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The first step in time management is to prioritize your time. A lot of thought and care can and should go into this.
We have only been given so much time a day. You have to prioritize the things you will devote that time to. Recognize that time spent is time gone. Be wary of certain mind-numbing activities that can easily suck your time. One such example is surfing social media sites. Social media is a fun way to connect with others. If you find it is a major time suck, you might consider setting a timer and when it goes off, you leave the social media behind you and move on to other tasks. Let’s talk about ways to prioritze.
Scripture Study and Prayer
My number one piece of advice for people who are looking to be more organized and effective with their time is to put the Lord first. If you take nothing else away from this, take this. This is the winner right here. Do your scripture study in the morning. Be sure to say your morning prayers. When I was a teenager, I remember my voice teacher once sharing with me how she had so much to do that day, but she felt she needed to make sure to put the Lord first. She did and she was able to get everything done she needed to. This has always stuck with me and I have always found it to be true in my life; when I put my scripture study and prayers first each morning, my days are much smoother.
Good, Better, Best
When it comes to prioritizing, one of the best tools you can use is to analyze the idea of good, better, best. There are many things in life you can do that are good. Some are even better. Only few are best. Be sure you are focusing on what is best first. Then if you have time, you can add in what is better. I kind of think that as mothers, at that point we are full, but if not, choose some good things to spend time on after that. As Dallin H. Oaks put it, “…just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it. The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them.”
I also liked this thought on media, “Consider how we use our time in the choices we make in viewing television, playing video games, surfing the Internet, or reading books or magazines. Of course it is good to view wholesome entertainment or to obtain interesting information. But not everything of that sort is worth the portion of our life we give to obtain it.” emphasis mine
Some things may seem harmless, and they are harmless, but always think, is this worth the portion of my life I am giving to obtain it. As you choose how to spend your time, be sure you fill it with the best of your choices.
Choose What is Essential
Along the same vein, I have recently talked about what is essential.
I also wrote on how to figure out what is essential and have created some printables for you to use to figure that out.
Optimize Your Pace
We all have different capacities. At different times in our lives, we will be able to handle different loads. Learn to be in tune with yourself and keep the pace that works for you.
Dieter F. Uctdorf said: “When stress levels rise, when distress appears, when tragedy strikes, too often we attempt to keep up the same frantic pace or even accelerate, thinking somehow that the more rushed our pace, the better off we will be.”
In determining your own pace, Uctdorf counsels that we focus on four key relationships in our lives: with God, with our families, with our fellowmen, and with ourselves. Evaluate yourself in each of these areas and see where you need to improve and where you need to cut back.
We don’t need to live at a frantic pace. Julie B. Beck once said, “A good woman knows that she does not have enough time, energy, or opportunity to take care of all the people or do all of the worthy things her heart yearns to do. Life is not calm for most women, and each day seems to require the accomplishment of a million things, most of which are important.”
We really do yearn to do a lot as women. Being a mother changes you. It softens your heart. You want to help everyone in every way you can. But you can’t do it all. Remember your time and season. Beck gave these suggestions:
- We are doing well when we develop attributes of Christ and strive to obey His gospel with exactness. I would point out here that in order to do this, we must pray and study scriptures so we are familiar with Christ and His commandments. So make these matters a priority each day.
- We are doing well when we seek to improve ourselves and do our best.
- We are doing well when we increase faith and personal righteousness.
- We are doing well when we strengthen homes and families.
- We are doing well when we seek out and help others in need. I wanted to point out here that you should not forget to recognize that your family, your children, are others who are in need. Do not think that this statement means you need to be out in the community each day doing massive volunteer work. Find things you can do and still attend to your small children. One thing I often do is make dinner for people who are sick, pregnant, hurt, busy, in mourning, or recently had a baby, etc. It gets to be simple after you have done it a few times. You just make extra of your dinner and you have some great service!
Make Wise Sacrifices
Being a parent means you sacrifice a lot. Organizing your time will not mean you are sitting back and sipping your favorite drink of choice with your feet up. There will be many things you do because it is what is best for your children–from feeding them to taking them to lessons.
“Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.” desiringgod.org
Learn to make wise sacrifices. Don’t make yourself the martyr. Dieter F. Uctdorf said, “An acceptable sacrifice is when we give up something good for something of far greater worth.” There are many times in life we can and should sacrifice for things. Those are wise sacrifices. Other times, we sacrifice things unwisely.
There isn’t some laundry list of things that are good sacrifices and things that are unwise sacrifices. ” Every person and situation is different, and a good sacrifice in one instance might be a foolish sacrifice in another.” What is wise for you may not be wise for me. What is wise for you today might not be wise for you in six months. A huge trick is to figure out what is the wise move at the moment.
“How can we tell the difference for our own situation? We can ask ourselves, “Am I committing my time and energies to the things that matter most?” There are so many good things to do, but we can’t do all of them.” Dieter F. Uctdorf
Do Not Overschedule
In your prioritizing, a painful step will be analyzing your activities and be sure you are not overscheduled. If you are, find what you can cut. Dallin H. Oaks warned, “The amount of children-and-parent time absorbed in the good activities of private lessons, team sports, and other school and club activities also needs to be carefully regulated. Otherwise, children will be overscheduled, and parents will be frazzled and frustrated.
M. Russell Ballard also discussed overscheduling. “We live in a world that is filled with options. If we are not careful, we will find every minute jammed with social events, classes, exercise time, book clubs, scrapbooking, Church callings, music, sports, the Internet, and our favorite TV shows. One mother told me of a time that her children had 29 scheduled commitments every week: music lessons, Scouts, dance, Little League, day camps, soccer, art, and so forth. She felt like a taxi driver. Finally, she called a family meeting and announced, “Something has to go; we have no time to ourselves and no time for each other.” Families need unstructured time when relationships can deepen and real parenting can take place. Take time to listen, to laugh, and to play together.”
Prioritizing is a huge step in effective time management. Once you are spending your time on the essential things in life, it is much easier to fit them all in.
Keep a List
You really need a way to keep track of the things you need to do. You might use apps, a notebook, a planner, a sticky note, a planner…whatever works for you works. Just make sure you have a list of the things you need to get done and the places you need to be.
Keeping a list helps keep you on task. This is a basic of goal-setting, and your usage of time each day should be essentially a goal. You want to have a goal to use your time wisely.
You also want to outsource your brain. When you are a mom, you wear so many hats that it is challenging to keep track of everything that needs to be done. Keep your lists in your preferred method so your brain is free to focus on the task at hand.
It is wise to take a task and break it into several manageable tasks. So let’s take sewing something for an example since I am currently making Halloween costumes. You have this large task of needing to make a costume. You can break that into smaller steps. One day, your goal might be to cut out the pattern pieces. The next day, it might be to cut out the fabric. The next might be to sew the project. Another might be to hem. As mothers, we rarely have a huge chunk of time to tack a project all at once, so breaking it down into manageable tasks you can fit into your day will help you be more effective with your time and get things done. Just be realistic in your baby-steps.
Know and Think
Now that you have your priorities and you have a list of things that need to be done, you can apply the method of knowing and thinking. Since you have outsourced your brain, you need to check in with that brain so you know what is going on. It does you no good to outsource if you never consult back.
Early each week, go over what is going on during the upcoming week. In our family, we do this during our family home evening each Monday night. This way, we all know what is upcoming for the next week and know what to expect.
Each evening before I go to bed, I look at the schedule for the next day so I can think through and prepare anything that I might need to prepare. It helps me hit the ground effectively the next morning so if anything needs to happen right away or if I need to be ready earlier than usual, I make sure that happens.
Around breakfast each morning, I then review the day, my to-do list, and decide what we will have for dinner that night (from my list of meals for the week). For me, having dinner as a family each night is a high priority, so I make sure I have things prepared and ready to make that happen. See
Prioritizing Family Meals for more on that.
Now you are ready to actually start completing the tasks you have before you.
Small to Big
A great strategy for paying down debt is to pay off your smallest debt first, then apply the money that went toward that debt to your next smallest, and so forth. This strategy is also effective for getting things done. Each day, you will have small and easy tasks before you and larger tasks that will take more time. I find it effective to do the easiest and fastest tasks first. This frees my mind to focus on fewer things that day. It also helps me feel motivated and good about my time spent because I get a lot of things done. If you take on the biggest project first, you might find the day ends and that is all you accomplished, and it leaves you feeling discouraged.
Do Not Multi-Task
Women are natural multi-taskers, and sometimes multi-tasking can be your friend in trying to get things done. You can visit with a friend while you iron. That kind of multi-tasking is fantastic. Some multi-tasking can actually decrease your productivity, however.
I am talking about when you are cleaning a room. You then take something to put it away, and while there, you see your laundry that needs to be folded, so you pause the room cleaning and do some folding. Then you take the laundry to put it away and notice your bathroom is a mess. As you are putting away the random items that were trailed into the bathroom that morning, you see an email pop up on your computer so you sit down to respond.
This is classic “Laura Numeroff”–you know–If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and the like? You are doing a lot of things but not really accomplishing any one thing. Stay task oriented.
Set Aside Chunks of Time
Like I said earlier, it is hard to have large chunks of time to get things done when you are a mom. I have a list of things I like to get done in a week. I have my cleaning, blogging, some crafting, and I love to have some time to read a book if I can, also. For a while, I would try to do some of each every day, and for a while, that worked for me. At some point, I realized it was no longer working. I was “Numeroffing” it.
My current system is to have a day for things. One day of the week is my laundry day. On this day, my main goal is to get laundry done. Naturally there are other things that need to be addressed, like taking care of children and feeding the family, but the main goal of the day is laundry. If I get done early, I can do something else.
Tuesday is my blogging day. This is the day I try to get everything done for my blog that needs to be done for the week. Wednesday is crafting day. Thursday is read a book day. Friday is cleaning day/family history day. Now, if something comes up (and it often does), I can cut out doing crafts or I can cut out reading a book. I don’t live and die by this, but it is a way for me to organize time and a way to dedicate times to different areas of my life I really want to focus on.
You will notice I have time set aside to do hobbies. Many hobbies are for the family–any crafts I make/sew are for the kids or home. Reading is for me.
M. Russell Ballard said: “…even as you try to cut out the extra commitments…find some time for yourself to cultivate your gifts and interests. Pick one or two things that you would like to learn or do that will enrich your life, and make time for them. Water cannot be drawn from an empty well, and if you are not setting aside a little time for what replenishes you, you will have less and less to give to others, even to your children.”
Having some hobbies will help you to have the mental “umph” to help your family out.
Do Not Procrastinate
When it comes time to do tasks, don’t procrastinate them. I once read a quote from Spencer W. Kimball that said procrastination is “…an unwillingness to accept personal responsibility now.” I mean, ouch right? Do it now. Nothing is more stressful than having to get stuff done at the last minute. If you think ahead, you can spend the same time on tasks but do them ahead of time.
Also, do not get in your own way. We often drag our feet while doing tasks we don’t like. Just move out of your way mentally and even physically and get the task done.
Remember Life is a Journey
Life is a journey, not a destination. Just remember as you work toward having this time management that you are working toward your journey. There will always be things to do. The to-dos will never stop. You have to make sure you are willing to be flexible and that you make time to have fun and spend time with your family. Make sure that is part of your list (plug for not procrastinating, if your tasks are not “fire” situations, you can be more flexible with them). Your point in organizing your time is to make sure you are able to focus on the essential, so do not let lists get in the way of relationships.
- Increasing Our Capacity
- Time With God
- You Can’t Do Everything
- Only a Few Things are Essential
- Figuring Out What is Essential
- Good Sacrifice vs. Foolish Sacrifice
- Slow the Pace
- We Don’t Need to Live at a Frantic Pace
- A Good Woman
- Motherhood: Some Uplifting Words
- How I Do It: Organize Myself
- Life is a Journey, Not A Destination