Trying to Get It All Done—and Failing? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I am a new manager of a large team in retail.  The work is fast and furious and involves constant running around and heavy customer service.  I have no complaints except one.  How do you do your life when you work like a fiend with no coming up for air during regular working hours? 

My people are struggling with this, and so am I.  How do you deal with getting your refrigerator fixed, going to the dentist, and signing papers for a new apartment?

I try to jam things into my fifteen-minute breaks, but I find that just one phone call to the cable company takes longer than that.  I am trying to be a grownup and take care of things, but I am finding it really difficult.  Is there something I don’t know?  What do other people do?

Trying to Do Life


Dear Trying to Do Life,

Boy, do I hear you.  In my hunt for good answers, I have to tell you I came up with—not a whole lot.  People have all kinds of bright ideas about life/work balance but not many on just managing the logistics of life.

But I do have a couple of ideas for you.  The reoccurring themes you will see are to be hyper-organized, plan scrupulously, and get help.

  • Figure out everything you want to get fixed or cleaned. Plan it way ahead and schedule all of it on the same day so that you can do it on a day off. Get your appliances serviced, get your carpets and windows cleaned, and get Amvets to show up to cart away everything you are getting rid of—all on the same day that you know will be your day off.
  • Find service providers who work evenings and weekends. Cultivate your relationships with them.
  • Make friends with a neighbor who has a different work schedule than you do and agree to be each other’s at-home-for-emergencies person. Or trade off with a friend.
  • Check out sites like TaskRabbit to get extra help when you need it. You can hire a person to come and hang out at your house all day and manage the people coming in and out who are doing stuff.
  • If you live in a city, use a messenger or courier service to get documents back and forth for signing.
  • Use professionals—financial, legal and real estate—who offer digital signature capability.
  • Use your lunch hour to get things done—it sounds like you might be skipping yours.

Also, I recommend that you don’t ever have kids and don’t ever get sick.

(Haha! Just kidding!  But not really.)

This is the part of your life where you learn how to manage all the dumb and boring but critical stuff that needs to get done before you add on to it with impossible stuff.  Seriously, the one absolutely non-negotiable job requirement for me once I had kids was flexibility—because my partner had none.  Someone in the house has to have some, or you just go nuts.

And I know you can’t really avoid getting sick, but you can reduce your chances by taking care of yourself. This means adding that to the after-hours list, no matter what it looks like.  It is my experience that people who manage to get it all in and build their future do not waste time on anything—like TV or mindless social media surfing—that has no added value.

Good luck to you.

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

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