I've been asked on more than one occasion to share some of my favorite tips on time management, a topic I actually LOVE! Wasted time is probably one of my top five pet peeves! Want to irritate me? Waste my time! :) I like to say that we are all given a day that is full of 24 usable hours, it's what we do with them that makes us who we are and sets the tone for how we live our life. I, by no means, mean to imply that what I am about to share is the only way to be productive in a day. However, I can say with certainty, that when I don't do (or have) these things, there is a huge dip in what gets done in a day. And to be sure, a huge part of being productive is being FLEXIBLE! If something doesn't go according to plan, don't scrap the whole day because of it, reroute and keep going! Please note that this post is FULL of my opinions, about time and kids and marriage and relationships. Take it all with a grain of salt, apply what fits and figure out on your own what doesn't, ok? :)
Are you ready?
1) Sleep!!! Wake up EARLY! I know, some of you really hate this one. But in my household, a day is MADE by getting up before my kids. I get up at 5:30am every morning (I am usually in bed by 10-10:30pm). The boys aren't allowed out of their rooms until 7am so this gives me a full hour and a half before they get up to read my Bible, have my coffee, shower and get started on some quiet chores before they are underfoot. Then when they get up, I can give them my full attention, awake and much happier then if I rolled out of bed with them! Along with this, yes, I tell my kids when they can come out of their rooms. Left to their own devices they would wake up earlier and earlier every day, not getting the sleep they need and setting the tone for their own bad days! Telling them the earliest they could leave their rooms has been a huge help, they usually sleep right up until then or after. Also, put your kids to bed at a decent hour! Kids need a lot of sleep. Keeping them up to spend time with them (at their sleep expense) is not fair to them or you! Our kids are in bed by 7:30 on school nights. I know, we are so mean!
2) Have a supportive husband! I know you don't have a lot of control over this one. But I will bet that if you wake up every morning with the thought "how can I make my husband's life easier" and get to work doing that, the benefits will start to come back to you. My husband and I have a life goal of serving one another selflessly, and sometimes that means doing things we don't like to do. If you feel like you are in a marriage where this isn't possible, set a goal to work on that (through counseling?). Having a spouse that will just do what needs to be done without labeling it as "not my chore" makes a huge difference in the overall bulk of the workload getting done! Coincidentally, having a goal of selflessly serving your spouse also makes marriage a lot less "work" and a lot more of a blessing! This works for every relationship in your life: "others first"!
3) Don't waste time. Not even "just ten minutes". If I have a ten minute window where I am waiting for something else to happen (say the boys to clean up the playroom or something like that) I see how much I can get done in those ten minutes. Make a clean sweep of one room, pick up anything that doesn't belong in that room, straighten pillows, pick up dishes, "right" the wrong things in that room. Instead of wasting those ten minutes on Facebook use them to wipe down a sink and clean the toilet, empty the dishwasher, etc. I use time in the car to respond to emails on my phone or send that text or make an appointment. Think about how many times you let "a few minutes" go out the window! Make it work for you instead and you WILL see a difference! The reward here is that little things get done, adding up to big things being done! Facebook has little to no reward!
4) Keep the TV off!! The TV is not on in our house for most of the day. Usually it doesn't go on until 7:30pm or so, with the exception of the occasional PBS kids in the morning and the weekends. TV is a HUGE time suck and there is nothing worth watching during the day anyway! Sitting on the couch to watch TV during the day can be a huge black hole for your time, don't give into it! Turn on some music instead and see how much more motivated you are to work! The amount of TV kids watch has been directly shown to influence their behaviors and attitudes as well! Would it really be a stretch to think adults can be effected as well?
5) Keep moving! I approach each day with "I can't get it all done, but I will get to the end of the day knowing that I gave it my all!". I keep moving. Not only does this add to my "done" list but it keeps me from eating all day! If you are busy working, you aren't busy eating! Two in one bonus! :)
6) Use social media to your advantage! Reward yourself with it! Say "after I get x done, I'll check Instagram for five minutes". Or Facebook or whatever social media outlet that usually just sucks away your time! Or avoid it until a certain time of day, and even then limit the time!
7) Use your kids! :) We don't buy anything outside of needs for the boys except for holidays and birthdays. If they want something, they have to earn it! We have a list of chores they know they can do, along with how much money each chore is worth. Not only does this teach them all sort of valuable life skills it also helps them follow a family rule "No asking for anything in stores". Kids of all ages can contribute to the household. Keep in mind their age and actual abilities. Be happy when they do their best even if it's not perfect (this goes for your husband too!)!
8) Speaking of kids, a couple of things (that are sure to make people wonder about me), mean what you say and it's OK to say NO! If you mean what you say, kids know that. Our kids rarely waste time trying to change our minds about something because once we say something, we mean it. No amount of whining or begging is going to do anything to change our minds and they know this. It's also OK to tell your kids no. There is a time and a place for playing and a time and a place for working. Telling your kids to go play is not the crime that some people think it is. I do not entertain the notion that it is even remotely my job to keep my kids entertained all day. Kids need to learn the skill of keeping themselves entertained. Yes, I do play with my kids. Their lives are full of fun and games but there are times that I tell them "No, mom has to work" and that is OK. I once had friend say that she felt guilty making her kids go to the grocery store with her. Why on Earth? Where else are they going to learn how to plan a menu, shop and save money? Telling your kids NO teaches them that getting your job done is important and having fun is a benefit of getting your "have to's" done first and not the other way around! In our house we say "Do what you HAVE to so you can do what you WANT to!" Having a strong work ethic, with fun in the right places, will serve you and your kids forever!
9) Say NO! Don't let guilt convince you to say yes to things that you know deep down you shouldn't be doing. Your time is an important commodity, don't waste it doing something out of guilt! The thing about it is this, God has a plan for each moment of your day. If you approach Him every day, asking what should be accomplished that day, you will get it all done every time! If you allow others to manipulate your time and generosity, you will find yourself frustrated and stressed out at the end of the day. THAT is not His plan for us! Yes, we should serve others, our community, our family and our church. That doesn't mean we should do all the things, all the time. Prayerfully consider commitments, yours and your kids. You should both have time to do things you love and have to do with downtime built in. Don't be afraid to reevaluate if you find your time spread too thin because of too many activities. Kids don't have to be involved in everything, in our house we allow one activity at a time when it comes to sports, etc. In our house we focus on making people happy in this order: God, family, others, self. Coincidentally, self is pretty happy when the other three things are being served.
10) If you are going to waste time, waste it on purpose, with others (as a general rule). Of course we plan down time and fun! It's why I am willing to get up at 5:30am every morning (it also makes sleeping in to 7:30am FEEL like sleeping in), it's why I can tell my kids to go play, it's why I am willing to work hard during the week: to be able to waste time and have fun on the weekends! We plan to have fun, so we work hard to make those plans possible. All fun all the time is good for no man (or woman or kid). Working hard during the week knowing that a fun reward is coming, totally makes for an excellent motivator for anyone of any age!
11) When it comes to household work, remember, something is better than nothing. Just because you don't have time to get it all done right now, doesn't mean you shouldn't do what you can. Don't know where you start? Start with simple things like making your bed, clearing the sink of dishes, starting a load of laundry, sometimes you just need to get momentum going. Having a clean house is not evidence of a wasted life nor is a "dirty oven and sticky floor" evidence you play with your kids or are a good mom(I hate that sign). I feel that taking care of my blessings (house, clothes, etc) shows my kids how to live grateful lives and how to be thankful for the things they have through the action of caring for them. Don't let others talk you into excuses (that only leave you feeling bad) or reasons why your house can't be kept neat.
Above all, I would start by taking a serious, honest look at how you use your day. Think about the things you would like to see accomplished and work towards clearing away unneeded and unnecessary time suckers. After all, we are all given 24 usable hours every day!
I love this Psalm (90:12): Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom.
I'd love to hear how you make the most of your time! What's been a big "aha!" moment for you?