School is officially back in session…cue parents everywhere rejoicing in their newfound solitude as they suddenly gain back their free time while the kids are roaming the halls and hitting the books. Sure, we love summer, but trying to keep your kids entertained all day, every day is exhausting. As thrilled as you may be for the school year to kick into gear, the back-to-school period can be hard for a lot of parents. As Today.com reports, according to Deanna Pledge, a psychologist specializing in family and child development, “some parents need to work very consciously to reinvent [themselves] without that child at the center of their universe.” In other words, once the kids leave for school, you need to shift your focus to yourself, your own needs, your goals, and you need to be productive with your time.
Trust us, those 8 hours of freedom each day will fly by if you don’t use them wisely. Here are 10 ways to max out your time management now that the kids are back in school. Cheers to a great school season, and to your most efficient, successful, fulfilling and productive year yet.
1. Set Goals for the Day
One of the perks of not having your day revolve around catering to your kids is that you can focus on catering to yourself. Think about what you want to get done, take a deep breath and get started. It’s OK to start small. Now that you don’t have excuses or distractions, you can actually get things accomplished and even baby steps will pay off in the long run. The challenge will be to make sure you set realistic goals each day so you can get in bed feeling a sense of achievement, not failure.
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2. Prioritize your Daily tasks
There will always be more chores, more errands and more opportunities to improve your home and your life. Focus on the tasks that matter most or are in the most need of some attention. And don’t feel bad if you don’t get everything done in one day. The most efficient people often don’t do it all at all times—they do one thing at a time and then move on to their next challenge.
3. Find Time to Workout
Make sure that you make some time to focus on strengthening your body and getting fit. As it turns out, getting in shape can actually make you more mentally, emotionally and physically prepared for the obstacles you face every day. Plus, it will put you in a good mood. Studies (and personal experience) show that “exercise can help relieve tension and pent up negative energy. Decreasing this will help you sleep better at night, while allowing you to be more focused during the day.” Beyond that, you’ll release endorphins, which are “natural painkillers that raise your mood and give your body a natural boost.”
4. Prepare Dinner Ahead of Time
You want to serve your family a balanced, healthy, and delicious home-cooked meal, but every night when dinnertime strikes you are rushed, stressed and in no mood to get creative in the kitchen. Instead, use your free time during the school day to prepare dinner ahead of time. You can get all of your shopping, chopping, measuring and prep-work done, so when it’s time to get busy in the kitchen the hard work is done.
5. Take Time for Yourself
Repeat after us: it is OK to relax during your free time. Just because some people you know may be sitting at a desk at work or driving all around town to run errands does not mean you need to do that as well. If you are organized and efficient, and you find yourself with some free time, enjoy it.
6. Appreciate the Silence
A little quiet can go a long way. Take some of your newfound free time to actually free your mind and disconnect. No phones, no email, no Facebook or Instagram (harder than it sounds) and just embrace the silence for a few moments. Those few precious seconds of quiet might actually make you appreciate the noise when your kids get home.
7. Get Organized so You Don’t Waste Time
One of the most common ways to waste your time is to lead a disorganized life. A messy house not only sets the tone for a messy, chaotic and stressful day, but it also makes it impossible to find anything. If you’ve ever spent 20 minutes searching for your son’s left shoe then you know what we mean. According to Kevin Daum, Inc. 500 entrepreneur and best-selling author, “it may take you a few extra minutes to put things away but you’ll save a ton of time and irritation from having to search for what’s important.”
8. Set a Schedule
When your days suddenly have a lack of schedule it’s easy to lose track of time, and therefore abandon all efforts to use that time wisely. Make sure you have a schedule so there is structure to your day. Mark down your workout time, your cleaning time, your time to answer emails and messages etc. And once you make a schedule, try to trim the fat from your tasks and appointments. “Make hard start and stop times. You’ll be amazed at how much “free” time you gain that you can now use being productive,” says Forbes.
9. Focus on Your Own Education
Hey, your kids are off learning new information and skills, why shouldn’t you? There’s always more to learn and things you can do better. Take cooking lessons, learn a new language or get schooled in nutrition. Whatever you are passionate about and whatever might enhance your daily life is worth your time and energy.
10. Don’t do it Alone
Your kids might be gone for the day, but you don’t have to sit at home in solitude. Grab some friends, make regular plans to attack some of your goals together. Not only will you keep each other entertained, but you’ll also help hold each other accountable so you actually accomplish what you set out to do each day.