When there are so many things demanding you time, and all of them incredible important to you, how do you make it all happen? As a working mom of 2 and a part-time Master’s student with many interests and a pretty decent social life, I find myself wondering how to make the 24 hours in each day stretch much further than they ever possibly could.
I enjoy being busy and having ways to fill my time. I don’t like the glorification of busy that has come to be synonymous with ‘important’ and I do know when I need to fill my time with relaxing. I have always been this way and over time I have found ways to make doing all of the things a lot easier to manage.
1.Don’t try to multitask. This might seem a little counter intuitive but I find that when I try to do many things at once I end up taking much longer to do any one thing and I don’t do much of anything in a way that is well-done, attentive or fulfilling. I have found it works for me to focus on a maximum of one active and one passive thing at a time, for example doing the dishes and listening to a podcast. I run into trouble when I try to do more, for example cooking dinner, washing dishes and listening to a podcast. Doing too much at once leaves me frustrated, forgetful and flighty.
2. Ask for help. This can be a hard thing to do and again, feel opposite to what you are trying to do. I have found that when I ask someone to help me, either by watching my kids while I work for a few hours or asking my husband to cook supper while I fold laundry or play with my kids, I am able to do what means the most to me. I have never been interested in being one who micromanages down to how the dishes are placed in the dishwasher. I am happy to let someone help me out so I can do something else. When my husband cooks supper and I get to play with the kids, I am doing something important to me and I don’t mind not being the perfect wifey who doesn’t have supper on the table.
3. Be fiercely interested in what you spend your time on. If you are going to spend time doing things, do things that you enjoy doing. This may seem easy but think about all of the things you agree to do that you either don’t want to do or are indifferent to. Next time someone asks you help with an event, ask yourself if you really want to be involved in it or if you are just agreeing because you are stuck in a pattern of saying yes or feel obligated? I am trying to get better at this. Over Christmas I felt like I was in autopilot mode rushing between gatherings. I asked myself after it was all over which of these events I actually looked forward to and which I attended out of obligation. The answer was a bit depressing. Next year I am resolving to be more thoughtful when scheduling our holiday plans. It isn’t worth being completely exhausted because you spent an entire week going to places out of guilt or obligation.
4. Get really good at time management. For some people, organization and time management come really easy. And for others it doesn’t. The trick is to find a few tricks and tools to help you keep track of everything going on. For our family I have this calendar hanging on our fridge. We write anything on it that affects one or more members of our family (and anything my husband has going on so I know when he will be home late from work, away, working the weekend, etc.) Personally I use a hardcover notebook to write a grocery list and errands that can all be done in one outing. Hardcover notebooks allow for a good writing surface whether you are pushing a shopping cart or sitting in your car. I love this one and recently bought something similar from Winners. I also use the Happy Planner to write my weekly and daily to-dos as well as appointments that involve me and important dates. I also use it to track the books I finish, my yearly and monthly goals. In the past I have used this planner and in the future would love to try this one.
5.Set a timer. One trick that I sometimes use when I am trying to avoid procrastination is setting a timer and just getting it done. I set the timer for a manageable amount of time- say 2o minutes or 45 minutes, close all the windows on my browser or set down my phone and just get to work. This is helpful when working with a deadline but also works well to keep me from getting overwhelmed by a big task. This works well for my course readings, a cleaning spree, blog post writing.. it can pretty much be adapted for anything!
6. Put your phone down.now! This is something that I still struggle with. The perfect version of myself doesn’t use social media very often. The real me..well I am almost to embarrassed to admit that I have a real problem. It is so tempting to be scrolling when I could be reading or playing with my kids. It is so easy to check Instagram and say I am getting inspiration for my upcoming task. It is much better to just throw it aside and actually do what is going to fill me up. So I need to work on this but I know it is a tried and true method- spending that oh-so-precious time doing the things and not avoiding them or missing them because of my phone.
What are some things I might have missed? How do you make time to tackle your never-ending to do list or to fit all the important things in a 24 hour day? I am always looking for ways to be better at this so please feel free to leave me your tips in the comments!