Every parent has been given the advice “enjoy it, it goes by so fast”. While this may be true, it does not help at all. Those with kids will attest to just how little time you have in a day to get everything done and still have time to spend with your family. After becoming a mom, I got to the point where something needed to change, and something did, my time. I overhauled how I spent my time and the first step I took was seeing how I spent my time. Here I show you exactly how you can do the same thing and then how to take that wasted time in each day and turn it around to revolutionize your free time. In addition to gaining more time, I was less stressed and was able to start making a side income from a job that I enjoy.
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Along with this post, we have created a set of printables (time tracker, master calendar template and a to-do list) to help you through the process of time management that you can download by subscribing.
In order to see where you are truly spending time, you must track it. If you think back over the last day, it is very hard to see how much time each activity took and where you could improve efficiency. So much time every day goes to “daily” items so it makes sense to determine what those are and make them efficient. Another big one here is removing the wasted time and because that is different for everyone, you need to assess it yourself.
Start by picking a day of the week that most represents a day that you would want to improve.
What to consider:
Now, you want to track how you spend that day by taking notes. Use pen and paper to take notes or you can use the worksheet provided by subscribing.
What you want to focus on are:
I find that color coding works really well here. Grab a few highlighters and for each bullet point listed above (daily activities, waiting time, distraction time, and planning time), assign a color. Now go through your day and see where you are spending most of your time. You should be able to notice a few things such as what type of activities most of your time is being spent on and where you could be better utilizing your time. Some activities might surprise you and you never realized just how much time you spent on that item.
Pick a specific set of activities such as chores involved in managing the household such as cleaning and meal prep. To decrease time spent meal prepping, I would aim to make dinners easier. My favorite way to accomplish this is adding in freezer meals. Freezer meals are meals that require no cooking ahead of time, so you just chop all of your week’s meals at once and put them in freezer bags ready to be thrown into a crockpot. I actually wrote a post breaking down the time savings you get from doing once a week freezer meal preps. We are a big fan of New Leaf's freezer meal cookbook which has pre-made grocery lists and no pre-cooking required..
Another way to decrease chore time is to ensure any chore is done most efficiently, which is where I recommend the construction of master calendars. The idea behind a master calendar is that chores should be done at a set frequency (daily, weekly and monthly), so you build a calendar for these chores optimized on when, how often and what chores go best with each other. For example, if I am already doing laundry on Mondays, once a month on a Monday, I should also wash towels and bedding. If I am doing laundry on Mondays, I should pair it with chores that also require me to travel to every bedroom. This way I am not wasting time traveling the house more often than necessary. Putting it into a calendar means I don’t have to remember all of it either.
I wrote a post about how to construct a master calendar for cleaning along with a printable to help you do it.
Remember to limit multitasking as multitasking almost always results in less productivity. Removing wasted time and multitasking are two different things. In the example of also tackling a bedroom chore, such as making the beds or vacuuming the bedrooms and collecting laundry. I would recommend doing one completely then doing the other. By using a master calendar, you have preemptively planned and can stay upstairs or in the same area to finish all bedroom chores removing the wasted time of traveling more than needed through the house. I promise once you start doing this throughout your whole day, the small amounts of time will really add up.
This is an area where we can really save a lot of time and decrease a lot of stress. Planning includes time spent making to-do lists and/or trying to decide what item to tackle next. The worst part about planning is you can sink so much time into it and still not improve your efficiency or time.
Most of a to-do list is recurring items. It should take no time to add those to a to-do list. You achieve this by developing and utilizing master calendars in areas such as cleaning and meal prep. Other calendars that I make or utilize to make my to-do list are my kids’ and husband’s calendars. If you are trying to make to-do lists from to-do lists such as a cleaning to-do list, you are wasting time. The idea behind taking a cleaning to-do list and putting into a cleaning master calendar is that each day already has the exact chores that need to be accomplished.
After consulting my master calendars and other calendars, I add in items like “I ran out of milk, stop and pick up some”. By adding this after knowing the bulk of the items that need to be accomplished, I know how I can easily get these items to fit into the schedule. For example, if I know I am already going to be out, I add getting milk to that to-do list item.
In your daily to-do list, it is helpful to prioritize. Some items on your list might not be urgent yet, such as you need to reply to an email within the next three days. By using the priority system, each day you can move up items accordingly and just consult the to-do list from yesterday.
I find that if I do my to-do list at the end of the day, the next day goes better because before even going to bed I know exactly what I am going to accomplish and how. Once a week, I also spend a little extra time on to-do lists and hold a “family meeting.” With young children, this might just be you and your partner. This family meeting gives us all a chance to get on the same page, see what everyone’s schedules are like next week and if we need to coordinate. This way I know in advance or get a reminder if my husband has a major commitment that week. Knowing everyone’s schedules really reduces scheduling conflicts where I either must change my schedule or find someone to watch the kids. Just another way to lower stress.
Whenever you catch yourself waiting, especially if it’s on a typical basis, build in a way to make that time productive. Why waste 5 minutes waiting for your coffee to brew when you could unstack the dishes and not have to waste time on it later. Maybe it takes your kid 10 minutes to put their shoes on. Instead of waiting, pick a chore that you can accomplish that allows you to check in on them. For example, if your laundry machine is right there, start a load. You will be less frustrated, less impatient, and less stressed because you accomplished something.
Even after building in productivity, always find ways to be productive if you find yourself waiting on the phone to schedule an appointment, pick up a room, take out the trash, or consult your to-do list to pick an action item. It’s amazing how much faster you can accomplish things if you utilize all of that time spent waiting. By doing this you are starting to optimize your daily routines. For more, read my article on creating daily routines to accomplish more in less time.
In today’s world with constant screens, it is so easy to slip into wasting lots of time on screens. You might have found that a lot of your time during the day is going to screens by tracking your time. Something that has really helped me is to schedule time for screen time. That way I will actually enjoy it without constantly thinking in the back of my mind about all of the other things that still need to get done. If you have a favorite TV show or you like to browse your phone, schedule these into your day. I like to schedule in phone time as down time after I completed a lot of tasks, or after breakfast or lunch as a way to decompress before jumping into the next item.
In my experience, I have found two items to really improve my efficiency throughout the day and thus the amount of time I saved. The first is using the correct tools. In addition to the tools I mention above like master calendars and freezer meals, using google calendars for appointments and other items I need reminders on really helps keep my stress down and my days organized. I also use Google Calendars, so I can share it with my husband.
The second item I found to really help is prioritizing organization. To really improve the organization level of your house, you need to go through and really determine what your needs are, the trouble areas and then use only solutions that fit your lifestyle. I have a whole post on how to accomplish an organization inventory and guide to implementing solutions.
With busy lives, it is so easy to forget this, but it is a must. It will help prevent burn-out, result in more productivity and make you a happier person. It is so much easier to take measures to protect your health than to have to try to get it back once it declines or you get very sick. You and your family deserve a healthy, happy you.
While developing your daily routines and determining what the household needs each day, build in you items that you need to prioritize. For example, maybe you really want to shower every other morning and not take a 5-minute rushed shower. Build that into your morning routine so that every other day you pack lunches for two days, so on the opposing days you can use that extra time for a shower. Another way to build in you time, especially if you truly want uninterrupted time, is to wake up before your kids. There are a lot of options, the option you choose must fit you and your schedule to be successful.
Knowing why this time management strategy will be beneficial is huge for having success. I want to make sure you are motivated. I am so excited for how much time you will save by applying these steps and want you to be excited too.
As you work through prioritizing time management, remember to come back and see my more detailed posts in each section as extra help through the process. You’ve got this!