I have three kids and work from home. With meals, sports, appointments and playing chauffeur it’s hard to get it all done! I’ve had to learn how to be intentional and plan ahead to reach goals (and not be crazy). Here are the things that have helped me with time management and essentially doubled my productivity.
What I can accomplish while the kids are in school is twice fold what it was even two years ago. And that is because it takes time to implement new things into your life. Just take one at a time. Start slow. You can watch the YouTube video here.
Create routines and habits.
The benefit here is that you don’t have to use brain power to do habits, it’s automatic. It’s the same idea when you drive home from a familiar place and you arrive at your destination wondering how you even got there because it was so automatic. God gifted us with this ability, because we only have brain power for so many things in a day. I am not naturally a routine person but I am finding so much value in them that I’m finally (after decades!) sticking with them.
I have routines for:
- Weekday mornings
- Family evenings with dinner, chores, outside activity and family game time
- Days for chores: Monday – plan the week, Tuesday – budget, Wednesday – laundry, Thursday – odd jobs, Friday – grocery shop and clean floors
- Saturday family routine
- Sunday family routine
Our evening routine has been the biggest game changer. It drastically reduces the chaos and meltdowns. The kids know what happens next and now I don’t even really remind them. It has become a habit to do their chore after dinner and head outside for a game of basketball or soccer.
Get a paper notebook.
You don’t need a fancy planner or app, just a plain old lined school notebook is perfect. In fact, I like its simplicity so I can use it for to-do lists, content idea brainstorming, budgeting — everything! I use this same notebook every single day.
There’s something about having your lists and ideas written down on paper that seems less abstract or overwhelming. And you are less likely to forget about it. I prefer the paper notebook because when I do it on my computer or phone I can get easily distracted and waste time. I’m very gifted at wasting time ;)
I keep the notebook handy while I’m working on the computer or studying. This way I am able to write down ideas or errands so I can continue concentrating on the task at hand. Otherwise, I get distracted and can easily get off track for hours. For example, if I am at the computer typing out my next blog post, but I remember that I need to make a dentist appointment, I will write that down in my ongoing list of things to do and then continue writing the blog post. So I haven’t forgotten it, but I don’t need to address it at that very moment. Often times when the list gets too long I just take one day to do all these little things and check them off the list — and that feels wonderful!
Decide what you want most out of life.
What are your goals for the future? What are the incremental steps that will take you to get there? What daily decisions can you make to live the life you are dreaming about? I’m talking about work and personal goals. For example, my goal is to get outside more with my kids. My plan is to start having a weekly excursion on Saturdays. My goal is to have my YouTube channel monetized. My plan is to make at least two YouTube videos a month so both of these goals need to have a place in my weekly or daily planning.
I am reminded that life doesn’t just happen to us. We are responsible to use what resources we have to create a life we love. Go ahead and write these in your notebook so you can look back on them.
List your three top priorities for the day.
I have many different interests, a variety of goals, and difficulty balancing them or allocating the appropriate amount of time to each thing. The only way I can do that is by planning. In the morning, while I’m drinking my coffee, I like to list the top three things I would like to get done that day in my notebook. If those three things get done, I call the day of success! Sometimes it helps to make this list at night before bed so your to-do list doesn’t disrupt your sleep.
Time block your day.
Next, I write down every hour of the day from 8 am to 8 pm — one hour per line. I plug in those top three priorities into the hours and then figure out the rest of my day. It doesn’t take too long because I have a typical morning routine and we finally have a new evening routine that is working great! If our week has a lot of activities sometimes I will print out this weekly planner I created.
Limit screen time
Set a time limit for social media, or take a break from it all together. Or at the very least pay attention to that turning point where your mood shifts from inspired to jealous or angry. That’s when it is time to get off the app. As we know these apps were designed to keep us endlessly scrolling. What could we have done with that time instead? How would we feel if we hadn’t gotten on there?
I even have to plan the hours I am allowing myself to sit at the computer because that’s a time trap for me as well.
Recently, I have put a stack of books I’ve been meaning to read in my car, along with a highlighter. So instead of scrolling on my phone while I’m in car line or waiting at gymnastics or soccer (I do a lot of waiting!), I am reading a book. I am learning and growing instead of just being entertained or distracted. The feeling I leave after looking at social media for an hour is overwhelmed. Clearly I’m not doing enough or going to the coolest places or enjoying life one-tenth as that person! After I finish reading a book, I walk away with some new knowledge (I read mostly non-fiction), feeling inspired and energized.
Spend more time in silence.
Try no TV, no radio, no podcast, no background noise as you do daily mundane chores — just you and your thoughts. The longer I spend in silence, the more the important matters rise to the top, the more I am able to process my thoughts and come up with the next steps to take. Priorities align themselves naturally. I dictated this entire blog post into my phone one morning after spending it in silence and without screens. The points were clear as day without distraction.
I have significantly more ideas and creativity when I am not looking at a screen. Turn off the background, music or TV. Take downtime enjoy nature take satisfaction in cooking. It’s amazing the clear thoughts and visions you will have.
Side note: I have school-aged children now, so this wasn’t an option very often several years ago! But take it when you can get it.
Create a uniform.
Every six months or so I buy a small little wardrobe capsule that fits with the season, and I pretty much wear those same items that mix-and-match over and over again. This makes getting dressed simple and quick. You can check out my latest wardrobe capsule here.
Learn to say no.
I recently read the book Boundaries and learned that my willingness to help anyone and everyone that asked was not helping me or my family. I truly think everyone should read this book! I can’t recommend it enough.
Henry Cloud and John Townsend write that “love is the only true motive for what we do.” Learning to decipher my motivation for what I am saying yes to has been life-changing. Is my motive about people, pleasing and acceptance or fear of hurting someone’s feelings or that I’m doing the wrong thing? Because that will only lead to overcommitment and resentment. Or is my motivation love? Is this something God has called and equipped me to do? Because I only want to do those things. And just a quick reminder that sometimes he has called us to do things for a season, not forever.
“God is more concerned about our hearts than he is with our outward compliance.”
Let your downtime be downtime.
God set for us the example of six days to work and one day to rest. Our minds and bodies and families need that time. Trying to squeeze every ounce of productivity out of each day makes us robotic. It leaves no time for the magic, for the little beautiful details, for impromptu dance parties, and much needed companionship and laughter.