What is Time Management? 7 Tips for Working Parents
Effective Time Management!
What is Time Management? 7 Tips for Working Parents
A demanding schedule can seem like an elephant on your shoulders everyday. And if you’re unorganized and tend to take on more than you can handle, that elephant probably seems like several on top of each other. Time management is the art of being able to organize tasks and information in a useful way based on priority and accomplishing those goals. Having a family, a job or business, pets, and other extra curricular activities can cause great amounts of stress which can then lead to taking out stress on family members in the form of aggression and anger. Never fear, because there are some ways to manage your time and your family’s time without giving into the anxiety and stress juggling multiple priorities can cause.
I have been a parent for short period of time at the writing of this article, however I have extensive experience managing my time effectively so I can enjoy life. I seldom have to worry about priorities or deadlines because of the few simple tips outlined here. It’s a feeling of freedom to experience peace and enjoyment from doing the things I want to do and still accomplish my tasks. For instance, from the time I wake up I am prioritizing. My son wakes up, I change his diaper, place him in his little plastic car (he can’t walk yet) so he stays out of everything, take my shower, get dressed, feed him breakfast, feed myself and make breakfast for my wife, help her organize her things for work since she leaves before me, organize my things, make my lunch for the day and head out the door. This all occurs within an hour from the time I wake up. Keep in mind I do these things without running around the house in a sprint to complete these tasks. They are systematically completed and done with detail.
Organize Your Thoughts and Priorities
As a parent there are always situations, events, emergencies, and obstacles that can have a major impact on our day. It’s hard enough working a full time job and keeping up with those demands without having to constantly assess what tasks must be completed at home. What I typically do is write a list of goals. My wife does this as well and it works great! By keeping a list of priorities, I know how to organize my thoughts around each task and I can then determine how long each task will take. For instance, I can go get groceries, feed my son dinner, make dinner for my wife and I, go to my niece’s soccer game, put my son to bed, write an article for Hubpages, go for a run, and give my wife a backrub all in the same night. Beforehand I will write a grocery list on my lunch break at work, run to the grocery store after work, pick up my son from our daycare, take him home and play with him for an hour and then feed him dinner, wait for my wife to come home and then I’ll go for a run or we will go on a family walk, come back and make some dinner for both of us, clean up, play with my son for a little while and then put him to bed, and then start writing my article which most times will have to be continued the next day. I will then sit on the couch with my wife and talk about our day, discuss plans for the next and rub her back, which she loves. A list of items to complete, no matter how small they seem or irrelevant, will be a life saver. Preparing a list and physically writing items down will also cut down on extra tasks popping up in your head and distracting you from your current task.
Start the Night Before
Creating your list is essential for effective time management. It is also very important to create this list the day or night before the next day because if you wait until the next day, you’re already behind! Before you go to bed, draft a quick list of major tasks you know have to be accomplished the next day. It doesn’t have to be a detailed final draft because you’ll add more items as you progress through the day. It will become your working list. I recommend keeping a notebook and pen next to your bed and writing this down right before you turn in for the night. I say this because planning to write a list for the next day is impractical and useless because more than likely it won’t get done. The last thing I think about for the day is what I have to do tomorrow and even when I do write the list before bed I only jot down a few major items and when I wake up the next morning I feel ahead of the game and actually feel energized because I’m already somewhat prepared.
Take Small Bites out of Large Projects
I don’t know about you but it seems like the older I get and the more I move up the corporate ladder, the more large projects are thrown in my lap with short deadlines. I have always been able to produce well under stress but sometimes it can be overwhelming with the amount of work. In college I made the decision to stop waiting until the last minute to start large projects and assignments and start working on smaller pieces at a time. My wife is the complete opposite in that she starts a project and finishes it the same day which is why she typically waits until the last minute to work on large projects. She does a great job and always completes the assignment, however it creates a lot of undue stress for her and our family. Since college I have learned to dissect a project or assignment and work back from the deadline and figure out what is the minimum amount of work I can accomplish each day. I am less stressed using this technique and my projects are generally completed ahead of schedule which then allows me to go back and make adjustments, corrections, add something, and take out other things. I even use this when writing on Hubpages. I rarely ever sit and just write a whole article from start to finish at one time. I sometimes space out an article over several days and then publish it. I just finished one recently that I started on Monday and published on Wednesday because I didn’t have the time to write it all out in one day. Taking small bits of a large project and finishing small goals may seem tedious but it takes a major burden off my shoulders. Next time your boss gives you a large assignment, try this technique. Your family will notice a difference and you'll probably have more time to spend with your children!
Prioritizing Your List
We all have priorities that take up much of our time, like our children! I never realized how much energy it takes to raise a child until our little bundle of joy came along. I used to stay up until midnight and wake up early for work but since we had our son, I’m exhausted by 9pm every night! So I must prioritize how I spend my time because it becomes a precious commodity. The most logical thing to do is place the most important tasks or projects at the top of the list, ones that you plan on starting right away in the morning. That way when the task is complete, you can mark it off which will give you a since of accomplishment. If you’ve made a list and later in the day you remember another monumental task to complete, just add it to the list and mark it somehow. I like to use stars or asterisks so I know it’s important and that I added it after I made the list.
Easy Tasks First
After you’ve created your list and addressed which items are most important it’s time to mix things up. I often will look at my list and decide what little, simple tasks I can complete first so I can start my day with confidence from accomplishing goals. For instance, my list may contain very important projects at the top which I will work on in pieces over time and then towards the bottom of my list I will write simple tasks such as going to the store to buy dog food, baby food, or start a load of laundry. All of these tasks can be completed fairly quickly before or on my way to work. The psychological effects of doing this is profound. I feel confident and tend to complete more goals throughout the day.
Consistency is Key
I can’t stress how important consistency is with time management. Don’t expect to accomplish all of your tasks following this method one or two times per week. Writing the list and crossing off goals is a daily habit that must be maintained to keep control of the chaos. I’ve tried only making lists one or two days and for slower seasons of my life this has worked out, but for the most part the days I don’t write a list I feel guilty and accomplish less. Also, only doing this on some days will completely throw off your goals and projects, especially the major ones. So, consistency is the key to success and you will feel more in control as you move forward.
Spending Time with Your Children
This is one of most beneficial and valuable ways to spend my time. I shouldn’t be running all over creation for everyone else and then neglect my children. I should be at home raising them to be come independent productive members of the community. The best way I can do this is by completing as many tasks on my list as possible each day and scheduling time to be with my son and wife. It’s important and unfortunately my life sometimes becomes so chaotic that I have to physically write on a list “spend time with family”. I hate doing that but if I don’t, it becomes a task I don’t focus on and when I finally do it’s at the end of the day when we’re all winding down for the night. Don’t be afraid to schedule time with your family and children, because it’s time well spent.
Creating a well balanced life means taking control of life’s obstacles and challenges, organizing them in a meaningful way, overcoming them and spitting them back out to the universe. Do this consistently and enjoyment will be your friend and stress will be kicked in the teeth. We have better things to do with our time like raising our children and becoming bogged down with the tedious necessary tasks of life is no way to waste more time than needed. Be organized, take control and enjoy your family and friends!