We've been longtime fans of Jessica Turner! Her first book, The Fringe Hours, served as a personal permission slip for me to prioritize taking care of myself, and it's since shown up in my PowerSheets goals each year. She was kind enough to send us an advance copy of her brand new book, Stretched Too Thin, to read through, and I knew a few pages in she'd be a great fit for our new Ask a Cultivator blog series!
Today she's answering some of YOUR questions from Instagram about how to balance multiple priorities, take care of yourself and your family, and she's sharing all her productivity hacks. Enjoy!
How do you get it all done when you work a demanding full-time job? I don’t get it all done! Instead, I prioritize what really matters and am comfortable with "good enough is good enough" for the rest. My husband and I work together to meet the needs of our family and that is what it is most important.
What are some surprising things you DON'T do? Regular followers of me know this already, but I am terrible at keeping up with housework. If you arrived to my house unannounced, chances are you would see a cluttered dining room table and a heaped laundry basket near the hall closet where our washer and dryer are stored. I try, but with three little kids and an immensely busy work life, something has to give—and that something is the house! We do budget for a cleaning service to come twice a month and that makes a huge difference. It’s the best money I spend every month. I also don’t volunteer much at my kids’ schools. I would love to, but it just isn’t feasible with my work. I try to help in other ways, like donating to raffles, giving gifts to teachers to let them know they are appreciated, etc.
How do you prioritize when everything seems urgent or top priority, or when different projects are a priority for different reasons? Let me start by sharing an analogy. In my new book Stretched Too Thin, I included a response given by another working mom in a survey I conducted. She said, "The best advice I was ever given was to imagine that my life was a juggling act. Only some of my balls are glass and some rubber. I can drop the rubber balls and pick them up later and they aren’t any different. However, if I drop a glass ball, they are broken forever—no matter how hard you try to fix it. The key then is to determine which balls are your glass balls." If you look at your priorities as rubber or glass balls, it can become easy to see what really matters. There isn’t a hard and fast answer for how to prioritize things because every situation is different. I believe most things we treat like an emergency are not actually emergencies. We need to be better about stepping back and saying, what is the next best thing for me to do right now? Where am I really needed? What deadlines are real and what are self-imposed? Establishing boundaries can help you to make the best choices for living the life you want. For instance, it is important for me to leave work every day at 5 p.m. So, even when I have a full plate and a lot of deadlines, I work hard to leave at 5 so that I can have that time with my family.
What are practical ways you incorporate self-care in your life? Why is it important? Self-care is one of the biggest struggles working moms face, with 4 out of 5 saying that it is a challenge for them to make it a priority. I have learned that I am my best when I take care of myself and that I don’t do anyone any favors when I skip out on me. A few ways I incorporate self-care are by taking time to pray, read books (check out my @booksnobbery Instagram account for my latest reads), and travel. I also am diligent about taking care of my health and am sure to make time for regular physicals, dental appointments, etc.
What are some of your favorite work productivity hacks? Make a list: When you document what you need to do, you are more likely to complete it. If something doesn’t make it on my to-do list, it likely will get forgotten. I live and breathe by that list. Turn off email and social media. Both are incredible distractions, so turn them off so you can focus on the work you need to accomplish. Work off-site: If your job allows, work off-site. You will find that you have fewer distractions than in the office and complete work more efficiently. My job allows me to work remote one day a week and has been a game changer for me in terms of productivity. Schedule time for specific projects: By blocking time on your office calendar to complete a project, you can ensure you complete the task.
What encouragement would you give to mothers in the "thick of it"? You are a great mom. Trust in that. Don’t get distracted by other moms on social media and what they are doing in their families. Instead, focus on what you are doing in your own home. Recognize that it is the quality of time that you spend with your kids, not the quantity of time. When you are with your kids, try to be fully present. Put your phone aside. Turn off the television. Play together. And know that the best mom for your kids is the one they have—you.
Don't forget to snag a copy of Stretched Too Thin (which released today!) for equal parts encouragement and practical next steps to do just what the subline says: lose the guilt, work smarter, and thrive! While I'm not necessarily in a season of motherhood, I can assure you I dog-eared, highlighted, and underlined plenty of pages full of truth for myself. You can follow along with Jessica on Instagram and her blog.
Did you have a favorite takeaway? What questions do you have for future fellow Cultivators? Any suggestions on women you'd like to see in our monthly column? Feel free to leave a comment below! We love hearing from you!