Despite centuries of proclaimed technological advancement, we are yet to solve the most widely agreed-upon problem of all time: time management. There are simply not enough hours in a day. This experience is true for nearly all of us, but it’s especially true of parents. So, how can parents possibly get by with so little time? Science can’t explain it yet, but below I’ve compiled five time management tips and best practices that I’ve found most effective for parents trying to find more time in their day.
What is most important to you? Your answer can be as wide-ranging or specific as you’d like. But, what will you prioritize? Before hoping to scale the mountains of work you have each day, you need to identify the peak you’re aiming for. Determine what you value most so that you can measure competing obligations against it. For instance, if family time is most important to you, it’s important you deliberately find more time for family. With the knowledge that family time is your priority, you’ll be more likely to allocate time towards your family when making day-to-day decisions.
Have you ever heard the expression, “when you say ‘yes’ to something, you’re saying ‘no’ to something else?” It’s one of my favorites and gets at the subversive reality of the economics of our time. Once you’ve identified what’s important to you, and what ought to take priority in your life, you’re sort of saying “yes” to it. Consequently, you’ll be inclined to find more time for what means most and spend less time on the things you don’t care quite as much about. Successful time management is contingent on honest scrutiny of where you want to and where you do spend your time.
2. Choose Down Time
This day in age, many kids are enrolled in a slew of extracurriculars. For families of any size, a few children in Girl Scouts, soccer, and wrestling, or any variety of enriching hobbies can get hectic quickly. These days, there’s immense pressure to enroll students in sports, clubs, volunteer programs, in order to allow them to become the multi-talented balanced rockstars they likely are. However, somewhere along the way, we lost sight of the value in “downtime.” It’s fine, if not healthy, to choose to not fill every white-space in your calendar. Often, we find more time only to bec our own time management saboteur and sign it away, so keep an eye out! It’s tempting to sign away the time we desperately wish we had.
3. Perfect is the Enemy of the Good
Perfect is also the enemy of good time management. Unfortunately, we tend to be our own worst critics. It’s easy to be overly critical of the work you do, as you’re an expert at what you do, and you’ve got a behind the scenes insight as to how you do it. Due to your expertise, you recognize where you could improve on your work, whether it’s cooking dinner or helping with a school program. Moreover, because of your unique vantage point, you were also privy to all of the mistakes you’ve made along the way.
All in all, you were set up to be your own worst critic. However, not only should we be gentler with ourselves for the sake of kindness, but it’s also more efficient. Sometimes, we spend too much time trying to attain “perfection” before declaring victory. Perfection is, of course, an unattainable standard, and thus a time-consuming one. Try to make it a point to accept the extremely-human imperfections in what you do, to avoid chasing perfection.
As much as it may hurt to hear, you’re likely wasting more time than anybody else at home. So often, we aim to do everything ourselves. For different reasons, we feel a need to keep our burdens to ourselves and avoid “burdening” those around us. In all reality, we create massive traffic jams in our workflow when we try and do it all alone. Teamwork makes the dream work, and successful time management takes a village.
Beginning with the more routine and mundane day-to-day to-do’s, chores are for everybody. Children have plenty to gain being assigned chores, and other responsibilities regarding household maintenance. Many classic chores (e.g. “clean dishes,” “take out the garbage” etc.) pertain to household work caused by everybody’s living to everybody’s benefit. Symmetrically, everybody should do chores. Ultimately, delegating work is a way of treating yourself fairly, and finding oodles of time. No less, by tasking your children with chores, they’re given the opportunity to learn their own time management skills.
Pro-Tip: Design a reward system system at home to incentives chores!
5. Create a Routine Schedule
Throughout my first semester of college, I found myself stuck doing laundry or grabbing dinner from the dining hall at the worst times. While sweating bullets over my assignments or an exam the next day, I promised myself I’d find more time in the future and start practicing better time management. In these cases, it was as simple as creating a routine schedule for when I’d grab my meals, do laundry, or run errands. Calendars, print and digital alike, became my best friend on the road to better time management and the noble fight to find more time.
Too often, we don’t appreciate routines enough until they’re gone. In some sense, that’s where the beauty of routines comes from. They secretly work for us, and we don’t quite realize the peace they bring us until they’re broken. So, if there’s some part of the day you seem to be lacking routine, like breakfast, make one. Like anything else, with practice and commitment, suddenly breakfast will become predictable and less time intensive. Try to make certain daily or weekly activities routine in their execution. Although it may take a little start-up time and focus to develop a plan, your routine will be the gift that keeps on giving.
Frankly, even with every time management tip, trick, and gimmick, 24 hours won’t ever be enough time, for anybody, never mind parents. Hopefully, you can implement these means to find time into your daily life. For optimal results, fashion yourself a Google calendar, or a paper calendar as a jumping-off point. Not only will this make yourtime constraints abundantly clear, but it’ll help you to find more time hidden in your schedule. Cooler yet, you could try to observe any changes in the landscape of your week after trying new time-saving strategies. As long as you successfully find more time, whether it’s 15 minutes or 2 hours, you’re on your way! So which of these time management strategies will be the first you try?