Monday, March 25, 2013

8:45 PM
I think that based on my inaugural MommyTasker post (Friday - I'm In Love) many readers got the impression that I get to spend hours each day just working out and doing fun things. I know that I am extremely fortunate to have most Friday mornings to myself, and to be able to do things like drive up to Tahoe before, rather than after traffic, but trust me when I say that on the other days this is definitely not the case.

Like many of you, I just wrapped up an exhausting week. Work was crazy, one kid got sick, another kid's kindergarten decisions occupied hours of calls and parent-teacher conferences, we started a remodeling project (which required that we do the necessary research and showroom visits to make several time-critical decisions), and we had to pack and prep for our weekend trip (on which I got sick). Needless to say, working out and sleep did not make it to the top of the list on most days. What I did fit in mostly happened late in the evening after the kids were in bed and after other higher-priority tasks were accomplished.

The fact that things are so busy and exhausting for all of us made me think about the things that I do to create efficiency in my life and that allow me to squeeze precious minutes out of every day to cumulatively create an hour or so of me time. Here are some of those things:

Two in a Tub
1. Optimize Bathtime. My kids take a bath every single evening. It is the signature activity that marks the end of the day and the beginning of the bed time routine. The thing we do differently in our house is that, rather than in a bathtub, our kids bathe in two extra-large storage tubs in the middle of the kitchen. We fill the tubs partially full with warm water from the sink and set them side by side on towels on the floor. It is lovely for kids to get to spend 20 minutes quietly playing and relaxing after dinner AND I can watch them and interact with them while I clean up the kitchen and pack their lunches. This way, I am done with all kitchen chores and don't have to step foot in the kitchen again after I get the kids to bed. Time saved: 20-30 Minutes.

2.  Never Watch TV. Maybe every second week my husband and I will watch an episode of Mad Men or Downton Abbey together on a weekend night. Aside from that, or the occasional Modern Family episode, we rarely ever turn on the TV in our house. As a result, I never get sucked into couch and the minutes and hours don't evaporate. Time saved: Hours and hours.
Quick Change

3. Take Alternate Transportation. In the best version of fitting my workout into my commute, I drive the kids to their schools, park my car, and then run the remaining 3 miles to work. After work, I run back to my car and drive us all home. This scenario entails planning ahead (i.e., having an outfit stashed at work) and having a day free of meetings where you would be expected to look "put together", but it is a great way to fit in your workout. From experience I recommended that when stashing said clothes you remember that a work outfit typically includes underwear. And shoes.Time saved: 20-30 Minutes.

4. Do Interval Training. It is hard to find 90 minutes at a time to dedicate to a good, hard workout. To get around this issue, I will often break my workouts into bite-sized pieces. On a good day I might do yoga at lunch (which requires a minimal change of clothes), fit in a quick run before I pick the kids up after work, and then do a short strength workout in our home gym in the evening after the kids are in bed. You can imagine the many variations on the theme that make a complete work out possible within the time constraints we are all faced with. Time saved: Not really relevant, just a way of fitting everything in.

5. Practice Lifting Social. I am lucky to have pretty athletic friends so it is natural for us to plan something active in addition to meeting up for dinner or drinks. Often we will climb, walk, or run as part of our time together, which makes us enjoy our meal or cocktail even more. My husband and I use this same model for our date nights: we will often swim or play tennis before going out to dinner. Time saved: Not really relevant, just a way of not having to make the choice between being social and staying fit.

6. Multi-Tasking is What it is All About. I read on the stationary bike, listen to NPR when I run or drive, work on my Spanish at random times using my phone, and practice guitar while my kids have dance parties. I do nothing as well or as much as I would like, but the little bits of "other" that I can sneak in keep me current and intrigued.

With the competing demands of work, family, and life, it is hard to strike the perfect balance on every day or in every week. But as long as we keep getting out there and doing our best to squeeze the most out of every minute, that's all we can really ask of ourselves, right?

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