Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Question: I am in the midst of night school, full-time work, attempting to renovate a new house, and then of course be a reasonable wife, friend, and daughter. I basically look around and see my awful, glaring shortcomings in all aspects of my life since I am spread so thin. I feel like all I do is say no to people, but then apparently not enough, because I am behind on my reading and finals and the house is a wreck since I haven't done my (tiny) part of the chores in weeks.
In any case, do you have any tips for cultivating kindness for myself during this time? The anger I am putting on myself sometimes feels worse than the actual reality of what I am facing.
Answer: (1) Set a realistic schedule. If realism isn't your strong suit, then make a short list of priorities, then your schedule. Then cross off your schedule whatever doesn't serve the top two or three priorities.
(2) Include downtime in that schedule - even if it's just "Permission to ignore laundry at 11 p.m. and watch TV instead." Include dates with your spouse. If leisure without completing your work makes you anxious, then promote leisure to a responsibility. It is one.
(3) Talk to your spouse about said schedule before you implement it. Spouse might surprise you by suggesting you lighten it even further, but if all you accomplish is to make your limits visible, then that's a victory. Also look, together, for things you can outsource. Some to-do list items are so time-consuming, doing them ultimately costs you more (in lost wage-earning time) than a professional would charge.
(4) Live by the schedule as a gift to yourself. Deferring to it will take many high-stakes, high-guilt decisions out of your day on a daily basis. That in turn will lessen your operating stress level, which in turn will make you more productive.
I'm not just the typer-outer of this philosophy, I'm also a client; I've managed a career of self-supervised work on deadlines in a houseful of small (and then not-so-small) kids by creating a rigid, reality-based schedule and then sticking to it.
Reader comment: As a woman who is finally seeing the light after buying a house, moving into that house, dealing with postpartum depression and some serious postpartum physical issues, working full time, and taking care of my husband and baby, I know where you are right now and it sucks. Leaving the laundry for another day, ordering in a pizza and going to sleep at 7:30 p.m. is going to feel like giving up, but it's not. It is necessary for survival. You have to survive. Get into that frame of mind, and you will find yourself being kind to yourself. And learn how to say "no" - I am horrible at that, and it always comes back to bite me.
Answer: There are definitely corners we can cut, and even need to cut to conserve energy for the things that matter.
Says the person single-handedly supporting a local pizza joint.