Whether you are a stay-at-home mom, a work-at-home mom or a mom with a full-time job outside of the house, you need time management skills. Like other organizational skills, there are those that seem to naturally excel at time management and those that seem to not know which end of a clock is up. Luckily, those that have trouble with time management can practice and build effective skills.
Here's how to start effectively managing your time:
1. Take baby steps to time management. Flylady encourages her followers to take baby steps to a clean house by accomplishing one, small task at a time. Learning how to effectively manage your time works the same way. Simply reserve a small amount of time for important tasks. During that time, don't do anything else but that task. For instance, last week, I had a to-do list that felt like it was a mile long on Monday morning. I knew the only way to get through it was to designate a specific time for each task. On Monday, from 10:00-12:00 A.M., I worked on the children's newsletter for my church. On Wednesday, from 10:00-12:00 A.M., I worked on my writing obligations and so on. I scheduled everything and, bit by bit, I finished it.
2. Make a to-do list. When you've got a lot to get done in a short amount of time, a to-do list is a necessity. If you're like me, you find that you forget important things easily, especially when life is extremely busy. There's so much going on in my mind sometimes that things tend to fly right out of there without my noticing! The only way I can keep it all corralled is to make a list.
3. Prioritize the to-do list. It may seem like common sense to prioritize a to-do list, but I've seen lots of people that are unable or unwilling to do so. They spend lots of time on insignificant details while the most crucial things go undone or get finished haphazardly at the last minute. I think people that are chronically late have difficulties prioritizing. Instead of putting being prompt at the top of the list, they get lost in insignificant details, like picking out clothing or cleaning the house, before they leave for an engagement.
4. Cross completed tasks off the list. It's very satisfying to cross completed tasks off a list. When your list is long, crossing things off lets you see the progress you've made.
5. Minimize distractions. Once you've blocked out the time to work on decluttering, writing or balancing your checkbook, try to minimize the distractions so your time isn't wasted. This may mean turning the TV off, not allowing yourself to check Facebook or finding something to keep your kids busy while you work. Since I'm a stay-at-home mom, my biggest (and cutest) distraction is my two-year-old son. I've found that I can be productive if I get him involved in something else. Right now, he's playing with Play-doh. That typically keeps him busy for awhile. Whether that's ten minutes or two hours, is hard to say, but after he runs out of interest in that, I'll get some markers out. Lots of moms are able to work when their young children are napping. I can sometimes do that, but my kids have never been good nappers past the second birthday.
6. Don't over schedule. Have you ever decided to set a strict schedule for yourself only to fail miserably by the second day? I think this is why Flylady doesn't work for me long term. While I love her plan in theory, having so much of my time mapped out in advance starts to feel like drudgery quickly. I do best when I schedule a few, highly focused blocks of time, but allow myself plenty of free time. As a matter of fact, I find that I utilize my free time better when I leave it flexible, as long as I have my scheduled time to serve as an anchor. I'll sometimes start the next task on my t0-do list, do extra cleaning or read a mountain of books to my kids. And, if I waste it by surfing the Internet, that's OK, too.
Time management, like housecleaning, is a skill that anyone can learn. We can all find fifteen minutes or an hour to focus on important tasks each week. Before long, it becomes a habit, life becomes more organized and we aren't stressed out about finishing projects.