If you’re struggling to accomplish the goals you have set for yourself and your children, it’s no surprise that you were led to this article. The to-do list of a mother seems to lengthen faster than can be tackled, and more than ever, you need effective ways to manage your time and keep your head above water.
Whether you’re caring for a newborn or juggling the ambitions of school-age children, below are seven helpful time management tips to add to some wind beneath your superhero cape.
1. Write it all down
In the same way you peek inside the refrigerator to decide what to make for dinner, a major part of time management is simply taking inventory of what is in your head. Grab your notebook, computer, or smartphone and jot down everything that is top of mind without worrying if it feels critical or not – from taking the frozen chicken out of the freezer to thaw for tonight’s dinner to washing soccer uniforms before the game on Thursday. This “brain dump” will free your headspace of all the incoming needs you absorb on a daily basis, but also to give you a base point for prioritizing. Don’t be shy to include yourself as well – if you’re feeling particularly drained or tapped for time in a certain area, this is your moment to acknowledge it and find a solution.
2. Understand and commit to priorities
One of the biggest Achilles’ heels for time management is not a lack of priorities, but an overload of them. It’s been said that when everything is important, nothing is important… which can feel like a very long race with no entry point. After a brain dump, get into the practice of categorizing based first on due dates, and then level of importance – what needs to be done ASAP, what needs to be done within the week, and what can be done when time allows. The more visible your list, the more impactful – so consider displaying it somewhere other household members can view, whether on a wall chart or on an app. As a parent, guiding your children to adopt these priorities as their own will allow them to contribute to the household in effective and appreciated ways.
3. Value progress over perfection
Say it out loud: perfection does not exist. Reframe your sense of accomplishment as the ability to get many things done well, not a few things done flawlessly. One way to nurture this habit is to replace open-ended, seemingly unachievable tasks with specific, time-based tasks. For example, instead of, “Clean house,” pen down, “Dust for twenty minutes.” This way, after twenty minutes, you can move onto the next task in a timely manner. Heading into unchartered territory? Nothing erases time faster than trying to perfect something new in a high-pressure situation, whether it’s a science project, a DIY home project, or a new recipe for a bake sale. If you’re attempting a project for the first time, consider if it may need a first or second draft and plan accordingly.
4. Positivity: Start with the small wins
Positivity is a catalyst for productivity. If you need a quick mood boost to stay motivated, it can always be found closely following the feeling of accomplishment – and this is where the beauty of “small wins” comes in. Wondering what your small wins are? During your next brain dump, mark any tasks or project that can be achieved in five minutes or less. Pay a bill, empty the dishwasher, or sort laundry for the next day. Do as many as it takes to get fired up, and you’re ready to tackle on the big stuff. When you’re prepared to take on the loftier items, find a way to break them into bit sizes pieces. For example, if you’re standing in a room that appears to have been hit by a tornado, make a goal to put ten things away as fast as possible, especially if you can get your children involved as a game. It may just be the momentum you need to get through the day.
5. Outline a routine – but keep it flexible
Over planning can be a setup for disappointment, so when it comes to establishing a family routine, the key is to view it as an opportunity for time-savings. Through this lens, create a week-long outline that you can build your habits, purchases, and efforts around. Include tasks that will prevent timely undertakings, like always washing dishes immediately after dinner instead of allowing them to pile up. Establish repetition that will help reduce decision making (i.e., Mondays are meat-free meals, dark colors are washed Fridays) so that you can spend less time making or adapting to new decisions. Encourage family-wide communication habits for you to log for shopping and scheduling, like if the paper towels have run out or what the week’s summer day camp schedule is. The goal here is to avoid being bombarded with time-consuming surprises, but still have the flexibility and capacity to take them on.
6. Make space for time-saving projects
There are countless household endeavors that will save you time in the long run – organizing the Tupperware so you can spend one less minute looking for a matching lid, sorting through your child’s outgrown clothes so you can easily spot what still fits, experimenting with meal prepping, etc. — but unfortunately, they tend to fall into the margins of life where they can’t be seen. (Sort of like that well-meaning bag of expired spinach in the back of the refrigerator.) Bring ideas for projects to the surface and pad out a few hours a week to make progress on your Project List. When time allows, choose one you have interest in and energy for – and where appropriate, consider letting your little ones take their pick and join in.
7. Make technology your friend
If there’s something that will make life easier, there is likely an app for it. In addition to task-centric apps like Trello, there are apps for coordinating cleaning and chores (Tody), apps that help you create recipes out of food in your fridge (AllRecipes), apps to source reliable, on-demand child care (TOOTRiS), apps to order groceries for delivery (Instacart), and even apps that automatically apply every available online coupon or discount code to save you time and money (Honey). If there are areas where you could use more organization, it’s very likely that a tech guru has already paved the way.
At TOOTRiS, we understand how valuable time is, especially for a mother. As you seek solutions to best manage your priorities throughout the week, we hope our real-time child care technology platform is one of them.