Raise your hand if you spend way too much time thinking about all that you could accomplish if you only had more time! Keep it raised if you then feel completely overwhelmed and just binge Netflix instead. High five! I was the exact same way! I’d spin my wheels thinking about everything I wanted to accomplish in a day, feel totally overwhelmed and then give up completely before even getting started. This kind of behavior greatly affected my mood and my health and has been a major theme for my therapy sessions. I’ve always wished I could be better with time management, but now I actually have some tools that help me be more efficient. And I still leave plenty of time for Netflix.
5 Tips to Improve Your Time Management Skills
Waking Up Early
The key to setting myself up for a day of success, not just productively speaking but emotionally and physically too, is to start my day a little earlier. I wake up at 6 am to give myself at least an hour of quiet, alone time in the morning. I use this time to drink my coffee in peace, practice daily gratitude, plan out my day and write blog posts. Having a plan for the day, and a little coffee in my system, makes me feel more prepared and focused. Since I only have a short time before the kids get up, I avoid checking social media in the mornings. It’s too much of a time suck and doesn’t add anything to my morning. I used to think that I “wasn’t a morning person” and stay in bed until the last possible minute. This always left mornings feeling rushed and chaotic. It’s no wonder I hated them! Now I can start my day with some time for myself and time to prepare for the day.
Making a Schedule for the Day
When you have a to-do list that seems to never end and a lot of distractions, it’s easy to get stuck in a cycle of being busy, but not productive. I set a schedule for most days of the week to help me stay focused on my goals and priorities. Those priorities include spending focused time with my girls. Since I’m home all day and there is always something that needs to be done, I get easily distracted while playing with them. I will sit down and read a few books or have a tea party, but as soon as I feel bored, I start doing laundry or I pull out my phone. While doing laundry is important, I felt like my kids were getting snippets of my time. During scheduled playtime, I put my phone in another room, don’t worry about chores and just sit on the floor, making myself available to my kids. When scheduled playtime is over, then I put the laundry in. That’s not to say that I don’t read books or play tea party throughout the day, but afterwards I go back to my chores. The focused play time helps me to not be distracted by my to-do list because for that time I’m where I’m supposed to be. This idea for a daily schedule actually came from my therapist. We discovered that I was more likely to pull myself out of a slump if I had a schedule to follow for the day. Here’s an example of what a day may look like for me:
6 am – 7:30: Wake up, coffee, journal, blog/alone time
7:30 – 9: Girls up, breakfast, clean kitchen, start laundry
9 – 10: Playtime
10 – 11:30: Laundry, house project, get myself dressed, scheduling appointments, etc.
11:30 – 1: Lunch (Jesse comes home for lunch most days)
1 – 2: Nap time for girls, I blog or work on house projects
2 – 3: Play time with Mara (board games, puzzles, etc.)
3 – 4: Other tasks, playing
4 – 6: Cook, eat and clean up dinner
6 – 7:30: Family playtime, bedtime routine
7:30 – 9:30: Blog stuff, TV time, etc.
9:30 – 10:30: Bedtime routine, bed
My schedule is similar to a block schedule, but my blocks of time are smaller. I’m sure as the girls get older all of this will change too. This is also an ideal scenario kind of schedule. I don’t always have house projects to work on or other tasks. I’d also like to note that as a stay-at-home mom the kids AND the house are my priorities. I fully believe it’s okay for my kids to entertain themselves while I clean or do another task for the house. They don’t need me to entertain them 24/7. I also believe that it’s good for them to see me working to take care of our home. It’s opened a lot of great conversations with Mara about taking care of our belongings and responsibility.
Set Two or Three Goals Each Day
It’s easy to get bogged down with a long to-do list, but when there’s only a few goals for the day accomplishing them seems more manageable. I usually have a long mental to-do list constantly running in my head, so I try to purge it out on paper and then break it down. I have lists of house projects, blog goals, and general things to do. Every week I check my brain dump lists and pick a few tasks to make goals for the week. I may also break down a multi-step task into smaller more manageable pieces (or micro-goals), so I can slowly whittle away at it. A few smaller projects throughout the week really add up and help me feel accomplished. Plus, once I’ve finished my projects for the day, it leaves the evenings open for relaxing without a giant to-do list looming over my head.
Use a Timer to Stay on Task
I can get easily distracted when I’m cleaning or working on certain tasks sometimes, so I set a timer to help me stay on track. A timer helps break down tasks into small windows of time which promotes focus and productivity. I also set a timer to motivate myself to do small tasks, like tidy up the house or empty the dishwasher. I set it for 10 minutes, and when it goes off I’m usually more motivated to move on to the next chore. I actually have a whole blog post on cleaning quickly and efficiently using a timer. But a timer actually works for other tasks too, like hiding from your kids to eat some chocolate in the closet or dumping everything in your brain out on paper to help calm anxiety. I also use it for tasks like checking emails or writing. It’s just a way to give yourself permission to work on one thing at a time. Once the timer goes off, you can choose to keep going or make that your stopping point and move on to a new task. Or just move to the couch and call it a day.
Set Aside time for Relaxation or Vegging Out
The last, and I think most important, piece of time management is leaving room for relaxation at the end of the day. Whether you work outside of the home or at home, it’s important to set aside time for yourself each day. My favorite way to unwind is watching TV in the evening, but most of the time I would feel guilty for doing so. I felt like I could be doing something more productive with my time. By managing my time better, I’m able to clock out guilt free in the evenings. My 2-3 to-do items are finished, the house is tidy, the girls are in bed, so there is no reason why I can’t sit on the couch and watch TV before heading to bed.
Better time management skills give me more control over my life and mental health. I have the tools I need to stop spinning out of control and get back on track after a bad day.