How to make time for everything

Hello hello! This year, I’ve decided to commit to sharing a new blog post with you on the full moon + new moon of every month. So, each month when you look out the window and see the glowing moon in the night sky, and perhaps you even feel a surge of that mystical lunar energy rise up within you – head over to my blog and you will find something from me, written with the intent to nourish your mind & soul.

I’m also really enjoying creating on instagram stories at the moment. I like to share little snippets of my day to day life, but also like to reflect on a topic every week centered around spirituality, intentional living, and conscious motherhood. If you’re on instagram, I’d love to connect with you there.

Now onto the blog post!

A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a girl on Instagram who, like me, is also on the road to residency in the US. She kindly complimented me on my ability to juggle many things at once. Medicine, motherhood, spirituality, writing and now, youtube too.

I was taken aback by what she said – because the areas of my life that she considers to be my success, I so often feel inadequate in. It astonished me, the differences in how I perceive myself in comparison to how someone else perceives me. And maybe the truth of who I am sits somewhere in the middle of both of these extremes. It got me thinking, that while I do tend to be quick to dismiss myself, the reality is that yes, I do juggle a lot. Yes, I do work hard to do the things that are important to me, and though I may not be able to do everything to the level of my satisfaction, and though I may feel like I’m constantly failing at a lot of things, the fact that I try is worth something. And yes, maybe I do have something of value to say on this topic.

Certain things in life, like motherhood and medicine, tend to be all encompassing. Meaning that it’s almost impossible to compartmentalize these things into little blocks of time. It takes over everything. It’s a 24/7 direction of life.

It’s hard to imagine a life beyond these things sometimes, and it’s certainly even harder to make the time and space for other in your day.

But heres the thing – we all have 24 hours in a day, and we decide how to spend it. Our time and our health is truly our greatest wealth, and it’s worthwhile to use what you have intentionally and on the things that matter most to you, otherwise you may get swept up in the flurry of a busy but unfulfilling life.

Since becoming a mother, the amount of “free time” has been cut exponentially, some days it feels like a mythical concept.

Before children, the majority of my time went to either school/work, and all that was remaining was my time. I could do with it, whatever I wished. I could  choose to be productive and build the life of my dreams or I could snuggle up in bed and watch Friends. After motherhood, all that remaining time outside of school/work goes automatically to my daughter. Like a direct deposit.

Without intentionally and purposefully carving out a little slice for yourself, you might never get it. Time is precious, and we have so little of it. The very least we can do is use what we do have.

Here are my thoughts on how to juggle it all.

Priorities

My daughter is my priority, and it will take a lot to make my sacrifice time with her over anything else.

My career in medicine also takes precedence at this time – as I am actively working on building my application profile to apply for residency in 2020.

It would take a lot of move these two things out of the way and fit in other things I felt like doing. But sometimes, the other things are important too, and I make sure they have a small space in my day, in my week and in my life.

What would you like to do if you could?

Take some time to consider all the things that are important to you. The things you would like to dedicate some time and effort to. Your passions, your interests, your hobbies, or simply just areas of life that you’d like to explore.

If you’re like me, the list may be as long as your arm. As a multi-passionate person, I have come to respect the age old adage that you can do it all, you just can’t do it all at once.

So pick the one thing that excites you the most, and decide to begin there. If you have a full schedule, as most of us do, then it will take some prudent planning to create the space in your life you need for your new venture.

One method I use is setting myself monthly challenges or trails, where I practice my chosen craft every day for 30 days. By doing this, I can technically “try” 12 different things every year, giving me a good sense of whether I wish to dedicate any more of my time to it or not.

Once an activity “passes” my one-month challenge, I will promote it to a 3 month challenge, and then a 6 month, to 9 months to a year.

There are some things that work on a week by week commitment too – like experimenting with going vegan for a week.

So, take a good long hard look at your list, pick the item that excites you most and commit to it for a week or monthly challenge and see where it takes you.

Audit your time

Closely examine how you are currently spending your time. Time is precious, and while it’s common to feel like we don’t have much of it, you may surprise yourself by seeing how much of it you spend on unimportant things.

Ask yourself:

What things do you spend time doing, that you can replace completely with a new and more valued activity?

What things do you spend time doing that you can tweak so that they are done well, but quickly?

What decisions do you make every day that you could automate? (For example: Setting out your outfits ahead of time, meal planning)

Can you wake up earlier OR stay up later? (Don’t do both.)

Dealing with the guilt

This. This is what I need to talk about it, because this is what stops so many of us from exploring and devoting ourselves to our passions. When I was studying for my USMLEs, every single time I took the time to write a blog post or film a youtube video, I would feel this tremendous pressure that “I could be using this time to study.”

I believe this study-guilt is experienced globally by those of us pursuing medicine.

Other than kindly reminding myself that while studying is important, other areas of my life and passions also deserve my attention – here’s one practical tip I practice to help ease some of the guilt:

I use my study breaks as my time to work on my passion-projects. At some point, we will all need a break from studying – when we’re mentally tired and can’t seem to absorb any more information. At that time, I don’t feel guilty for working on something else, because I know I couldn’t do any more work at that particular time even if I wanted to.

This leads nicely into my next point –

Plan and utilize your breaks (and baby nap times) for your passion projects

The breaks I take in my day are sacred, because they present to me a mostly guilt-free space of time that I can use how I wish.

Now, we all know that breaks have limits, and napping babies are unpredictable. You’d be surprised how quickly a 1 hour or even a 2 hour nap can pass. In my early motherhood days, I would spend most of Reya’s nap, thinking about all the things I could do during this precious time and be overwhelmed by the 2 hours of freedom I had ahead of me. When that overwhelm finally settled, and I decided on the task I would devote myself to, as soon as I started digging into it, she would wake up! I know better now. I always plan ahead and decide on what I would like to work on while she sleeps, or while I take a study break, and I get straight to it the moment the clock starts.

Get some rest!

Be kind to yourself. If you are consistently unkind to yourself, eventually it will catch up with you and wear you down.  Take your breaks as seriously as you take your work. Take them with intention and pride! You have a human-right to rest. You have a human-right to sleep.

There are some breaks where I have planned to work on a passion project, but then realize I need to take a nap instead. Or rest. Or watch a TV show instead. That’s OK with me!

One of the foundational aspects of me being able to balance a number of these important things in my life has been getting enough sleep. The quality of my sleep is haphazard because it is completely governed by the Ruler of my Sleep that is my toddler. Some nights we wake up multiple times. Some nights I get a luxurious 4 hours of sleep in a row. At this point of mothering my almost-2-year old, I just don’t have much say over my sleep quality. I do, however, get to control the quantity of sleep I get, and that’s what I focus on.

I try to go to sleep early and it has made a world of a difference. And I mean I actually try to fall asleep earlier, and not simply getting into bed early and scrolling through reddit for an hour. When I wake up at 6am, I feel good. I feel ready to wake up to life. At worst, I have a 5 minute “I need to go back to bed” period while I brush my teeth, but shortly after, I am ready to greet my day.

I have noticed that getting enough sleep also increases my creativity – and I rely on my creativity for my passion-projects so I take care to protect my sleep the best I can. The more lethargic I am, the less inspired I feel.

Create more than you consume.

I have noticed that the more I spend consuming, the less inspired I feel. Consuming takes away my creative energy. A certain amount of consuming can be used for research and inspiration gathering, but it has a limited time and a place.

Every time I find myself consuming some kind of content (whether that’s reading or watching something) I ask myself “What could I be creating right now instead?” and if there is something that is important to me, I will move to that instead.

Certain projects do require research and time to consume content and get inspired. If that’s a case, dedicate one practice session/block of time, for that purpose. Approach it systematically, take your time to research, get inspired and take what you need, and know that in your next allotted time, you will be creating.  

Ask for help

It really does take a village to make sure everything flows. Ask for help. Whether that’s paid help (babysitters, nannies, daycare) or friends and family. If I need an hour to get a blog post out, I’ll ask if my husband can take Reya to the playground so that I can do what I need to. Enrolling Reya in daycare not only did wonders for her social development, but it also gave me the gift of time, and I could ration a small portion of it towards passion projects.

There will be times when you just can’t do it all.

Sometimes priorities arrange themselves by deadlines. There are times when passion-projects go on the back burner. There are times when I have to simply tell myself “I really, really, really want to do XYZ, but right now, I can’t commit to it.”

Take my blog and youtube channel, for example. I have been unable to dedicate any amount of time towards it for the last few months as I’ve been preparing for my STEP 2 exams and a whole bunch of other deeply time consuming life-admin stuff.

Or, there was a full week when my daughter was at home sick, and I couldn’t study either.

It would have been foolish to focus on anything else. And I wouldn’t have felt good about myself or my work if I did.

Embrace the times when you can’t do it all. Embrace the times when you can just about do one thing.

Don’t multitask

It might sound counterintuitive, but nothing makes me feel more inadequate as a mother, a doctor or a person than multitasking does. It stops me from being present and often makes me feel like I’m doing multiple things poorly. Single tasking and being present brings me into my power.

When I’m with Reya I strive to give her my undivided attention. There have been times when I attempt to get some work stuff done while spending time with her – and neither of these things get done well. In fact, at times, they even suffer.

There is only ever one thing to do at a time. Identify what that is. And just do that.

Be flexible & embrace imperfection

Things change. Nap times change. Schedules change. Work assignments change. Health and energy levels fluctuate. I try to be flexible and adapt to the change quickly, which translates to – I try stop clinging to how I think things should be, and instead swiftly move onto what I can do right now. Being less rigid means I get more time, because I don’t waste my time obsessing over making something work that doesn’t.

I remember before my grueling 8 hour long Step 1 exam, I was obsessing over how to make sure Reya would sleep through the night so that I could sleep through the night before my exam. I tried to plan everything right –  her morning wake-up time, her afternoon nap duration etc and of course my daughter just did what she does best – be her best damn baby self and wake up multiple times throughout the night. I did not get much sleep. It was a similar occurrence on the night before my 8-hour step 2 CS exam. She woke up with night terrors (after months of not having any), and parents will know how troubling it is to support your child through such a frightening experience for them. 

I embrace it. There’s no use throwing an internal (or external) tantrum over life not going my way. It serves no purpose other than put me in a bad state of mind, and I always prioritize peace of mind over everything. This is life, and we rise up to meet it. 

Medicine is not everything. Motherhood is not everything.

My daughter doesn’t need a mother who derives every ounce of happiness from her. I wouldn’t want to put that kind of burden on anyone. Love shouldn’t be a burden.

She needs a mother who is present, joyful and fulfilled. She is not my creation, my obsession, or my “project.” We’re just two souls doing life together. Right now, at the age she is at, she needs me for quite a lot of her basic needs, and it’s wonderful. It’s a full and vibrant season of motherhood that I know will not last forever.

Likewise, Medicine is not everything.

Don’t get me wrong – it is huge and holds a lot of gravity for me. It is unfaltering. I’ve never doubted that this is the area of my life’s work. It is fascinating. It motivates and inspires me.

But I know that the essence of my life is more than that. In addition, I have other passions and interests that is worthwhile to explore. There is a soul within me that yearns to know its self and experience itself more completely. I wouldn’t want to turn my back on it, and so I know I should never feel unworthy to answer its call.

6 Comments

  1. Wonderful content, thank you for inspiring me and giving myself a clear mind for now 🙂
    keep doing what you do. We need people like you

    Warm Regards,

  2. Thanks for this Malu. Could you elaborate a bit more on Create more than consume. I find myself creating more than consuming. But that leaves very little time for reading or watching something and i feel i’m missing out on something. How does one find a middle path?

    1. That’s a good question. In that case, I would have a goal/target and a plan for the kind of content that I DO want to consume and work towards that. For example I might say I want to read for 1 hour every night or I make a list of the things I’d like to watch and plan to watch one thing eveyy week (or whatever time line works for you)

      That way you can consume content but wihh intentionality and not mindlessly and at the expense of your creative energy.

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