There really is no such thing as time management. There’s only self-management. You don’t use your time better and end up with more. Usually it seems less time because of how we spent it, though there are things we can do to maximize what we get out of the time we have.
Time management is all about the decisions we make regarding our time, decisions for ourselves and not the time. Time is external from us. It is not something we can control, manipulate, or change.
When we’re talking about time management, what we’re actually needing to manage is ourselves. To maximize our time we must practice self-control and self-management. We must make better choices and decisions.
Nothing we do will actually make more time, but there’s a lot we can do to use the time we have well, stewarding it and making the most of it. And that’s a skill worth building.
Get this handy template for figuring out your own time budget.
Moms need to do time management differently. So I have three tips will help you make the most of your time at home with the kids.
Let’s dive into each of these more deeply and learn how to make them habits and also why they will make a huge difference in our day-to-day experience and productivity.
Most time management advice out there is given by those in business: executives, specialists, experts. As moms, however, much of their advice does not fit our lives. Unlike an executive in an office with a door to close and a secretary to delegate to, a lot of our time is not actually our own to dispose in the way we want.
If we try to use time management strategies, tips, or techniques that assume that we have control over our time, that we have control over all the things we need to do, then we’re going to wind up frustrated. It’s not really because we’re doing anything wrong; it’s because we’re coming at our life from the wrong perspective, with the wrong expectations.
As a mom, and this is true of any caregiver position, our duties, responsibilities, and how we use our time is dictated by the needs of those around us, which are in the moment and not plannable.
We can’t pencil in “mothering” from 1 to 2 pm and have “office hours.” That’s just not feasible.
It’s not even desirable, really. That’s not the way we want to be.
But that doesn’t mean that we throw the entire concept of time management out the window and act completely spontaneous and haphazard, flying by the seat of our pants all of the time. That’s also not a great strategy.
There is a lot of discretionary time within a life at home. It’s just that we can’t schedule or pencil it in. We can’t always count on it, but it’s there, if we use it well.
There’s also a lot of time that we can potentially use poorly. Time is a resource and a gift that we need to invest and use well.
So let’s figure out how to do just that with these three time management practices.
Make a to-do list daily with only three items.
The first thing we can do to manage our life at home better is to make a list each day with our top three essential to-do items.
When we identify what our top 3 priorities for the day are, that brings it to our attention and awareness and we’re much more likely to then accomplish those things. It’s also a great thought exercise to identify what the top priorities are, because often when we make a to do list, the list is really the extras – the things we would like to do if everything were going 100% our way.
But the reality is, life is not going to go our way, so if we expect it to go our way, or we wait for it to go our way, we’re never going to get anywhere.
Instead, our top 3 things on our daily cards should identify the actual priorities in our situation right now. Sometimes that might be a meaningful step forward on a project, sometimes that’s going to be to catch up on the laundry.
Sometimes it’s going to be feeding people, or sitting with a child because they have needs. They need their mom and that’s who we are, so that’s who we need to be and what we need to do in this situation.
What goes on our daily to do list does not need to be a measurable, completable project. It does need to help us keep our head in the game, to stay engaged with where we are actually needed in our homes and families.
Another great thing to add to your daily to do list is a motto, quote, or verse that helps you remember the truth that you need to keep in front of your eyes, and in front of your mind so that you approach life, kids, meals, and duties with the right attitude.
Sometimes our daily to do list doesn’t need tasks so much as things to remember about what’s on our plate today. And that is perfectly legitimate.
Keeping truth in front of our face is another way to manage ourselves and our minds around the time that we have and how we should be spending it.
Making that card fresh every day allows us to have the flexibility that we really need as moms. Sometimes we don’t know a week in advance what need we are serving or where our actual priorities are in a day.
There are a lot of benefits to keeping that open, assessing our current situation, and making a daily list of our top 3 tasks, but one of them is certainly flexibility.
Every evening, take five minutes to think about your day.
The other thing you can do to help manage yourself and how you think about and use your time well is what we call in Simply Convivial Continuing Education the Evening Examen.
It’s a weird word and it means the same thing as examine, except it’s actually a medieval monastic practice. During an evening examen, we think back intentionally and deliberately over the previous day, write a little bit about it, and pray about it. Then you’re able to move forward with an informed, deliberate, and intentional sense of your mission, your needs, and what’s really important.
Instead of just crashing at the end of the day, which is often very tempting, we can take just 5 minutes and think about the day.
Often when we do and we start writing out what happened in the day, we realize that we have a lot of negative spin happening in the interpretation of our lives. That’s really just a complaining, grumbling spirit that so easily sets in when we spend our time and our thoughts identifying what did not go our way, or what happened that we did not like, or what did not happen that we wanted to happen.
When we focus on those things, we are telling ourselves a story about our lives that is not true. It’s complaining. Even if the words do not come out of our mouths, it is still a complaining spirit.
So, to take a few moments at the end of the day and write out what did happen, to think about how that affects your day tomorrow, to repent instead of complain, to express gratitude for all the things that did happen, even though they weren’t on your plan. This is five minutes well spent.
It’s a time that fosters growth in our attitudes and in our ability to be flexible, and to process what’s happening and make better decisions moving forward.
When you do this quick, meditative review every evening, you will find that the third practice, the Weekly Review, becomes so much easier and streamlined.
Every weekend, take 30 minutes for a weekly review.
The weekly review is the key, the linchpin, to actually knowing what’s on your plate, and knowing that you’re spending your time where it matters most. The weekly review doesn’t have to take a long time–about half an hour is all that’s needed if you have what you need: a calendar and some kind of list that you keep in front of your face.
We call a set of lists for your upcoming week a weekly dashboard at Simply Convivial. But that really just means a weekly spread, a week-at-a-glance outline. It could be your planner or it could be a blank sheet that just has notes.
A weekly dashboard doesn’t have to be fancy. It just has to be something that holds information you need to see for the week. That, along with your calendar, will allow you to look at your previous week and assess how things went and see what changes you might need to make moving forward. Just baby step changes, not complete life overhauls.
So during your weekly review you look at the coming week and glance at the coming month and see what’s coming up. What do you need to do to be prepared for what’s actually on your calendar? Is everything even on your calendar? If not, just put it there!
This is the time to make sure your calendar is up to date, that you’re aware of the things that are on it, and that you’re going to be prepared to meet those obligations on time.
Make notes for yourself on your weekly dashboard or planner so that those responsibilities and needs are visible to you moving forward.
Your weekly review is the time when you get current on your calendar, but also in your mind so you can see what’s actually on your plate instead of letting all those thoughts and feelings of vague obligations swirl in your mind. You’ve thought about it, you’ve written some things down and you’re able to move forward with more clarity and intention.
These 3 practices don’t really take that much time: the Daily Top 3 card should take you less than 5 minutes, the Evening Examine is also 5 or 10 minutes every evening, and the Weekly Review should take about half an hour once a week on the weekend; quite honestly, sometimes it’s Monday morning, for me.
A week is 168 hrs, out of all of those hours, we’re talking about spending only 2 getting clear and intentional with our time and our responsibilities.
These practices don’t have to take long and the benefits that we reap from these very deliberate, intentional, concentrated planning times is immense.
We can keep these planning times free from wishful thinking. Instead, we use them to realistically assess the time we actually have and what needs to fit into that time so we can make better choices in the moment. That’s really at the heart of time management for moms.
Time management is not about making the right tweaks so that everything that we want fits into our day. If that’s what we’re going for, we’re always going to be hunting for the secret sauce, or the magic secret that will make our personal pet plans happen.
What we really need for time management is to see the needs in front of us that are our responsibility to meet. We need to see our duties and see that our time is taken up with them, and that’s ok. Those are our priorities and our choices.
Then we can keep our head in the game, do our work with a cheerful good will, and grow through it.
We’re giving up the wishful thinking, giving up the total life overhauls, and giving up trying to make life go our way; instead, we’re looking at what we are actually responsible for doing and making those our priorities and cheerfully choosing them. That’s the kind of time management that we need as moms at home.
These 3 key practices – the daily card, evening examen, and weekly review – force us to be aware of our time and of the choices we ought to be making, are really all we need to grow in stewarding our time, our attention, and even our attitudes well.