Time management is tricky. As a new parent or just an average busy person, do you ever find that you get to the end the day and don’t know what you have accomplished? I have had many days like that, especially since my son was born. Life with a kid is exhausting and crazy and busy. I used to go to bed at night drained but not sure what I had to show for it. It’s an interesting sensation to be busy all day but not feel like you get anything done.
After a few months of running myself ragged and still feeling like a failure when I reflected on my day, I decided I needed to change the ways I defined success and planned my time.
So, success. . .
This was so hard. For over half of my marriage, I had been the primary breadwinner. I had been working full-time as a teacher to put my husband through school. I didn’t realize until forced to think about it, that success in my mind was tied to making money and checking things off lists.
Step 1: Redefine Success
Now, being a stay-at-home mom is no get rich quick scheme. In our case, it was a financial sacrifice. Confronting that was my first step. My deep conversation with myself went something like this.
“Okay self, you chose to do this. You agreed that this would be the best thing for your family. You want to be home for your son. Success does not equal money. Don’t fall for that lie.”
After having that chat every day for months, I started to believe it. My “success” no longer equaled money but I still wasn’t sure what it did equal. As I started to try to define my “new success” and came up with this list.
- Is my son alive?
- Does he feel loved?
- Is he happy?
- Is he safe?
- Has he eaten?
- Has he been hugged?
- Have I told him I love him?
- Has he been read to?
- Is the house still standing?
- Is everyone dressed?
- Is there food in the fridge?
- Have I eaten?
- Have we been outside?
- Have we seen people?
These were things that were happening every day (except maybe getting dressed) but that I hadn’t been counting towards my personal success because they were obvious. Obvious does not mean irrelevant.
So, the first step, if you feel like you can’t get anything done, is to identify your priorities and define what success is for you.
Step 2: Have A Plan
After my “new success” was defined and I got over the useless feeling that not making any money left me with, I was able to focus on the second part of my feeling accomplished gap. Lists.
I don’t know what it is about crossing something off of a to-do list that is so satisfying but I missed it. Unfortunately, I could no longer keep track of things as well as I used to be able to. At the end of a teaching day, I could sit down and conquer that list. As a mom, I couldn’t even find it.
So, I came up with a simple system that I can keep track of and that helps me get stuff done.
Part 1: Establish Big Goals
Big Goals are all about scheduling. In my last post, I talked about how when I first had my baby I wrote out hour-by-hour plans in great detail (like I did when I was a teacher). Those kinds of plans often don’t work for a teacher. For a new Mom, they were absolutely crazy.
So, I traded in my detailed, insane plan for one Big Goal a day (if you are better at life than I am, go for two or three Big Goals a day). Most of my own Big Goals each week revolve around leaving the house or seeing other people (my priorities) but they could be focused on whatever is most important to you.
Example Big Goals:
- Monday: clean house
- Tuesday: go to play group
- Wednesday: visit library
- Thursday: hike
- Friday: buy groceries
- Saturday: do something fun with Daddy
- Sunday: make it to church
Picking Big Goals based on my priorities gives each day a focus and makes my weeks a little bit more predictable.
Part 2: Create a Daily To-Do List
This first to do list is the one that helps me realize that I am getting stuff done even if it doesn’t feel like it. I have a checklist in google keep (on my phone, tablet, and computer) that I reset each day. It is very basic but I often spend the majority of my day working on it. Some of the things don’t need to be done every single day and I can check them off first thing in the morning. Bam. Stuff is done.
I reset the list each night and add specific things for the next day if I need to. Getting all of the to-dos out of my brain before bed really helps me sleep.
Example Daily To-Do List:
- read scriptures
- get ready for the day (shower and get dressed)
- empty dishwasher/wash dishes
- load of laundry
- make bed
- breakfast for everyone
- baby hygiene (bath, nails, teeth)
- read stories
- lunch for everyone
- make dinner
- run errands
(Yeah I know a lot of my day revolves around food. . .)
Part 3: Create an “It Would be Great. . .” To-Do List
This is just what it sounds like. If I happen to have some down time between my Big Goals and daily tasks I look at my second list, which is organized based on importance. This is the list where I write down the things that I would like to do but that are not urgent. Weird errands, hobbies, my own projects. . . .heaven forbid. If they become pressing I move items from this list to my daily list. (Sometimes even hobbies are pressing.)
Example “It Would Be Great” List
- complete a blog post
- look up Canada vacation questions
- return shirt to the store
- buy present for birthday on Friday
- finish art for the bathroom
- research graphic design
This list takes a long time to accomplish but it gives me something to do besides twiddle my thumbs when everything necessary is completed.
I’m not joking about thumb twiddling. Every once in a while I still find myself watching my husband take care of our son because what am I supposed to do? He is doing what I do with my whole life. . . That is craziness. I deserve to have my own time and interests. At these moments I pull out my lists and use my time to get stuff done.
So, if you feel like you never get anything done . . . Redefine your own success, create a plan (schedule and lists), and remember to give yourself credit for all the stuff you do accomplish!
How do you stay on top of your crazy busy life?