“You must be so busy”, or “wow, you have your hands full” are comments I hear all the time. Even before I had kids when I was working full-time while going to university and still going to the gym and making the deans list people would always tell me I was crazy or say that they could never do it.
The funny thing is that while their comments may be true, I never think of it that way. I just think of myself as living life. Taking care of three kids, three pets, a full-time job, a marriage, and my home is just “normal” to me since I don’t know any different. That being said, there are a few ways I have learned to make the most out of my time so I thought I would share them with you today.
1. Plan your day. I am a big fan of to-do lists and I would be lost without my calendar. I set it and forget it, leaving me to focus on more important things confident that my phone will remember for me. If you want to find time in your schedule you first need to have one so that you can pinpoint any moments of “extra” time, and allow you to prioritize your tasks so if it comes down to the wire you know which items you will not be able to do. Ironically, scheduling also makes you more flexible because you know what is going on so it is easy to make changes, or substitutions when needed.
2. Take advantage of every minute. I am very paranoid about being late so I always arrive at work early. While I could sit around and wait I dive right in and usually devote that time to working on my blog. While I usually can’t quite finish a post in that twenty minutes, I can get most of one done. And over the course of five days those 20 minutes have turned into an hour and forty minutes of work that I have been able to invest in my blog (or whatever other activity I am working on).
3. Try to accomplish more than one thing at a time. Careful here, because I am not talking about multi-tasking which is very dangerous, hinders productivity, and takes our awareness out of the present moment. I am talking about making one activity count for two. For example, I need to entertain the kids but also get my chores done. The easy answer is let the kids help with the dishes. I know it seems obvious but I know so many parents who fight it because they just want to get things done and involving the kids can make more “work” but really I think it’s worth it.
4. Batch task. Back when I was a stock supervisor this was the story of my life. It’s about breaking down activities into their components to make them faster. For example, if you are making a bunch of greeting cards. It is quicker to cut all ten, then fold all ten, then decorate all 10, instead of doing each one from start to finish. I used this all the time. Bath time in our house is bath time for everyone! In assembly line style I wash each child and then usually myself (of course unlike an assembly line we take our time and have fun, but it’s about doing it all at once). Same thing with dinner. If you cook enough for leftovers, or cook two or three meals at once and freeze them you will save time in the long run.
5. Think ahead. A lot of time can be saved by planning. For example, if you take the time to make a good grocery list and roughly plan out your meals for the week you can shop just once instead of having to stop at the store 2-3 times a week to pick up things. If you know you have a doctor’s appointment near your favourite health food store, plan to visit the store as well even if you don’t quite need to just yet because it will save you the trip later.
6. Turn off the television and put down your phone. In my case the former is easy but the latter…well, I do my best. Honestly though, you would be amazed at how just 10 minutes spend fiddling on Facebook or watching another lame rerun will waste your time. Definitely invest your time in a worthwhile endeavour like watching your favourite television show or reading a good novel on your phone, but don’t just do it out of habit or to “kill” time when you have a few spare minutes.
7. Take advantage of technology. While I have already touched on this and it seems contrary to #6 I wanted to clarify. My smart phone means I can work anywhere at any time. I am the one who always shows up at the meeting early while others wander in late. Instead of just sitting there for 10 minutes I get on my phone to be productive. I answer a few emails, or revisit my to-do list. Same thing for the bus. While I may choose to spend some time just being present and watching the hustle and bustle there are other times when I use my phone to get things done.
8. Never turn down help. Don’t be too proud to say yes when you are swamped and someone offers to help you. My parents babysit for us three days a week for a couple of hours on the days Daddy and I both work since our shifts slightly overlap. I take full advantage of that time by running any quick errands I need to on the way home (much faster without the kids in tow).
9. Know your limits. Rushing, multitasking or even just trying to do something complicated when you are too tired all result in wasted time because it will either take you twice as long to do something or you will end up making more work for yourself (like the time I was rushing in a store and then forgot my sweater so I had to drive all the way back wasting another half hour). If you are too tired, leave the laundry until tomorrow, and if you are feeling stressed out and rushing, take a moment to breathe, regroup and approach things from a fresh angle.
10. Be flexible. When an opportunity presents itself, take it. The twins don’t usually nap in the evenings anymore but occasionally they do, and I take advantage of the extra time by clipping the dog’s nails or reading an extra book with Sawyer. Same thing goes for a last-minute meeting that gets cancelled or when your loving parents bring you leftovers so you don’t have to cook.
11. Make decisions. So much time can be wasted by trying to make a decision or dwelling on the decision you made. Allot yourself an amount of time to make a decision and if you can’t make it within that timeframe then you must put it aside until you can revisit. And once it’s done it’s done. Don’t dwell, feel guilty, or rehash it in your mind. In my case I always find I make decisions more quickly with a clear head. I decide what to wear the night before, rather than when I am half asleep in the morning, and I decide what to eat before I am hungry when I can’t decide because everything looks good. We make thousands of big and little decisions a day and the time spend on each one really adds up.
12. Be present. Live in the moment and you will truly live. One of the biggest time wasters (for me anyways) is when I get stuck inside my head. Worrying, feeling guilty, regretting, and fantasizing can be huge wasters of your time and energy. I know I have lied awake for hours at night worrying about things when I should have been sleeping or had to redo something three times over because I was thinking about something else. Let it all go and you will be free.
How do you make time in your busy schedule? Feel free to share your tips in the comment section below.