Life is crazy enough without having to deal with divorce recovery. Learn how to make it easier.
When I got divorced in 2002, I thought that after the decree was signed by the judge everything would be better. I’d somehow magically be over all of the pain, fear, anger and disorganization that seemed to have overtaken my life. But, as you’ve probably guessed, the divorce decree wasn’t quite the magic wand I was hoping for.
It took me more than a year to really get myself feeling good again. There were just so many changes in my life and I didn’t have a great way for absorbing all them, given the demands of a life I was already dealing with. I wound up procrastinating instead of doing things. My house was a wreck. I hardly had any food in the kitchen, but that didn’t matter because I didn’t eat much. My health was deteriorating. I was hardly sleeping. I think I was running on adrenaline, caffeine, sugar and not much else. Bottom line: I was exhausted and falling behind on everything.
I found my way out of the mess divorce created in my life, but it wasn’t a simple task. I had to decide what was really important to me. I had to change the way I did things. And I had to change the way I thought about things.
It wasn’t until I found my way out of the mess that I was able to look back at where I’d been and realized that there’s a big piece of divorce that no one talks about. Real divorce recovery requires that you change how you live your life, that you examine your priorities, and that you do things you might never have done before or you become comfortable with letting some things go. This piece of divorce recovery that no one talks about is what I call The Functional Divorce because how you function and simply just are in the world changes when you get divorced.
One of the most important pieces of The Functional Divorce is developing a time management system that works for you. Yes, time management. When you’re going through divorce it’s so easy to lose track of time to the rollercoaster ride of unpredictable emotions — shock, denial, grief, anger, loneliness, etc. Heck, the emotional ride is exhausting, but in the midst of all of this turmoil there are certain things that must be done. You’ve got to continue working, caring for the kids, caring for the pets, caring for your aging parents, and caring for your home to name just a few. On top of all that you’ve got to deal with the legal process of divorce which is probably unfamiliar to you AND you’ve got to figure out how to do all of the things that your former spouse used to do. You might now need to deal with car repairs, keeping up with the kids’ schedules, making meals, finding a new place to live, selling your home, moving… Your life was full before the divorce and now you’ve got even more stuff heaped on your overflowing plate of responsibilities and which just adds to your overall sense of exhaustion.
By carefully managing your time, you’ll be able to more easily navigate all the tasks and emotions of divorce, and more quickly achieve real divorce recovery — which means you’ll be able to get on to living the best of your life sooner.
Yes, it’s simple to say that time management is one of the necessities of real divorce recovery. But adding one more task, to figure out time management, probably doesn’t seem to be exactly what you need right now. So, to help you develop your system, here are the top 5 time management tips for real divorce recovery that I used for myself, and that I teach my clients.
Time management tip #1: Make friends with your timer. One of the realities of divorce is the need to do things you don’t want to do, or even feel energetic enough to start. This is where using a timer is one of the best time management tips I can give you. Make an agreement with yourself that you can handle anything for just 15 minutes (or 10 or even 5 if that’s all you can handle). Set your timer and then laser focus on getting that one task done. The task can be anything: putting together information your attorney has asked for. It can be allowing yourself to cry. It can even be researching where to buy tires or putting together a grocery list. Giving yourself the gift of this time to focus on just one task at a time is one of the most effective ways to get through your functional divorce and experience real divorce recovery.
Besides getting things done, there are other benefits to using your timer. Setting a timer eliminates the need for you to watch the clock which will allow you to focus completely on your task. As soon as the timer rings, you can then choose to continue working on the task or stop and congratulate yourself for moving things forward. As you make better friends with your timer, an amazing thing starts to happen. You’ll start to feel a sense of accomplishment. When you feel better about what you’re getting done, you’ll actually start to feel better about yourself too! How’s that for a reason to make friends with your timer?
Time management tip #2: It’s oh-so-easy to spend time doing things that may not be the most important things to get done. So prioritizing what needs to be done is the second of my best time management tips. One of the ways I’ll often teach this tip is by asking people to think about each task on two different scales. The first scale is Urgent vs. Not Urgent. To determine the urgency of a task you can ask yourself questions like: What is the deadline for this task? Is life or limb at risk? The second scale is Important vs. Not Important. To determine the importance of a task you can ask yourself questions like: What impact will completing this task have 10 years from now? What impact will completing this task have 1 year from now? What impact will completing this task have 1 month from now? What impact will completing this task have 1 week from now? What impact will completing this task have one 1 day from now. What impact will completing this task have 1 hour from now?
The key to this method of prioritization is to focus on the tasks that rank highest on both the urgent and important scales first. Using this method for prioritizing all of your tasks might seem daunting at first, but it might also be a great thing to share with your new friend the timer!
Time management tip #3: Just because a task has both a high urgency and is greatly important doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re the one who should be doing it. The third of my time management tips is Do, Delegate or Dump. If you’re the only person that can do the task, then you’re stuck with it. It’s time to roll up your sleeves, set your timer and get it done. Generally speaking, if the task is something that you can ask someone to do and have confidence that they’ll do it at least 80 percent as effectively as you can do it, or it’s something that you just don’t have the expertise for, then it’s a great candidate for delegating. Some of the tasks that make perfect sense to delegate are drafting your divorce decree, changing the tires on your car, making the kids’ beds, and cleaning the house. If the task is something that is lower priority and is both non-urgent and not very important, then it’s probably a task that can be dumped and not given another thought.
Time management tip #4: For the tasks that still need to be done either by you or someone else, it’s important to be clear about exactly what the task is and expectations. That’s why the fourth of my time management tips is to define the details.
Have you ever agreed to do something, completed it to the best of your ability and then been told you’ve done it all wrong? Or worse, you’ve counted on someone to do something for you and the result isn’t anything like what you expected? I’ve been in both of these situations more than once and neither one feels good. What I’ve learned is that the best way to prevent things like this from happening is to define the details of the task as completely as you can. This is true even for tasks that you assign to yourself because there’s a difference between obsessively perfect and perfect for this particular circumstance.
Time management tip #5: This tip could actually be the most important, but I’ve saved it for last because it often requires tips 1, 2 and 3 to do it well. The fifth of my time management tips is to schedule time every day to take care of you. Although it may not seem to be urgent at first, I assure you that taking care of you is both highly urgent and highly important. Divorce is stressful, demanding and exhausting for most people. In order to get through it and make sure you’re functioning at your best, you must take care of you.
Taking care of you doesn’t have to take a lot of time. It can be as little as five minutes (this is where tip #1 comes in handy) where you are just focused on nurturing you. You might take a walk, you might dance to your favorite song, or you just might lock yourself in the bathroom for 5 minutes of alone time. Whatever you choose to do, the goal is to take care of yourself so you feel energized enough to get back to the rest of your task list.
My top 5 time management tips for real divorce recovery are just the starting point. They’re tips you can test and adapt to work best for you because time management truly is one of the keys to successfully recover from your divorce and get on to living the best of your life.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
• Download a time app for your phone. Using a timer is one of the time management tips that I still use today. I find that it allows me to completely focus on one task without having a nagging fear that I might work on it too long. Or, for those tasks that I just don’t really want to do — like doing my bookkeeping — I know that there is a defined stopping point. I’ll bet you’ll like getting to know your timer too!
• Set your timer for 15 minutes and make a list of everything you need to get done along with any due dates. I think you just might be surprised at how much less overwhelmed you will feel once you get all of your tasks written down. The pressure of needing to remember everything is gone and we both know how difficult it can be to remember things when you’re already feeling overwhelmed by the divorce.
• Tomorrow, take your list back out, set your timer again for 15 minutes and prioritize your task list. I suggest waiting until tomorrow just in case you had to push really hard to complete the list in the first place. If creating your list wasn’t a HUGE task for you to get done, go ahead and prioritize your list now.
• When you’re ready, it’s time to determine which tasks to do, to delegate and to dump. Again, setting the timer can be extremely helpful in getting this division of the tasks done.
• For the highest priority to do and to delegate tasks, define the details. Doing this will help you figure out how much time to devote to each task and to get a realistic estimate to complete the tasks.
• Take a break and take care of you. I find that one of the best ways to celebrate completing any task is to celebrate. What better celebration than to celebrate you and nurture yourself for a little bit.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re ready to take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
This article originally appeared on YourTango