I cannot recall how many times I’ve heard women saying that their problem is “time management”. They want to get coached on how they can finally can tick all the items off their to-do list and “don’t feel behind” anymore.
I’d love to tell you that I fix them, that I have a magic wand that makes them “less lazy”, “more focused”, and “better at prioritisation” — their words, not mine. But they’re not the ones that need fixing.
The reality is that when we look in detail, the problem is somewhere else.
Our brains are rotten by patriarchal conditioning:
- Women have been trained to people-please — As women, we’re “human doings” not “human bodies”, so our value resides on what we do for others. How does that work in practice? We’re taught that “good girls” don’t say no. In the end, the happiness of 4 billion on this planet depends on us making their lives easier.
- We’ve been indoctrinated in the idea that “women are innate multitaskers” — which we often showcase with pride as an advantage over men. Really? And all that in spite of scientific evidence that our brain is made for processing tasks one after the other and not in parallel. Often, when we think we’re “multitasking”, we’re simply task-switching: spending 1 minute on one task, 1 on another, coming back to the first one, and so on. This is extremely taxing — and takes longer than performing the tasks sequentially — as task-switching has a cost for the brain that each time has to stop, remember where it was previously, and restart.
- The mental model that our body shouldn’t be a hindrance — It’s up to us to catch up. Do you have menstrual cramps? Hot flashes? Excruciating pain from endometriosis? Heavy bleeding from fibroids? Or are you breastfeeding? Keep working and ensure you make up for the lost time so nobody can say that you’re not as reliable, hardworking, and valuable as your male colleagues.
Not all tasks are created equal:
- The tasks bestowed upon women because… they’re women — Household, childcare, and eldercare simply “suit” our “natural” abilities.
- The “give back” tasks — If you’re a professional woman, you’ll be expected to give uncountable hours of your time towards free mentoring, coaching, and inspirational speaking to younger women. The more successful you are, the more hours. In the meantime, the men around you will focus on their careers.
- Women are the joker for any unexpected task — A child gets sick? You’re the mum. Catering didn’t arrive for the company happy hour? You’re the one to go to the supermarket and save the day. Your manager doesn’t have the time to onboard the new trainee? You’ll take one for the team.
- The non-promotable tasks — Office housework, glue work, and weaponised incompetence. After all, women are inborn team players.
- The tasks inherent to being “seen” as a professional woman — It’s a job in itself to dress professionally — get the perfect sartorial choice that exudes confidence, “good” taste, and feminity — and look professionally — makeup, nails, and hairdressing. However, not all women have the same experience… for some, it’s even worse. For example, Black women “professional” hairdressing is especially taxing. Countless number of hours and money towards straightening their hair to mitigate the discrimination they suffer against Eurocentric stereotypes around what “professional” looks like.
Living in a world that is not made for women
Our own resignation at the fact that some tasks will take us more time because we’re women:
- Toilet queues — I bet that if I add up all the time I’ve spent queueing on public toilets during my life, it’d amount to at least half a year of my existence. And that’s even worse if you have children — it goes without saying that the burden is on you to take them to the toilet/changing room with you.
- The duty of moving as fast as the slowest person in the room — Welcome to the misery of public transport: underground and train stations without lifts for when you take your old mother to the doctor, buses that require folding pushchairs, and toddlers with a mind of their own.
- Getting the same pension as a White man — because of the gender pay gap and unequal pay, women should work longer if they want to cumulate the same pension pot that White men. Again, not all women are created equal. Ethnicity, disability, and LGBTQUIA+ identities have a compounding negative effect on the gender pay gap.
- Maternity leave — no need to expand on the well-documented harm of the #MommyTrack to women’s career prospects.
- Male medicine — Women are at the mercy of a healthcare system that doesn’t want them. The 4 billion women in the world are extremely inconvenient with their hormones. The solution so far has been to ignore women’s pain altogether, perpetually underfunding research on their illnesses and how the same health conditions affect them differently than men. As a consequence, when we go to the doctor, we never know if our symptoms will be addressed or will be diminished with an “it’s probably in your head” or if the medicines that we consume will come with terrible secondary effects — and even life risks — because they haven’t tested in women.
- Women’s bodies don’t belong to them— They are units of production vulnerable to the whim of those who decide when and how they should get pregnant and how and when they become mothers.
Outrageous acts and everyday rebellions
Why seizing control of our time is important?
Because whilst we’re blaming ourselves for our lack of time management skills and spiralling towards burnout, our writing, painting, sculpting, researching, volunteering, and leading go to the back burner.
That’s the true reason that most best-selling authors, CEOs, artists, and researchers are White men. They are not smarter. They simply have more time to focus and work on their areas of interest. They also have a room of their own.
What do women do then? My answer comes in the form of the title of an excellent book by Gloria Steinem “Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions”.
This week, I invite you to commit an outrageous act — or an everyday rebellion — against patriarchy. Some ideas
- Intentionally dropping the ball on any of the gendered tasks mentioned above.
- Taking a paid sick day because you feel unwell — even if you’re not dying.
- Resting as a form of self-care.
- Reading a book for pleasure whilst there is a pile of dishes in the sink or the laundry pile is looking at you.
- Shutting up when your brain screams at you that you should volunteer to bring a birthday cake to the office, take the meeting’s minutes, or carpool the neighbours’ children to a party.
- Ignoring the emails of that colleague that’s trying to make you do that non-promotable work for him.
BACK TO YOU: Email me — or comment below — about your plan to impose your own agenda on the patriarchy this week.
Do you want to get rid of chapters in the “good girl” encyclopaedia that patriarchy has written for you? Book a strategy session with me to explore how coaching can help you to become your own version of success.