By Bethany Lynch
I think I have heard at least half a dozen moms this week talk about needing more hours in the day. I have seen posts on Facebook, heard it from coworkers, read it on blogs. None of us seems to feel “done” with everything we wanted to accomplish at the end of the day. I have blogged before about feeling accomplished, but I think the larger problem is that we try to take too much on. I have also written about changing priorities, but I get the feeling that if most of us just had another hour or two, we think we would feel accomplished and have met our priorities.
I have been really evaluating what takes up the most of my time, as well as the little things that end up sucking up almost as many minutes…or hours. My mental interest has also been focused on tips from others that I could apply to my life. Some of these require making more complicated changes but there are many relatively easy things we can do that just require a good ounce of willpower.
Here are my favorite, loved, not-so-loved, and simply fantastic ideas to create or free up more time:
Evaluate social media use
This includes all, not just the obvious time stealers, including checking email every x number of minutes or having an alert for new messages. Checking Facebook daily, let alone hourly. Posting every few pictures you take to Instagram. Staring at your phone wondering what else you can check or do for a mental break. Thinking in terms of a good Facebook status. Using your phone or iPad regularly as part of your and/or your kids’ schedule or as an expected distraction at doctor’s offices, waiting in lines, etc. If this is you, my advice is to set a daily limit of phone/computer/iPad time. Eliminate it in front of your children. Eliminate it as an automatic part of their schedule. I realize this may sound harsh, but iPad time is a rare privilege in our house…and it is an awesome motivator. Yes, there are some great educational apps, but cutting it out of your schedule…and your kids’ schedule will cut down on arguments and behavior issues almost immediately. You can also delete apps from your phone that have a website, making it harder to just pop open the app immediately. If you want to go hardcore, set a time during the day to check social media, eliminate all social media after a certain time of night, or even designate a day of the week with No Social Media Allowed.
Evaluate time commitments
This is our first season for joining a team or structured activity/sport. My son is almost 6 and just now doing soccer. By no means am I saying your child should be the same age before joining a team or taking lessons, but be very intentional about what you sign yourself and your children up to do. We have been extremely deliberate in what we add to our schedule. My daughter is almost 4, which is a very common age to start dance lessons, etc., but we are waiting until soccer is finished. I know that we will overlap activities at some point but family dinners, conversations as a family/spouse/each child are a big focus for us. We have had hilarious and important conversations in the car on the way to places/activities, but one of the best 30-60 minutes of my day is the time we average sitting on the couch or at the kitchen table talking with “near” undivided attention. Although it sounds like taking time out of your schedule to sit at the table/couch, I promise you will be enriched and more able to accomplish other things without the hustle and bustle of racing around. I am not really referring to errands, although they can take up a large portion of our time, but rather the things we purposefully add routinely to our schedule. Make sure that they are right for you right now and add value…not just because friends or neighbors are doing so.
Get up early
Okay, this is my most not-so-loved idea by far! I have such a hard time doing this…so why in the world would I say you should??! Research for physical health, mental health, spiritual health, motivation/productivity almost always recommend getting up early as the best way to stay committed and create habits. Most of the moms that get lots done and still have energy even half-way through the day are the ones that get up and exercise as well as have quiet time before anyone else gets up. I know without the hint of a shadow of a handful of doubts that this would drastically add health to my day. I do have a LONG list of excuses, uh, reasons why I do not do this…but simply put, this is one of the easiest things I could do to add time to my day and feel better for it. Ironically, it works best if you go to bed 30-60 minutes earlier. We insist we don’t have the time to do that but really you (we) would wake up feeling more refreshed and most likely get mounds more accomplished.
How in the world does this give you more time? Every.single.time I feel overwhelmed as if I cannot accomplish hardly anything it is because I am neglecting my time alone with God. I do not think this means you have to be a Christian or even a “spiritual person.” My bet is still that you are so busy focusing on everyone else that you have lost sight of what is truly most important and for me that is my relationship with the Lord. For you, it could just be alone time, or yoga, or down time with music. What helps you focus and feel refreshed and balance? Again, it might seem counter-intuitive to take time away from other things and spend it on your emotional/spiritual health, but I guarantee you will feel balance and subsequently more quality time for other things.
Ask for help
I also have a million excuses for why I cannot always do this. They might not do it my way, they are busy too, they will think I am not as productive, it takes too much time to ask. The end result: I stay stressed and without time to get everything done when, in reality, there are probably a handful of people that would be more than happy to help. I get frustrated my husband doesn’t see how much I have to do and jump in, but I have realized that, most of the time, he simply just needs a polite request. So do not be afraid to ask and especially not afraid to take people up on offers to help. If you are at all like me, you are probably making it harder to ask than for the other person to help. Many times people just need to know what would be most helpful.
Ask yourself how important it is
This can be applied to many areas of life, but as far as time management, decide if what you are doing or feel obligated to do is really all that important. Sometimes it is. Many times it is really not anything that adds value or worth to our day/life. I try to do this any time I am starting to feel like I have too much on my plate. I often find that I am elevating the importance level of most things and in actuality can reduce or eliminate many of the things that are occupying my times.
I am not great at it, but when I put a little it of time into it I find myself much more productive overall. It might take a little bit of time to plan to find recipes that work for you and figure out the best way/time for you to grocery shop, but somehow I end up with a lot more free time than when I am scattered and throwing last minute meals together. It may take a smaller quantity of time to physically prepare a quick meal, but the quality of your time and meals will be greater with a little attention to detail. Voila Pinterest!
Ask for advice
Sometimes I am just in a rut and feel like all of my time is being sucked up no matter what I do! This makes for great lunch conversations or coffee house meet-up. Be cautious not to vent! Not much will be solved by commiserating about what does not work or how much you have on your plate, but ask other moms what works for them to stay on top of laundry, how they find time to plan “real food” style meals, or how they decide which activities to choose. You may decide their ideas will not work for you but it might also give you some fresh ideas…as well as give them some fresh ideas of things you do well. Which leads me to my last question….what ideas do you have for creating or freeing up time? I would love to hear what works for you!!
Bethany is a full-time working outside-the-home mom to two children, ages 5 and 3. She blogs at The Graceful Mom to inspire and encourage other moms with work commitments.