It’s summer, and we all know what that means…chaos.
With kids at home all day, if you’re anything like us, most of your time is spent playing referee to sibling arguments, bored melt-downs, and chauffeur to this camp and that pool party. While your kids are living like VIP’s, you may be struggling to just keep your sanity. Your goals, well they flew out the door with the last chime of the school bell.
But, it doesn’t have to be that way. If you follow these 4 simple rules for managing your time, you’ll not only have your kids in line but you’ll also have that much-needed breathing room to focus back on you and your important goals and dreams…because take it from us, while it’s tempting to dissolve into tears, it just takes a few quick tricks to take back your time.
1. Know your priorities
When there is too much to do, knowing what things are truly most important helps me stay focused. A few months ago, when I was really struggling to get my priorities in order, I literally wrote down the order that I wanted them to be.
My list looked like this: God, Family, Friends, Work, Reading, Diet & Exercise, Keeping House, Entertainment. Sadly the list didn’t match how I was actually spending my time, but it did give me the motivation to make some changes.
I decided to prioritize my time better. I start with A tasks—those items that are MOST important. And by most important, I don’t mean most urgent or pressing, but the items that will get me closer to my BIG goals. Because urgent doesn’t always equal important. Then I add the B tasks—those items that SHOULD be done, maybe because they are urgent, or because there’s a pressing deadline or whatever. They are things that are important, but things that won’t necessarily move the needle towards my bigger goals. And then finally, there are the C tasks. Those things I would like to do if there is still time.
Once that is done, it is a matter of blocking out the time to make it fit. I actually take the time to schedule appointments with MYSELF for each of those tasks on my to-do list, starting with the A tasks, moving down into the B tasks, and then, if there is time, the C tasks. To make this task easier I usually use our Daily Do It™ sticky notes to help me prioritize my to-do lists and time block.
2. Start the morning well
One of the biggest changes I made was adding a morning workout into my routine. I have always been a morning person, so getting up early to get my work done–or at least started–is what makes sense for me. Those 3 hours in the morning, before anyone else gets up, when the house is quiet and I can simply be alone with my thoughts, are precious, and I usually wake up raring to go and ready to start my day.
But I’m ashamed to admit that I hate getting up to go workout! I often feel like skipping morning runs or my weekly training sessions, because it feels like it was just taking too much time, time that I could be using more productively. But after reassessing my priorities I realized there was a no more important way to start my morning.
I have a few other morning rituals that keep me focused as well–drinking several cups of fresh hot coffee, turning off my phone, not checking email or Facebook until my other work is done, finishing my most dreaded task right off the bat, and then filling out my Daily Do It™ sticky note so I have a road map to get me through the rest of the day. I find that doing things in the same order keeps me more grounded and focused, and it is usually only when I stray from my routine that I start to get distracted and lose track of time!
By the time the rest of the family starts to get up, I have usually–though not always–gotten enough done that I can be more relaxed and attentive while we all eat breakfast together.
Even on those days where I still feel like I have a million things to do and there is no way to possibly get it all done I have found that making an effort to intentionally start the day in a pleasant & stress-free way really helps the rest of the day go more smoothly.
3. When in doubt, clean something
I almost always start my day with a speed cleaning session. I’ve written before about why it is so important to me to keep my house clean, and in terms of my own time management–and sanity–a tidy house really is key.
When my house is messy, I can’t think straight. I can’t find anything, I feel anxious and out-of-control, and I just spin, not even knowing what to do next. It is almost as if I am paralyzed by some unknown force of chaos, and I just can’t get anything done.
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But when I take the time to get my home in order, the rest of my life seems to fall into place too. I do some of my best thinking while I am cleaning, and when I am done I can then move on to the next thing.
4. In case of emergency, refer to #1
Don’t be fooled by the hype: No one can do it all. That is where the priorities come into play. On the days where my schedule goes exactly as planned and I get everything checked off my to-do list, I usually feel pretty good about myself. But those days are very rare. Almost nonexistent. Most of the time I am constantly having to readjust, re-prioritize, and lower my expectations. I’ve realized that even one small thing done per day gets me that much closer to my goals.
When something unexpected comes up, however, I am finding that knowing what is most important still makes the rest of the day go smoother. At the end of the day, it won’t matter how many things I checked off my list if I turned my back on the things that matter the most.
Hopefully, these 4 simple strategies for managing your time will help you keep your sanity amidst all the summer chaos.