Being a single parent comes with it’s fair share of opportunities and challenges. The amount of things I do on a given morning before 7 AM boggles even my mind. It’s more than any respectable to do list can hold.
I’ve learned that in order to thrive, I have to take a more disciplined approach to how I manage my time and self care. And most importantly, I have to be willing to ask for help.
I’ve developed a personal development for leadership system using self care over the last few years that has truly allowed me to bring my best self into every moment of my life.
I believe every single parent deserves the opportunity to thrive at work and at home and these simple shifts helped me get there.
Personal Development for Leadership Tips:
#1 Create systems and routines that flow with your life
Repeatability has it’s benefits. When it comes to managing a career and kids, anything reliable is worth its weight in gold. One of the biggest personal development for leadership gifts I’ve given myself is structuring my life around a bi-weekly schedule. I’ve found that everything can’t be done weekly, but most things can be fit into a two week schedule.
This also aligns with my schedule with my kids as I have them 50% of the time on a rotating schedule that includes every other weekend.
This two week block gives me a week that is mostly focused on the kids and keeping the house in running order and a week where I work on self care, socialization and running errands that are easier alone. This simple shift makes it feel like I have an abundance of time available for my kids and my personal endeavors.
Create a system for how you schedule your time and run your life. Does a weekly schedule work? Or does a bi-weekly schedule work? I’ve found that one of those two will be achievable for most people.
Then look at how you can slot in the important stuff on a recurring schedule. When you’re done you’ll have something that captures your work and home obligations but also has time blocks available for shift number 2.
#2 Schedule alternative childcare for self care
This is absolutely crucial for any single parent. We all need time away from our kids to fully replenish. There is something powerful about not being needed, even if only for a few hours. I’ve learned that I can’t rely on this time to magically appear on my calendar.
Instead, I take the time to schedule it within my two week blocks. For example, my Mother manages getting my son down for his nap on the weekends.
And a close family friend comes over every Thursday evening so I can get out of the house without the kids. I take the kids to the gym where there is daycare every Saturday and Sunday morning.
The key is that I don’t schedule errands during this time. I schedule self care time. Some of my favorite things to do include sitting in the jacuzzi and sauna at the gym, going for a long run or taking myself out on a date to somewhere fun.
I created a self care list of things I can do that will help me feel like I’ve replenished my energy and keep getting more and more creative. I also hold myself accountable to using this time alone.
I’ve found that I need scheduled alone time in my week in order to feel replenished and can get caught in the trap of overscheduling activities with friends. This boundary ensures that I’m using the time for its purpose; self care.
#3 Eat foods that fill your body with energy
Everyone says eat well. What I suggest is eating smarter. Every bite of food we put in our mouths will either give us more or less energy. It’s as simple as that. The key is to choose foods that give you more energy and aren’t laden with chemical substitutes for true nutrition.
I like to look at food in terms of quality of nutrition over quantity. I know if I eat meats, vegetables and fruits I will feel full of energy and light when moving through my day.
However, if I eat processed foods and complex carbs, I’ll feel sluggish and sometimes even get cranky. I have a running joke that gluten makes me cry after experiencing crying spells so many times after eating it.
As such, I’ve switched my lens to look at food as a means to getting energy. And I like it to taste good! So, I focus my diet on whole foods and I’ve found it actually makes my life easier.
I don’t have to wade through the aisles of the grocery store because I generally don’t buy food that comes in a box or can. This keeps me in the meats, produce and dairy section.
I’ve found that having less selection actually makes my life a lot easier. Since I’ve already made a decision on the categories of food our family eats I can shop like a surgeon with laser precision.
#4 Move your body to release pent up stressors
A friend once said to me, “If you are a Mom and you aren’t working out you’re stressed out.” I’ve found a lot of truth in this statement. The body is designed to move and it needs to move to stay healthy.
I recommend vigorous exercise at least 3 days a week and recently have increased my workouts to 6. I focus on getting in three runs a week and three strength training workouts. The key is to get my heart rate up for 45 to 90 minutes multiple times a week. To do it simply,
I go for a short or a long run. That’s my go to, almost always available solution and because I love running it has worked well for me.
I’ve learned that simplicity matters and I don’t want to have to “think” about my workout. I want to put on my shoes and get to it. So I keep it simple.
When I go to do strength training I watch a YouTube video and simply follow along. I don’t have to schedule time with an instructor or do anything special.
I show up at the gym and I do TRX strength training for 20 minutes. I don’t have to choose equipment or make any other decisions and that has kept me consistent.
Whatever your routine is make sure you get to it and that you are holding yourself accountable to getting your heart rate up for at least 45 minutes.
If you haven’t been focused on exercising then hire a coach to get you on a schedule that works. When the Pandemic hit I unexpectedly gained 20 pounds related to the medications I take for Bipolar Disorder.
Unaware of the cause and knowing I had been stress eating I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “You’re either going to get fitter or fatter through this.” I started running and ultimately hired a run coach to help me train for my first half marathon. Personally, I needed the accountability of a coach and you may too.
#5 Spend time with people you love
Who are the people you can let your hair down with? The ones that feel like home. That’s who I’m talking about. You need to make sure you’re spending time with your tribe to just relax and be yourself.
I’ve noticed that socialization time is one of the first things to fall off of my calendar when I get busy. To resolve it, my best friend and I have scheduled a party every month in 2022.
They are pre-scheduled 90 days in advance so our community knows when we’re hosting and can make their own arrangements.
The nice thing is that every party is different, some have 6 people and some have upwards of 60. Yet, I’ve noticed a community or regulars forming that say the parties are a respite and have even said it’s important for their mental health.
Because this socialization is always on my calendar, I know I’ll have something to fill my extroverted cup. This is important even for introverts you will just prefer to meet in smaller, more intimate groups.
I’ve sometimes underestimated the importance of other people in my life and have gone through periods where I’ve isolated myself from others.
In every case, I felt less loved and less fulfilled. However, when I bring my community together I feel acceptance and togetherness that fuels me outside of work.
Single parents represent a powerful part of the workforce in Corporate America. And they are also holding up an overflowing plate of responsibility.
The only solution is to find a way to balance between what’s coming in and the time you have available to deal with it. In our drive up the corporate ladder using personal development for leadership tips, we also have to remember how to take care of ourselves.
Expecting your self care to happen on its own is unrealistic. Instead look at these simple shifts as guideposts for helping you to bring your life into an even higher level of alignment so you can continue to excel.
Even implementing one or two will go a long way towards increasing your performance at work and at home. There’s no such thing as work life balance any more. There’s just balance. These shifts will help you get there.