This is the third part to a six part series here on Simple Mom.
Image courtesy of Ohdeedoh
We’re all given 24 hours in a day, so why does it seem like some people can accomplish so much? There are seasons in everyone’s life, to be sure, and a mom with children at home are in the busiest one of their lives. But even when we whittle down our obligations to do what is necessary, and even when we practice the fine art of delegation, we still have a lot on our plate.
That is why the fourth key to an unproductive and disorganized day at home is poor time management. We choose to spend time on what is important to us.
Assuming that getting a good night’s sleep is a priority for you, that leaves about 16 to 18 hours in a day for you to effectively manage. When you look at your to-do list, you’ll need to somehow assign those obligations with hours in your day.
How do you do it?
Because a home manager’s job is full and significant, with plenty to do, it only makes sense that a logical routine to the day would help. Students have a schedule at school, businesses have routines of meetings and tasks at certain times of the day – why not at home as well?
Planning Your Routine
Please notice that I say routine, not schedule. Perhaps some of you work well under a specific schedule, but my day with small children is usually so unpredictable that having a rigid schedule would only counteract the good it intends. But a routine makes room for a flow, a rhythm, and it keeps me disciplined while providing the freedom I need to do things as they happen.
Once again, in Google Calendar, I have an individual calendar for my routine (separate from my events & appointments). This is where I decide my week’s agenda, everything from when I balance the accounts, to writing this blog, to giving my daughter one-on-one attention for her “school time.”
I used to make a rigid, hard-and-fast routine that I’d force to work for an entire season, or even just for a month, but that didn’t work. Too much would change. Now, I just glance at my “events and appointments” calendar on the weekend, and create a general routine for the upcoming week around those obligations.
It’s extremely helpful to know how your body’s rhythms work, when your energy levels are at your highest and lowest. I’m consistently at my best and most energetic right after breakfast, from about 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. I really slump in mid-afternoon, and I perk up again a bit around 6 p.m.
Photo by Puja Parakh
Because of this, I plan my most physical tasks in the morning. This is when I work on house cleaning, playing with my kids, and running errands. In the afternoon, when my kiddos (sometimes) nap, I focus on more sit-down tasks like writing e-mails, handling our money, folding laundry, blogging, and language study. From about 5 to 9 p.m., it’s pretty chaotic, with dinner, baths, bedtimes, and entertaining excuses as to why a certain little girl is not sleepy. Once the three-foot-and-under crowd are at least in their beds, I try to get more concentrated writing done. Of course, I struggle with then turning in and going to bed on time. It is a habit I want to remedy.
But my point is this – I’m not fighting my body. I use my energy surges to my advantage, and do those things that require the most exertion then.
Beat the Clock
While having a routine to your day, you should also use basic tricks and hacks to get things done in less time. Most of the time, we need to spend minutes to save hours.
• Send yourself reminders. If the reason you’re never getting things done is because you forget what you’re supposed to do, then send yourself a random email reminder with Hassle Me. Set up a Reminder Feed so that your RSS reader reminds you of your projects.
Photo by Paul Whittington
• Set a timer. Do household chores, especially the painful ones, with a timer set for 15 minutes. Do them as quickly as you can, and see if you can finish in time. It’s surprising how fast chores can be if we focus.
• Menu plan. You all know how I feel about this one – menu planning saves hours, stress, and money, and you’ll cook your meals in less time.
• Write out your tasks. If you prefer paper, I know of a certain free Daily Docket download. If you can manage your lists online without getting distracted, some of the easiest tools are Sandy, Now Do This, and Remember the Milk. Now Do This is excellent for single-tasking, and it can’t possibly distract you with links and superfluous downloads. Amy at Mom Advice recently wrote a good review of different online time management tools.
• Don’t procrastinate. Easier said than done, I know. But we all know how much easier it is to fold a freshly-dried load of laundry than a wrinkled load that’s been sitting in the dryer for days. If you’ve set up a routine and are following it, then you’ll have less motivation to procrastinate – if you purposely schedule in down time, then you won’t be as tempted to slack off when it’s your chore time. The down time will taste more glorious as well – the chores are done, and you’ve rightfully earned the privilege of putting up your feet.
In short, if you’re aimlessly spending your time at home without goals, a routine, or a plan, then you might suffer from poor time management. When it comes down to it, we can’t really manage time, because we’re all given 24 hours. We manage ourselves, and how we choose to spend time. Remember – completely finished projects never come back to haunt you. If you choose to spend time on things that don’t benefit your home, your family, and yourself, then your day at home will probably be disorganized and unproductive.
What’s your biggest time management vice? Why do you think that is? Do you have a plan to “combat” it? Do you have any tricks, tools, or ideas for being a better steward of the time you’ve been given? Please share with all of us.