* Guest Post by Kristin Longacre
All moms work hard. Stay at home moms, working moms, part time moms…everyone works hard. The daily tasks might be different but at the end of the day not one mom can look back and say “wow every single day is easy.” All it takes is one tantrum to throw off the entire day.
With both of my boys I went back to work around the time they were 2 months old. Finding how to manage my time as a working mom was not a fun task. For today we have figured it out, but there is no such thing as a perfect schedule. Four years later I still have days where all I can do is accept that I’m a disorganized hot mess.
I am a creature of habit which also means I function much better when my routine is normal. Time management is KEY for a routine. As my four year old has grown up he has indirectly taught me the most important time management skills that I use every day.
Write Everything Down
A few years ago we decided to buy a house right before the holiday season. This also happens to be my busy season at work. There are extra hours worked, lunch breaks missed and often times days where I don’t leave my desk but couldn’t tell you what I’ve accomplished. On top of all of that we were heading out of town for the holiday season twice in one week. My brain was fried and I couldn’t remember a thing that needed to be done.
Google calendar wasn’t cutting it for me and I came close to a complete breakdown. My schedule was overbooked and I didn’t even have time to fold the laundry or do the dishes.
I finally sat down and made a list of everything. I printed out calendars for each week left of the year and organized our schedule as much as possible. This helped me figure out where we had extra time to do something as a family and what days we needed to rely on a good take out as we ate dinner at 10pm at night.
After this I switched up my organization and I rely HEAVILY on my Erin Condren Life Planner. If it isn’t in the calendar, it isn’t happening.
Use Your Evenings Wisely
As much as I would love to come home from work every day and sit on the couch, that’s not what I signed up for. Our short evenings typically include dinner, bath time and MAYBE if we’re lucky a quick trip to the park in the summer.
8:30 is bedtime and we stick to it. I wouldn’t say I look forward to bedtime but the productivity after they hit the pillow at night goes up tenfold. I know our mornings are stressful. I’ve found that using the time from 8:45-10pm to organize everything for the next day has not only made my life easier, but has made everyone slightly less stressed in the mornings.
Things I recommend trying to accomplish once the kids are in bed:
- Packing lunches for the next day
- Getting backpacks ready for the next day
- Organizing what is for dinner the next evening
- Fold a load of laundry (it’s always there, right?)
Taking the extra time in the evening leaves you with a cleaner house and less to do in the morning.
Give yourself a cutoff time. I typically will always stop at 10pm and say it’s time for bed regardless of how much is left. This way I am not tempted to add even more chores to my never ending list.
Organize Your Day Around Your Kids
I’m pretty sure this is the one piece of time management advice that many people would argue with me on. Is it spoiling them when you make them the center of your day? Maybe. Here’s the thing, we have very limited time together during the week. I would rather maximize that time with them than make them wait until I have free time for them.
A late bedtime could throw off the rest of our week with a cranky four year old. Not having dinner planned out could result in a lot of extra “I’m hungry” discussions while I cook. They rely on their parents to make sure they are fed, bathed and in bed. For these reasons, my day is typically centered around them.
We try and stick to a routine as much as possible with them. I’ve often found that if you throw a wrench in the routine and it is game over. Kids are much less flexible than their parents. If it means keeping your sanity, make them the center of your schedule. Work around them from there.
Plan Ahead & Give Yourself Wiggle Room in Your Scheduling
The biggest lesson I’ve learned in time management as a working mom is to be flexible.
My morning typically goes as follows:
4:45 – Wakeup
5:15 – Run
6:10 – Shower
6:30 – Wake up oldest kid
6:40 – Start Smoothies
6:55 – Wake up the baby (if he isn’t up yet)
7:00 – Get daddy out the door
7:06 – Get kids loaded up and out the door
7:35 – Daycare Drop Off
7:45 – Leave Daycare
8:00 – Work Begins
Yes, we have to be out of the house by 7:06. With bus traffic, other traffic and the number of stop lights we might hit we are scheduled down to the minute.
You never know when the baby might need their diaper changed right as you walk out the door. Let’s be honest, it happens more often than it should. The reality is we almost never get out the door by 7:06 anymore. I finally had to accept that we needed more wiggle room.
I started building an extra 10 minutes built into our daycare drop off in case we have a bad day. Usually I’ll hang around, say goodbye to the boys, talk with their sitter, etc. There are days we don’t make it out the door until 7:15. Those days it means a quick goodbye in order to make it to work on time.
Give yourself some wiggle room in case you have that meltdown you weren’t expecting. No day is going to be perfect. If you do get a perfectly timed day LIVE IT UP and remember it will never happen again.
Set Aside Time For YOURSELF
As a mom stress is expected. I schedule my days pretty carefully in order to keep myself sane. One thing I have found that is incredible important to schedule is time for you. Maybe it’s a date night with your husband, maybe it’s a night off from dishes where you curl up with your iPad and watch a movie.
No amount of organization and time management will keep you going when a string of bad days. Scheduling in that time for yourself will help you feel less guilty taking that time for yourself. The schedule pick back up tomorrow. Work will still be there, the kids will still give you hugs and laundry will be waiting for you.
Then again, does an empty laundry basket actually exist?
What is your biggest tip for time management as a working mom? What do you on days that you just can’t keep your schedule together?