One of the main obstacles I face on a daily basis, particularly as a mother of three is time management. Even on the days I am productive, I find that it is fraught with stress and anxiety and often my children pay the price in the form of my bad mood or diminished patience.
Especially with kids, no amount of planning can prepare you for setbacks you cannot control such as illness or any number of accidents that may or may not include poop. Sometimes they are just having fun, pushing boundaries and establishing their independence. They are young and that is part of the process and we need to allow for that in planning the day. On most days I have a routine that allows for all the silliness, tantrums and wrestling matches with plenty of time for whatever the day brings. Other days, I introduce plans filled with expectations of accomplishment that push the limits of the routine. For example, I decide to update my website and what I thought would take me 30 minutes, ends up taking me 2 hours. Now I am late preparing lunch and getting my middle son ready for school. On this day he decides he does not want to wear the outfit I selected and throws an epic tantrum with the bus soon approaching. Not only do I still have to dress him and brush his teeth but now the baby wants to be carried around while I am trying to reason with a screaming almost 4 year old who has now decided that he does not want to go to school.
There are many other things that can affect your schedule. An extra long phone call, trying to tackle too many things at the same time or plain old procrastination which happens to me when I am feeling overwhelmed. Although managing my time differently has not eliminated all obstacles, implementing a strategy has vastly improved my patience, anxiety and level of productivity.
Here is what I suggest when planning your day:
1. Make a list
I have gone so far as to make two separate lists. One list is what I need to get done on a weekly basis, like laundry or grocery shopping and another list contains one day projects or things that will take more time such as writing an article, organizing my closet and so forth.
Figure out what absolutely needs to be done and then allow some things to be on a waiting list. These things are what you can do if you are ahead of schedule.
3. Plan your time according to a worst case scenario
Allow for all the variables. Depending on how old your children are you may have to take into consideration diaper blow-outs, tantrums or plain old silliness. Even if you have no children, there are any number of factors that can play a role such as traffic, computer glitches and other people. Plan your day as if everything is stacked against you and then add some cushion time around that to allow for anything that may come up that was unexpected.
4. Whenever possible, prepare in advance
Do whatever you can to facilitate things, whether it is preparing packages, picking out clothes or mapping out your day the night before will buy you more time to focus on being productive.
5. Have realistic expectations
You should not have a list that is pushing your time limits. Be honest about what can be achieved based on your circumstances. If you accomplish everything, you can add an item from your waiting list. It is better to undershoot and over accomplish than to overshoot and under accomplish.
6. Set Time Limits
Occasionally there are things that are less structured. A good example is when you are working on something creative. Set a time frame to get it done. When that time comes, you need to decide whether or not to continue with this task or move on to the next one based on where it falls in your list of priorities.
7. Take deep breaths when you encounter obstacles.
Getting frustrated is not going to help you be any more productive. Do not allow your emotions to control you or effect your problem solving skills.
8. Understand that some things are beyond your control.
Be prepared for setbacks. Even if your external factors are limited, any number of things can come into play. Your washing machine can stop working or something can come up that will take precedence over everything.
9. Everything happens for a reason
Occasionally things do not come together as you had hoped but you may not know why until later
10. Tomorrow is a new day
Do what you can and forgive yourself for whatever does not get done.