You can't 'have it all' - but you can live in the moment

The key to making the most of what you've got is to live in the here and now, says Jo Haigh.

by Jo Haigh
Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015

You want to have it all? Well, you can't - man, woman or child. Accept it. It's not going to happen, despite some newly appointed director with a small baby telling me I didn't get it anymore, and that in the 2010s it’s quite possible, unlike in my day.

When I had eventually picked myself off the floor, I decided that actually I would let her find out, like the rest of us do, by trying to have it all and without a doubt failing.

What you can have as most working mothers/dads/carers, is some of it all of the time, and all of it some of the time. Frankly, having it all, even if it was possible, isn't a good thing as it leaves little or nothing to strive for.

The key to making the most of what you have got is to live in the moment when you can. Lately, I understand, this had got some fancy name, ‘mindfulness’. But whatever term you use there is undoubtedly a great deal to be gained from just enjoying what you have here and now. That’s easier said than done, when most of us suffer from excessive guilt of one sort or another, but we can at least try.

My other tip for getting more than your fair share of ‘it all’ involves lists and planning. I am a fanatical list-maker. Lists make me happy, they satisfy my personal desire to tick things off as achievements, and they definitely help my failing 50-something memory.

I also schedule down time in my planner as much as I schedule my regular board meetings. This could be a big downtime, like a holiday or a weekend away, or just a day out with the girls or supper with a friend. Down time is precious, and I don't cancel these bookings without considerable reason, but I have realised I do have to schedule them into my diary.

I am a frenetic multi-tasker, rarely without my iPad in my hand to make notes, write blogs, keep in touch on Facebook, and use the other social media tools that invade our life 24/7. Whether in a taxi, a train, at the hairdresser or between meetings (and I’ve even been known to catch up on a few emails while in the loo), no time is ever wasted. It's one of the few reasons I drive less and less these days, as I can do so much more on public transport.

I shop in bulk for everyday things, buy all the year’s birthday presents and wrap them before the end of the January sales, and have done all my Christmas shopping in the August sales leaving them wrapped up and ready to send to Father Christmas by the end of September. Sad, maybe, but my goodness you should see what I get through. My efficiency levels are legendary and that hasn't happened by chance.

I am also a fabulous delegator, even if I do say so myself, though goodness help you if you let me down (us control freaks don't have that much tolerance). But I am certainly not afraid of asking for help. On the other hand, I am always willing to help out where I can. I have found repeatedly that what you give out, by and large, you get back fivefold.

Sleep for me is also a must. I am no Maggie Thatcher and need my seven, or better still eight hours. That isn't always possible, but I am a good cat napper and will do this without guilt. I have also long ago stopped pretending I am superwoman, though some things are sacrosanct to give me peace of mind. For me that includes dealing with all my emails every day, which sometimes does require super human attention if I am honest.  Also sacrosanct is speaking to my now grown up children at least five times a week even if it's for a five minute catch up.

My foibles may not be yours, but whatever you have, you will need to deal with them. So, I don't of course have it all - never have, never will. But I have what I can, when I can, and I can't really ask for much more.

Jo Haigh is CEO of FDS Director Services Limited and the author of The Keys to the Boardroom - How to Get There and How to Stay There.


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