The below is an excerpt from Dying To Be a Good Mother: How I Dropped the Guilt and Took Control of My Parenting and My Life by Heather Chauvin. Heather is a leadership coach who helps ambitious, overwhelmed women conquer their fears and become leaders at work and home.
Consider this an early Mother’s Day gift from us to you. We’re not going to say much about Heather’s approach, just that if you’re looking for emotional and mental health supports for your daily routine, Chauvin has got you covered with a tool for everyday life that puts your feelings first…
What Is Energetic Time Management?
‘ETM’ is a transformative and simple-to-implement process that will help you manage your energy, not your time. ETM will show you how to set up your week in alignment with how you want to feel and give you the actionable steps you can (or need to) take to solve the problem of, “How can I do it all without feeling exhausted?”
I’m a leadership coach helping ambitious, overwhelmed women conquer their fears and become leaders at work and home and ETM is one of my go-to tools. Drawing from my professional experience as a social worker and my life experience raising three boys, this is part of my signature approach to help my clients create and enjoy sustainability, profitability and ease in business and life. I also host the Mom Is In Control podcast where we deal with vulnerable truths about womanhood, marriage, parenting, living through stage 4 cancer and running a successful business without burning out.
Putting ‘Energetic Time Management’ to Work in Your Daily Life
To set up ETM from scratch, you will need to complete six steps. Since your attention goes wherever your energy goes, I recommend carving out two hours and a quiet space where you can give this process your focused thought and attention.
Step 1: The Brain Dump
The first step for setting up ETM is the brain dump. We all have an endless list of to-dos. They may not fill our soul, but they can fill long stretches of time and mental space, if we let them.
Before looking at what you desire, you need to clear out that mental clutter. You’ll do that next by making a brain dump list. This is where you purge your should-dos, need-to-dos, have-to-dos, even your want-to-dos. Put it all down so you can eliminate your feelings of overwhelm. When I do this, I break my list down by these categories:
You don’t have to brain dump for every category. Your goal is just to get all of your to-dos on the page. You can also write a list without categories and sort them into categories later. On a blank journal page, do your brain dump. Purge onto the page so you can at least clear out the mental space you’ll need to move forward.
Step 2: Prioritize
I know it’s tempting to start burning through the list you just made. Please don’t do that! To move toward your desired feelings and your big vision, you have to prioritize your list.
This isn’t necessarily about doing what feels good in the moment. It’s about giving your time and energy to tasks that move you toward your desires. That will mean being uncomfortable at times. In fact, you may have already experienced discomfort when I asked you not to burn through the tasks on your brain dump list.
The truth is, being busy and staying busy is easy. What’s not always easy is saying no to your old priorities in order to say yes to creating the life you desire. With that in mind, next you’re going to prioritize your life. You should always be number one on that list; fueling yourself first will allow you to manifest your desired feelings, realize your bigger vision, and show up as your best self. Here’s a sample priority list:
4.My partner or spouse
Below your prioritized list, write down your top three desired feelings. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember that this is a process. You can write down one or two desired feelings. You’re not going to master ETM in one day or even one week, and that’s okay. We’re taking baby steps. Each baby step counts as progress. All you need to do is show up and do what you can.
Step 3: Highest Leveraged Action
Now you’ll begin to make space for actions that align with your desired feelings. Don’t worry if ETM is still a little unclear. As you continue using this system week after week, you’ll be waking up to your-self and figuring out how to continue creating the life you desire. If you’re working on mastering the basics—exercising, getting sleep, drinking water, and so on—then focus on those for a while. Remember, though, we’re moving away from all-or-nothing thinking. Instead, aim to improve your habits and how you feel by one degree.
For example, don’t try to go from drinking no water to four liters a day. Instead, drink one glass of water every morning to start. Focus on improvement, not perfection.
Next, under each of the categories in your brain dump list, write down one to three action steps. For example, it really helps me to get dressed every morning and do my hair. It elevates my energy and makes me feel better about myself. Mindfulness and exercise also help me to feel mentally and physically vibrant and ready for whatever my day brings. If my desired feelings are confident, strong, and alive, my action list for my “Self” item might look like this:
a. Daily movement for twenty minutes (yoga, running, walking, or gym)
b. Get dressed and do my hair
c. Practice some form of mindfulness for five minutes
Complete this process for each category, always focusing on actions that help you manifest your desired feelings. Remember, this is not a to-do list. Of course, doing laundry and grocery shopping are tasks that need to happen, but because they won’t bring you closer to your desired feelings, they shouldn’t appear on these lists. However, dancing and singing in your living room might, for example, make you feel sexy or powerful or whatever you want to feel. If the action aligns with a desired feeling, it should appear on your ETM action list, especially as you develop more life-enhancing habits.
Step 4: Set Up Your Calendars
Now it’s time to begin putting your vision into action. At this stage in the process, I highly recommend getting a paper planner instead of just a digital one. There’s something that happens with pen and paper that doesn’t happen with digital—we relax, access different parts of the brain, and get more creative. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t add events to a digital calendar. It just means that it’s best for you to also use a paper planner.
I use a planner that breaks each day down hourly. That level of planning used to turn me off, but now I prefer it because it helps me to use my time more intentionally. So often, when we’re scheduling our days, we pack in more than we can reasonably handle and then feel overwhelmed because we’re “so busy.” In reality, we’re just not planning effectively.
Here’s an example I see often: You start scheduling your day by adding your in-person meeting (10 to 11 a.m.) and your child’s 4:45 p.m. sports game, since those both occur at fixed times. Then you start adding your ETM actions, followed by work tasks and calls, et cetera. Everything seems to fit into your day, but only on paper, because you’ve neglected to factor in the time it will take to drive to and from the meeting, as well as your driving time to and from your child’s game. That forgotten time accounts for over ninety minutes that you haven’t factored into your plans. As a result, before you’ve even begun your day, you’re ninety-plus minutes behind schedule simply because you haven’t put enough thought into your planning. For that reason, it’s important to take time to sit somewhere uninterrupted and carefully consider how your day will flow.
Another issue that tends to overwhelm is our tendency to try to squeeze in extra tasks, calls, and appointments. For example, when someone asks you to join a call at the last minute, do you say yes, telling yourself that you’ll use a Bluetooth headset and run errands while you’re on the call? It’s tempting, I know, but when that becomes a habit, we end up feeling rushed all day every day.
Instead of saying yes to that last-minute invitation or call, start saying no. Non-essential additions often add to feelings of overwhelm and take you further away from your desired feelings. Start noticing events and tasks that are out of alignment with your desired feelings and set healthier boundaries around your time and energy.
The first items you should add to your calendar are the top one to three “Self” category action steps you created in the Highest Leveraged Action step (Step 3) of this process. If putting yourself on your calendar is new for you, this may feel uncomfortable. Again, this is a process that you’ll refine overtime, but go ahead and write those top actions in the “Self” category into your schedule first.
In my case, that means adding showering and doing my hair to my calendar. I have to create space for that. Otherwise, I’ll convince myself I don’t have the time, and it won’t happen. Nothing is too simple to plan for, so whatever you can do to move toward your desired feelings should be added to a time slot in your calendar. Once you’ve added your top actions from your “Self” category action list to your calendar, fill in any appointments or events, being sure to factor in prep time, driving time, et cetera. You can try doing this one day at a time or plan an entire week all at once.
Step 5: Taking Action
Putting your plan into action is where the magic happens. If you’re setting yourself up for success, you’ll make micro-adjustments from one week to the next. Remember, incremental improvement is your goal.
Please don’t try to make enormous changes right away. I’d much rather you show up for 10 percent of your big plan than get so overwhelmed by aiming for 100 percent that you make no progress. The only thing I call failure is quitting, so doing 10 percent, or even1 percent, is still success. Go through your day, doing what you can to adhere to your schedule.
Step 6: Nightly Check-In
Just getting to this point is a milestone unto itself! This last step is important, but also something most people avoid, especially at first. That resistance is normal, and seeing it for what it is—resistance, not failure—is a huge part of your personal development journey.
As you practice ETM, life, as well as your emotions, will get in the way. That’s normal. This is a process, and again, your focus needs to be on progress, not perfection. Every night I want you to look at your calendar and take a minute to consider what’s happening tomorrow. I like to visualize things involved in our morning routine: Do we have breakfast food in the house? Will one of my kids freak out about socks? Have I prepped my food yet?
I also visualize my workday: Is there anyone I need to communicate with? Are there any specific deliverables I need to complete? Nothing is too mundane or complex. Just try to picture what might happen tomorrow and, when possible, go do a little prep—for example, find socks for your child or take a quick inventory of your pantry. You don’t have to “do it all” before bedtime. Just get grounded in what’s coming up so you can prepare mentally and logistically.
That’s ETM in a nutshell! The more you practice it, the more you’ll notice where you experience resistance and how that resistance shows up. One way that commonly occurs is through the stories we tell ourselves about what we “should” do and how we “should” be. In the next chapter we’ll look at how we limit ourselves with these stories and also look at how changing them can allow us to experience our desired feelings.
Excerpted from Dying To Be a Good Mother: How I Dropped the Guilt and Took Control of My Parenting and My Life by Heather Chauvin. Copyright © 2021 by Heather Chauvin. Excerpted with permission from Page Two Books.