Some people are born with impeccable time management skills but most of us are waging a seemingly unwinnable war with our hectic schedules at work and at home. Moms have it especially hard—juggling work and kids leaves precious little Me time. We all need to be able to fit in time to decompress and get a little pampering on top of all our other responsibilities, so it’s vital that we find the time management tools to help make the most of every hour in the day.k
It’s all too easy to fall into the multitasking trap in your efforts to be supermom and today’s social media and tech devices make even harder to avoid. Many people still see the ability to multitask as a valuable skill but increasingly research shows that it’s more of a liability. In fact, the people who claim to be fantastic multitaskers actually tend to be the worst. Daniel J. Levitin, dean of arts and humanities at Minerva Schools at Keck Graduate Institute explains it this way: “We try to juggle a bunch of things at once, but multitasking is a myth. The brain is really shifting from one activity to the next. You’re fracturing your attention into a bunch of little bits.” So stop making yourself crazy trying to do it all at once!
One of the best strategies for minimizing multitasking is to stop saying yes to everything. This can be a hard one for us women but think about it this way—if you’re pulled in 10 different directions and can’t give your best effort and full attention to any of them, you really aren’t doing anyone any favors.
So how do you know when your plate will be full ahead of time? By keeping a detailed and realistic schedule. An excellent way to begin building your time management skills is to write down every single thing you do and how long it takes, each day for a week or two. This will give you a clear picture of where you’re wasting time and allow you to start prioritizing tasks. Apps are invaluable time management tools and there are tons of free ones with calendars, time trackers and to-do lists. Check out Evernote, Awesome Note, Easily Do, CalenGoo and IFTTT to get started.
Which brings us to to-do lists, the foundation of your schedule. It’s helpful to have a few different to-do lists. Make one for tasks that need to be done in the short-term and another for more long-term projects, like organizing your closet. You may even want to subdivide them even more into categories like Work, Kids, Home, etc. Update them regularly and check off things as they’re completed.
Learn to prioritize and apply the 80/20 rule. This states that 20% of your time produces 80% of your results. Take a few minutes each day to think about what needs to get done and how you can make each second count. It really helps to group similar tasks together so you’re not constantly switching gears. At work this could mean setting a time to check email, return phone calls and organize your files—all things that use the same part of your brain and cover some of the same ground. Then set aside another chunk of time for more creative activities like writing, brainstorming and problem-solving. The same principal applies at home—when the kids are doing homework, take care of things like bill paying so you can be available to help them when needed and you’ll already be exercising your math skills.
Including breaks in your schedule is one of the most important keys to honing your time management skills. If you don’t take a few minutes to recharge here and there, you’ll start slowing down and making mistakes by the end of the day. If you can’t find the room in your schedule then you need to start delegating some tasks to make room for it. Finally, know yourself and create a schedule that goes along with your lifestyle and body clock. If you’re not a morning person and just getting the kids off to school on time is a daily challenge, get a head start the night before by having everyone’s outfits ready, lunches made and shower before bed instead of after breakfast. That way you’re taking advantage of the hours when you are awake and making mornings a million times less stressful.