Time Management Strategies for Working Parents


  Time Management Strategies for Working Parents

Well, of course. Who else uses time management strategies?

I was a single mother for many years and I know how tough it's been to carve out time for yourself. There are just so many things that need to get done, e-mails, phone calls and of course the kids. It's a constant game of catch up.

It's so easy to feel like you are the only one who is struggling with this - but you're not! We all have so much to do, and feeling like we need to put our own needs last is something that can happen to any of us. I especially identified with this article because for a while I worked in corporate America and time management was my number one priority. I did everything by the book! Yessir!! Absolutely!

So when I first became a stay at home mom I thought, well duh, it will be just like it was before – just with kids. Wrong. Dead wrong.

It's much more difficult than that. You don't realize the impact that being a stay at home parent has on your ability to manage your time until you are one! So here is my take on time management for working parents – hope it helps.

Pick and choose your battles – This was a difficult one for me at first because I felt like if I wasn't in control of absolutely everything, something was going to fall through the cracks, or my kids were going to wreck something and there would be hell to pay. News flash – if you're a working parent, that already happened yesterday! But in most cases, it all has to be done again today anyway. So don't worry about what you can't control and focus on what you CAN control. Do the best you can with the time that you have and try not to sweat the small stuff.

Be realistic with your expectations – I think we all believe that being a stay at home mom is going to be fun, relaxing, easy (heck yes!!!)….it's not. I've been a SAHM for 7 years and I'm still not sure what exactly it is that I do all day! But it's not because I don't work. It's because my job is not finding things for my kids to do all day long or going to the park at 3pm every day (even though I love doing that). My job is to enable my children with the skills they need to be successful. And you know what – this takes time, and many days it feels like there isn't enough time in the day to get it all done.

I don't want to imply that I'm busy every second of every day. There are many times when the kids go outside, play and I'm able to relax and read a book. But there are also many days when they aren't and I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off. So to me, doing something as simple as sending my son up to his room to get his shoes on takes 3 hours. It's not that I sit on my hands, it's just that I can't seem to get through the day without constant interruptions and distractions. It takes me a good hour to get my kid dressed, dressed himself, fed, out the door on time and still have enough time to eat myself.

The point is – you need to be realistic about what you are going to be able to accomplish. That's why my kids are in school from 8:30 – 3:00 every day – because they need structure or else they take over the whole house! They even try at night! But guess what? I'm working smart – not hard (for the most part).

Rewrite your to-do list – If you've ever set out to make a grocery list, you know that it's pretty hard to remember everything on the way home from the store and you usually end up with at least one thing that just doesn't make it in, or is forgotten completely. The same goes for a daily to-do list. I'll bet there are things on your list that have been there for weeks, months even. You go out of your way sometimes just to avoid doing those things, and then feel bad about it.

So what's wrong? Well first of all, we don't ever really sit down and think about what we have to get done in a day. We always have a long to-do list. But secondly, I'd be willing to bet that you are letting small, trivial tasks keep you from getting the big stuff done. Did you set up that conference call for tomorrow? That's not a huge deal right? You can just put it off another day – but there are lot of things you can do with it instead. So, find something small and do it now. That way tomorrow when the big thing comes up - you'll be ready and refreshed.

Identify your important tasks – There are so many things that don't have to be done every single day. That's why we have to identify the things that truly matter. Is it easy to find time for a 10 minute shower? Probably not. So how do you get those things done that need to be done? You prioritize them. I used a system when I first started out called SMART goals – which stood for: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. (You can read more about my motivation for using these goals in my post on what motivates me . )

After identifying what needs to get done daily and weekly – you can look at each task differently. I don't mean that you need to give up on completing it and move it to "next week." Just look at what you need to accomplish and prioritize them! Make a list, if necessary, and start with the things that are most important. If that's still too hard then break the list down into smaller tasks. But never let them get too small because they will get lost in the shuffle of life – your children will forget what they are supposed to bring home in their backpacks for school, or they'll let you know about a new monster under their bed…or your kids just won't want to do something if it seems like one more thing on your day.

Conclusion – Don't sweat the small stuff but be realistic with your expectations. Re-write your to do list when you get home and start prioritizing tasks. Identify your essential tasks (think SMART goals). And finally, don't sweat the small stuff but be realistic with your expectations.


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