All of us have those moments where, in our heads, we are the busiest person alive and also the only person in the world who can do all the stuff on our to-do lists.
Making rolls for the kids' school lunchboxes while signing an excursion form. Organising the plumber to fix the dishwasher. Buying a new dishwasher when the plumber says yours is dead. Reaching out to a new client between grabbing groceries. Taking your mum to the doctor before picking up the kids—did you remember to book their dental hygienist checkup?—and dropping them to basketball and dance classes.
In her early thirties, Melbourne lawyer Kate Christie was that woman. “My first two children were 17 months apart and it was the pressure of having twins without any of the glory. I was pregnant as well," Kate told me on new #Perspectives podcast 'Your Time Starts ... Now'.
“There was a period of my life when I did not leave the house because their sleeping patterns were completely different. I was a lunatic.”
Kate's story is very empowering, and I loved our conversation about how she changed the trajectory of her life so she could experience it the way she wanted to, and why she loathes people saying they're 'busy' ("what they're really saying is they're unproductive.")
We talked relationships with ourselves and others, the framework which will find and harness 30 hours of lost time a month, imposter syndrome, outsourcing and the dynamics of how to insource within the family, which if done well and with grace pretty much redefines families.
I was staggered when Kate worked out the financial cost of spending an hour a day on Facebook—if your time is worth $50 an hour, you're spending $18,250 of your time a year just on one social platform—and cheered when she called on us to reject “silly stuff” we do by habit, including checking phones within ten minutes of waking up.
“You’re living a completely reactive life because your messages, emails, everything on your phone is someone else’s to do list. It’s not yours," Kate says.
"That’s people saying, ‘I want, I need, can you’ and you just lost control of the agenda within ten minutes of waking up.”
We started with where Kate learned her craft, which was with her own family. I won't throw her ex-husband under the bus too much, but he took what she calls "a traditional approach", earning "great money" as a barrister while she did the parenting, “plus I wanted to work as well so I was juggling that.”
There were only two days her then-husband stayed home from work when the kids were sick, and Kate soon found herself floundering, stuck on the shifting sands of wanting to have it all and do it all.
"I was always the one who made it work," says Kate. “To be 100 per cent honest I wanted to be the one. It would be easy for me to say ‘my bloody ex husband never helped out’ but that’s not quite true. I was the one who wanted to stay home when the kids were sick.
“I thought I was better at it, I wanted to be in control, I wanted to make sure they were okay. It’s very easy to bash the blokes but a big part of that was I wanted control of it.”
At the heart of this story is that women often need to let go but they don't. It's a sweeping generalisation, but a lot of them tell me they don't know how, because their partner is 'fumbling about" and the perfectionist in them, the need not to be shamed, the need to be on top of it, won’t allow them to do what they see as surrender.
Madly juggling and wanting to be all things to everyone else, Kate tried to make sense of knowing how to navigate having quality of life for herself when nobody else around her was committed to that.
"As much as I’d like to be able to solve that whole dynamic within relationships and make blokes step the hell up, I don’t know whether or not there’s a simple solution to that," she says.
Ultimately, she gave up law ("I hated it"), split with her husband and started her own business, Time Stylers, which was inspired by her experiences. As a time management expert and international speaker, she's worked with executives at L'Oreal, Westpac, Deloitte and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Kate—whose mantra is 'family is a team sport'—has also written four bestsellers using her five-step SMART framework. The latest—Me First: A Guilt-free Guide to Prioritising You—is about to launch in Target stores in the US.
She says there are three key time problems people experience: they don't plan to succeed, they don't control the time they have, and they don't focus on the right tasks at the right time.
When the seeds of her business and the knowledge she wanted something different for her days were forming in her mind, Kate says there were only two occasions her then-husband, a barrister, stayed home from work when the kids were sick.
“Partly it was because if he had to be in court he had to be in court but I also had a role where I had be in Sydney or in a meeting on the other side of Melbourne but I was always the one who made it work.”
At speaking engagements, Kate's story draws a variety of responses. Some women ask how to make their husbands step up and not be an extra child, others are “quite aggressive” and ask why she didn’t insist her husband share half the load.
“It’s an interesting debate, " she says, "because I couldn’t change that in my marriage and ultimately my marriage ended, not for that reason in particular … but once I was out of the marriage it was easier for me to actual identify that I didn’t get the help I needed and perhaps I wasn’t prepared to have that discussion.”
Now, Kate uses her SMART—self-aware, map, analyse, reframe, take control—system to organise her professional and personal lives, and she deep dives into it in Me First.
The book follows up her first, Me Time, and is “a lot more opinionated" and personal. “It's about this is why you deserve to have that time back and when you do, this is how you should be spending it. Set and create some audacious, fantastic goals for yourself or your family or your career," Kate says.
"I’ve been around 50 years now, I’ve worked in the highest levels of corporate, I run my own very successful business, I’m at that stage where I’m phenomenally confident and happy in my own skin.
"I love what I’ve created and I wish I had this level of confidence when I was 25. It’s about saying, ‘put yourself first'. Ask yourself the question, 'If I was sick in bed, what would I get out for?' Once you understand what you’re willing to get out of bed for it makes it easy to say no to everything else.”
It's an intriguing way of looking at time division—what are you willing to get out of bed for?
My list would include my husband, my health and wellbeing, my businesses. That would make sure I always have a values-driven day, which is something I always aim for—I feel anxious and 'icky' if I don't. And when I say values, I mean putting my day through the lens of what I want to experience more of, and what I’m not willing to experience anymore.
Like me, Kate would get out of bed for her kids, business and health: "Anything other than those things is an easy no: dating, catching up with friends all the time, they are just not a priority at the moment.”
One of Kate’s big bugbears is imposter syndrome, which is something I've experienced, along with many of you. When we start talking about it, we have to be a little vulnerable, because the moment we run away from the feeling we're back to imposter syndrome.
For me to get in touch with what triggered it, I looked at success and that really helped me, but looking at reference points where I was willing to be curious and open to learning and something different was where imposter syndrome faded away and became irrelevant.
To Kate, it's an "epidemic" that needs to be cured.
“ I have a beautiful, amazing, incredible 16-year-old daughter and I won’t want her growing up with a sense of being an imposter," she says.
"Every single one of my clients has it in some level or has doubted their abilities to be in the role they are in. I wrote an article about this recently and it went berserkers on LinkedIn, about how I feel I contracted imposter syndrome after I had had my kids.
"Once you have kids it’s kind of open slather, every Tom, Dick and Harry thinks they can comment on your ability as a mother. That starts to undermine your confidence, then once that starts it leaches into your working life.”
Her strategy for beating it is to sit down and reflect and ask where those feelings are coming from. Make lists of wins, and stick them on a sticky note on a board. At the end of the year you'll have much to celebrate.
"I want you to talk about it with other women. Let’s not pretend we’re all coping and post these stylised shots to social media which undermine everyone else. Let’s talk about the shit days but most importantly talk to yourself the way you would talk to your daughter when she expresses those feelings of self-doubt.”
Kate had so much to share, and while 'Your Time Starts ... Now' kicked off with time management strategies, it morphed into a lot more, one woman's inspirational story of taking control and building a life with things she loves rather than obligations.
I'm with Kate, too, when she says she wings it a lot but her most meaningful achievements come from pushing herself past that feeling of being fake. It's true: you're only going to have your greatest life on the other side of that line.