I laugh at articles about “successful people”. A lot. They seem to be written by the personal assistant of a high-powered man with a live-in barista who knows exactly when to activate his almonds and pour his coffee after he’s sweated it out with his personal trainer and meditated on his mantra.
Then, for the podcast I Don’t Know How She Does It, I interviewed seven successful, fabulous and frank women with crazy busy lives, high-flying careers and, between them, 22 children who need to be wrangled.
It changed my life.
These women were so real and so honest. They admitted their strengths and their vulnerabilities. I learned a lot – and now I’m stealing some of their life strategies. I admit it’s been one of the toughest months of my life: my husband has been away, I’ve had the flu and my mother got sick. Yet I feel I’ve survived the rough patch because of these 13 strategies. Each has made life a little bit more manageable and a little less frantic.
Here’s what they do that has has worked for me.
1. Get up early.
It almost kills me to write this because I am not a morning person. I’m Snoopy, the cartoon character who said “I think I’m allergic to mornings”. Even when I do early morning radio, I never feel right. But every single successful women I interviewed gets up early. Jessica Rowe is up at 5am to get to work but even those who start work at 9am get up early. Jane Kennedy is up at 5.30am and the other mothers are not far behind her. All the women I chatted to like to be ahead of their children and snatch some quiet alone time to get their heads into gear for the day ahead. That usually involves a quiet cup of tea (or four – I’m looking at you, Annabel Crabb). So, I’ve begun getting up with the birds and the plane noise. I can’t say I love it, but I definitely feel more ahead of the game.
2. Exercise at some stage – preferably early.
Mia Freedman gets straight on the treadmill, often on her pyjamas. Justine Clarke runs with her large dog. Carolyn Creswell plays tennis one evening a week and runs around on a farm all weekend. Juanita Phillips walks her puppy and does an active form of yoga. Since we spoke, I’ve been walking my dog in the dark at 6.15am. The dog and I are bleary eyed and stiff of limb in the mornings but I must admit it’s a beautiful time of day to be alive. The kookaburras did laugh at me the day I jogged in my PJs but I didn’t care. Sunrises are a new beauty in my life.
3. Have a super-dooper strict routine.
Nearly all these women have a rather rock solid routine. Juanita Phillips says, as a single mother, hers is a military one. Mia Freedman says doing the same thing every day reduces her anxiety and the more the same life is, the happier she is. Actors Jane Kennedy and Justine Clarke have a lot of variety in their lives, but maintain a structure to their days that they build variation around.
And that is the key – the strict routine is vital, but all women insist it must have room for flexibility. I am about as allergic to routine as I am to mornings. I love spontaneity, thrill, excitement, newness and surprise. But I’ve had to learn to let those things go – or at least reserve them for weekends. So I have built routine into my life. My life has been on triage lately – jumping from one disaster to another – but having a routine has meant less mess in my head and my life.