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4 Steps to Reclaim Your Life: Step 3 - Make a Plan and Stick to It – My Au Pair and Me

Hi, Maddie here. I used to laugh at the term work-life balance. As a young professional my idea of work-life balance was to work, then figure out how to fit the rest of my life around it. Then, in my late twenties I decided to add graduate school to my more than full time job. At this point I thought I had work-life balance all figured out. I could dial into my classes wherever I happen to be in the world, I worked on homework whenever I could fit it in, and I could do cardio while reading. No problem!

Then entered my first management position and a year later we decided to start a family. At this point I had finished graduate school and I wasn’t traveling much. It seemed like as good a time as any for our first child. I was so unprepared to actually manage my work-life balance!

In this 4 part blog series I will detail the techniques I now use to reclaim my life when things get out of control. It is an ongoing battle, but one I happily fight to stay sane and fulfilled. Check out step one Say “NO” and step 2 Engage Your Village.

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Make a Plan and Stick to It

When it was just me and my husband planning was easy. I made the plans and he went along for the ride. Everything changed when we started a family. All of a sudden I needed to know the whereabouts of my daughter and her many caregivers to complete a plan as simple as getting to work on time. And as a new mom with a chaotic and oppressive work schedule I had to learn to make a plan and stick to it. Bottom line: if it is important to you, then add it to your schedule.

How do you make a plan and stick to it at work?

Unless you are one of the lucky few with an administrative assistant, then you will need to find time to manage your own calendar. I have always managed my own calendar at work. I start and end each day with a review of my meetings for the next few days. It helps me to plan and prioritize.

This is the process I use to maintain my work calendar:

  1. Are there any conflicts? I start by declining the meetings I don’t plan to attend. Then I reschedule the meetings that can move. If I still have a conflict I will check the agendas to see if I can attend part of one meeting and then go to the other. If you are in a bind remember to engage your village.
  2. Check each meeting notice for attendees, conference room location, dial in information (if needed), and an agenda. I make sure I include this information in the meetings I schedule. If someone else owns the meeting I will ask them to send me any missing information. I will also let them know if I think someone important is missing from the invitation. If everyone is in the room you can have the conversations once instead of wasting time repeating it for folks who are missing.
  3. Make meetings a short as possible. Say “no” to hour long meetings covering a 15 minute topic. Even better if you can answer a question over your messaging platform and avoid the meeting altogether. It is a waste of everyone’s time to sit though unnecessary chatter.
  4. Add travel time before and after meetings if you need time to transition. That way you can make sure you get there and back on time.
  5. Add recurring meeting notices to you own calendar to help you remember weekly and monthly deadlines. I also use recurring meeting notices so that I remember to leave work on time.
  6. Develop a color coding system for your calendar. That way you can tell at a glance if your next meeting is important or not.
  7. Schedule breaks into your calendar. My calendar fills up fast so I schedule breaks to make sure I have time to eat, take a breather, and catch up.

Now that your calendar is under control, you have to be disciplined in following it. It is rude and career limiting to not show up to meetings. This is doubly true for meetings you schedule. Then at the end of the day, you have to learn to put it all down and head home. The work will be there in the morning.

How do you make a plan and stick to it at home?

At home I depend on my Google Family Calendar. All the important caregivers for my children have access: me, my husband, my parents, my in laws, and my au pair. The best Google Family Calendar feature is access from any device: iPhone, Android, tablets, and laptop web access.

We all have access to add and remove events, but for the most part, it is my job to manage the family calendar. I do most of the family calendar management on my smartphone after everyone is in bed. I use recurring meeting notices as much as possible. For deviations to the schedule I will edit a single event. I include everything important in my family calendar:

  1. School calendar, including half days and holidays
  2. Caregiver schedule for my kids
  3. Everyone’s activities and classes
  4. One-off appointments (including who needs to attend)
  5. Special events and holidays
  6. Everyone’s travel plans

What Is An Au Pair

Having everything in one place helps to prevent last minute child care emergencies. Everyone knows long in advance when I am depending on them. It also helps me to prevent over planning and to say “no”. I try to schedule only two events per day on the weekends. This allows us time to spend time together as a family and get everything ready for the upcoming week.

The family calendar also helps me delegate and better engage my village. My mother in law schedules fun events for my kids during her time with them. My husband knows to not schedule vet appointments at the same time he is dropping my daughter off at school. And best of all, my au pair knows which nights we will be home late. She helps me with dinner prep and bathing the kids before I get home. If you have kids and a spare room consider hosting an au pair. There is no way for me to get everything done without my amazing au pair!

How do you reclaim your life?

How do you manage your plans? Leave a comment for us below or join our group of au pair host parents in the My Au Pair and Me Facebook Community. We would love to hear from you! 

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