From Frazzled to Focused: The Ultimate Guide for Moms Who Want to Reclaim Their Time, Their Sanity and Their Lives

From Frazzled to Focused: The Ultimate Guide for Moms Who Want to Reclaim Their Time, Their Sanity and Their Lives

by Rivka Caroline, Amy Sweeting


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781938416255
Publisher: River Grove Books
Publication date: 03/11/2013
Pages: 202
Sales rank: 905,010
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.46(d)

About the Author

Rivka Caroline is a mom, rabbi's wife, and professional time management consultant in the Miami, Florida, area. She holds a bachelor's degree in psychology and will be completing her master's in psychology in 2013. She teaches individuals, small businesses, and teams within corporations how to leverage their time to work effectively and find time for the things that count. Perhaps more important, Rivka has seven children and is still quite relaxed and sane and able to find time for what matters. People often ask her how she "does it all." This book is her detailed response. (Spoiler alert: She doesn't actually do it all!)

Amy Sweeting is a freelance editor and writer based in Amherst, Massachusetts. She has authored, ghostwritten, and edited several books and publications for a diverse range of clients and organizations. Amy has only two children (though sometimes they seem like seven), but still has a fair amount of chaos in her life. After fifteen years of resisting her husband's suggestion to plan out the family's meals for the week, she finally gave it a try (at Rivka's prodding) and is amazed at how it has made evenings so much more relaxed. Her husband is very sweetly resisting the urge to say "I told you so."

Read an Excerpt



By RIVKA CAROLINE, Amy Sweeting, Liana Finck

River Grove Books

Copyright © 2013Rivka Caroline
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-938416-25-5





MOST people—you may be one of them—feel some initial resistance to the concept of a system. The very word conjures up images of assembly lines that stifle creativity and a dull gray existence from now until eternity. But here's the good news: The systems you are going to create are custom-made for your life, for your family's unique likes, dislikes, and lifestyle. They will help you do things smarter, simpler, and better. The beauty is that once you begin to systemize parts of your life, you free up precious time and brain cells that you were wasting reinventing the wheel over and over again.

* * *

Develop a healthy disregard for the impossible.


Obviously not everything will fit well into a system. I don't advocate systemizing the exact order in which you play Lego with your child or the conversation topics for your date nights with your husband (though the schedule of date nights could be systemized). But there is no reason why you should come home every night and wonder what to make for dinner, only to find that you don't have the ingredients to make what you finally decide upon.


It takes some time and some failed attempts at being Supermom to realize that being a good mom is not about doing it all, just as going to a good restaurant is not about ordering every dish on the menu. The key to success is to prioritize tasks and decide that you will do only what you really need (or want) to do—and then to figure out how to do those things smarter.

Your first reaction to that may be: Well, I need to do it all. A mother's nature by default is that we want to do it all (or feel that we have to do it all). We always have to drive the kids ourselves, make the dinner with our own two hands, and fold their socks just right. However, I'm here to tell you that that's not actually true. Yes, there are things that just have to get done, and some of them have to get done by you. But there are also plenty of things you do every day that could be done differently, or be done by someone else, or just not be done at all.

So, with only twenty-four hours in a day, and the need to sleep for at least some of those hours, how do you work out what doesn't actually have to be done by you? You first need to make peace with the fact that while wanting to do it all ourselves is very natural, it doesn't always yield the returns we envision. Car pools get delayed, carefully prepared dinners get vetoed by the kids, and the snuggly bedtime story turns into the mental torture of "How am I going to get through this book without falling asleep before my child?"

We have to internalize the notion that we truly can't do it all. And that that is OK.


* * *

The most influential person who will talk to you all day is you, so you should be very careful about what you say to you.


Change is easy. You go first.

Actually, truth be told, we are all scared of change. Even little changes can throw us for a loop. Try holding your phone with the other hand or driving the children to school along a different route. It can be quite unnerving. However, when you have to change phone hands because you sprained your wrist or when a broken water pipe causes a detour on the way to school, you do survive. While the initial learning curve can be quite steep, it usually works out—and sometimes you may even end up preferring the new way of doing things. It is the same with learning to live life in a more organized fashion.

Forging a new path toward a more systemized life can be quite overwhelming psychologically. So it is important to constantly remind yourself of your good intentions, and not let your mind scare you into not believing in your ideas. Pin up a photo of yourself using your slow cooker for the first time or keep a motivational quote that makes you smile on the screensaver of your phone. Be as creative or as boring as you like, but take the time to surround yourself with positive thoughts and images. Just as someone on a diet might visualize her "skinny self," make sure you have a vision of your more organized self to encourage you to start thinking in a more efficient manner.

And wish as we might, the tangible changes in our lives are going to start slowly. You won't be feeling super organized within a month. Your dinners might be written neatly on a weekly meal chart, but you may still need to tweak the corresponding grocery list, and when you've finally cracked the code on the grocery list, you may realize that your basement is still a dump. Your taxes are filed, but your kids still don't know what they're supposed to wear to school the next day. It is a slow, yet sustainable process, one that will be frustrating at times and quite exhilarating at others.

It may help to think about being on a six-lane highway. You are in the far left lane and you need to get all the way over to the right. Your only solution is to move over one lane at a time. So don't get frustrated when you've been working hard and have shifted over only one lane; it truly is a process. And quite often the tricks you use to get from one lane to the other can be transferred when you need to change lanes again. So enjoy the cumulative gains, and remember that the basic goal is to stay on the road.


* * *

Life's problems wouldn't be called "hurdles" if there wasn't a way to get over them.


Even with all the best intentions and positive thinking, there are a few obstacles we all run into at one time or another. As I talk about them below, they probably will sound kind of familiar. It is likely that you faced them in school or that you see them every day at work. Whether you realize it or not, they are also affecting you at home.

The Evil Twins: Perfectionism & Procrastination

It is important to resist the false lure of perfectionism in your day-today life. Here is the truth: Not everything has to be perfect. Seriously.

The majority of the tasks that come our way can be accomplished very well with an 85–95 percent success rate. In fact, doing everything at a 105-percent level is a huge waste of time and energy. Living life with perfectionist standards is the emotional equivalent of choosing to walk between two buildings on a tightrope, rather than simply walking across the street. It's dangerous, highly risky, and fraught with anxiety for yourself and all those around you.

It is essential to selectively lower that bar and reserve the laser-beam focus for when you really need it.

If you are the person responsible for packing my parachute before I jump out of an airplane, then I certainly hope you pay incredibly close attention to detail. However, I hope you don't hold your five-year-old child's bed-making skills to the same standard. Choosing the person you marry or the house you live in or your child's name are examples of decisions for which you should exercise perfectionist standards. However, the food you pack for your children's lunch, the cleanliness of your outdoor garbage cans, or how carefully you fold your shirts can be very good or even just good if you are investing your energy in other, more worthy endeavors.

* * *

The decision to become more human—less perfect—is not an easy one to make, despite the fact that we know we have been trying to accomplish the impossible.


Procrastination is the evil twin of perfectionism. When you procrastinate, the subliminal message you are sending yourself is "If I can't do this perfectly right now, then I'm not going to bother doing it today at all." While this may seem to be a logical thought at first, perfectionism and procrastination continue to feed off each other in a vicious cycle that prevents us from doing the things we need or want to do. It also takes up a huge amount of mental energy. It is time to get back to appreciating the beauty of good and save perfect for when you really need it.

* * *

A good plan executed now is better than an excellent plan executed never.


Prioritizing Those Priorities

* * *

Time must be guarded. Every moment that passes isn't just a "moment," but a piece of your life.


Lack of time is actually a lack of priorities. No matter how manic your schedule, if you won the lottery you would unquestionably drop everything and run off to claim your gazillion-dollar check.

Ask anyone you know how they are, and chances are part of the answer will include the word "busy." We are all busy, busy, busy. But what are we actually doing? When you finally get the kids in bed and collapse on the sofa with a sigh because it was such a busy day, do you ever wonder what exactly it was that kept you so busy?

Some people run around being busy, but don't move closer to their goals, so essentially they are just being busy on the treadmill of life without actually going anywhere. It is all well and good to be super busy, helping your friends move, running a bake sale at school, or helping a neighbor plant a garden. But it is important to make sure you can afford the expenditure of time required to do these things.

Getting back to the idea of not being able to do it all—and remember: Doing it all is an illusion—we need to learn to prioritize all the priorities clamoring for our attention. You may have a million things to do, but not everything needs your immediate attention. Not having a clear sense of what your top priorities are will lead you to focus on the wrong things, at the expense of your valuable time and sanity.

The vital Difference Between Effective & Efficient

* * *

Doing something unimportant well does not make it important.


There is one life skill you really have to understand, digest, and apply to your world, so pay attention: It is as essential to be able to differentiate between effective and efficient as it is to be able to spot a fake handbag across a room.

Effective means getting another step closer to producing the intended or expected result. Efficient means doing something in the best possible way, with the least waste of time and effort.

Yes, it is good to be effi cient, but only if you are doing the right things efficiently. Doing something that is not a top priority efficiently does not bring you closer to your goal of living a more organized and low-stress life. It doesn't matter so much how you do something if what you are doing is not what you should be doing. However, doing the top things on your "to do" list effectively will bring you closer to your goals.




* * *

With so many opportunities and so many constraints, successfully picking what to do next is your moment of highest leverage. It deserves more time and attention than most people give it.


BEFORE we talk about the mechanics of systemization, I want to review some basic concepts of time management that will help you decide what items need your love now and which resilient fellows can wait until the clocks change. These tried and tested concepts are guaranteed to make things run more smoothly—if you choose to apply them (a bit like that eye cream you bought last week).


You want to do it all because that is how we moms are wired. It's the heart-pumping adrenaline rush of the fight-or-flight response. However, not everything is worth a bout of self-induced hysteria. Choking hazards should get your blood flowing; being a bit late for a ballet class should not. When we put everything in the "urgent" category, we become depleted, out of whack, and—most relevant— unable to concentrate on what matters most.

* * *

Your time is finite and precious. Say "no" to requests from others before you say "no" to time with your kids.


It may seem that you can just choose whatever is on the top of the pile and start with that. You know the old adage about the squeaky wheel getting the grease. However, the squeaky wheel might be just a little noisy, while the other wheels are about to fall off their axles.

What you choose to focus on really does matter; it will have a cumulative impact on everything that follows.

The following time management tips can help you figure out what those things should be. You may recognize a few of them from Economics 101. Turns out that stuff really was relevant to your daily life!

The 80/20 Rule

Look at your shoes—80 percent of the shoes you selected to wear last month came from 20 percent of the shoes you own. How about your kids' toys? Yes, you guessed it—20 percent of the toys probably account for about 80 percent of the playtime.

Vilfredo Pareto would agree with you. He was an early-twentieth-century economist who observed that 80 percent of the property in Italy was owned by 20 percent of the population. As it happened, he also noticed that the same rule applied to the peas in his garden: 20 percent of the pea pods contained 80 percent of the peas. As he began to apply this rule to other areas of his life, he found that it continued to stand true. This observation was later generalized into the Pareto Principle, also called the 80/20 rule.

In plain English, the 80/20 rule is as follows: 80 percent of outcomes arise from 20 percent of inputs; in other words, 80 percent of results come from 20 percent of your time and effort.

Apply this principle to your time management issues: What 20 percent of sources are causing 80 percent of your problems? What 20 percent of sources are causing 80 percent of your happiness?

Are you getting the idea? The 20 percent that is causing you the most headaches is earning a spot at the top of your priority list. And the 20 percent that gives you the most happiness needs to be prioritized too.

Opportunity Costs

Instead of reading this book, you could be doing approximately one million different things. The same applies to other aspects of your life; there will always be other things you could be doing at the very moment you are doing something else.

Opportunity cost is the foregone value of the alternative you didn't choose. In economics, it is often expressed in money, but in life, opportunity cost can also take the form of lost chances, lost pleasure, lost time, or undesired consequences.

The basic lesson is that when it comes to deciding what gets your attention, you must make sure it is a worthwhile investment.

The key opportunity-cost questions to ask yourself are:

What would happen if this area, project, or issue were ignored altogether?

Can I wait a few days, weeks, or months to focus on it?

Can it be given to someone else to do?

If the answers to these questions include phrases such as "absolute mayhem" or "my children would go to school in their underwear" or "my brain would explode," then clearly those things are high priorities. However, if the answers are more along the lines of "it wouldn't be so bad" or "it doesn't really matter" or "whatever," then maybe these are things you can delay, outsource, or ignore altogether.

Parkinson's Law

Parkinson's Law states that "work expands to fill the time available for its completion." Simply put, this is the magic of the imminent deadline. There is nothing better than the arrival of out-of-town guests, an upcoming birthday party, or a graduate school paper that is due in three days to get your mind focused and working at twenty-six times its usual pace. If you have three weeks to get something done, you will spend three weeks worrying about it and stressing over it while you get it done. If you have only three days, you will still get it done, but with a whole lot less worry and stress.

So whenever possible, if there is something you need to get done but have been putting off, set an imminent deadline for the completion of the activity. Give yourself organizational deadlines that coincide with events in your home or your life. The essential question to ask yourself is: How can I back this up to start the process even earlier than usual? If you make a consistent habit of not taking the real deadline seriously and constantly make your own (earlier) deadline, you will reduce your stress level tremendously, because last-minute problems are a lot easier to take care of when they aren't actually happening at the last minute.


A first step in setting priorities is to do a mental brain dump. First, take the time to write all of those "to do's" on a big piece of paper (or on your iPad or on your wall). Do this step away from all children who could distract you. Also, improve your focus by not having background noise if that annoys you, and turn the ringer on your phone off.


Excerpted from FROM FRAZZLED TO FOCUSED by RIVKA CAROLINE. Copyright © 2013 by Rivka Caroline. Excerpted by permission of River Grove Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


About This Book....................     xi     

Why You Need to Read This Book....................     xi     

How to Use This Book....................     xiv     

The Tools You Need....................     xv     

PART I: GETTING IT ALL TOGETHER....................          

1. Free Your Mind: Loving the More Organized You....................     3     

2. Setting Priorities: Less Is More (More or Less ...)....................     17     

3. Clearing Out the Clutter: Streamline Your Home & Your Head....................     35     

PART II: THE SYSTEM IS THE SOLUTION....................          

4. Systemized Living: The Simple Way to Make Time for What Matters...............     51     

5. Systemizing Places & Things: A Systemized Home Is an Organized Home...........     67     

6. Systemizing Daily Tasks & Routines: Let Your Systems Do Your Thinking.........     111     

Part III: now what? Practice Makes Good Enough....................     167     

Reflect, Look at Results & Tweak When Necessary....................     168     

Cozy Up to Your Future Self....................     171     

You Are Not Alone!....................     174     

Useful Resources....................     176     

Acknowledgments....................     178     

About the Authors....................     182     

Contact Rivka Caroline....................     184     

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