Life is busy.
Believe me, I understand.
As a mom of four, who homeschools, runs 3 at-home businesses, and enjoys spending time with my husband, I have developed a few habits that help me get through it all.
I admit, I don’t have it down perfectly.
There are definitely times, like this week, when the deadlines creep up, and I stress out realizing that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. But in general, I juggle all my flaming torches without getting burned.
How does she do it?
Isn’t that the question we all ask! There are so many women who inspire me and make me wonder the same thing. I thought I’d open the door on my life a little and share how I “do it all”. (I put that in quotes, because….come on, none of us does it all!)
My Top 5 Time Management Strategies
1. Start the Day with a Plan
Every night when I go to bed, I take a few seconds to think about the next day. What is tomorrow’s top priority. I can’t plan it ahead of time, usually, because I never know exactly what I’ll get done today.
For example, my top priority Monday might have been to write a blog post, but life happens! I may not have finished that task. So Monday night, I’ll go to bed thinking how I’m going to find the time on Tuesday.
Tuesday, I may get a text from a photography client asking how her photos are coming along, and I’ll realize I haven’t sent over any previews! So I’ll get on that…
By the end of the day, I may still have the ideas for that blog post bouncing around my head waiting to get out, so I make a plan for Wednesday.
This may sound like succumbing to the “tyranny of the urgent”, but it’s really more about living with flexibility.
If I had no plan, I would never get anything done. If I stick to religiously to my plans, I would end up stressed and feeling like a failure. I might give up altogether!
2. Single-task Smartly
Multi-tasking sounds like a great idea. Who doesn’t want to get more than one thing done at a time?!
But in reality, multitasking looks something like this: send a business text, start the dishes. Dry hands, reply to text. Look over child’s assignment. Rinse dishes. Dry hands again, reply to text. Forget child.
This is not a great idea.
Even something as simple as folding laundry while folding television can be less effective. I fold faster when I’m not watching TV, and folding laundry while watching my favorite show keeps me from using that time to relax.
Practice singe-tasking. Commit your full attention to your task and get it done as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
BUT Single-task smartly!
I may give my full attention to a task, but I often fit those tasks in during times that might otherwise be wasted. If I know my kids are going to be in a class, for example, I’ll plan to do something during that time that I can take along and do in the car. For me, that’s usually writing or studying through the e-course I’m taking. It would also be a great time for planning the week’s meals, or balancing the budget.
I’ve noticed that humans are very good at determining their priorities on a grand scale. We can tell you immediately that our Faith and our Family are the TOP PRIORITIES of our lives.
But on a smaller scale, we lose track.
We see the mountains of laundry, the appointments on the calendar, the projects on the to-do list, and we get lost.
The key to being able to single-task is to focus on the thing that is calling out for your attention the most.
Sometimes, I have a hard time teaching school when the house is a mess, so we clean house before we begin.
I can’t write when the kids are being crazy, so I need to invest in them first.
Some days, I will focus completely on laundry.
Some days, I’ll take the kids out for a play date or shopping.
Some days, I’ll tackle a new project.
BUT, while I’m working on that one thing, I don’t let the other things bother me. “I’ll get to you; it’s just not your turn yet,” I mentally tell them.
How do I know what my top priority is each day? It’s the thing that is “loudest” in my head.
Worrying is a distraction. Shut off worry by tackling that thing that is yelling in your mind. It may not seem to make the most sense, but your subconscious is telling you that it is your top priority, whether you think it should be or not.
4. Regroup and Recharge
At some point in the day, usually after accomplishing my top-priority task, I will take a breather and re-evaluate the day.
The regrouping time is essential.
I may not know what needs to be done next, so I stop and look around. I listen–to my home and to my heart. What is calling out for attention now?
After a few moments of resting, I am ready to return to productivity.
My husband doesn’t work this way. He always says that if he stops, he can’t continue going. For me, the pause is essential.
I clear my head and formulate the plan for the rest of the day. I reward myself for the work I’ve done by resting just a few minutes.
This is the peace that’s necessary for my productivity.
Even greater than the peaceful pause, is the need for rest.
Our bodies and our minds grow weary of constant push. To be more productive, you must be functioning at your full capacity.
Rest for me, means taking days to NOT be productive. There are days when we really don’t do much at all around here. Or we’ll do something completely unexpected and just-for-fun. I remember one afternoon last December when the girls and I were watching Worst Cooks in America. Anne Burrell was teaching her team how to make cheese fries from scratch. We paused the tv, ran to the kitchen, and made our own! Yes, we peeled, cut up and twice-fried our own potatoes. We made our bechamel and added cheese to make our cheese sauce. On the surface, that sounds like a ton of work, but because it was done just for fun, no pressure, it was completely restful and oh-so-memorable!
Rest also means cherishing the end of day tv time with my husband and protecting it from intrusions of text, email, social media. We have an unspoken rule that productivity ends at 9:00pm. Sometimes it lingers later, but more often than not, you’ll find us cuddled on the couch with our coffee by 9:15.
Rest is keeping the Sabbath–in whatever way that you do. We try very hard to keep Sunday’s peaceful and relaxed. I never plan work on Sundays. Occasionally I have to break my own rules, but the normal rhythm of our life is to breath in and just live on Sunday.
I’m not always able to keep these “rules” for balance in my life. And my methods aren’t some 5 step agenda for following through. Think of it as Time-Management for the Unorganized and Ever-busy.
I start with a plan, work with focus on the thing that’s most important to me, and give myself time to regroup and recharge. This cycle of productivity and peace lets me continue throughout the day with less stress.
So that’s my secret! A peek into the madness behind my methods. 🙂
Believe it or not, someone has seen you and thinks you manage so much more than she could ever handle, too. We’ve all got our ways of managing. I’m curious to know, what’s your secret? How do you “do it all”?