Good time management for a mom has to accommodate chaos!
Life for a mom can seem like one long disruption, but even simple time management will pay off. There ARE ways of creating more time and using what you have, wisely. (Remember, retaining your sanity is goal #1 … and it’s only by managing the unbelievable demands on your time that you have a glimmer of a chance.)
There are a LOT of issues you can work on here, but let’s start with a time management framework:
1. Define the high-level principles you’re looking for in your life; at the end of every week and month you want to feel that you got what you wanted, as well as what you had to do, from that time. If you don’t do this, you don’t have a stake in the ground to set priorities around. Time management needs priorities, and priorities are ONLY priorities relative to what you’re trying to get out of life! (Sure, include your husband’s ideas if you’re feeling generous, but beware; if you let him have input, he might feel as if he really has some say in this.)
The high-level principles can be broken into two types:
a) Make a list of the things you feel you HAVE to achieve every week. The things that are non-negotiable; perhaps such things as going to work, doing the shopping, dropping the kids off at school and picking them up, … whatever.
b) Make a list (a realistic but challenging one) of the thing’s you’d LIKE to find time for, every week.
Then, bearing this in mind:
2. Don’t commit to more than you should! (Yes, you CAN say “No.”)
3. Look at what you wrote down as having to be done… then challenge it; identify the things that really don’t have to be done. And don’t do them! (Do you know, I have a friend who irons her husband’s UNDERWEAR!)
If in doubt, challenge your assumptions; say out loud, “I have to do this BECAUSE (fill in this blank).”
Would your friends agree with your “because?”
Would your parents?
A space alien?
Too often, the “because” doesn’t hold water. We do it because … of habit.
Ask yourself … what would really happen if you DIDN’T do it? If it’s not cataclysmic, you have wriggle room. Be ruthless.
(Time management is actually a misnomer, of course; it’s ACTIVITIES you manage.)
4. Then look at what’s left, and challenge it in a different way; say out loud (because it makes it hard to ignore the stupidity of some assumptions you’re probably making) … “I (emphasis on “I”) have to personally do these things BECAUSE (fill in this blank).” Again, wherever your “because” doesn’t hold water, there’s an opportunity. We’ll deal with this in (6).
5. Don’t waste “spare” time – use it! (And by the way, sitting down to read a book or listen to music or just having a coffee with a friend … these are NOT a waste of time.) Want a weird perspective on time management? There’s an interesting book called “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle … Oprah listed it as one of her favorites. It helps you recognize that there is only the “now,” so enjoy that cuppa to the utmost, and don’t waste the time worrying that you should be getting meals ready!
6. Using your ruthless streak or the method in step (4), identify the things you can off-load to others (safely) … and off-load them. Sadly, this brings your husband/boy friend (or both?) and even children into the picture, but that’s OK. How you off-load them is important; if you don’t do it right, your stress will increase as you end up with daily arguments and daily frustrations, as family members don’t live up to your expectations (and their reluctant commitments). Do it right and you create time. Incidentally, off-loading to an outside service can be an absolute blessing.
7. Whatever you’re left with, the things that HAVE to be done and that only YOU can do, or that you really WANT to do … do them effectively to waste as little time as possible. There are a million ways to waste time in a day. How much time do you spend hunting for keys? For a shopping list you put down somewhere? Driving back home in a panic because you forgot to pack Susie’s soccer cleats, and didn’t realize until you got to the park? Some basic organizing steps can be worth their weight in gold. Time management in this situation just translates into getting organized.
8. Let others know what THEY have to do in order to create additional time for you. We’ve already talked about delegating things to family members but there’s much more to this; chances are, family members do things routinely that create unnecessary work for you, or else cause you to waste time. Some of these are obvious – leaving the dishes for you to take through, or if they miraculously do take them through, they leave them on the counter for you to deal with; clothes on the floor; and so on. But there are some more subtle ways a clever family finds of creating work for Mom.
When it comes to time management and organizing the home better, there are some excellent books and tools available for you. (I know, I know – the problem is, you don’t have time to read the books! So work through my list above!)
If you have a job outside the home, Stephen Covey’s book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is still the best book I’ve encountered in terms of planning for a life with balance – going way beyond just time management. His follow-up “First Things First” (where he expands on one of the habits) is tremendous. If you are seriously interested in time management at a professional level – because everything that can be applied to business also applies to your personal life, of course – consider taking a formal time management course. Some are offered on-line to make it easier to schedule.