Motherhood is a steep learning curve. And time management skills for busy working moms may very well be one of the most difficult areas to conquer. After all, there just never seems to be enough hours in the day to get everything on the “to-do” list crossed off. Lack of time can send even the most organized mother into a tailwind.
Let’s face it, as a working mom you’ve got a lot going on. You’re managing a career, taking care of the family, trying to keep your home (somewhat) clean and organized, and OH, you might even try to sneak in a little self-care in the scarce pockets of free time that you do have. Trying to juggle it all may feel impossible sometimes.
With all of these balls in the air, it’s critical that you get a handle on time management once and for all. Today I’m sharing with you the most effective tips for time management. Put these into action on a regular basis to take your days from overloaded to enjoyable.
Effective Time Management Skills for Busy Working Moms
Create a Master Schedule
That feeling of disorganization and overwhelm you feel could be caused by just not knowing what you’re supposed to be doing on certain days and times. When all you do is look at one massive “to do” list, it can be easy to become overwhelmed and stuck. Perhaps you try to tackle multiple things at once, or maybe you just pick and choose things on your list but you aren’t focusing on the top priorities. Approaching your daily demands with by throwing spaghetti at the wall will definitely make you feel like you’re not getting anything accomplished.
How do you solve this? Create a master schedule! When you create a master schedule, you will never be at a loss as to what things need to be done. You can create a master schedule in a few easy steps which I’ll detail now.
How to Create a Master Schedule
Use an excel spreadsheet. Create a template of your typical week. Make a column for each day and rows for each hour of the day. Yes, I said to create a row for each HOUR of your day. The time range should be from the moment you wake up until your bed hits the pillow. So that might be 6:00 am to 10:00 pm. You’ll create blocks that indicate what needs to be done during that time (eg. get kids ready for school, pack lunches, clean bathrooms). You get the idea. Lay out your week in a way that puts the most important things on first and leaves room for all of the miscellaneous tasks of motherhood.
Tame Your To-Do List
Most busy moms I know and coach have a love-loathe relationship with their “to-do” lists. You know you need to have a running list of things that need to be done, but you also feel controlled by a neverending stream of demands. But creating the to-do list isn’t usually the issue; you can whip up a list in a flash. Actually getting those items crossed off the list is where the majority of busy moms struggle.
Possibly the most sanity-saving tip I can give (and that I have implemented in my own life) is to be selective about what goes on your to-do list.
It’s easy to come up with all the things that need to be done. And quite frankly, as a high achieving mom you may derive some satisfaction (perhaps pride) in knowing that people entrust you with all of these to-dos. But it’s time to look at all of these to-dos realistically. Do they ALL need to be on your list? If you take a close look at all of your running to-do lists, you may realize that some of these things are actually not that important, and some are things that could truly be delegated to someone else. You don’t have to do it all, Mom!
So, get out all of your to-do lists right now and cross off those items that don’t need to be on there in the first place. And find help in getting some of the other items done. Once you clean up your to-do lists make the commitment to only add more to-do’s that will add value to your family, home, life, or career. When you start focusing on the things that matter, you’ll find more time in your day to do the things that add value.
Start Using a Planner
The root of disorganization is lack of focus. You need to have a plan (and a planner) in order to get organized and feel that you’re using your time wisely each day. Having a planner takes the guesswork out of what needs to be done and when. In order to feel less stressed by time, you’ll want to invest in a good planner.
Decide on what is important for you in a planner. Do you need a planner where you can create lists, a planner that gives an overview of the month, or one that allows you to track goals?
There are many styles of planners available to meet your time management needs. If you’ve been chronically disorganized, it’s time to buy a planner that will help you to keep your days running smoothly.
Also, when planning out your tasks for each day, be mindful of when your energy is high. This is when you’ll want to work on your bigger or more difficult tasks for the day. This may be as simple as packing lunches the night before rather than struggling through this task every morning when you’re still trying to wake up and moving slowly. A planner allows you to see your day, keep track of your tasks and appointments, and remove the mystery out of how to get it all done.
Prioritize and Set Realistic Goals
Distraction and procrastination may very well be the downfall of every overwhelmed working mother. Managing your time well requires that you stay on task and that means staying focused. But in order to stay focused, you need to know what your priorities and goals are in the first place!
Even when you scale back your to-do list you may find there is still so much to do. Not to worry.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by all of your tasks, just select one task for the day that you will dedicate your efforts to completing. This doesn’t mean you neglect all of your other tasks; it means that you approach this one particular task with laser focus so that you will actually cross it off the list. Making one task a priority at a time allows you to keep momentum towards getting that “thing” crossed off your list rather than being sideswiped by inevitable distractions.
If you have issues with procrastination, it may be time to go after your “big rocks.” Your big rock is the thing that will give you the greatest impact to move the needle forward in some area of your life. This might be a bigger task that you’ve been putting off for whatever reason. Once you have your “big rock” in mind, create some S.M.A.R.T. goals around how you will pursue it.
Knowing what you’re working towards and mapping a plan to get there is the key to time management mastery.
Whatever You Do, Don’t Multi-task
Okay, that’s a tall order. But there’s a good reason (and science) behind this. The typical working mother (you) may feel that in order to get more done, you need to be doing multiple things at the same time. However, this is actually not true. Multi-tasking can actually send you into a vicious cycle of not accomplishing anything. When your attention is divided between two or more tasks at once, you are continually shifting your attention back and forth. Each time you make a shift, you are losing precious productivity time. Now I’m not talking about roasting veggies in the oven while you sautee chicken breasts on the stove. I’m referring to trying to design a powerpoint presentation while you do another task that is equally as demanding.
Create Space Between Work and Family
This may be one of the most difficult challenges for working mothers, especially if you are working or running a business from home. And even if you work outside of the home, you may feel a nag to “check in” on projects or other work-related tasks when you’re with family. Likewise, when you’re at work, you may be thinking of the dentist appointment that needs to be made or other things at home.
One of the best ways to manage your time as a busy mother is to create some separation between work and home. If you’re constantly thinking of home when you’re sitting at your desk, perhaps this is the time to look at your master schedule or planner and carve out time on your break or lunch hour to tend to some of these tasks. Knowing that you have this time dedicated to getting a few family-related to-dos accomplished may alleviate your worry and allow you to be more present at work.
Likewise, if you tend to “bring work home” create some boundaries around that. Look at the reason you’re bringing work home. If it’s required for your job, there may not be a workaround. But if you simply need to tweak your workday to allow for more productivity so that you can leave work at work, then make those changes to allow you to be present during family time.
One of the best things a busy working mother can do for herself and her family is to create systems to manage time. Doing this will allow you to accomplish much more and do more of the things that bring you happiness and create a happier, healthier home for you and your family.