Time management. It’s one of those subjects that you either love or hate. If you love organizing and scheduling, you love it. If you struggle to find enough time in your day, you hate it. In today’s society, finding time to fit everything in is difficult, especially for working moms. 40 hours a week at the job, afterschool and weekend activities for the kids, church, family time, grocery shopping, cleaning house….I know I’m preaching to the choir here. Sometimes it feels like you need to be superwoman just to get the basics done.
The bad news is, you can’t do it all. I know from experience. As hard as I try, I can’t fit 28 hours worth of “stuff” into 24 hours. Fortunately, there are things you can do to make sure you accomplish what absolutely needs to be done.
The important things will never get done, unless you know what is truly important. Before outlining a schedule for yourself, make sure you know exactly what you want to accomplish.
In my life, my priorities go something like this:
- Everything Else
That gives me the basis for deciding how to spend my time each day and each week. Given my priorities, I want to make sure that I’m reading my Bible consistently. Church is important, so I make room for it every week.
Family includes having dinner together and homeschooling the kids. Grocery shopping and bill paying get scheduled every week, too.
Work for me is running this blog. I need to try to make 20-30 hours a week available to write posts, answer email, work on the technical stuff, prepare for off-blog engagements, and a host of other little things.
And everything else includes hobbies, TV, going out with friends, and too often it includes the housework. Fortunately my husband is pretty good about pitching in and helping out.
Schedule in Blocks
It’s easier to get thing accomplished when you can focus on the task at hand. When you’re trying to do 5 things at once, those things may get done, but they may not get done well. Ask me how I know. :)
My ideal day goes something like this:
I try to schedule time in the Word before the kids are up in the morning. Around 7:30 the kids get up, and I am homeschooling mama until at least lunchtime. If I have a free 5 minutes, I might try to read a few emails, but the kids have priority until school is finished.
After lunch, while my oldest finishes her schoolwork independently, I check in at BeingFrugal.net. Barring the need to help with additional schoolwork, I try to get at least a couple of hours of work in after lunch.
Late in the afternoon I leave the blog to make dinner and eat with the family, run kids to activities, and spend time with my husband and the kids. The family has priority until bedtime.
After the kids and my husband are in bed, I spend a couple more hours on work, before getting about 6-7 hours of sleep and starting all over. Sleep is not on my priority list. I think maybe it should be, though.
I use the same priority system for the weekends. Church is non-negotiable. We go. If the kids have activities, I’m there. I fit blogging in around those two priorities.
Sometimes, even most of the time, your schedule will not work out as planned. Illnesses happen. Schedules get changed, and you’ll find you have three important things happening on the same weekend. The kids have a hard time with something in school, and school takes an extra hour. In any given day, a million (at least it seems like a million) things can happen to throw you off track.
How do you deal with it? Go back to step one. What are your priorities? If you have a lunch date with friends (the “everything else” category), and one of your kids gets sick, you take care of your kid. If your child has an unusually busy week and needs additional support, you skip writing the blog post to attend to your family.
Prioritizing also works on a smaller level. When reading email, I take the time to respond immediately to anything that needs an immediate response. If something is important, but can wait, it goes into a “to do” folder. If something doesn’t require a response at all, it gets archived or deleted. Then, as I have time, I can work my way through the “to do” folder.
No matter how well you schedule things, know that sometimes it just won’t be possible to get everything accomplished. That’s OK. And sometimes, your whole schedule will fly out the window. That’s also OK. As long as you know what your priorities are, and you make a conscious effort to live by them, the important things will get done, and you’ll be just fine.
Photo by wwarby.
I make a weekly to do list. I used to do daily to do lists, but inevitably there is something that doesn’t get done and it destroys motivation. I keep my list very minimalist- nothing fancy, just a list of things to do in pencil. As I progress through the week, I cross things off, and I almost always finish it.
The key is that each task has to be very small. If, for example, one of the things on my list is “finish taxes”, it’s so daunting that I’d be likely to skip it and save it for later. Instead, I’ll pick a tiny aspect of my taxes and that’ll be on the list, and perhaps a few of those tiny tax things (that all add together). Having a micro-list like this boosts motivation because tons of things get crossed off each day and it builds momentum.
I like the discussion about prioritization. I have a suggestion that has helped my family. I am a pre-med student at UCSD and my wife is a nursing student at SDSU, so we are both very busy, often in different areas. I have a yearly subscription to .mac, through apple. (I use it for webspace, email pushing to my iphone, and syncing with ical). Recently I found that she can register her ical on my .mac. Now, I have my schedule, color coded and blocked out on my computer/iphone, and she has hers. I can subscribe to her calender, and at the click of a button, overlay her calender to see when we will both have free time. It has been really helpful. It also holds us accountable for study time because we know when the other is supposed to be studying.
Excellent tip! And I went to UCSD myself! I’ll bet a lot has changed since I was there last.
I do love how you put your time priorities! Sometimes, I tell my wife to shirk her responsibilities and go and get a break, have coffee with a friend, get out of the house for a bit. I think if we always stick to our priorities in order, we can become swept up without a break. When my wife returns refreshed (or at least caught up on the ‘everything else’ list), she is able to work faster and be more attentive to the kiddos.
Thanks for the great post
You are a wise husband. Fortunately my husband feels the same way and sees to it that I get out and away from my responsibilities from time to time.
Great post by the way. Really helpful for me since I just started school again. I am hoping that doing online surveys will help to free up some of my time :)
I have the basic schedule fairly set – with overtime work hours and grandkid babysitting time – and my weekly commitments – taking up the “set” hours. Around that I try to “schedule” the rest – priorities first.
But like you said, there is always more stuff needing doing than time to do it – especially when on is a single person household and must attend to all the “outside” chores as well as the inside chores.
I find I do best with a list….I actually email myself reminders from work if there is something that HAS to be done that night.
And I have a notebook with pending projects and seasonal chores needing doing. If ever I have ‘down time’, I just pick up that notebook, and there is always something to get going on in there…
could be more house construction projects, painting, the garden and yardwork (weather permitting), sewing, gifts to make, etc.
One thing that helps me is cooking in bulk tho – putting in lunch/dinner size tupperware, and then just grab and go with the food. Saves cooking and cleanup time. And I use the crockpot almost every weekend so I CAN multitask :) Less time in the kitchen gives me more time elsewhere :)
Sleep should be a priority for everyone – we cannot be at our best when we are run down from running up a sleep debt.