…unless you have your stuff together better than I do. Being horrible with time management is one of those flaws in my personality that drives various people nutso, chiefly myself. I’ve come along a bit in this and am not quite as horrible as I used to be, but still have a long way to go. I’ve been actively working on this and have found some things that really help me.
Time Management Tips That Actually Work
I’m calling them time management tips that actually work, but I need to make a couple disclaimers before we dive in. First, these tips work for me, your mileage may vary. Second, I don’t always do all of these at the same time. Sometimes I’m good to be able to remember one or two. Other times, I get bored with what I am doing and flat out ignore them. You can probably guess how this works out for me.
I think that’s it. Let’s move on now.
Seriously. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, or at least it did to me, but it isn’t. Trying to do three things at once usually means that something gets missed or nothing gets finished. I’m a serial starter, but rarely a finisher. Focusing on one thing at a time, even for minutes at a time, has helped me tremendously with this.
Ha. Yeah, I know what #1 said, but eventually I came to realize that multi-tasking wasn’t the issue so much as the activities I was trying to multi-task. Here’s an example, I’d put something in the oven and then run back downstairs to switch laundry or finish writing a blog post. Invariably, I would forget that I needed to do something else for dinner while whatever was in the oven cooked and that would set me behind. This always left me feeling like I was running in circles and never getting anything done.
Just recently I realized the “right” way to multi-task. Don’t leave the room. When I put something in the oven and have to wait 15-20 minutes, I find something in the kitchen to do. Like today, I put the chicken nuggets in the oven to cook and the apples were sliced and the carrots ready. Instead of leaving and doing something else on my huge, never-ending to do list, I cut up some cheese cubes and popped some popcorn for afternoon snacks. This actually saved me time later and I actually finished something. It’s a good feeling.
Make a List
I am a list person. I love making lists. It helps me to focus on what needs to be done and gives me a sense of accomplishment when I can check things off of the list. A word of caution though, don’t over do it. Don’t put every possible thing on your list that you want to do. That is a quick way to get overwhelmed. I actually prefer to keep multiple lists. Here are a few lists that you may find helpful:
- Grocery and household needs – Keeping a running list makes it much easier to create my grocery shopping list each week. It also helps me to make the most of my trips out of the house because I like to keep those trips limited each week. Unfortunately, I often forget to actually keep a running list, but I rarely go shopping without a meal plan and grocery list.
- Household to do list – This is where I write big things like declutter laundry room and I also write the things I know I can get done like eat breakfast. Somedays things like eat breakfast, get dressed, and make dinner are what a doable to do list looks like for me. I’ve learned to be ok with that.
- Big project list – Sometimes we have a really big project that will take more than a day and I need the motivation of completing tasks that all work towards that end goal, but are doable. This is when I will take a big goal like declutter the basement, which will take days, and break it down into tasks that I can accomplish in a few hours or so. Examples would be clear craft table, reorganize book shelves, and take items to Goodwill.
Ditch the List
With my penchant for list making, I can often prioritize the list making process more than anything else. I’ll spend lots of time making it pretty to look at and organized. Then when I’m done, all motivation for doing the things on the list is long gone. Some days, I just need to look at what needs to be done and do it. Sometimes I can take hours in a day and focus on a big project and knock it out. Or I only have an hour between errands and just need to get the most pressing things done. Lists are great, but we do not want to be a slave to them. Use them like a tool and ditch them when they are no longer useful.
Oh, you have no idea how hard this was for me. I didn’t know how hard this was for me. I have four children, four really great children. They are capable of doing dishes and laundry correctly if shown what correctly is. Yes, it has taken a lot of practice, but eventually we found a rhythm that means that they are helping around the house and I’m not going crazy over how they did things “wrong” according to my standards. I promise I’m not that strict, but I have certain things that I need to have done a certain way or they drive me batty.
Ultimately, it all comes down to balance and following where God is leading me each day. Some days, I need to multi-task and get things done and on others, I need to focus on one thing at a time to make sure those things are done well, with attention to detail. Sometimes I need a list to keep me focused and sometimes I need to focus on what’s in front of my face. And sometimes, I just need to let go and realize that not everything has to be done by me.
Be encouraged, ladies, you are not alone in this! And be sure to let me know if you have any time management tips that actually work, too!