Note: The following is the 2nd part of a 3 part series aimed to help better manage a busy parent’s days. The full series includes Step 1: Prioritize, and ends with Step 3: Locate Solutions within Limits (soon to be published). If you haven’t read Step 1, please start here.
Hello? Time? … Where are you?
Peak-a-boo! Are you hiding under my cluttered desk?
Knock, knock! Did you lock yourself in the basement with the Wii?
I know! You must be in my bed! (Because lord knows I haven’t been in there long enough to attempt a good, solid search.)
You can’t fool me “Mr. Time,” I know you’re out there.
As a parent, you might often think of hide-and-seek as a game we play with our kids. But personally speaking, most of the time I think of it as a game I play with time. You can’t capture time, but I do think with a little prioritizing time can be found.
In my last post I talked about Step 1 in my 3-step process to gain back more work-life sanity. This 1st step – to prioritize – focused on listing personal goals of where I’d ideally like to most spend my time.
However, truth be told, establishing priorities and acting on these priorities are two separate things, which in turn led me to Step 2 and my next course of action:
Figuring out how to find the time to fit my newly accepted priorities into my life.
Step 2: Find Time
(unfortunately I am not yet one of them) plan their family’s weekly meals in order to not be scrambling to feed everyone at the last minute. I may not plan my weekly meals, but I do a similar thing with my own daily schedule.
I’ve come to believe it TAKES time to FIND time.
Lately I’ve made it a priority on Sundays to invest 20-30 minutes planning out my week both personally and professionally.
First, write your to-do list.
I spend 10 minutes writing a list of everything I ideally would like to get done over the week in regards to work. Note: This should include volunteer, paid, and/or any significant household work.
Next, determine your time parameters.
I divide my days into chunks to help me determine when my time could be best put to use. I spend about 5 minutes determining family time and available work time.
I suggest dividing your time into 4 categories:
- Family Time (time where my family’s needs have to be prioritized)
- Available Work Time (time to use toward volunteer, paid, and/or household work)
- Non-Flexible Time (time during the week where I have things scheduled that are not flexible.)
- Flexible/Me Time* (time that I don’t like to work)
* Ideally there would be no work over these periods established as flexible/overflow time. But it is really nice to know that there is time banked for weeks that are a little busier. HOWEVER I find it is important to keep reminding myself that these times should be last resorts!
For me, these categories looks like this:
Monday – Friday 7:30 – 8:30 a.m. (before school)
Monday – Thursday 3:45 – 8:00 p.m. (after school thru bedtime)
Tuesday and Wednesday 8:30 – 12:30 (dedicated time spent with my toddler still at home)
Available Work Time
Monday – Friday 5:30 – 7:30 a.m. (I am an early riser)
Monday 8 – 11 a.m. (weekly babysitter lined up)
Monday – Thursday 12:30 – 3:45 (afternoon nap for my toddler)
Non – Flexible Time
Monday 11-1 (Toddler Music class) (New On-the-Go-Momma post goes live)
Tuesday 12:45 – 2 (weekly work staff meeting via phone)
Thursday 9 – 11:30 a.m. (Local Mothers’ Center meeting) (New Mothers Central post goes live)
Friday 8 – 2 (babysitter comes, I teach at a local community college)
Evenings (after 8 p.m.)
Finally, formulate your plan.
I purchased a day-of-the-week dry erase board and different colored dry erase markers.
I spend typically 10 minutes adding my to-do list onto my dry erase calendar. This allows me to determine when (and if!) I can fit everything into the week.
Red = Things to do in the A.M.
Green = Things to do in the P.M.
Black (w/a box around them) = Things that are non-flexibal
Blue = Things that may need to use my flexible/me time
As I write items on the dry erase board schedule, I always refer back to my “family time schedule” and know that the activities I add on the board cannot co-exist with or cross over to that time.
This is what my office wall with my new work-life organization tactic looks like.
It may look chaotic, however it is most certainly organized chaos. As a busy parent, I’ll take organized chaos over crazy chaos any day. Regardless, this system really works for me.
- It gives me assurance that everything has a time and place to get done.
- It helps ward off the panic I sometimes feel when my to-do list seems overwhelmingly long.
- It forces me to remember the time I’ve scheduled to dedicate to my family and myself.
MOST IMPORTANTLY: I no longer feel as though I am aimlessly searching for “Mr. Time” in an unfair game of hide-and-seek. I know where time is for the busy week ahead.
As I complete items on the calendar, I erase them. If they don’t get erased, at least I know they weren’t accomplished. Which leads me to one last very important detail:
Sometimes… not everything can be completed
and/or fits into the open times.
Sometimes there really ISN’T a time and place for everything to get done. What do I do then? I’ll address this in my last step of this guide.
My final post in this series will discuss Step 3: Locating Solutions within Limits.
Leave a Comment: What do you think? Does this seem doable? Oh, and please, please, PLEASE tell me I’m not the only one who gets panicked when my to-do list seems overwhelmingly long?
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