Time management used to be oh-so easy…
Without wishing to sound boastful, I always used to consider myself a fairly skilled time manager.
I remember as far back as at high school when it came to revising for exams, I made myself a revision timetable and stuck to it religiously. It worked- I packed enough study time in to pass the exams and had enough free time to enjoy.
Then at university I obviously had to attend lectures and seminars, spend time in the library writing assignments, plus worked part-time as a shop assistant throughout the three years (anywhere between 18-36 hours a week) to help fund myself through it. Oh, and volunteered for a charity a couple of hours each week. Not to mention setting aside ample time for socialising in the Student Union bar. Again- it was all doable as long as I planned my time carefully and kept track of everything in my trusty pocket diary.
I was a primary school teacher for many years and combined part-time teaching with having two children. Most of the time I juggled the balls fairly successfully and kept (just about) on top of my teaching workload and enjoyed my days off with my young children, scheduling lots of fun playgroups and activities for them.
Then something changed!
You may have mentioned I referred to the past tense form of ‘used to’ in the opening paragraph of this post. That’s right. Since I became a full-time stay at home parent I had been finding that as each day passed I was feeling a growing sense of dissatisfaction that things I really wanted to incorporate in my day were repeatedly not occurring. Important things, such as working on the book I’ve started, and exercising, and reading ing a book with my little boy and toddler.
I know I’m privileged to be able to spend so much time based at home with my young children and I wouldn’t change it. But being in this position can make it more difficult to manage my time well and carve out time for things that matter most to me, such as writing. There are so many distractions (including things that really do need doing at some point). Obviously my young kids expect my full attention for much of the time that they are awake.
Something had to improve…
These days my daily routine is mostly dictated by my youngest daughter’s nap times, as well as the morning and afternoon school run plus my son’s preschool pickup at 11.40am. My children have all been good nappers, something that I’m mostly grateful for, although I do sometimes wish the baby would drop her morning nap so that I could get us both out of the house more.
Still, things are what they are and I resolved to be more intentional about planning my time to get more out of my days, especially to make time for the things that matter the most.
Here’s an example of a typical weekday timetable:
8.35- Leave the house to drop the two eldest children at school and preschool.
9.10- Back home. Check what’s planned for dinner- remove meat or fish from freezer as needed. Make my breakfast – I’ve recently started eating a proper breakfast again after months of not bothering but succumbing to chocolate biscuits mid morning. Eating a healthy, nutritious breakfast has made an amazing difference to how well I’m able to concentrate. See pic below of a typical one- seeded toast with poached eggs, spinach and mushrooms.
Then finish cleaning the kitchen from breakfast, load dishwasher and any other household chores.
9.45- Put baby down for nap. Then write- either a blog post or on my book. Aim for 500 words minimum.
11.15- Wake baby from nap. Go to collect son from preschool.
11.50- Back home. Change son’s clothes and sort his bag etc. Sit on sofa and share a book with son (toddler wants to join in too). Then start preparing lunch.
12.30- Eat lunch with kids. Tidy up kitchen afterwards.
1.10- Read another book with my son or play with his cars or a simple card or board game for a few minutes. If he and the baby are playing happily together, jump on my indoor mini trampoline (rebounder) while one energetic song plays on youtube.
1.45- synch nap time for baby and son. Unload dishwasher, carry out any household admin (make phone calls, send emails in relation to our kids, home or anything related to our rental home).
3.05- Wake kids from nap. Son in particular needs time to rouse himself! Get coats and shoes on for school run.
3.45- Back home. Play with the kids, make their dinner, take oldest child to clubs/activities. Bath baby (and others) as required. Spend a few more minutes on the indoor trampoline.
6.45- Start tidying with the kids before they get ready for bed. Read stories.
7.30- Lights out for kids to go to sleep. Start making dinner for husband and myself. If husband will be very late, eat mine first.
8.30- Clean up kitchen, prepare anything needed for the kids for school for tomorrow. Then relax, read, watch a film or recording from TV or take a bath.
Making household chores more bearable
As often as possible, I involve my kids in chores. They will happily load clothes into and out of the washing machine and the three year old finds unloading the dishwasher a real treat. Even if it doesn’t exactly save time, it is good for them to get used to helping out at home from a young age. Plus, it makes me feel better that I’m not the only person doing all the housework during the daytime!
Often I play a podcast whilst I clean the kitchen or do other chores- my current favourite is A Slob Comes Clean. This is so motivating and suggests lots of great ways to organise and clean the home. Listening to a podcast or some music makes chores feel less mundane. Sometimes I opt for classical music which calms me and has been shown to have other benefits.
Having a plan- and sticking to it
Once I made a timetable for the whole day and started allotting specific tasks to certain time slots, they were far more likely to actually happen. It feels great that I’ve gone back to writing again and have carved out time to read books during the day with my son, something that wasn’t always happening before.
It does mean being more intentional and refusing to get sidetracked by other things- eg if post arrives through the front door while I’m writing, I just ignore it now until I’m finished. I keep my iPad out of sight so that I don’t get distracted by checking Facebook or anything. This rigid type of schedule may look oppressive to some people, but I know I feel much better if I stick to it. Some things are so important, they need to be ring fenced!
Honestly, I think I’m always going to have to keep pulling myself up on this on a regular basis. I guess I am very easily distracted!
How about you?
Are you organised about managing your time, or do you manage to get the important things done without having it set out in black and white?
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