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Last Updated on February 6, 2018

10 Time Management Tips Every Busy Parent Needs to Know

10 Time Management Tips Every Busy Parent Needs to Know

I have three small children (a six year old and wild twin boys that just turned four), I am an avid writer, volunteer in the community, and actively involved in our church. A personal question I often get is “how do you do it all?” or “how do you get everything done?”

My schedule is active, yet I am not stressed or over worked. I get a great deal done because of my time management skills. These skills were not acquired overnight. It took time, study, and an objective awareness of my usage of time that led to a more organized, practical, and easy way of managing our household and my time. I want to share my tips with fellow parents so you can best optimize your time and in turn get more quality time with your family in the long run.

1. Know Your Hierarchy of Importance

What is most important to you in life? What is your priority? You need to decide what is most important in this life. Determine what you value most in life in order to filter obligations through your personal lens of what is important to you and your family. When you are presented with opportunities to sign up for another school committee, another group activity, or another opportunity to volunteer, you need to be able to assess whether the activity aligns with your values and priorities. You also need to assess whether the activity will take you away from some other activity that aligns with your values, obligations, and priorities.

When you say “yes” to one activity you are saying “no” to something else, because you can’t do it all. If you say “yes” to that new book club, you may be saying “no” to family dinners on that night. If your priority is to have family dinners together consistently, then the book club may not align with your values. You need to first decide what things are your priority and of highest value in your life. Then when you are presented with opportunities that take time, and they all do, you can be better equipped to determine what things you want to say “yes” to and which you want to decline.

It becomes easier to say “no” to activities when you have clearly defined values. Your obligation in life is to uphold those values and doing so will make you a happier person and better parent in the long run. If you are constantly saying “yes” to every opportunity that crosses your path you will become overworked, over-scheduled, and spread too thin. The result is a parent wound too tight and easily upset because they have to much on their plate.

2. Don’t Do Too Much for Your Kids

Many kids are involved in far too many extra curricular activities. If you value family and you want your children to develop strong family bonds with one another, it becomes challenging to make that happen when you have everyone in the family going in a different direction each night of the week. Don’t have things scheduled every night of the week. If you do, you are going to miss out on family time at home, dinners together around the table, and the down time that everyone needs.

Allow for at least several days a week where no activity takes place. You come together as a family in the home and spend time with one another. Not in separate room, but together doing things such as working together to make a meal, planning your weekends, playing board games, sitting down to dinner as a family, or just having conversations about life. Don’t miss out on life as a family by being an over-scheduled household.

If you find this season in life to be spent in the car taking kids to and from activities every single day of your life, then you probably need to assess which activities are vital and which are not. Is Suzy going to be a prima ballerina one day? Probably not, so maybe you can take a break from dance lessons for a while. She doesn’t need to be doing dance, music, karate, and a sport all that the same time. It creates too much pressure for kids and for ourselves as parents. We need down time and so do they. It is great to expose kids to different activities, but it doesn’t have to be done all at the same season or time of life. Spread activities and involvements out, so that your child doesn’t get burned out from too many activities. Every activity in which they are involved becomes your commitment as well because you are the parent. For your own sanity, don’t go overboard on extra curricular activities.

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Yes, we all want our kids to be successful, but what about creating bonds and a connection within the immediate family that last a lifetime? The more time you spend just being together, outside of all those extra curricular activities, is time invested in being a family. Those bonds are so important if you want your children to have the desire to come home for the holidays as adults. Keeping them busy outside of the home is busyness that can impede on family bonding time.

I spend time with my children so that I can help teach them to be decent human beings. That is on my list of priorities far above them becoming great soccer players or accomplished piano players. Would I like the other things for them? Of course, but we only have so much time with our children in this lifetime. They become adults and move onto independent lives as adults. I want my children to be able to go out into the world and be good, decent, caring people who can make a positive impact on the world.

I work to prevent over-scheduling my kids so that we have time together as a family, so I can be the one who teaches them right from wrong, good from bad, and the life lessons that are most important to our value system. If you want to instill your values in your child, then you better spend time with them making it happen. It takes practice, repetition, and most importantly time invested in a child to make a positive impact on their character development.

3. Keep an Organized Home

    Your home does not need to be perfectly well kept. Nobody has time for that. However, if you have an organized household you will find that life runs so much more smoothly. If you spend more than 10 minutes a day looking for something on a regular basis, then you are not organized enough.

    You and your household need systems in place that help everyone keep track of their stuff, so it can be easily grabbed on the way out the door. Keep jackets and backpacks hung in the same place every day. Teach children that it is their responsibility to put these items where they belong from the moment they walk in the door. If they fail to comply with the rules then there should be consequences. An easy and effective consequence is losing time on their favorite form of technology. For my kids it means they lose time on their tablets for that evening.

    Wallets, purses, and keys should have a specific place within the home. If they are plopped on the couch one day, on the counter another, and on your bed the next day, it becomes far too easy to misplace these items. You end up spending countless minutes searching for these needed items every day. If they are placed in the exact same place every day, then you gain back that time you would have otherwise spent searching. You also become a less frustrated individual. When you spend time searching for something you need and you are on a time crunch, it can be extremely frustrating and upsetting to not find what you need. You end up running late which sets the mood for the entire day. Don’t be the frustrated parent.

    Implement a plan for where things will be placed within the home when each member of the family enters the home. Everyone enters the home and has stuff in hand, whether it’s a backpack, diaper bag, purse, coats, keys, lunch boxes, briefcases, or shoes. Think through all the things that are brought in and out of the home each day. Then pick a place for these items to be placed each day. You may need to create some organized space within the home to make this unloading each evening and reloading each morning go more smoothly. Our laundry room is our area. We utilize cubbies for each the kid’s shoes and then a coat rack for backpacks and jackets. Its not rocket science, but it will make your life much easier if everyone in the family gets with the organized home plan.

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    This also means the rest of your home is relatively organized. Every single thing within your dwelling should have its own home or place. For example, where are your flashlights, candles, or matches? Would you be able to easily find them in a power outage, or would you be searching through drawers? If you have a specific home for these items, for example, in a bin in your pantry that is labeled on the outside, it makes it very easy to find it when needed. When the items are used they are returned to their home after usage. For tips on implementing a bin method for organizing your home, please go to my article: The Bin Method.

    Keeping an organized home is a great skill to teach your children. It takes practice, but don’t give up because you will all have a more sane and easily run household when you can find what you need when you need it. You will also save money in the long run because you aren’t purchasing secondary items because the first one is lost somewhere in some drawer or cabinet in the home.

    For more tips and detailed instructions on how to live an organized life, check out 50 Ways to Make Your Home More Organized. Being more organized is the accumulation of habits and practices over time.

    4. Let Go of Perfect

    Too many parents put too much pressure on themselves and their children to live up to a certain standard. It’s good to have standards, but if perfect is your goal then you need to let it go. Trying to be perfect takes far too much time and energy. Sometimes getting the job done just good enough is all that is needed. Most of the time you are the only person that will notice the difference anyway.

    5. Delegate

      One of the biggest wastes of time in your household is you, as the parent, trying to do it all. You need to delegate. Children can be assigned chores from a very young age. If they can walk and talk, they are capable human beings. Making their beds, picking up their belongings, doing the dishes, taking out the garbage, sweeping the floors, dusting, are just some of the duties that very young children are capable of doing. If my four year old twins can do these things, then so can yours. Give them some credit. They are capable of navigating your smart phone, so don’t you think they are then capable of picking up a room of toys?

      Make it clear what duties are expected from each member of the household. Post a chore chart for your children. It makes life easier for you as a parent when they can go through their daily chores and duties without you having to take the time to tell them each and every task that needs to be done. It takes time in the beginning to get them started with chores and teaching them how to do things correctly, but with practice they will soon be able to do these daily tasks independently from you. An allowance or reward system helps this fall into place more easily. Kids get with the program when they know what is expected and the rewards/consequences for completing or failing to complete their chores.

      For every chore that another person in the household completes, which you used to do, is more time for you to do something else. Freeing up time is a gift to yourself. You are also investing in your childrebecome better, more self sufficient humans when they have a role and responsibilities in the home. Don’t take that away from them. Give them daily chores and allow yourself some flexibility to get other things complete in the meantime.

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      If you can afford hired help in one or two areas, such as some babysitting or house cleaning you are also delegating. Getting help is not a weakness, it is striking a balance to keep the household running smoothly and harmoniously. Look at how to best spend the money you have to delegate so that you are freeing up time and energy for yourself in the manner that best fits your needs.

      6. Routines are a Must

      Routines are the lifeblood of the household. If you have a daily schedule that is regular and consistent you will find that your household runs more smoothly and efficiently. When you create household routines try to stick with them. This will help your household in managing time expectations.

      Kids have internal clocks. They can adapt to a routine and stick with it more easily when you are consistent with the schedule. Bed times should be the same each night. School days should also have a consistent morning schedule from waking up to getting out the door. If you feel rushed every morning, then you need to get everyone to bed earlier and get up earlier until you find the time that works best for completing all that needs to be done in the morning.

      7. Work as Though Everything was Urgent

      This is one of the best ways that I get things done in our home. I don’t complete tasks slowly. Once I set out to get something done it is done as though it needed to be done yesterday.

      I often set a time limit for myself. For example, this evening when I go to clean out an attic space I will allow myself exactly one hour for the job. I will tackle the biggest messes in that space and get done all that I can optimally in that hour. If I don’t set a time limit, I can see myself opening up bins and sorting through old memories, decorations, and things that need more time than an hour to complete. The goal is to clean up the attic to make walking space. That can be done in an hour if I stay on task and work quickly during that time. If I take breaks, or deviate from the task at hand it won’t get done in that time period.

      Setting the time limit and expectation with what exactly I plan to complete in that time limit gets me moving with urgency so that the job gets done efficiently.

      8. Gourmet Meals are Taking a Break

        Before my husband and I had kids we would leisurely make dinner together and the food was top notch. We would look up different recipes we wanted to try. We took the time to shop for special ingredients and make each dinner special and enjoyable. Things have changed now that we have three small kids. Most kids don’t appreciate gourmet anyway, so why waste the time, energy, or money. Our meals are quick, easy, and kid friendly. There are evenings when we feed the kids first and then enjoy a nicer meal after they are in bed.

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        However, most evenings we sit as a family and eat more basic meals. I buy bagged salads that require less preparation, meals that come in kits, and frozen meals that are simply put in the oven and baked. It’s not that I wouldn’t enjoy doing gourmet meals for my family every night, it’s that I have decided it’s not a priority since the effort is basically wasted on the kids and I end up frustrated that they don’t appreciate the effort. Less effort means less frustration when they refuse to eat the meal and they end up with a bowl of cereal at the end of the night.

        Doing easy, kid friendly meals does not mean you need to sacrifice quality or freshness either. There are plenty of home delivery options on the market today that will deliver pre-packaged meals with fresh ingredients making it easy to make a meal in under a half hour.

        9. Be Honest about Time Waste

        When you are sitting at a doctor office waiting for your appointment, how are you spending that time? Are you reading the latest gossip magazine or did you bring along some work to do while you wait? If you brought along work, you are winning! You can use that time to catch up on thank you notes, respond to emails, or update your to-do list, just to name a few good options.

        Learn to take advantage of waiting time. Car line at school is another time when many parents have daily wait time. Make sure you have a plan for how to wisely use that time, so it is not wasted and then at 10 pm when you are laying in bed you remember several emails you forgot to respond to and you could have done so while in the car pick up line at school.

        There are some ways that this era of parents is sucked into wasting time. How much time do you spend scrolling social media each day? Be honest with yourself and the amount of time you are spending online shopping, surfing the web, or on social media. We place limits on our kids with technology, why wouldn’t we do the same for ourselves so we too can optimize our time during the day?

        10. Keep To-Do Lists and a Calendar

          Keep a running to-do list

          that you carry with you in your purse or brief case. Keep it handy so when you think of something that needs to be done it gets added to the list. Things in life often don’t get done simply because they are forgotten. Life is full of a flurry of daily activities. We can only concentrate on what is in front of us. If you have a list, you can shift focus to do the activity later and it won’t simply be forgotten.

          Don’t just write it down though. If it is a task that will require any substantial amount of time (even an hour or two), then schedule when you can get that done and block out the time on your calendar to get it done. Hoping that time will magically appear to get it done is not good planning, as hope is not a strategy. Write it on a to-do list and then schedule it on your calendar for completion.

          Keep a calendar and take it with you wherever you go. Many people use their phone for keeping track of their schedule. I personally use a monthly paper calendar. That way I can see my entire month at a glance. When you are using your mind to keep track of your activities, it takes up too much time and energy. You are constantly trying to remember what you have planned for the day or in the next week. You have to mentally remind yourself about your activities so that you don’t forget anything important. Free up your mind for other things by using a calendar. Everyone needs a calendar, even stay at home moms. Keeping track of doctor appointments, birthdays, and household activities is important stuff. Don’t allow yourself to minimize your importance or the value of your role by not utilizing a calendar.

          Featured photo credit: Unleashed Womens Network via unleashedwomensnetwork.com

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          Dr. Magdalena Battles

          Doctor of Psychology

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          Last Updated on June 18, 2018

          Parents Are Their Own Worst Enemies

          Parents Are Their Own Worst Enemies

          The pressure to be a good parent is real. All this pressure comes at us from internal and external sources that converge and make a perfect storm for parents to lose any confidence they had as parents. We, as parents have the power to overcome our own worst enemy, which is ourselves.

          Video Summary

          As parents, we encounter messages on a daily basis that tell us how we need to do things in a different or better way. We hear messages that we need to expect more of our kids, we need to not be so hard on our kids, we should vaccinate, we shouldn’t vaccinate, we need to be involved with our kids, we shouldn’t be helicopter parents, we need to help our kids with their homework, we need to let our kids do their own homework, and a plethora of other mixed messages. All these messages turn into self talk one way or the other.

          Everyone has a running conversation of self talk going on in their own head. As parents, our self talk can revolve around our abilities as parents. Are we doing things the best way for our kids? Are we doing thing that we think are good, but could in fact be harmful? We have so many messages coming at us in all directions that it becomes easy to question every decision we make as parents. Thus, it becomes far to easy to be hard on ourselves as parents.

          Parents Are Their Own Worst Critics

          Your own worst enemy in life is yourself. Typically there is nobody who will say more negative things to you than you will to yourself. It is the self talk that goes on in your head all day long that provides for the negative commentary to yourself. You need to stop the negative self talk today as it constantly breaking down your confidence as a parent. There are tips further in the article that will help empower you to overcome this negative self talk.

          Are we good enough?

          As parents, one thing we are constantly asking ourselves mentally is are we good enough and are we doing enough for our kids. Any good parents wonders this from time to time. Self analysis is helpful at time. However, if we are doing it too often, we begin to doubt ourselves and second guess our decisions as parents. Allowing negative self talk that undermines our skills as parents can hinder our confidence as parents. In turn, it makes it more difficult to parent when we are always questioning our capabilities as parents.

          Are we doing things the best way possible?

          We, as parents, need to let go of perfect. Perfect is unattainable. The pursuit of perfect leads to frustration and defeat. Instead of pursing perfection, we need to chose a good path for parenting that is best for our own family and let of trying to be the best and do the best. Let it go and instead just be present.

          Are we comparing our kids and ourselves to others?

          We live in a culture where it is extremely easy to compare ourselves to others. You only need a few minutes on social media to compare yourself and your life to hundreds if not thousands of others. The problem is that what is portrayed on social media is not the whole story. Our tendency to compare ourselves to others leads to discontentment. When you feed yourself messages of discontent on a regular basis, you will begin to feel like a defeated individual and parent, as you can never measure up when compared to others.

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          If you feel like you or your children will never live up to the level of how others live, then you won’t. The real problem is that you are ignoring your individuality as a family. Each of you is unique, as is your family. Don’t compare yourself to others, because its like comparing apples and oranges.

          Be a Confident Parent

          The best way to overcome the greatest enemy in your life as a parent is to become a confident parent. Easier said than done of course. However, there are some things that you can do to become more confident in your parenting and the feedback in your head can become more positive and encouraging. Below are some ways that you can create more confidence in yourself regarding your parenting abilities.

          1. Become your own encourager through positive self talk

          To become more confident, you need to start shutting down that voice in your head that says that you are not good enough or you are doing enough for your child. For some moms, this is the “bad mom syndrome”. It is that voice in your own head that says you are a “bad mom”. It often comes from building a list of all your mommy failures so you feel an overwhelming source of guilt which leads to this “bad mom syndrome”.

          Saying this to yourself will not make you a better mom. It will only make you feel like a failure and defeated. You are not defeated. Those discouraging messages are not helpful to you or your child. It is ok to have uncertainty from time to time. However, it is not ok to allow yourself to feel less than adequate for your child. If you truly feel inadequate get some professional help from a counselor. They can help empower you as a parent.

          You need to make yourself aware of negative self talk and change the course of the message while it is happening. For example, you may scream and yell at your child for forgetting to turn in their homework. You then start beating yourself up about the yelling because you know you were wrong to react that way. Instead of internally beating yourself up, stop the negative self talk as soon as you know it has started. Look at it as an opportunity to recognize the triggers that led to the outburst, perhaps you had a bad day at work. Then tell yourself you will do better next time. You also take the time to think through how you need to approach your child and apologize for the yelling and then discuss calmly why they didn’t turn in their homework. This method of thinking of solutions and encouraging yourself that things can be worked through is growth as a parent. It is also a way of shutting down the negative self talk and replacing it with solutions and/or positive messages.

          PsychCentral made a great point about self talk and the power we have in ourselves to change these thoughts:[1]

          You can test, challenge and change your self-talk. You can change some of the negative aspects of your thinking by challenging the irrational parts and replacing them with more reasonable thoughts.

          2. Reduce stress and fatigue in your own life

          Parents are better parents when they are less stressed out. When we feel stressed out as parents, we sometimes take it out on the ones who are closest in proximity. If you are at home in the evening with your kids and you have a mile long to-do list along with lots of other external stress going on, it becomes difficult to be kind, calm, and loving to our children. Our children are precious and impressionable. They don’t deserve unkind words or treatment because we are feeling utterly and completely stressed out and overworked.

          Research by Your Modern Family looked at what children want most from their parents. The results from their research showed that the number one thing kids want from their parents is for “their parents to be less stressed and less tired”.[2] This is quite telling. It shows that we need to dial back things in life that cause extreme stress and exhaustion. It may be difficult to do this for some, as it can require a major overhaul in your life structure and activities.

          For other parents, it can be more simple solutions, as suggested in the Modern Family article including: getting on a schedule, having kids help with chores, getting things ready the night before, waking up before your kids, doing meal plans that work for your family, getting organized, planning ahead, and laughing. Start finding ways to reduce stress in your life and you will see that your children are less stressed and happier as well.

          We are all better parents when we are less stressed out. Do what it takes to reduce your stress as it does in fact affect your child’s mental well-being. Kids are smart, intuitive, and sensitive to the emotions of their parents. Don’t go through life pretending not to be stressed. Take action today to reduce stress in your life. Sometimes the solution is saying no and reducing activities. Do it for the sake of your children. It is the one thing children want most- less stress, less tired parents.

          3. Simply be present for your kids and let go of perfection

          Allowing yourself and your children to be something other than the best can be empowering. It allows you to be present with your children and embrace them for their own uniqueness. It also allows you to accept your circumstances for what they are, which is likely not the best or perfect.

          One of the best thing you can do for your kids is simply be there for them. Kids yearn for time with their parents. They may not always say it or express it, but they want their parents. It is difficult to create family memories if you don’t spend time together. Make the time to be with your children. It doesn’t need to be a special occasion or a Disney experience either. Just sitting together to have dinners as family and talking to your kids is what they need for positive memories to be made.

          Knowing that their parents are there to talk with them and to listen to them, is a wonderful gift to your children. In our era of busy lives and trying so hard to be the best parents we often overlook the most important factor in parenting, which is simply being present in our child’s life. Sometimes we need to dial back the schedule so that we are spending time together. Taking them from one activity to the next is not quality time together. Allowing for time to be home and interacting with one another, without distractions, is quality time. Be present to allow for open conversations to occur.

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          Pscyhology Today discussed the topic of being a parent who is present and gave some specific tips. One of the top tips they provided was to stop multitasking.[3] This article stated,

          “The first thing to recognize is that, try as we might, we really can only do one thing at a time, so we ought to do that thing wholeheartedly”

          When you want to be present with you children, then don’t text, do other tasks, or work on other projects. Devote your attention solely to you child.

          When you allow yourself to be fully present with your child, it becomes easier to appreciate the small things in life. Your child will grow up fast, you hear it from other parents quite often how they grow up too fast. Take the time to appreciate the precious little things in life, such as watching your child become overjoyed because they won at a board game you were playing, or watching your child teach their new puppy how to sit, or watching your child successfully ride a bike for the first time. All of these small things in life end up being the big things in life. Be present with your child so that you can enjoy and appreciate the small things in life.

          4. Don’t get pressured into taking bad advice

          Everyone has an opinion these days. It doesn’t mean that you need to heed the advice of everyone. You have permission as a parent to disregard the advice of others, including from loved ones including your own parents. Their intentions are good. They want to help you and your child be successful and happy. The problem is that the methods your parents utilized 20 or 30 years ago may be outdated. They didn’t know better. Now we have research on virtually any parenting issue there is out there.

          Do your own research, so you have peace of mind that your selected parenting methods are what is best for your child. It is also nice to have this research in your back pocket so when someone questions your methods you have research and data to prove your selected ways are best. It’s hard for someone to argue with science. They can try, but facts and data are truths at the end of the day.

          5. Don’t compare yourself to others

          Don’t allow yourself get sucked into the comparison game. A lot of this has to do with the self talk in your head. You have the ability to stop the self talk and change its course to something that is more positive. When you start comparing yourself or your children to others, stop and replace that self talk with thoughts about how you are all unique, special, and gifted in different ways than any other family.

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          Along with comparing your children includes the topic of managing your expectations. If your child is an average student, then don’t expect them to get into the gifted program at school. Be realistic with your child’s abilities. When you have unrealistic expectations it puts pressure on both you and the child. This pressure is not needed in life, as it will only bring disappointment when the expectations are too high and can never be met. Keep it real, and allow yourself to see that your child may not be the best or the brightest. They are unique and special in their own way, but it doesn’t mean that they are going to be the very best at everything or anything at all. Let them know that its ok because they are loved for exactly who they are and special because of their uniqueness.

          If you have friends who like to play the comparison game, then don’t hang out with them. They will not help bring you up as a parent. Their goal is to make comparisons so they can feel better about themselves, their life, and their abilities as a parent. Their goal in no way involves helping you feel better or lifting you up and encouraging you as a parent. Cut the negative thoughts out, especially if they are coming from another person. You are doing yourself and your child a disservice by spending your precious and limited time with someone who is using comparison to bring you down in order to bring themselves up. Life is too short, find someone who wants to be a true friend.

          Parenting Is Hard Work, Take Time for Yourself

          Parents need a break from time to time. Don’t forget about taking care of yourself while in the midst of your parenting experience. Take time to do things that you enjoyed doing before you had kids. Keep up with hobbies and things that you enjoy doing. Allowing time for your hobbies and taking care of yourself allows you to be more relaxed, less stressed out, and happier in the long run.

          Of course, there is moderation for everything. I am not saying leave your family every night to work out at the gym for three hours. Your family takes priority over your hobbies. However, in order to be a well balanced and happy individual you need to schedule time each week for your hobby, whatever that may be. Which is exactly why my kids are at home with a sitter every Friday afternoon and I am sitting at Starbucks right now, sipping my favorite Chai Latte, listening to music on earbuds, and typing this article.

          Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

          Reference

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