Beginner’s Guide to Time Management
Why is time management so important? Good time management allows you to accomplish more in a shorter period of time, which leads to more free time, which lets you enjoy your kids or take some time to just *be*. In turn, this “extra” time lowers your stress and helps you focus, which leads to even better, more productive, less overwhelming days. It’s a circle – good days lead to more good days!
I like to think that I know a lot about this subject. Don’t get me wrong – there’s always room for improvement. Over the years, though, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to practice what I preach, and I want to share it allll with you.
Some credibility: I have two sets of twins who are less than 3 years apart. I homeschool all of them and keep track of their very different schedules, feed them (and my husband) 4,754 meals per day, take care of our goofy pup and two sweet cats, write a blog, clean the house… It’s a lot, and it can be very overwhelming. The overwhelm comes and goes, for sure – some days I do a great job and am super productive (and happy!), and other days I just don’t want to do anything but lay on the couch and read a book or play around on social media. Right now I’m in a really good place – I’ve set some boundaries and focus on only doing what I can do, and then I let the rest go.
What is Time Management?
Time management is most commonly defined as “the ability to use one’s time effectively or productively.” It’s a pretty clear definition, right? However, I prefer to think of it as “time optimization” rather than “time management.” Not only does it sound WAY fancier, but common synonyms for “optimization” include enhance, reform, correct, and edit. Isn’t that what we’re really trying to do here? When I’m trying to whip my schedule into shape and get more things done, I much prefer to edit or enhance my time instead of just managing it.
But Where Do I Even Start?
It all starts with a shift in your mindset. It’s important to move the focus from activities to results. Here’s an important thing to remember: Being busy isn’t the same as being effective. So, to use a cliche: We need to work smarter, not harder, to accomplish everything that needs to get done in a day. Spending your day in a frenzy of activity often achieves less and leaves you frazzled and stressed because you’re dividing your attention between so many different things.
The good news is, making better use of your hours isn’t an all-or-nothing thing. Nobody is asking or expecting you to be perfect! You can start by making a couple of easy tweaks, then a couple more, and so on.
Tips for Successful Time Optimization
There are a few quick and easy things you can do to start controlling your days (rather than having your days control you). This is a super broad overview for right now, but I promise to come back and write posts on everything in detail, which will include the things that I personally do to keep it all together around here!
- Create a morning routine: This is nothing short of life-changing. Please, for the love of all that is holy, if you can only make one change, make THIS change – get up BEFORE YOUR KIDS. It only takes 20 minutes or so, and it makes a world of difference. You can shower, read a book, work out, drink your coffee in peace, or just sit and enjoy the quiet – whatever you decide to do with your time doesn’t even matter. I get up at 5 or 5:15 every morning, take a shower and get dressed, and have coffee and some time to myself before the kids come down at 6:30. It sets the tone for my day – by the time they get downstairs, I’m ready for them!
- Set boundaries: You can only do what you can do, and almost everything else can be put off for another day. Make sure that your family knows and understands this!
- Create a to-do list: There are a lot of ways to do this – weekly, daily, on paper, in the phone… My master to-do list is in my paper weekly planner. I just can’t get into that whole keep-my-life-in-my-phone thing. Every Sunday, I sit down for a few minutes and plan out the week ahead. Things I do daily get written down on each day, and things I do weekly are separated from the one-off list. Sometimes I have to carry tasks over from one week to the next, and that’s okay!
- Prioritize healthy habits: Get enough sleep and drink enough water. It’s really that easy! I know, I know – the sleep thing is a challenge, especially if you have babies that wake you in the middle of the night. Just do your best!
- Start small: Make one change at a time, get used to it, and then move on to the next habit tweak.
- Ask for help: Again, you can only do what you can do. Nobody can do all the things. I thought that it would be no problem to keep the house clean and the kids alive every day while my husband is at work, but it’s harder than it seems, and sometimes just those two things are entirely overwhelming. It’s okay. Your partner can handle a few chores even if he/she works outside of the home. Your mom can pick up your grocery order on her way to hang out with you and the kids. Your kids can fold their own laundry (or just shove it in their drawers unfolded like they do at my house – but I don’t even pretend to care because at least it’s out of sight). Your husband can make a quick dinner one night – my husband’s specialties are “Daddy Nachos” and egg scrambles.
- Practice gratitude: There is always, always, ALWAYS something to be grateful for. And the simple act of remembering that can completely turn your day around. Even on the roughest day, you most likely have a roof over your head (with a heater in the winter) and a little bit of food in your fridge, right?
Time Management FAQs
- How do stay-at-home moms manage their time?
- There are all kinds of methods out there, but my favorite is a very loose time blocking-type schedule. I have my pre-kids morning routine, then we move on to breakfast, making beds, a little bit of cleaning, etc. Next comes the homeschool block – right now we school from about 9 a.m. to 2 p.m with a leisurely lunch break around 11 or so. After that comes work for me, which is usually a couple of hours. Then dinner prep and family time. Deeper housecleaning happens only on the weekends – I’ve found that I simply don’t stay committed to cleaning a certain zone every day, and I do best with a marathon clean on Saturday morning. Besides time blocking, there is the “Top 5” method, where every morning you list the five things that you want to accomplish that day (or 4 things, or 7 – the number doesn’t matter, but keep it consistent!). You could also “Eat That Frog,” where you choose your biggest, hairiest to-do item for the day and do it first.
- How can I improve my productivity?
- There are so many things you can do to improve productivity! I can’t possibly list them all here, so there’s definitely more to come. Establish a morning routine. Mine involves coffee (that I get to drink while it’s still hot!) and a book or a podcast or something. Next, make sure to take care of yourself physically! If you’re not getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water, and eating mostly healthy foods, you won’t feel your best, which affects your motivation and, therefore, your productivity. Another tip, if you’re a stay-at-home mom, is to STAY AT HOME. It doesn’t have to be every day, but a couple days a week is a good start. Sometimes you need to stay home to get things done at home. Weird, right?
- There’s just too much to do in a day! How do I stop feeling so overwhelmed?
- Try to close your eyes and just breathe for a minute. Stop what you’re doing and allow yourself a break. The best thing to do, thought, is to SCHEDULE a guilt-free break. I know, it’s hard. I have no problem starting to take a break, but then my mind starts racing with all of the things that still aren’t done. One thing I used to do was choose two weekdays where I would just rest when my babies napped or my bigger kids had quiet time. On the other days, I would try to get things done, but on those two days, I could watch a movie, read a book, sleep… And I didn’t have to feel guilty because I knew that I needed that downtime, so I baked it right into my to-do list.
- Is there a quick and easy first step to help me optimize my time?
- In my opinion, the quickest and easiest first step would be to get up 15 or 20 minutes before your kids and plan out your day. Bonus points if you wake up an hour or so before them and knock out a few to-do list items!
- How do I handle all of the interruptions?
- Plan them into your daily schedule! Especially if you have kids, you already know that your day will have interruptions. Count on them and budget for them. Your day doesn’t have to be planned out minute by minute – leave a buffer for interruptions. I prefer to use a time-blocking method for scheduling my day (plenty more on that later), so I add a 20- to 30-minute buffer between time blocks. If there are no interruptions (yeah, right!), this buffer of time can be used as a coffee or tea break or to start one of the next day’s tasks. I, personally, tend to use this time to just sit – I almost always save tomorrow’s stuff for tomorrow.
- How do stay-at-home moms stay sane?
- We don’t! (Just kidding – sort of.) My top three quick and easy tips for staying sane: 1) Get up and get dressed every morning, even if it’s changing from pajama pants to yoga pants. 2) Have something that’s just *yours*. This can be a side hustle, a hobby, or whatever (this blog is my thing that only belongs to me). 3) Wake up earlier than your kids (are you sensing a theme with this one?).
The Last Thing You Need to Know about Time Management
It’s not always easy to get your days under control, but it’s do-able and totally worth it. The best advice that I can give is to start small. You’ll succeed if you make one small change at a time, rather than overhauling your entire life at once.
Also remember that you are one person, and you can only do the work of one person, even though those Pinterest moms out there might lead you to believe otherwise. And take a break! You have my permission to take a 30-minute guilt-free break today 🙂
Do you have any time management / productivity tips for moms? I’d love to hear what works best for you! Leave a comment or send an email to email@example.com – I love to hear from my readers!