How does your list of tasks and to-dos look?
November is National Family Caregivers Month and this year the theme according to the Caregiver Action Network is “Caregiving Around the Clock”
Common phrases you may hear from yourself or another family caregiver are “I’m so tired” or “I wish I had time for myself”. Sometimes there are no words, just tears symbolizing overwhelm and potentially a sign of caregiver burnout.
To compliment this year’s National Family Caregivers Month theme, this post will focus on how to harvest more time for yourself and specifically how to tackle the never ending list of tasks.
Whether your to-do list is neatly organized in a digital tool or on the back of a receipt, a napkin, or taking up space in your head the premise is the same…these things require attention from us.
For each task, we can either delete, delegate, combine, or schedule it. Let’s explore each of these four task actions.
We want to spend our precious time on doing valuable things. Consider your regular tasks and responsibilities.
Are there things that can be automated or completely removed from your life?
Could you take advantage of services like automatic bill-pay and direct deposit to help clear a few more things off your plate?
Want to clean up your email inbox clutter? I use a tool called unroll.me where I enter in my email address and can see a list of companies and websites who have me on their email lists. Then with each email subscription, I choose to either unsubscribe, roll these emails into one daily digest email, or keep the email coming into my inbox.
Caregiving can be mentally and physically exhausting. You need help. Even if you think you don’t need help. We all need breaks to maintain our health and happiness and we need backup care plans.
Delegating tasks that don’t specifically require your expertise can free up time for you to take a break.
Who else could you get involved?
An obvious place to look for help are your family members. Consider people’s individual strengths and routines. For example, my brother is great at setting up computers and TVs so related tasks for my mom always fell to him. At one point, my sister from a distance paid mom’s bills when she sat down to pay her own.
Local services are another option. Maybe you could get your care recipients meals or groceries delivered. Ask a friend or neighbor to mow your parent’s yard when they mow their own.
Delegating the non-caregiving responsibilities also helps us free up time for ourselves. Click here for a free worksheet that helps define which immediate family members will ‘own’ each category of household responsibilities. No more nagging or wishing someone would just pitch in more. This worksheet will help you divide and conquer and keep the peace in your home.
Combining tasks together can help us become more efficient. I call these ‘twofers’ – opportunities to complete two tasks at the same time.
Candidates for tasks that you could potentially combine usually include one task that you can do on auto-pilot. This frees up your brain to focus on the second task on hand which requires more focus.
Some examples of this include listening to an audiobook during your commute time, visiting with a friend while walking, listening to a podcast Podcastwhile walking on the treadmill, or folding a load of laundry while the dinner is in the oven.
Combining tasks can also be about batching repetitive daily tasks into a weekly task. Examples of tasks that can be batched include: prepping fruits and veggies into grab-n-go containers, doing all your grocery shopping for the week in one outing, or writing multiple blog posts in one block of time.
A calendar can be a family caregiver’s best friend. I prefer a digital Google calendar because my whole family adds their schedule on it so I know about the school events, my husband’s travel schedule, and when my daughter is working. This helps me schedule my tasks and events around our lives.
There is something about scheduling tasks that gives permission to focus on those tasks. While you are in your calendar, schedule some of your me time tasks. Block out time for exercise (maybe with a friend), date night, and hobby time. Twice a week, I have two sessions of time called ‘Happy Healthy Time’. This is the blogging time I set aside each week. I try to fit in more but I know at least I have these times set aside and I look forward to them.
If you run a business and posting to social media is a part of your responsibilities, there are tools like Buffer and Meet Edgar where you can schedule your daily posts to be published. Sit down and schedule posts for a week at time or even a month. This time adds up!
Schedule your next appointment when you are at your last appointment and add it to your calendar. One less thing to remember to do later!
Grab your to-do list(s). Walk through each on it and ask yourself these questions to help you harvest more me time:
Is this task really necessary? Could it be automated?
Do I need to be the one that completes this task?
Can I combine this with something else I’m already doing?
When does this need to be done?
If you have ideas for harvesting more me time…we want to hear them. Share them in the comments below or throw your idea out onto the Happy Healthy Caregiver Facebook Group.