WHY IS BUSY THE NEW NORMAL AND IS IT ACTUALLY GOOD FOR YOU?

By Jo McCarthy

Friend 1: “How are you?”

Friend 2: “I am so busy!”

How often do we have this conversation with our friends and family?

If you’re a busy parent, can you even remember when you last felt like you had free time?

The ‘glorification of busy’ is a well-used phrase now; is being busy simply the new normal?

What does ‘busy’ look like for you?

For many families in London, being busy includes rushing at turbo speed from one place to another, tapping into several activities a day.

Battling with traffic, public transport and far too many people can result in stress for the whole family. Many busy parents collapse in the chair at the end of the day.

For some, being busy is the stuff of life. Having a busy schedule can improve time-management skills, help to keep things interesting and fresh and keep the mind active.

For many, the idea of just sitting and doing very little seems utterly pointless. Don’t they say, ‘if you want something done, give it to a busy person’?

Being productive can be a good thing. It can lead to self-accomplishment, and help us prioritise and not sweat the small stuff.

Maybe we enjoy the downtime more if we don’t get to enjoy it that often?

Being busy can be a good thing for a family! However, if you can sense the balance is about to tip in your household, these suggestions can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed:

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Work out where your time really goes

Be aware of exactly how you spend your time. We have 168 hours in a week – how do you really spend yours?

Make a chart of the week and mark out the time that you work, the time you are at home, the time you travel and all the other activities you need to do during the week.

Remember that things always take longer than we think! Seeing an overview of the week in this way might help you feel more in control of where your time goes.

Create boundaries and stick to them

Can you take a break during your lunch hour, rather than eating at your desk? Can you leave work on time? Do you really need to take on so many responsibilities and appointments?

What can you start to say ‘no to? Can you make sure you establish a healthy routine that the family sticks to, including getting enough sleep?

Keep the home organised

A clutter-free home can save time for the whole family and help to reduce stress. If the mornings involve searching for coats and shoes and homework and the car keys, try to organise the home so that everything has a place.

The children can help with tidying up. If you really can’t keep on top of organising and cleaning, maybe you could employ a cleaner for a few hours a week to help you.

Use technology in a positive way

Mindless scrolling on the internet is one of the biggest time-suckers of our modern age. We seem to have the time to write on Instagram about how busy we are!

If you want to use technology and online shopping to help you free up time, these are our favourites:

Order your food online

Farmdrop deliver farm-fresh food to your door so you can save time trekking to the supermarket. See here for an exclusive Farmdrop discount code.

Apps to help you relax are worth the investment

Book time out for yourself with apps such as Calm where you can listen to music to help you unwind, follow exercise videos and track your sleep patterns.

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Use an app to track household chores and shopping lists

The Our Home app can even link tasks to rewards for the kids; the more tasks they do, the more screen time they get or the more pocket money they receive.

Make it a family goal to switch off at certain times

Use the inbuilt restrictions on your phone to limit your screen time, and set the same kinds of limits for your kids.

Change the way you talk about being busy

Rather than exclaiming, ‘Im too busy for coffee breaks!’ change your language. Try saying, ‘I would love to meet you for coffee, but can we do it next week instead?’

No explanation is needed. This can really help us to prioritise our time because we can then work out what we really want to fit into our schedule. Be busy with activities that you really want to do!

Mum of two Francesca Geens is a productivity strategist, produces the Curious Parent podcast and created the Happy Self Journal.

We asked her a few questions about how she manages her family life as a ‘mumpreneur’:

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Q: Every family has a version of 'being busy'. How would you describe your 'busy' days? Do you like having so much on, or do you have to pull back at times?

A: Our weekdays tend to be busy as my husband and I work full-time (from home) and the kids have school days which finish at 5.15pm so we make sure that evenings are focused on dinner and homework and time to unwind before bed for the kids.

Because of the long school days, we like to keep our weekends quite clear- we made a conscious decision for the kids not to do any weekend clubs at the moment, giving us time to relax and make our own plans.

I quite like to not have much on at weekends so we can have a proper rest. Because I run my own business, I try to plan my work focus around term times and then have more of a break during half-term and the holidays.

I normally like to have quite planned productive days with clear morning and evening routines and then planned work in the middle when the kids are at school.

This then allows me to switch off in the evening and weekends and means for a sustainable way of working.

However, the HappySelf journal is a new product and we are experiencing a busy period; I have broken most of my rules about working late and screen-time – I know this is just for a short period and as soon as we emerge at the other end will review what we can do to streamline and plan so that the days become more sustainable again.

Q: Do you use any time-saving apps?

A: I couldn’t do without Wunderlist on which my husband and I share a shopping list - we both add to it during the week (including asking Alexa to add to our shopping list) and then whoever goes to the shops know what to bring home.

I have everything I need for my work in the cloud and available on my phone so for me being able to keep working regardless of location or device is a totally time saver.

I have many apps that I rely on but they are all core to my business so to me apps are all about supporting good business process – favourites include Shopify, Slack, Trello, Evernote, Office365 and 1Password.

Actually, 1Password is probably the most time saving app ever- not having to worry about passwords is a total no brainer.

Q: Do you meal plan? How does it help the smooth running of the household?

A: We’ve recently been using Gousto which has been a life-saver. It means meal planning now means choosing 4 menus for the week and so that just leaves weekends where I will have more time to plan and shop for.

Q: Do you involve your children with your business? What do you think they are learning from your example?

A: Yes absolutely - my husband and I are very keen that our children understand how we work and that running our own businesses allows us to be with them more.

We are very fortunate to both be at home so we can have all our meals together. With the HappySelf Journal business, both children have been part of the design process from the start.

My daughter even came with me to meetings with the designer so she could see how we worked to create a new brand and launch a product from scratch.

They have seen me work on it for over a year whilst juggling my other business before we launched. I hope they realise there is so much opportunity for them to be entrepreneurial and they can live balanced fulfilling lives without traditional 9-5 desk jobs.

Q: How do you foster a cooperative spirit in order to get things done?

A: It’s definitely all hands-on deck at our house. The children have seen me work long hours to fulfil journal orders.

They know all this work is ultimately for the benefit of our family as a whole and everyone has stepped in to help with packing boxes to household chores to take the pressure off me during this busy period.

I would also say that we are quite open with the children that if we all work hard together, we’ll all be able to benefit with a holiday or other nice treat that we would not otherwise afford.

The children see very quickly the impact of good and difficult periods of business life as this quickly affects our buying decisions.”

What tips do you have for managing your time and avoiding the overwhelming feeling of being too busy?