I am often asked how I get done what I get done. Let me first say, I honestly don’t think I get more done than most people. I think it often appears that way because I hold my emotions close, am fairly private and try to maintain my composure. I fear I sometimes appear “all together” and that is often far from the truth (just ask my family!). I will admit though, that I have also been a student of time management for as long as I can remember. I was that child in elementary school who wanted to work my way through every SRA test seeing my name rise on the chart. I was the high school student who wanted to make good grades, play sports, serve on student council and earn spending money. I was the college student who had to work her way through college, so I needed to be able to balance studies with work. I was the young wife who wanted to work, cook fabulous meals, entertain friends and business partners and create a “Southern Living” style home. And then I became a first time mom to not one, but two beautiful baby girls and I wanted to be present in every way, have our home continue to be a haven and place for gathering, and I desperately wanted my girls to see me serving in the community.
I have have learned a lot about managing my time along the way. Some lessons were learned through painful mistakes, while others were learned as doors opened and new opportunities presented themselves. I am still learning. I have revisited many of my favorite tools and books as I have re-entered the workforce after 16 years as a stay-at-home mom. I have given a lot of thought to what advice I would share with others as I prepare to send my girls to college next year. Here are a few of my favorite tips:
- Choices: We all have the same amount of time. We have to make choices. Anything we choose to do fills our time and requires we say no to something else.
- We all need help. Even the Proverbs 31 woman had help. She had maidservants. We cannot keep our homes, do all the shopping and all food preparations, volunteer at our children’s schools and at church, work, serve our friends and maintain our sanity. We have to allow others to help. If our budget allows that may mean a hired housekeeper. If not, it may mean our children have chores and our husband helps. We may need to swap childcare services with a friend. When I chose to go back to work this year I knew it would require budgeting for a housekeeper and passing off some of the household shopping to my husband and girls.
- We need to know our personal rhythm and build our schedule around it. I am a morning person. I do my best thinking in the morning. I have energy in the morning. As a result I make it a habit of setting my work hours early. While I would love to be one of those people who goes to the gym at 5:30, it doesn’t fit my rhythm. I do much better jumping right into work and then fitting in a workout on the way home late afternoon/early evening, giving myself a time to transition and a little energy boost. My natural rhythm also means I need to go to bed early. I am usually in bed by 9:30 and try to have lights out by 10:30. I have tried many times to adjust my schedule, to be more like someone else, but in the end my natural rhythm is a part of my DNA and there is no fighting it. I am a better version of me and am able to perform better when i embrace my personal rhythm.
- I live by the 15 minute rule. Any time I feel stuck, am dreading an assignment or find myself with some extra time I employ the 15 minute rule. You will be amazed at all you can do in 15 minutes. Giving your undivided attention to something for just 15 minutes can be the difference between never getting a task done, never starting on a project or complete success. Here is a list of just a few things you can tackle in 15 minutes:
- Empty the dishwasher
- Clean out your purse or car
- Make your bed
- Respond to email
- Update/sync your calendar
- Create a work plan for a project
- Always build in white space. I always add 15 minutes to the front end and back end of appointments. This allows me some buffer, keeps me from running late, and is often a source of some 15 minute blocks to tackle some of the daily tasks. I also leave at least two weeknights open. This means I have seldom joined a book club or a Bunko group. This means my husband and I say “yes” to very few charitable events. (we will pay for a ticket and gladly give someone else our seats) Early on in our parenting my husband and I made a decision to not let hurry and events run our lives. We have chosen instead a slower paced way of living, making certain we AND our girls were at home as often as possible. To some this may have meant keeping our girls from opportunities, denying them the chance to be popular, the best at their sport. All I can tell you is I have well-rounded, happy girls. They both have activities they love, lots of friends and our home during these years high school years has been the gathering place. They would tell you they didn’t miss out on a thing.
- Use a calendar. I am a list maker, but that is not why I advocate use of a calendar. No. My advocacy for calendars stems from my desire and intent to be aware of where and how I spend my time. I want to make choices and know what choices I am making. Life can and will quickly take control if we allow it. By using a calendar (which for me is still a paper version) I see how our schedule looks, I know what I have planned for the day, week, month. I become more conscious, more aware.
I do get a lot done. However, there are also a lot of things I don’t get done, and most of those are by choice. I try to extend grace to myself. I try to maintain discipline without being rigid. The “how to” is a lifelong learning experience and each season brings new challenges, new lessons, new methods.
If you are struggling to get things done, to get our from under the weight of your calendar I hope a few of my tips will help. Most of all, I pray you will find some time this week to step back from your life, your daily routine and give it some thought. Take a leap of faith. Say no where you need to. Make the desires of your heart your priorities. Reset your schedule and live your life, not someone else’s.