There’s nothing quite like the joy of motherhood. Your kids’ smiles and laughter fill your day with endless satisfaction. But along with all that happiness are countless tasks that demand your attention. You want to be a good mom, but between work, household chores and your ever-growing to-do list, it probably feels like you’re being pulled in ten different directions. Time management is crucial to finding a balanced and healthy life, but how do you achieve it?
Establishing a schedule is not an impossible goal. Even if it’s challenging for young, busy mothers to find time to get things done, by following a few key tips, you can establish an ordered rhythm to your day. You’ll not only find time to get the necessary things done, but also those things you want to do. If you feel like every day is an endless scramble, then it’s time to give these eight time management techniques a try.
1. Prioritize Your Day
Priorities — this is a word that you should keep in mind when creating your plan for the day. Prioritizing is a tool that helps you establish what needs to get done versus what would be “nice” to get done. For example, you need to go to the grocery store, but it’d also be nice to clean the bathroom. Obviously, feeding your family takes precedence.
Unfortunately, everybody has time suckers that seem important but really aren’t. It’s your job to assess your to-do list and how you spend your time. Most people spend over an hour a day on tasks that can be put on hold or completely taken off your schedule.
Whether it’s your time at work or home, the key to prioritizing is to organize what’s urgent and what’s not. For many people, writing these tasks down on a to-do list is extremely helpful. You can make a chart with three sections:
- Immediate tasks: Examples could be a project that’s due at work or taking your kids to soccer practice.
- Things that can get done anytime during your week: This could include responsibilities like household cleaning chores.
- Long-term or ongoing projects: Things like assembling your family photo album are tasks you’d like to finish but that don’t have a due date.
When planning out your day, it’s good to think ahead. Get the immediate tasks out of the way, and if you still have time, try to work in things from the other two sections as you can.
Many moms feel that priorities shouldn’t include those things that will help you personally — exercise or yoga, going out with friends, getting a manicure and the like. Taking time for yourself is essential to your personal well-being. So, be sure to work in some “me” time into your day, even if it’s just 15 minutes.
2. Ask for Help
No one is an island. There’s a horrible misconception that the best moms can get everything done on their own. This just isn’t true. You can still be a super mom even if you ask for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your family and friends. Chances are, they’ve already offered. If you’ve turned them down in the past, that’s okay. Ask them if the offer for help still stands. You can even reach out to a trusted neighbor.
Whether you need someone to watch the kids while you run errands or you could use some help cleaning the house, most people are willing and able to give you a hand when you need it. Soon, those same people who helped you will likely need you to return the favor. That’s the beauty of surrounding yourself with a community of people — they’re there for you, and you’re there for them.
When you ask for help, be specific. If your mother-in-law is coming over to lend a hand, tell her exactly what would be the most helpful, even if it’s just giving you a break so that you can be alone for a short time to collect yourself. If you’ve got a group of moms that you hang out with, maybe a barter is in order. You can watch one mom’s kids while she runs errands and then she can watch yours another day. The bottom line is, from dishes to laundry to cooking dinner, don’t be ashamed to ask for help, especially if you feel overwhelmed.
3. Set Achievable Daily Goals
It’s not a bad thing to aim for the moon. When we set high expectations for ourselves, it allows us to push and reach unbelievable heights. However, if you do this all the time, chances are you’ll get burned out. If your to-do list is overly ambitious day after day, it’s completely useless. What’s the point of writing it down if there’s no way to get it done?
Instead, make your daily goals realistic. As you tick things off when you complete them, it will give you a sense of accomplishment and help you tackle the next item. However, if the task is too complicated, you may feel so overwhelmed that it overshadows your whole day. Think of it this way — when you visit a buffet, do you eat everything? No. It may all look amazing, but if you stuff yourself with all that food, you’ll burst. Use the priorities chart to figure out what’s important and get those things done first.
You’re not superhuman. It’s better to set realistic expectations for yourself. This will pump you up as you head towards an overarching goal. Also, keep in mind, today’s not the only day you can get things done. There’s always more time tomorrow.
4. Establish a Routine
Many young moms think that routine is a dirty word. After all, isn’t routine the enemy of spontaneity and creativity? Nothing could be further from the truth. Humans thrive on routine, from the youngest infant to our elderly grandparents and everyone in between.
A routine is those regular chores, tasks and duties that you get done at specified times, whether its daily, weekly or monthly. Establishing a routine saves you time and energy because it takes the stress out of planning. When you know what needs to get done and when you need to do it, you don’t have to remind yourself about those things — they become habitual.
Routine is more than just when you go to bed, when you get up and when you eat. You can work almost every aspect of your family’s life into a routine, including:
- When you work
- When you run errands
- Rotating weekly dinner menus
- Chore rotations
- After-school or family activities
Many think that routines make life boring or mundane. But when you don’t have to worry about what each week holds, it frees up your day to focus on other things. You may even find that you have more time for fun things to do on your own or with your family.
And just because you have a routine doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible. In fact, even when you have a firm hold on what your daily schedule looks like, you should always be flexible enough to accommodate unexpected things that pop up. Whether it’s sick kids, urgent work projects or even an hour where you sit and breathe because you feel completely overwhelmed — these unexpected hiccups don’t need to throw off your whole day.
5. Batch Tasks Instead of Multitasking
Moms and multitasking are two words that often go hand-in-hand. For decades, multitasking has been considered the number one time management tip. It turns out, multitasking is not all it’s cracked up to be. When you switch your attention from one thing to another, not only does this split your focus, but it also decreases your willpower to get things done. After all, there’s a reason it’s so hard to rub your belly and pat your head. Splitting your focus is mentally exhausting.
Today, more and more people are batching. This means doing one task until it’s complete. You can also “batch” similar tasks together, grouping items that won’t pull your attention away from what needs to be done. There are tons of ways that you can efficiently batch:
- Meal prep your lunch for the week. Or, cook dinner and double or triple the recipe, freezing the extra food for another meal that week.
- Choose one day you get all your bills paid for the month.
- Get a project for work done in one sitting, such as grading papers, writing an assignment or drafting a report.
- Deep clean your house.
It may require that you put other responsibilities on hold, but that’s the point. The reason batching works is because you won’t have to switch your focus from one thing to another — you just flow. This allows you to effortlessly move forward and easily tick one thing after another off your list. Basically, batching puts you in the zone to get things done.
The great thing about batching is that you can pair mindless tasks with those that require a bit more focus. This is a compromise between batching and multitasking. Wear a headset and make business calls while taking a walk. Clean the kitchen while quizzing your kid for his math test. However, if putting things together makes you feel harried, chuck it and go back to doing one thing at a time.
6. Establish Work Hours and Expectations
Balancing a career and family often feels like a juggling act — drop one ball, and everything will fall apart. Whether you work part-time or full-time, it’s essential to establish a distinct work time and expectations with your job, so it doesn’t pull you away from your family and your responsibilities at home.
Today, many moms work from home. Or, if you do work from an office, many businesses allow flexible hours that work around your family’s schedule. However, it’s essential to have your work hours established with your employer. This is especially important if something comes up with your job after work hours. If it’s family time, you can decide whether or not to answer calls or emails. Just be sure your employer understands this ahead of time. It’s great to be able to help out, but not if it consistently takes you away from your family.
7. Shut Down Social Media
Social media has the potential to be a real time sucker. Add in the countless other apps and games on your smartphone and tablet, the news reports you read on your laptop and the TV shows in your queue that you want to binge watch, modern life is dominated by glowing screens. Not only do these rob you from what’s happening in the moment, but your kids watch your example. Children today are spending more time playing video games and less time getting outside.
Don’t let these innocent breaks steal time from being productive. The best way to take back these minutes and hours is to shut down social media. If you’re working on a project, put your phone away entirely until you’ve completed the project. If you do need to check something on one of your devices, give yourself a limit on how much screen time you get. Once that alarm goes off, it’s time to unplug.
8. Delegate Daily Tasks
A danger all moms face is trying to take on everything yourself. Both at home and at work, you may get frustrated waiting around for others to get things done, so you end up taking care of it yourself. If you take on more than your share of responsibility, not only does it waste huge chunks of your day, but it can lead to burnout.
The solution is simple. You need to let others handle their own responsibilities — your co-workers, your spouse and your kids. It’s essential that you let go and let people help you get things done. Giving up control may be tough, but allowing others to pitch in maximizes what you can get done in a given day.
You may find it hard to give tasks to your kids — and then let them complete the work on their own. But as children get older, it’s critical that they learn to take responsibility by doing age-appropriate chores. If you do everything for your kids, this is a difficult habit to break, but you’re not doing them any favors in the long run. Instead, teach them to be strong and self-sufficient while at the same time freeing up some of your time to focus on more important matters.
Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself
Improving your time management and establishing a schedule for yourself is extremely helpful, especially when life feels a bit chaotic. Remember, even in the midst of taking care of your responsibilities at home and work, you need to make time to take care of yourself. Don’t put your own emotional and physical health at the bottom of your to-do list. Self-care is important to ensure you’re functioning at your best. This includes adequate sleep, a healthy diet and doing things that will make you feel good.
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