Juggling work and family

I’ve often wondered if there is an optimal way of juggling work and family. I have come to think there is.

And that is through simplicity.

As all our situations are unique, the best way to juggle is going to be personal. In my experience, however, simplicity is a powerful tool to ease the way we live which we can all use.

I write based on my life and experiences, so I am referring to the lifestyle of someone who likely works from home, has a family to care for, and believes there is more to the days than a frenzied daily grind and uninspiring work.

I work online, from a desk in the corner of our home. I have 2 children who are now back at school every day (post-COVID). The mornings, therefore, when they are out of the house, are my time for real work productivity. I work in the afternoons too, but the flow is disrupted by extramural activities, lifting, and playdates.

What is this best way of juggling?

Keeping everything simple.

  • Keeping everything simple lends a general sense of calm to the days because we have fewer choices.
  • Simplifying creates freedom and flexibility because the hours are not crammed with activities.
  • As a result of this simplifying supports stability for all members of the household.

Keeping everything simple – by everything I mean as many things as possible that make up the day: from food to activities to work to planning to style. More detail follows below.

I am a fervent believer in doing things simply.

Why is that you ask?

Because it helps me to manage all the disparate things I need to get through in a day – including work and family commitments.

But more importantly, simplicity helps me to manage all the disparate things in a manner that creates a good life.

There are good days and better days. But simplicity is key to staying on top of it all on any given day. My north star is simplicity, so all decisions I make are based around this guiding principle. With simplicity as my anchor, I can be more mindful of the choices I make throughout the day.

What can simplicity do for you?

If you feel over-scheduled, over-stimulated, and are over rushing – try to aim for less. Less detail, less clutter, less fluff, fewer extras, fewer non-priority commitments.

Here are some ideas that I use in my life to help keep things as uncomplicated as possible. In this way, I am able to be more present. Being present and focused on one thing at a time makes me feel more peaceful and less scattered. As such I am able more easily to compartmentalise work and family commitments better, and be present for each.

Please do note that I am on the journey of simplicity. I share my experiences. I do not claim to be living a perfectly simple life!

  • Life philosophy – I choose minimalism or simplicity. I also refer to Stoicism and Buddhism. My life is guided by wise, ancient, and well-used ideals larger than my context alone. It lends security to one’s life, and advice about how to live a good life from wisdom gathered over the ages.

  • Set your life up to make fewer decisions. Facilitate the repeat daily activities by having to make fewer decisions. Support your simplicity endeavours:
    • what to wear (have fewer clothes, that you love wearing)
    • what to eat (keep only fruit and healthy snacks in the house)
    • what to buy (quality, needed, functional items)
    • when is screen time ok (we only watch on weekends)
    • what to play (aim for fewer toys and a more imagination)

  • Simple healthy meals make sense for many reasons. They require little prep and cooking time. They are nutritious. They do not demand expensive ingredients. In my experience children like knowing what is for dinner. Repeating meals is quite acceptable and even comforting.

  • Meal planning is a great simplicity tool, for those that can. I struggle with this and have a suspicion that I enjoy some unplanned creative time in the kitchen. Having tried meal planning however, it does add to a simple life – as all meal decisions have been made in advance.

  • Keep activities local so that there is less time spent travelling, and therefore less rushing. Attend local ballet, gymnastics, horse-riding, tennis, or swimming classes. Whether they are deemed “the best” classes available in the wider area, they are almost certainly good enough.

  • Have fewer planned after school activities – to give children a chance to be children with time to play. Less lifting for parents too!

  • Enough. Learn to make peace with enough. Good enough, enough clothes, toys, friends, outings, hobbies, work. Still aim for quality. Still aim for abundance. But avoid too much, overexertion, forced limits, unnecessary perfectionism.

  • Ensure outdoor time. Try to get outside every day. It is a simple way of improving so many things – bad days, bad moods. It provides a change of scene, perspective, a dose of natural beauty. We take the dogs for a walk along the ocean. It has become a parcel of time, a pause, a breath that divides the day from the evening. It is a flexible habit, but we do get outdoors for some time every day. Dogs are good for this. This is where all my photos come from.

  • Try hard to start doing one thing at a time (more on this in a separate post but here is a link to a blog written by Leo Babauta on this subject). I am new to this but find it a productive and calming simplicity tool. I now frequently switch off the radio while driving and just drive (extreme simplicity)! I started to do this with work. I am expanding it to parenting and running a home.

  • Aim to be fully PRESENT in whatever you are doing. This is linked to the simple tool of doing one thing at a time. I aim for mindfulness in my phone use every day. When I am not working I try to put down my phone. I try to be present with real people in the room with me – often my children. This is a work in progress for me. I have however turned off all my phone notifications to help me. When I work, I focus on work. When I am spending time with people, I should not work. Being present simplifies the moment. Be engaged in the present moment.

  • Set timed targets. I find setting a time on a required action supports productivity. My circumstances dictate that I need to get my focused work, like writing this blog post, completed before school pickup at 12 midday. In the afternoon, I can attend webinars, plan social media, write emails, and get through other shorter pieces. I include this as a way to simplify days because trying to get through work which requires focus and attend to children causes me stress and fragmentation and fatigue.

  • Planning. Planning in all things simplifies the days and creates more time. Once the thinking and planning is done, I can execute all the things I need to do with sharper focus and more speed. Meals, grocery shopping, household chores, and work.
    • Simple achievable plans are better than endless to-do lists. They work better and make us feel better.
    • Flexibility in plans is desired so as not to add stress to a day by being too rigid (note to self).

  • Simplify the work we do.
    • As above spend a moment each evening planning the next day’s work needs.
    • Focus on finishing one task at a time.
    • Keep quality in sharp focus while creating work.
    • Do work that satisfies. I really love the work I do at a Simple Beautiful Life. I promote digital education that can change lives. This is the free training with which I started.
    • I work off a to-do list from which I pick 1 priority task at a time.

  • Learning practice. I believe in life long daily learning. Learning keeps us awake, stimulated, and creative. It keeps life fresh and open. But there is a limit to how much information we can absorb, and it is easy to overdo it in our Information Age, leaving us scattered and with only superficial intake. Try to simplify learning too:
    • Read 1 book at a time.
    • Read 1 article per day.
    • Then let the information sink in before adding more on top. I am guilty of being an overzealous reader and am consciously working on reading more slowly for better retention.

  • Simple style. Personal grooming, home d├ęcor, classic clothes, uncluttered shelves, appealing colour schemes, functional objects. We can choose fussiness or simplicity in all these things. My take is that if I lay a foundation of simplicity, I can add the fun and fruitiness on top. A bright scarf, a crazy throw, wild earrings, bold flowers, a vivid pop of colour here and there.

  • Writing – Related to style, I recently read a book called On Writing Well by William Zinsser. The main point he makes is that the secret to good writing is… simplicity. Using short words, short sentences to create ease of reading. He shares many more useful writing tips. I am trying to simplify my writing. No big words here in my blog.

  • Rest. The opposite of and an antidote to stress, rest is an essential component of each day. It does not attract bright lights and fanfare, but it is the necessary support infrastructure for a fast life. Rest is often undervalued and overlooked. But it is the ultimate healing tool and has a way of stretching time. Take the time to absorb life and notice the details – the passing clouds, the phases of the moon, the shifting tides, the birds that change with the seasons. Rest is part of simplifying life.

In reality

The above are all real elements of my days. It has taken me some time to learn about, consider, and put them into practice. I am learning that not many major and worthwhile life changes have a quick fix. I am by no means at the end of my simplicity journey. I have not yet got it down pat.

Choosing simplicity as a way of living is an ever-evolving lifestyle made up of ever-changing personal choice. Our lives are not static, neither are our children’s, nor our work demands.

This is why I live within the overarching framework of simplicity. It lends a more mindful manner to my days.

This is why I believe choosing simplicity is a real practical way of juggling work and family.

For those who would like to know more

Philosophy

I am so pleased that I came across minimalism all those years ago. The thinking behind it has inspired the way I choose to live my life. I have discovered a clearer and smoother way to live in an overstimulated and over-stuffed world.

I choose to use the term simplicity. The reason is because minimalism for a time became synonymous with a trending culture of decluttering and style. That was not aligned with my philosophical and personal development-related lifestyle thoughts. (Also it made it easier for me to feel that I was not living up to someone’s standards of minimalism!)

If anyone is interested to learn more about minimalism and simplicity, have a look at

They have all been writing about minimalism and simplicity for years.

Work

As COVID-related lockdown closed our business earlier this year, I joined the SFM to learn the digital skills required to start a new lifestyle business.

It was one of the best decisions of my life. I am learning real digital skills as well as growing so much as a unique individual on a path to creating a great life.

I love the learning and the supportive community.

If anyone is interested to learn more about the digital training (and personal development) offered by the SFM for which I signed up, do get in touch. This journey is highly likely to change your life.

Thanks for reading. If anyone would like to know more about my journey with simplicity the SFM, please send me a mail.

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