In our world where so many things call for our time and attention, setting priorities is key to a satisfying life. We’ve all experienced those days when, as we lay our head on the pillow, we wonder, “What on earth did I do all day long?”, regretting all the things we didn’t get done.
Such is the life of a busy mom. But it can be better. No matter how many unexpecteds come up, we can make the most of the 24 hours a day we all have and accomplish the most important things for that day.
Through trial and error—as well as coaching from my TME (Time Management Expert) husband—here are a few things I’ve found helpful over the years:
- Use a calendar for set appointments and non-negotiables. During the times I tried to go without having some type of calendar (whether that be paper or digital), I was always missing commitments. I finally agreed with my husband that if I would use a system, the information could be “out of my head and into my planner”. That freed my mind up for other things.
Make a master schedule for your day. As a mom, many of your time slots are taken with meals, taking care of children, etc. But you should decide what time blocks you have available for discretionary time—such as during nap time . These time blocks are what you will use to accomplish items under #3.
Make a to-do list. Your regular days include cleaning, errands, calls to make, bills to pay, etc. These items can be listed on a to-do list for the day. The key here is to prioritize them with an “A” list and a “B” list. Items that must be done today are A’s. Things that should be done today, but don’t have to be are B’s. A “C” list can be added for things that could be done today if time allows.
Be realistic with your plan. If we have too many expectations, we are setting ourselves up for failure and will constantly be disappointing ourselves and others. As we plan, keep in mind that there has to be enough margin in our schedule to allow for unexpecteds—every mom is well acquainted with those! Just be sure you’re not over-planning and trying to do too much.
Work your plan. A plan is no good unless you follow through and use it to help you through your day. Be familiar with your day’s plan, have a copy in front of you, and move through your day as best you can.
Be flexible! This is a key that a person who is a doer (me) sometimes has a hard time with. Though we make a plan, have goals and lists, we still have to flex as needed. There will always be times when a child will have an unusual need to spend time with you. Or need an unusual amount of negative attention—correction. Or the weather for the day is so completely beautiful that a change to the plan becomes the highest priority. While living up north, some of our best changes to the plan were when we had the picture-perfect snow—30 degrees, no wind, some sunshine. Those days immediately became days for sledding or cross-country skiing. As I’ve emphasized before, let your schedule serve you, don’t be a slave to it.
Evaluate your day. At the end of each day, look over the plan you had for the day, cross out what you finished and then reschedule the remaining. Review the unexpecteds that happened; e.g., a friend who dropped by; a special conversation with one of your children; a huge mess of spilled milk under the refrigerator. Celebrate the positives, laugh over the negatives, and forgive yourself for your shortcomings. Learn from it all and make tomorrow even better.
Plan for tomorrow. This will give you a needed head-start. Review tomorrow’s appointments and make your to-do lists for your discretionary time. Plan for what’s in your control and prepare the best you can for what’s not. As a bonus, make sure the house is picked up before you retire to help you start the day fresh.
For the past 25 years, I have been an avid planner and list maker. Using these methods, I have ended most days satisfied knowing I accomplished the most important things—even amidst all the unexpecteds of a mom of five. It was my salvation during the years of life in the big family.
Question: What has helped you use your time for a more fulfilling day? Share your answer in the comments below.