Sometimes it can feel like you’re rushing around with such a huge to-do list and never actually getting things done. How can you do time management when there just aren’t enough hours in the day?
As a parent, that feeling is often magnified by having to manage everyone else’s to do lists as well! Add in the presence of children under your feet in the summer holidays, or possibly the needs of parents or other family members and it almost gets too overwhelming. Trust me, I know – I’m living it too
I’d love to tell you that there is some magic book you can buy or app you can get that will magically make your to do list go away and ‘Poof!’ every thing is magically done for you every day. But if you are a little bit organisationally challenged like me, I’m sure you have tried quite a few systems, apps and planners and never quite hit on the right method to keep you on track.
Let me give you a few time management hints and tips that I have picked up along the way. I’m still not perfect, but I’m certainly getting better at getting things done, and I can help you too.
1. Pick Just One System
I know people that do all their planning using a calendar or planner like those provided by Organised Mum. Some people use an app – my own favourite is Pocket informant, which syncs between my phone and my iPad. Others use paper todo lists and Post it Notes. Which is best?
Looking at my friends and colleagues it seems to me that any of these systems can work. The key to it all is picking just one system and sticking to it rigidly, so you know exactly where you list of things to do is situated. If you have stuff on a calendar, other stuff on a post it note and your phone sends you a reminder about something else, then you will definitely get overwhelmed.
I absolutely love beautiful stationery, and over the years I have bought so many calendars, palnners and list books. But ulitimately for me an app works best. Now that I know this and have stopped fighting against it, things work so much better.
2. Capture Everything
Once you have picked your planning and list making system, the second most crucial thing is making sure that everything you might need to do makes it into that system. If you agree to anything with or for anybody, it needs to go instantly into your system – then you can’t forget it. If you take one thing from this article, this is the most important one. Get in the habit of capturing all your todos as soone as you think of them and get them onto the list – then when you come to plan your days you have the best information so yu can be more efficient
3. Write Daily Task Lists That Work
Lists are a great way to remember everything that needs to happen, but only if they’re written in the right way. Writing endless reminders on scraps of paper will probably only send you backwards. Instead, follow these tips:
- Get into a system of either using one piece of paper per day, a simple document on your computer or a tool such as Remember the Milk.
- Split your to do lists by day and only include the tasks you think you can accomplish that day. Any leftovers will have to be moved onto tomorrow’s list, so don’t trip yourself up before you’ve even started.
- Prioritise your list and stick to it
- Include everything that you have to do that day on the list, even if it’s not to do with work or if it only takes two minutes
4. Use Incentives & Challenge Yourself
Once you have set up your list of things to do for the day, then you have to set about getting things done. If you have a full day of tasks ahead, you may need some incentives to keep you motivated. Try and plan in a couple of short breaks, and do something enjoyable – e.g. call a friend or take a quick walk.
You might also like to use these incentives to get things done more quickly – for example: “If I get all this filing done in 30 minutes less than I’d planned, I’m allowed to sit and read my book in the sun for half an hour”. You can make the treat as indulgent as you want, as long as it makes you accomplish a task more efficiently than you’d anticipated.
5. Break Jobs Down
If you fill your to-do list with massive tasks, you’ll probably never actually get around to completing them. Instead, break each job down into smaller tasks – as a rule of thumb you should be able to complete a task in two hours or less. If a task is going to take more than two hours, then break it down into smaller tasks. For example, instead of putting ‘Sort tax return’ as a task, break it down into more manageable bites, e.g. ‘add receipts to spreadsheet’.
6. Track Your Time
If you feel like your time disappears each day, try tracking where it goes for a few days
Keep a piece of paper handy, or a document on your computer’s desktop, and keep track of what you’re doing and when for a week or so. Don’t try and change your ways while you’re logging time; instead, wait a week or two and then review. With the hard numbers in front of you, you can easily see what’s taking more time than you realised and make the necessary changes.
7. Learn To Delegate
No one (not even you!) can do everything. Although it can sometimes seem easier to just do whatever job needs doing yourself, it might not actually be the best use of your time. If you’re really busy, before just going ahead and doing a task yourself stop and think about whether or not anyone else could do it for you. If you have the children at home ofver the summer, what jobs could they take over for you. If you are running a business at home, then maybe you can delegate some of the business tasks to a VA, or delegate some of the homemeaking or childcare tasks to a cleaner, or au pair.
Of course you’ll need to take the time to delegate the job properly – which might take little longer in the short term, but think of all the time you’ll be saving in the long run. And if you are delegating to your children they may learn some valuable life skills in the process
8. Just Keep Going
The last tip is to stick with your system. Make sure everything is on your to do list, select stuff to do each day, and get on and do it. Ignore the time-suckers, delegate what you can, but make sure you get the important stuff done. Then take a break and reward yourself. Rinse and repeat every single day.
Hopefully you’ll find these tips useful – I’d also love to hear your productivity tips too – do let me know via the comments.
In September 2018, when the kids go back to school, I am launching a community of mums who are overwhelmed with all the tasks they are facing. If you need help getting things done so that you can find time for yourself, then please check out the Mums in the Middle community.