My Mum (who also worked) used to talk about how most Mums suffer from the “burnt chop syndrome”. If the Mum cooked chops for dinner, she would always serve the best cooked chops to her husband, the next best to her kids, and she would end up with the burnt chops. Put another way, she would always put herself last. Setting priorities in life is important so you don’t fall for the “burnt chop syndrome”.
Setting priorities is particularly important if you feel guilty for working and not being around the kids as much. Yet nearly every article I’ve ever read about balancing work and kids refers to prioritising yourself. And with good reason. But HOW do you practically do this?
Setting priorities: work out your “non-negotiables”
1. What non-negotiables are:
- These are the things that give you energy in your life. This allows you to cram in everything that you’re doing at work and home
- They are specific to you. You might have the same non-negotiables as other people, but it doesn’t matter at all if you’re the only person you know who gets energy from reading 18th century history books
- They are what truly give you energy. It’s not about what you think they should be or what you think sounds impressive. If you don’t like long-distance running, don’t have it as your non-negotiable to do 4 times a week
2. Work out how often and when exactly you will do your non-negotiables:
- Be realistic. It’s better to start off saying once a week you are going to do yoga than stating you’ll do it 5 time a week and then feeling like a failure when you don’t achieve this
- Think about when you can fit it into your schedule and what your back-up plan is. One of my non-negotiables is to go to yoga one night a week. My regular schedule is to do this at 6.30pm on a Monday night. However, I know that if I need to work late or be with the kids if James isn’t available, then I have the rest of the week to find an alternative time
3. Talk about what your non-negotiables are and when you will do them with others:
- I’m lucky enough to work in an office where we talk a lot about our non-negotiables. My team and I openly talk about what gives each of us energy. For some it’s dropping their kids off at school on a Monday morning. Others get their energy from working from home on a Friday. As for me, it’s about doing yoga on a Monday, running Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday (at whatever hour) and being out of the office on Fridays. It’s personal and based on what’s relevant for me
- The term “non-negotiable” sounds like we always do it, but we don’t. We’re human. But it helps us to notice if a week or 2 has slipped by and we haven’t prioritised ourselves. It is a trigger so that we can focus again on it
Focusing on “non-negotiables” gives my team the same language to chat with each other and make sure we focus on the things that give us energy and therefore more productive at work.
Full credit for this concept goes to Dr. Bill Mitchell: http://www.mitchellpractice.co.uk/ConsultingTraining.aspx