“I need more hours in my day!” I said to my husband with a groan, as I flopped into bed after yet another crazy day.
“You say that every day,” he teased.
“I know. Something needs to change. . . and change soon!”
Although the fact that I have a 9-month-old baby (at the time of the writing of this article), work at home, and have a husband to take care of is something that will keep me busy every day that I wake up, I am attempting to learn time management. I want to learn this so I can be more efficient than I have been the past few months. Hence, this article is not about having tackled my time, but about my discovery process in tackling it.
Here is what I have come up with so far. I have quickly learned that an early morning time, before my husband and daughter wake up, is absolutely crucial. Most mornings it’s hard to get up in time for this little alone-time session, but truth be told, I’d rather get up early and get it in than miss it entirely.
On my best days I can make up for it with a nap later. This early morning time is a time to pray, do some spiritual study, and plan my day’s goals. My favorite place to have it is on the couch in our living room, looking out the window as the sun comes up, coffee cup in hand.
I find that this time centers me and gets me focused on my day. It also gives me time that I can call “mine”, and as a result, I’m more ready to take care of my hubby and daughter once they wake up. I’m learning to prioritize. Being a Type A personality, everything on my to-do list is a must-do, but I am beginning to concede that there are negotiables and there are non-negotiables in my life.
The true must-dos are preparing meals for my family, keeping my baby clean and dry, playing with her, meeting work deadlines, and taking care of my body with at least a series of healthy stretches. On the other hand, things like cleaning the cupboard shelves, pulling every single weed in the flower bed, becoming a master at pilates, and learning Sign Language as a second language, really aren’t things that have to be done — as much as I might like them to be accomplished.
I am learning to fall into bed at night, considering the day to be a good one if I have loved my family and taken care of them instead of berating myself for not meeting unrealistic goals in light of the demands on my life.
I have a life goal that I have created for myself, and I am learning to cut out things that don’t match this life goal of mine. Although I would love to become proficient in playing classical music on the piano, it doesn’t match my life philosophy of “investing my time and energy, via writing and mentoring, into young women’s lives so they can be all they were intended to be and live the lives they were intended to live.”
Starting another flower bed in my yard doesn’t match this life philosophy, and neither does taking up oil painting.
However, investing in my own daughter’s life does line up with this life goal, and so does writing for different venues. Taking the time to make cookies and invite a college girl into my house and talk about life over warm cookies and milk meets my life goal more than learning how to sew. I constantly have to ask myself, “Does this to-do list help my life goal become realized, or does it take me away from it?” If it takes me away from it, then I am learning to cut it from my list.
The internet has been a big deal in this whole time management issue. I now have rules about when I can be on and when I need to stay off. As a blogger and a member of a couple of online communities, it is so tempting to check my email first thing in the morning and get on my forums and see who has written what, as well as write my own thing.
However, I realized that this was taking up a great deal of my time that was better spent on my non-negotiables. So I created some internet guidelines for myself. I don’t check email or my forums until my quiet time is over, my daily cleaning is done, my family has been taken care of, and my work deadlines have been met.
This has not been easy to adhere to, simply because as a stay-at-home mom, most of my social life comes from these online platforms. But doing so has opened up blocks of time that I have been able to use in practical ways. I follow the same guidelines for television, magazines, and reading.
At the same time, I have also created a time for myself on a regular basis to do something I enjoy. While I am learning to prioritize my time, I also know that if I work all day long and don’t do anything enjoyable, I begin to feel trapped, and even resentful, of what I have to do. If I can have even a half hour of an enjoyable activity, such as online groups or reading a good book, I am more emotionally able to tackle the must-do’s.
For me, this time comes either right after lunch for one half hour to an hour, if my daughter lays down for a nap, or in the hours after she goes to bed. Up until a few weeks ago, I was working right up until 9:00 or 10:00 at night, but this proved to be exhausting given my early wake up time. So lately I have forced myself to shut down for the day as soon as my baby goes to bed.
This means the computer goes off, the writing notebook is closed, and the to-do list is put aside until the following morning. Not only does this allow me to debrief my day, but I’ve noticed that I’m also more relaxed when putting my daughter to bed.
Before doing this, I found myself rocking her like a crazy woman in an effort to make her “hurry up and go to sleep” so I could get back to my list. Now, because I’m relaxed, she’s relaxed, and bedtimes have been a much smoother affair for both of us.
I have also developed a strict rule for what time I need to be in bed. If I want to get up at 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. I have to be in bed at a certain time each night. If I stay up too late, I don’t get up early, which means I don’t get my alone time.
No alone time means no centering time, and no centering time, for me, means a day that is chaotic with very little effectiveness. I am learning that wise time management involves a day of rest at least once a week. I’m still working on this one, because my tendency is to try to get all the to-do’s done that I didn’t get done during the week.
Doing so, however, always results in finding myself worse for the wear come Monday morning. If I can take Saturday or Sunday to do only the bare minimum for my family and then use the rest of my time to nap, read, or take walks (which, my husband’s being home helps make this possible) I am much more emotionally ready for my new week.
I have a long way to go in all of this. I still tend to stay up on the computer researching “just one more thing” until 9:00 at night. I still move for my email button first thing in the morning instead of sitting down for a quiet time.
I have yet to fully convince myself of the difference between the must-do’s and the should-do’s. But I’m getting there. With each step I take, I find myself being more effective in the time I do spend working and more relaxed in the time I actually allow myself to stop for awhile -– all of which results in more effectiveness and more resulting relaxation.
I’m finding it’s a self-perpetuating cycle, and with any luck, it will be a cycle that I will have permanently installed in my life in a few more weeks.
Pic of the Day: Spotted an albino deer tonight