Practical Solutions… Time Management

Now that you all understand a little bit of what’s going on in my head as I pick organizational projects, set a budget, get to work and try to maintain that order, I’d like to share some practical stuff I think applies to many projects. The next series of post topics relate directly back to the “what is hindering you” questions of my last post. If you just have too much stuff – your favorite post may be “Setting Boundaries”. If you lack systems “A Place for Everything” might be more helpful. For all of us, a great place to start is time management


Time Management

In the book “Creative Counterpart” Linda Dillow talks about being a wife and mother. She says, “A Creative Counterpart is a woman who having chosen the vocation of wife and mother decides to learn and grow in all areas of this role and work as though she were aiming for the presidency of a corporation.” Regardless of our work status outside of the home, I love the idea this quote represents. It recognizes the work and attitude required to manage a busy home, it is no small task!


How many of us look at our weekly schedule and fit in activities wherever it seems we have “free time”. But what about laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, managing schedules & forms & bills… All too often as busy families we just assume we will find time for those tasks, and they end up stressing us out on a weekly basis! These basic tasks that are required in life are time consuming and important to the functioning of our families! How do I stay on top of all this stuff – I schedule it into my week like a Dr.’s appointment. And, if an appointment or activity threatens that time slot – I say no to it.


Each Sunday, I sit down for 5 minutes with my calendar and look at my entire week ahead. Notice that I don’t include details – it is a very quick outline. I plan out when I will do all of my tasks that week given any appointments, activities, school functions, meetings… I may have. I set aside time for cleaning, laundry, going to the grocery store, other errands, working out. Here is a sample schedule from a few weeks ago…


A Sample of My Weekly Plan

(click on image to download blank template)


These are the things that a lot of us don’t schedule and just think they’ll get done. If I don’t prioritize these things and set time aside at the beginning of the week it becomes stressful to fit them in. I’ll get sidetracked, distracted and over-committed because I say yes to stuff before thinking through what I really need to do to feel on top of the basics of life.


Completing the weekly plan also allows me to plan for each day the night before in less than a minute or two.  I glance at my day and know if I need to take my work out clothes with me, returns, receipts, get a grocery list together.  Without this schedule I end up frustrated and stressed out when my day seems to fall apart.


This is how it looks for me: I run out the door in a hurry to the the gym right after taking my son to school so I can make my favorite Pilates class. I realize while working out that I need to run errands but am lacking the list, coupons, returns, present I was supposed to mail… I don’t have time to go home and get the stuff and still do my errands before getting my daughter to preschool. The bigger frustration comes when I realize that with the rest of my week and being stuck at home for my youngest son’s afternoon naps I have no time to run my errands. I end up dragging tired and hungry kids to stores at crazy times, rushing around and getting frustrated that they don’t feel my urgency to get the groceries and then tack on one last errand after the kids are in bed – missing my chance that week to lay low at home with my hubby.


Sound familiar – this isn’t hypothetical for me – I’ve had this scenario and it always leaves me wishing I’d paid better attention to my weekly schedule.


Note that this is my short version after doing this for many years. I don’t write down getting the kids ready for school, feeding them lunch, nap routines, regular checking of my “to do” file for urgent items…. There is a lot in my day that I don’t write down, but I’ve learned what I can handle on top of my daily routine in the morning, afternoon, and evening. I have 1-2 hour chunks of time throughout the day that when planned for and used properly, I can get cleaning, laundry, shopping, managing papers & schedules… done. When I don’t have that time planned for I forget what I need to do, get distracted by the t.v. or internet… Wasting little 30 minutes slots of time here and there can completely derail an otherwise manageable week.


A side note is the *. This is a way for me to prioritize my life – it’s the stuff I’d like to do, but won’t if I can’t get the other stuff in first. Also, I don’t usually plan dinner that well. I often have 1-2 meals planned for the week and rely on my stand-by’s for other nights. More on managing meals another time – notice I didn’t call it meal planning. I don’t meal plan, I’ve tried – it doesn’t work well for me – kudos to those of you that can!


Time-management is something I am so passionate about and would encourage you to explore if you are frequently feeling overwhelmed. Mapping out your week not only makes you proactive in using your time wisely, it also helps you identify if you are over-committed or wasting time on things that don’t line up with your priorities. If you feel overwhelmed and don’t know how to change it, map things out for a few weeks. At the end of each week evaluate how the week went and make a few notes on the back of your schedule. Save your weekly plans, and after a month go back and review where your time has been spent. How do you feel about it? How does your family feel about it? Do you need to scale back your commitments or be more intentional with your time?


If you would like to dig further into this topic, I love this article from Dr. G. Harry Leafe, Jr of Scriptel Ministries on Time Management.


As I am spending more time pursuing this dream of an organization blog and business, I am myself encountering new challenges in my schedule. My life has looked roughly the same for about 7 years, since my first son was born. However, as I take all of the responsibilities I have for my home and add in the writing of posts, working with clients in their homes, and researching and shopping solutions for others; I am having to evaluate my time management. I have a new priority in my life, and I’m loving it.  But, I’m still evaluating what that looks like.


In all of this, I am once again really having to rely on my weekly schedule to use my time efficiently and for the right things.  My hope is that I can stay true to my priorities and let the other stuff go without guilt. Lofty goal I know!!!