I'm a working professional, business owner, and mother of two. A couple of years ago, between 5-8 PM, during the family evening routine, my patience would put on an invisibility cloak and POOF, disappear just like that. This was becoming a daily occurrence. I had to do something about it.
Despite daily doses of energy-boosting food and exercise, patience was my "unfaithful friend." So, I added a new morning yoga routine, started drinking "calming" ginger tea daily, and built in a meditation practice, but I was still a grumpy mommy. Should I go for an intense month-long meditation retreat? Was this the stress of "so much to do, yet so little time"? I went over the family schedule to make sure I had realistic time expectations. I hadn't overcommitted to after-school activities. The kids were sticking to their daily routines and strict bedtime schedule. Then something clicked.
The kids had a strict bedtime schedule! I didn't. I did some sleep research.
I thought I needed a month-long meditation retreat. Instead, I was surprised to find out that my grumpiness was a symptom of tiredness. Turns out, I needed more and better-quality sleep to help improve my mood.
This article builds on my previous one on the second principle for creating work-life flow – get immediate and constant feedback. Here's a quick overview:
Actively seek feedback from others.
Be open to constructive criticism and willing to learn.
Create a feedback loop: Establish a routine of giving and receiving feedback with those involved.
Reflect on feedback and develop an action plan for improvement.
Use digital tools to facilitate real-time feedback.
This is how I set a sleep goal and used feedback to improve my grumpy evening mood. You, too, could do something similar to improve your sleep and get your work-life flow in motion.
My story: Getting 6 1/2 hours of sleep as a working parent of young kids
As a working mother of young kids, I needed to get more sleep to stop being grumpy and enjoy being with my kids after work. Aiming for the recommended 8 hours of sleep per night was unrealistic for my situation. So, I set the goal to increase my sleep to 6 1/2 hours a night to improve my mood and to monitor any changes over 2 weeks.
I told my husband and daughters about my plan and the reason for doing it. I asked them to tell me when they noticed I was getting grumpy in the evenings. Their feedback would help me know if the onset and frequency of my lousy mood were lessening.
I have to be honest - getting feedback from a three and six-year-old was a bitter pill to swallow. And asking my husband to add his opinion, too, would make the feedback even harder to stomach. But I disliked the grumpy mummy I morphed into after sunset even more. So, I grit my teeth, opened up to their constructive criticism, and learnt if my new sleep routine was working.
I listened to their feedback and wrote it down on my phone's notes app. I also recorded times and frequency and scored my grumpiness out of 10.
I made technology my ally. I set up a bedtime reminder on my iPhone and slept with my smartwatch on to track my hours of sleep and ensure I was getting at least 6 1/2 hours of sleep. Tracking sleep duration also helped me see the difference more or less rest had on my mood.
So, what was the result?
Well, within a few days, my mood improved even though I was still under the recommended sleep duration. The onset of grumpiness was later in the evening, and my level of irritability dropped to less than 4/10 – mild irritation. Some evenings I wasn't grumpy at all. My family agreed they liked this new me better...and I cheekily told them I also liked them a lot better in the evenings. Adding a dose of humour and laughs to the "bitter" feedback medicine made it taste sweeter.
Remember, getting honest feedback and tracking your progress helps you know if your plan is working or needs changing. Learning and adapting your approach based on feedback can help you achieve work-life flow and succeed personally as well as professionally. Stay tuned for more tips on enhancing your work-life flow.
Let's make your success healthy and happy!