Do You Know How to Juggle?

It never fails: every time I try to sit down to do some work, whether it’s checking the emails that flood my inbox or catching up on some phone calls, I hear “the call.”

“Mom!  Where’s my _______ ?: (fill in the blank here with any number of vital possessions)”  “Mommmmmm!  I’m hungry!”  “Honey, what are your plans for dinner?”  It never ends.  Then add the endless dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, homework… you know the story.

For those of us that juggle household tasks, jobs, and children, it can sometimes seem virtually impossible to find the time to train, let alone the energy required to do so.  But with careful planning and some creative organization, it CAN be done.   Try a few of these suggestions to make the most of your training program:

Have a training plan:  Having a plan that is customized to you and your life is critical.  A training plan adds specificity and focus to your training, which means your time spent is spent in an efficient manner.  Protect your training time:  Treat it as you would treat an appointment for the doctor.  Be purposeful in your workouts by having a training plan constructed with your goals, time restraints, and strengths/weaknesses in mind. Whether your plan is laid out by a coach, mentor or yourself, having a plan is essential.

Invest the time required to be organized:  take some time at the beginning of each week, or each day, to organize your time ahead.  Invest in a PDA, Daytimer, or even a notepad to make your lists and track everything in one place.  There is no “right way” to be organized.  What matters is that you find a way that works for you and your family.  I, for instance, rely on the Post-It note.  On my kitchen cabinet at the beginning of each week you’ll find 7 of the sticky wonders lined up with the dates of the week.  When Monday comes, I take my Post-It list off the cabinet on my way out the door, stick it to my dashboard, and have my list with me for the rest of the day.  Like I said, not rocket science, just what I’ve found works for me.

Make use of all your time:  Use your lunch hour to get the grocery shopping done (keep a cheap Styrofoam cooler in the car, or use the breakroom’s fridge for your cold stuff until you can take it home at the end of the day), get a swim in, or log some running miles.  Get your training in by taking advantage of your commute to and/or from work (this is where organization is important, too).  Pop the kids in the bike trailer or the jogger stroller and use the added weight to your training advantage.  Get creative with fitting things into corners of your day to minimize wasted opportunities.

Don’t be afraid to get help:  Consider hiring a housekeeper.  Grab the young teen down the street to watch the kids for a designated afternoon each week to ensure you get your time.  Network with other moms or coworkers – chances are, there’s someone in your same situation wondering how she’s going to get some time without the kids.  I have a friend who is a runner, and enjoys evening runs.  So, we worked out a nice exchange system where she took my kids while I rode, and I took over so she could get her long run in.

Be clear with your spouse:  We all logically know that he can’t read our minds, but it never fails (at least with me!) that we sometimes expect him to know what we need and when we need it.  Be clear with yourself, and then with your significant other, about your training plan.  Figure out a schedule that works for both of you as much as possible.  A spouse who is included in your plans, and understands your goals and priorities, is more likely to be supportive and help you find creative solutions.  Keep in mind, as with everything in a relationship, communication is key.

Stick with easy-to-make meals:  Costco’s rotisserie chicken is my best friend.  I’m not a good cook, but I can feed people.  Enough said.

Schedule downtime:  Downtime is an integral part of your training regime.  Plan some relaxing time for the soak in the tub, the morning meditation over coffee, or the snuggle on the couch under a warm blanket.  Protect your downtime just as you protect your training time or your other appointments.

Be flexible:  Sometimes, no matter how organized you are, or how perfectly you’ve scheduled your day or communicated with your spouse, things come up.  You get a call from school that your kiddo has strep throat.  Your boss wants to have a late dinner meeting.  Your in-laws are staying an extra day.  Remember that most of us are not getting paid to train.  My kids will remember riding bikes to the beach and sleeping out under the stars in the backyard.  I’m pretty sure they won’t remember that the sink was continually full of dishes or that the floor didn’t get mopped more than once a month or so.  Likewise, while your training obviously is a high priority, keep it fun and interesting by allowing yourself to be flexible in mind and spirit when things out of your control throw a wrench into your plans.

Remember, no one can do it all.  But sometimes the key to keeping all those balls in the air is being a skilled juggler!