The Matrix did save my life, but Neo, Morpheus and Trinity were no where in sight!
If I heard these words once I heard them a hundred times; ‘No sorry we can’t come to your dinner party in 5 weeks time, we are booked then’. ‘Oh sorry to miss your BBQ, but we won’t be here in August’. RSVP’s to party invitations for my children, who could not attend, as they were already busy. This was my family life, does this resonate with you too ?
We were living in the matrix, so far in the future, that we were rushing through the days to the next event and not noticing anything. Please don’t get me wrong, we had some terrific experiences and travelled to wonderful countries. But and there is always a but, what did we miss in the spaces in between? I was a spatial designer, running my own successful design consultancy and I loved my job. The industry worked anything from 6 – 12 months in advance and thus we had to plan our lives accordingly.
When my children were born this lifestyle remained the same. Although I went to site less often, their lives were planned around the work calendar. The daily routine was exhausting for us all, up at 6 am, washed, dressed, breakfasted, brushing teeth, sometimes this was done when we actually got to school. Jump into the car by 7:20, school drop off at 8:00, on to work! Later collect the children from school at 3:30, drive home, an hour of playtime, get homework done, dinner, bath, and bed. And so it went on, it was relentless. We thought that by carving out chunks of family time, that sat neatly in the business schedule, was making time, creating balance. Silly really.
There is no such thing in my experience of a work life balance, one thing always outweighs the other and that is ok, recognising it though, is the start to making positive changes. My mum was staying with us during one of these periods of termly mayhem and said, ‘You’ll meet yourself coming back Louisa’. I felt as though I had been sucker punched, knowing in my heart that she was right. It is a strange phrase and little did she know, I had experienced just that. The feeling was unnerving, I knew things things had to change, I had to change.
Planning, Preparation and Participation
Consequently I became a student of child development and positive parenting. I devoured everything I could read on the subject. Qualifying as a pre-school teacher and working part-time in our local nursery, gave me a reservoir of knowledge, that focussed my mind. Indeed my mind was focussed also on my own personal development. Specifically I was changing, seeing what was important and urgent to my family, my business and me. Stephen Covey talks about this in the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, a pivotal learning point in my development. If you haven’t read this book, I cannot recommend it highly enough. The time management matrix will change what you do, how you do it and when you do it. Brilliant and simple!
For this reason learning to use the matrix, was the precursor to Mindfulness. The power to pause, reset and respond, stopping the work worries and chatter inside my head. I planned and no longer procrastinated, my productivity improved, real here and now time with my children became possible. WOW.
The first change was planning my week, so every Sunday I used the time management matrix. I prioritised my life into quadrants, work, family, home and stuff – you know how the stuff quadrant looks!
Then second came the preparation, a treasure box was filled weekly. Our treasure box contained these sort of things;
- Packets of juice
- Treat bags
- Pockets kites
- Picnic rug
- Spare trainers & change of clothes
- swimmers / towels
- Spare lead for the dog
The third was my participation, to be present, whilst I was with the children, not worrying about work or stuff I had to do. This took a great deal of practice on my part, switching off the mobile phone, unplugging from my busy day, being me. A great investment of my time looking back and the beginning of an extraordinary journey. We gained hours of extra time together, wandering on the Quantocks, paddling in the sea, impromptu picnics, kite flying and singing at the top of our lungs, because we could. Bliss.
The changes we make, don’t have to be massive, to enable us to go from mayhem to mindfully present. You just have to take the first step. The planning, preparation and participation in your personal life, as well as your professional life, is a good one to live by.