“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” ~ Michael Altshuler
It’s a scenario we’re all familiar with. We wake up with great plans to achieve a lot during the day, but before we know it, it’s 12:00 PM – half the day gone! If you’re a Mom to an infant or toddler, everything can go topsy turvy despite your best plans. And if you live in India, anything can happen to upset your schedule – absconding maid, power cuts or even a chatty neighbor!
Managing time is both a skill and an art, and I’m saying art because you need quite a bit of creativity – especially in the unique scenarios described above. It’s no wonder then that there are books and books written on the subject and so many Time Management experts out there ready with their advice. That’s all very helpful, but I often wish someone wrote a book that was specific to the challenges faced by Indian Moms!!
You want to know another reason why it is so important for us to manage time well? It’s because when we are running short of time, we tend to prioritize ourselves last. Especially if you’re an Indian Mom, and more so if you live in a joint family. In many families, the burden of extra work lands on Mom’s shoulders, and with poor time management, she ends up being last on her own list. And that’s why you hear things like “I don’t have time to exercise/meditate/sleep/read/dress up”. You won’t believe this, but I’ve even heard of Moms say that they don’t have time to use the toilet!!
At the crux of the matter, it’s not about how time can be managed, its about how we can manage ourselves. As our lives get busier, it becomes more and more difficult to adhere to fixed schedules, especially if you also have another job, working from or outside the home. I feel your pain and have been through all the struggles – trust me, managing two kids, a blog, a business, an NGO and my home is no cake walk! I often wish there were more than 24 hours in a day, and I’m sure many of you have felt the same. Since we can’t do anything about that, let’s get creative and make the most of the time we’ve been given, with some simple time management tips.
8 Time Management Tips for Busy Moms
1. Say No
This is the number one rule of time management for anyone, and especially for a busy Mom like you and me! Whether it’s in an attempt to please, or because of a barrier of ‘respecting elders’, many of us find it really hard to say ‘No’ to events or errands, making our already busy life more hectic. Always remember this important advice from Stephen Covey – when you’re saying ‘yes’ to something unimportant, at the same time you’re saying ‘no’ to something important. By taking on the catering responsibility for the association’s Diwali function, you’re saying ‘No’ to your child’s daily reading session. Is it worth it?
Once you’ve decided what you want to say ‘Yes’ to, it’s time to see who else can do it! No, it’s not sneaky, it’s essential. You are not the only person who lives in that house, and your being female does not automatically make you the one-woman army responsible for its smooth running. Involve the entire family in household chores, whatever they can do. If you have been used to doing every single thing at home, this may be hard to do, so start out with very small steps. Even little children can do age appropriate chores – it also has several benefits for them, developmentally.
All time management experts agree that managing time is actually managing your priorities. You’ve already done this in one way, by eliminating the things you don’t want to say ‘Yes’ to. Now of the tasks you have decided to do yourself, prioritize them.
To make this easier, identify your goals first, marked down on a priority basis. Then break it down to smaller chunks. We have a tendency to do the easier tasks first, just so that we have a morale boost of having achieved something. However, this often leads to the more important things being left for later, which is why it is recommended to ‘Eat the Frog’ first.
Much too often, we make things hard for ourselves by complicating matters! Just think, does your family of four really need two subzis and two non-vegetarian curries for one meal? There are numerous ways you can simplify your life, which will save you loads of time. Plan your errands so you can do them all in one go. Make a meal plan and do your grocery shopping for the week. Automate payments that need to go out every month/week. Pay your utility bills and order your groceries online. Most banking operations and fee payments can also be done online.
It’s hard to hit a target with your eyes closed, and it’s just as hard to accomplish something when you aren’t organized. A simple task that should take just a few minutes can take an unnecessary amount of time when things are scattered and messy. Train everyone at home to follow the goal of ‘A place for everything and everything in it’s place’. When your ingredients are all prepped and your utensils are in the right place, imagine how fast and joyful cooking would be? The same goes for getting ready during busy mornings, or searching for something in an emergency.
6. Assess your Time
As much as we think that we don’t have any time to even breathe, there are times in our day when we aren’t really doing anything worthwhile, not even resting. It may be when we’re chatting with that nosy neighbor, or mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or sitting like a zombie in front of TV. Recognizing these wasted pockets of time can help us be more focused about spending our time.
7. Make a Plan
Most successful people have said that their first task of the day is making their To do List. It is the only way to ensure that important tasks get done and the time for them is not wasted on insignificant busywork. Plan out your day keeping your priorities in mind, making sure you consider possible disruptions and taking into account your usual ‘wasted time’. Focus on the vital few rather than the vital many, and focus on one task at a time. Planning out your day also gives you a chance to carve out time for yourself – your health, hobbies or to simply unwind. Remember, that your plan needs to be achievable, so cut down on stress by being realistic.
8. Just Do It
Looks like the Nike company has a point! Once you’ve made a realistic, achievable plan, develop an attitude of ‘Doing it now’. Procrastination can seriously derail your plans and create a whole lot of stress. If this happens to you a lot, take the time to identify the cause – is it a fear of failure, a lack of interest, a lack of skills/resources or something else. Whatever it may be, sort it out so that it doesn’t come in the way of executing your plan.
Everyone experiences stress from time to time, and sometimes we actually operate a little better when there is some level of stress. On the other hand, too much stress affects us adversely as well as our near and dear ones. The relief you get when you are able to plan your day well, tick off the tasks on your to-do list and pay due attention to your priorities without compromising on your own self. With these simple time management tips for busy Moms, I hope you are able to spend your time on what’s important, and that you are able to live a full and happy life!!