Nightshift, dayshift, wash uniforms, see friends for coffee, must go to Salsa, engagement present, exam revision, read journal...
As a student or qualified midwife you'll be busier than most people, but I want to share with you a technique that can give you back some control and headspace even when you're overwhelmed.
Your mind needs to be free so you have space to think about the most important bits of your life.
As a student midwife myself, I often had racing thoughts. I didn't develop the ability to structure my time. That came later, as a qualified midwife also running a blog and a small business. I hope you can learn from my three years of struggle and take a shortcut to getting things done with minimal angst!
I do the following exercise about once a week. It's inspired from a mix of business books (people like Marie Forleo and Richard Branson) and some amazing midwifery mentors.
1. Take a timer, set it for ten minutes, and write down ALL the to-dos in your head
I'm talking everything from top to bottom, midwifery related, friends related, general life administration related. Writing to your Nan, to buying dog food, to deciding on your topic for that reflection. It will probably be a very big list and that's ok.
2. Go through and look at every task - which ones are you not excited about at all?
Put a cross through any task that you have no good feelings about.
There is a qualification that needs to be made here - obviously, there will be some things that you won't be excited about that need to stay on your list. Paying your rent isn't thrilling but you don't want to be evicted.
Likewise, there'll be learning on your list that might not set you on fire, for instance that pharmacology homework where you need to list all the drugs and all the doses and forms...
Those things have to stay too.
But there will also be things on your list that you feel like you 'should' do.
These tasks or events might have been making you feel guilty for a while or be 'dragging on'.
For instance, if you signed up for a midwifery conference on a topic which was interesting a few months ago, but since then you think you've read enough that you won't get knowledge out of the day, see if you can sell your ticket to someone else who might benefit more.
Or you might have plans coming up with friends that you just don't want to go to. For instance, I don't like pedicures. My Mum and my sister go which is fun for them, but I prefer to go for coffee, and we all enjoy that together. There are other ways of keeping up with friends and family.
Successful, busy people say NO all the time. Not in an impolite way. But the world will keep demanding your time for as long as you offer it - there has to come a moment when you say no or you'll have a melt-down, which I bet none of your friends or acquaintances want.
Also, if you keep saying yes to everything people get used to it. This isn't their fault - it's just the way of the world. But there's only one of you. Use yourself wisely.
Cross off anything that, if you're honest, you don't have to do and you don't want to do.
3. Anything on your list that you can't control needs to be crossed off too
For instance, if you wrote something like 'get Tony to like me again' it's unfortunate but that's not in your control. You can only apologise, maybe write to Tony, take her for lunch, etc.
Or if you wrote 'get a first on the genetic screening essay' that's a great intention but you can't control the outcome exactly. You can only do the reading, planning, practice academic writing, get some help from your tutor and so on.
Cross off anything that isn't a specific task you can achieve.
4. Your Completed To Do List
Wahoo! You now have a list that you know is full of the things you need to spend your time and effort on. You've made hard decisions about what is and isn't do-able.
Now you just need to work out how to achieve it.
You might just like a plain to-do-list.
Or if you're like me, Google Calendars is great because you can schedule everything in and see it all mapped out, take it around with you on your phone and share it with family.
(And it's free. I sound like an ad, but really, no affiliation I just like it because it works.)
If you are a scheduler like me, make sure you give yourself achievable deadlines. One of the things student midwives often do, I've observed, is try to cram every hour full and then feel rubbish because they haven't achieved everything. And that's actually counter-productive as you spend time beating yourself up.
Don't hurt yourself by being over ambitious, you're too important.
Having a realistic schedule and a plan will make your day so much simpler. If you don't plan, you can quickly get into a muddle and spend time on deciding what you need to do next, rather than on the tasks themselves.
And that's it - so simple! But a powerful way of structuring your life and work.
Before I bring things to a close, I have to say this technique will help a lot but there are days during a midwifery degree when you just need to plough on and get s**t done without a plan. And there will be times when having a nap is the answer.
Intuition will help you decide what you need to do and when.
And I'd always say, if you're feeling very low, go and see your GP. Midwives face big challenges and if there's a chance you're mentally unwell, professional support could be just what you need to feel yourself again.
This strategy is one I've been using for years though and it's never failed to give me more energy, make things clearer and give me hope that I can do what I set out to.
Let me know if you find this technique helpful in the comments below. And can you share any of your midwife productivity tips?
Keep at it, wishing you a brilliant week, Ellie x