a quick salon visit to rejuvenate, reading a book, a catch up with your friends or something as simple as taking your multivitamins. No matter what it is tha
t helps you unwind or take care of yourself, make sure you build it in to your regular routine. The menial tasks can wait. In the words of Elsa, “Let it gooo!” Hand over the chores and kids to husbands/caregivers/grandparents and dedicate some time off without any guilt.
Happy you makes a for happier life for everyone around you.
8. Digital detoxification:
Robin Sharma says, “An addiction to digital distraction is the death of your creative production.”
Research shows that repeated interruptions affect concentration and people who constantly check their phones and emails see a drop in their IQ by 10-points. The advent of social media has made it worse. People find books tedious, they start to fidget, their attention starts to drift, and they lose interest even if a blog is longer than a certain length. Sharma in his book “The 5 AM Club” talks about new research coming out which shows that these digital diversions, distractions and trivial interruptions are causing something called Digital Dementia that is affecting a person’s cognitive band width and production. The average person checks their phone 200-500 times a day. When you run to every notification or ring on your phone, you are putting someone else’s priorities on top of your own.
Fatma Lakhani, a full-time working mom of a 6-year-old who lives in the UK cannot agree more, “It is always hard to be a working mother but more so when you’re living in a country with no help or support. The only way for me to stay sane and organized is to stay away from my phone and social media. I simply cannot afford to be distracted.”
It is clear that in order to be more productive and efficient, you need to get away from all sorts of distractions. Sharma says in his podcast, “Build a tight bubble of total focus around you. Leave that phone in another room, focus and work on that one task or project and let the creativity pour in.”
There you have it, ladies. 8 simple tips you can incorporate in your daily lives that can help you stay organized, healthy and happy. It may not be possible to stick to all of them at once but if you start slowly and gradually, you can easily build habits that will help you win at life and savour the magic of a washing machine. Happy living!