It’s morning and you start your day with a mug of very strong coffee. You have your first sip and it is already chaos. Everyone is rushing around getting ready for the day. You have a million things to do, and so you scribble some tasks on a scrap piece of paper.
Now, it’s the afternoon and you’re eating a pathetic lunch and scrolling through Facebook. You just wasted about two hours and you realize you’ve lost your piece of paper. What did you get done? Maybe two or three of the million things on your to-do list. Now you’re scrambling and you’ve got maybe 40 minutes until the kids get home from school.
Finally, it’s the evening, and you just finished dinner. All you want to do is curl up on the sofa and enjoy Netflix. Your husband asks you, “How was your day?” You reply, “It was fine.” No, your day was not fine. You are stuck in a perpetual state of poor time management and it’s making you feel defeated. Does this sound familiar?
You ask, “Why can’t I just get it together?” Time management is a struggle because we are unrealistic in how we structure our day . Taking small steps is your key to eliminating procrastination, guilt and the stress of not accomplishing what you want to accomplish. Visualize your days being stress free and flexible. No more negative feelings. No more procrastination. No more chaos.
Take control of your life. You can maximize your time, be more productive and accomplish your goals if you follow these small steps.
Step 1: Get A Morning Head Start
I’m not going to tell you need to make your bed for a morning head start. There are so many articles that tell you that to achieve the small win you need to make your bed. In my opinion, that’s silly. I only make my bed when I get visitors. I’d rather spend the two minutes making coffee.
The goal is to prioritize your time because you don’t have much of it. If making the bed is a priority to you, then do it. There is one thing that can help you get that head start and that’s getting out of pajamas (that includes sweatpants too) and into day clothes.
There are few who can hit the ground running in the morning in PJs and I don’t recommend it, even for busy moms. I understand, it’s comfy, but it’s about establishing a morning routine that sets you up for a productive day. Not a leisure day. If you are lounging about in your jammies it will take longer to get up and do stuff.
Take the time to shower and dress in day clothes — no pajamas and no sweatpants. Get a head start to the day by waking up a few minutes early. I’m not talking about waking up 2 or even 1 hour earlier, 30 minutes should be enough to get some coffee in you, shower and get ready for the day.
This small step is solidifying sustainable habits. Start small, be consistent and decide after 1–2 weeks if it is effective for you and is sustainable long term.
Step 2: Set Realistic Goals
Being unrealistic about what you can accomplish in a day will obviously set you up for failure but it will have lasting effects. Being chronically overwhelmed and overstretched will leave you feeling tired and defeated.
Think about last week’s tasks. How many did you get done? You probably had to ditch a few to-do’s off the list in order to get through the day. Sometimes that’s the best choice because a satisfactory job is better than an unfinished job.
But you want to look back at your day, week or month and be proud of how much you accomplished. That is why it’s so important to prioritize tasks according to your capacity to do them. You want to create a momentum so it can motivate you to tackle bigger tasks.
Step 3: Establish A Predictable Routine
Time blocking has become a popular time management method for a good reason. It can establish a predictable daily routine, making it easier to get things done. How to time block is easy: you set realistic blocks of time for each task throughout the day. Really, that’s it. The tough part is sticking to it.
Everyone must get up in the morning, eat breakfast, do laundry, and wash dishes. If you have fixed tasks like these, the ones you must do every day for the foreseeable future, then setting a block of time will be easier. For example, you can block out time between 1 pm-3 pm for cleaning and set it indefinitely. No worrying about fitting in time to clean because it will always be in your schedule to remind you.
The tricky part is setting time for less mundane tasks like attending a workshop, taking an online course, or networking. When you are a busy mom, it will be tempting to skip on these events because the dishes are piling up. But you don’t need to.
Time blocking will only work for you if you stick with it and know your peak productive times of the day. You might be feeling you don’t have one of those but everyone does. Think about how your days typically look. Do you find yourself getting to a fast start in the morning but fizzle out at noon? Perhaps you find yourself getting more into the groove at 3 pm. Whichever time you reach your peak, take advantage so you can really focus on your task.
Step 4: Finish What You Start
Even today, with scientific proof that multitasking is not an effective way of getting more done, people are drawn to it like moths to a flame. Why? Because multitasking gives us the illusion of getting more done in less time. But that is not the case.
While the brain is good at switching from task to task, processing is slower to refocus because you used up a bunch of energy by stopping one task to go to another. So, if you were on a roll with one job, then stopped to dive into another, you will need ramp up time to get back into the groove. Multitasking takes more time and doesn’t work if you want to do a complete job.
If you are switching from task to task but getting them only partially finished, then you are multitasking. Go back to your time block and pick your most urgent task in it. Then work on that task until either you’re done or your time block is over. It will surprise you at the end of the day how much you accomplish when you don’t multitask.
Step 5: Stick with One System
Go to any department store and look at the agendas and planners. There are hundreds if not thousands of different styles and layouts to choose from. Today, planners have evolved into a scrap booking activity with stickers, washi tape and fancy markers to jazz up your schedule.
I’ve been there. I bought a fashion planner and the accessories. Did I accomplish more using it? Nope. I spent more time making my planner look pretty than focusing on actual tasks. But that’s just me. Maybe it works for you and that’s all that matters. What matters is that you don’t get caught up in a novelty like fashion planners disguised as an effective productivity tool.
Take your pick: Fancy planner, individual paper sheets, or Google Calendar/Tasks. Which one helps you stay accountable and focused? Choose one and stick with it. Whatever you choose, it is important that you have easy access so you don’t forget or give yourself the ability to procrastinate.
Step 6: Think Small
A bite sized version of time blocks, enter the time burst. AKA, Pomodoro technique. This method recommends work intervals of around 20 minutes, broken up with short breaks of about 5 minutes. Pomodoro recommends that after four intervals that you take a longer break of up to 30 minutes.
It sounds like a pain in the butt. Work, then stop, then work again. It doesn’t sound like a good technique does it? However, it’s effective. Our brains prefer to process and keep information for short periods of time. After about 25 minutes our minds wander. It’s best not to fight it because it will be a losing battle. Give yourself time to refocus.
Use a kitchen timer or a timer on your phone. If you must clean, set the timer for 20 minutes. Do as much as you can in that amount of time then take a 5-minute break. Go to the next task and repeat.
You Are in Control
No more chaos, no more treading water, and no more disappointment. Your days of scrambling to get by will be gone if you follow these steps to effective time management.
Figure out what you can do, structure your day around it, and get it done. You’re a mom who needs clarity and consistency. Effective time management is attainable, even for the busiest moms.
You make enough sacrifices, and you deserve to reclaim your time. Allow yourself to follow through slow and steady, but be consistent. Now you have a system that works for you. Have confidence that you can do this. You’re a strong, and amazing mom. You got this.
I would love to hear how you hard working moms stay on track. What small time management wins do you achieve in your day?