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I don’t know about you but I’ve struggled with time management and productivity my whole life. My executive function skills–you know, all those skills you need to manage your life effectively? Mine are terrible. I used to spend all my time playing catch up and I was always overwhelmed.
I tried a bazillion tips on how to be more productive, but I couldn’t keep going with any of them long enough to make any lasting changes. You know the drill, you find a new article or book on how to manage your time better or be more productive, so you get all excited and tell yourself you’re turning over a new leaf tomorrow and this time you’re going to make it work.
A few years ago, 2016, to be exact, I read this article on productivity and it had me fired. up. I was nodding my head like I was having a conversation with this woman and was using my highlighter and page flags like I was studying for finals. By the time I finished, I was convinced that this was the holy grail of productivity guides and was committed to doing the things she suggested. All the things.
I tried her way for a week and every day it was the same story, just different details–something would distract me and I’d get derailed, then frustrated, then overwhelmed because I wasn’t following the system properly so I’d decide to start the next day. By the end of the week, I was over it. I was furious and frustrated with myself. Even worse, I was convinced I would never be able to change, so why even bother?
So, how did I finally learn to be more productive and manage my time better?
That time a random post in a Facebook group changed my life:
I’m a major perfectionist. I tend to over-analyze and agonize over every little thing so tasks have always taken me 10x longer than they should, which only causes me to get more behind, then I feel even more overwhelmed. It’s a vicious cycle.
About a month after the Great Productivity Guide Debacle of 2016, I saw a random post about perfectionism in a Facebook group. The poster was talking about how they struggled with being a perfectionist and they have to constantly remind themselves that nothing will ever be perfect so we should try aiming for progress instead.
Progress, Not Perfection
It wasn’t the first time I’d heard that phrase but right then it seemed like someone threw me a life-line. I started thinking about all the times I abandoned a new idea about how to manage my time better or be more productive and took a long, hard, honest look at why none of them worked for me.
I realized that when I got all fired up and excited about some new idea, I wanted to start following their suggestions right away so maybe trying to make too many changes too fast was a huge part of why nothing ever worked.
I decided to re-try some of the tips that hadn’t worked in the past and that I’d spend at least a week working on one at a time. If something worked, I’d keep it up and if it didn’t, I’d move on to the next thing.
Going slowly and giving myself some grace was a game-changer. I was able to implement 7 habits that have had a huge, huge impact on how I manage my time and how much I’m able to get done in a day.
That’s not to say I don’t struggle sometimes. I have days where I spend way too much time trying to make something perfect when I know good and well perfect isn’t possible. Other days I blow off my to-do list and time blocks and spend way too much time on Pinterest or lost in Netflix-land.
It happens. I know I’m a work in progress and I’ve found that I’m more productive the next day if I don’t beat myself up about getting derailed.
7 Life-Changing Time Management Tips For Stay At Home Moms:
1. Block Your Time:
I love, love, time-blocking! It made a major difference in my productivity level by itself and it can work for any schedule. Basically, you break your day down into blocks of 15-30 minutes, giving yourself a 5-minute break for every 2-time blocks and a 10-minute break after 4-time blocks. So if you work 2 blocks, you get 5 minutes. After you work for 2 more blocks, you take 10 minutes. Use a timer to help you stay on schedule. You can stick with the same task, or you can switch things up—it’s up to you.
2. Alarms and Timers
Use the alarm and timer functions on your phone! I already mentioned using a timer for time blocking but timers and alarms are great tools for staying on top of all kinds of things. I tend to forget about the laundry if I don’t have a timer set and if you’ve ever forgotten towels in the washer, then you know what a royal pain it is to get rid of that yucky smell that pops up every time they get wet. Alarms are also super helpful for reminding you when it’s time to stop what you’re doing so you’re not late for that meeting or a doctor’s appointment or even worse-a hair appointment. Gotta keep those gray hairs hidden!
3. Backwards Plan:
I think this is my favorite tool–probably because it was the easiest one for me to embrace. My husband uses this method at work and at home and over the years, I’ve gradually picked it up from him. Large or complex projects are overwhelming, so it’s easy for a lot of us to get bogged down in the details and forget the big picture.
Have you ever heard the saying “begin with the end in mind?” That’s how Backwards Planning works. Start with your desired outcome and break it down into a general outline of what will need to be done to make that happen, then you break each big task in that outline into smaller tasks.
Backwards Planning can help you come up with a plan no matter how overwhelmed you feel. If the house is a total disaster then imagine it clean and organized. What tasks need to be completed to make that happen? Be as specific as you can–the more detailed you are, the less likely it is that you’ll get overwhelmed.
4. Use A Planner:
Using a paper planner is another thing that can change your life, but you’ll probably have to try a few before you find the one that really fits the way your brain works. I know I tried a bunch of them. I love planners, but I was really starting to think I would never find one that felt right. It was frustrating because they can be super expensive!
(Nerd Alert: I have a thing for office/planner supplies! )
I finally tried Ruth Soukup’s Living Well Planner and I love it. I had to take her mini-course before I understood how to use it, but it didn’t take long and it was well worth my time. The Living Well Planner is my main planner, but I also use a bullet journal because I like to have plenty of space to jot things down. I’m pretty sure I use my bullet journal the way other people use Ever-Note but I organize the info like you would with a bullet journal. I guess I’m weird but I just really like writing things down. Plus, in true planner addict fashion, I love to decorate the pages (See? I told you I’m a nerd!).
Note: Planners and time-blocking fit together like peanut butter and chocolate, so if you time-block or think you might try it. Just do yourself a favor, and get a planner that has the hours of the day marked. It will make your life much easier, trust me!
5. NO Multi-tasking:
Yep, you read that right. No more beating yourself up for not being able to multi-task very well. The truth is, no one really does this very well. Think about it this way, if you]re splitting your attention between multiple things at once, nothing is getting your full attention. Just try it. Instead of multi-tasking and thinking about 10 different things at once, pick 1. Give that 1 thing your complete attention, then move on to the next thing. I bet you’ll find that you not only did a better job, but you did it more efficiently. It seems like a win-win so it’s worth a shot, right? Try it.
6. Limit Prep Work:
Set a limit on planning. COMPLETING the task is much more important. Staying in planner mode does nothing to propel you forward; in fact, it keeps you stuck. You may not need this as a separate item if you aren’t a perfectionist, but I need the extra reminder to set a time limit. I am the queen of researching and planning things to death instead of gathering enough information and getting started. Don’t be me!
7. Hold Yourself Accountable:
Find a friend or mentor that is willing to help you with accountability or someone to partner with to hold one another accountable, share your goals for the week (or the day if need be, we all need to take baby steps sometimes!), then you’ll meet again at the end of the day or week to report your wins and/or losses. You won’t believe how much more productive you are!
That’s it, y’all!
Nothing on this list of time management tips for stay at home moms is complicated. But, they’re all an essential part of how I’m finally able to manage my time better and get more done each day.
If they don’t resonate with you, then ask a few people you admire how they are able to manage their time and stay productive. Or, if you’re like me and have tried to make too many changes too quickly, try revisiting some of the things you’ve tried in the past.
The goal is to figure out what helps you manage your time and your to-do list and the key to making any lasting change is to focus on one thing at a time. Trying to implement everything at once is a recipe for disaster. We can’t do all the things at once.
Figuring out what doesn’t work for you brings you one step closer to finding the things that do work so if something doesn’t stick, be sure to give yourself some grace. Change isn’t easy, so remind yourself that you’re shooting for progress, not perfection!
Not enough time to read the whole post? No worries!
These 7 tips will help you manage your time and get more done each day. The key to success is going slow. Focus on implementing 1 thing at a time.
- Block your Time
- Use alarms and timers
- Backwards Plan
- Use a planner
- No multitasking
- Limit prep work
- Hold yourself accountable
Do you have trouble with time management and staying productive? I’d love to hear about it so let me know in the comments!
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