“There aren’t enough hours in a day” is a common saying that likely resonates with moms. A poll commissioned by Campbell’s Well Yes! Sipping Soups found moms spent almost 100 hours a week on parenting tasks. To put things into perspective, the average person’s work week is 40 hours. For moms, 100 hours are going to parenting tasks alone. Where are these moms finding the time? Well, more than half of the 2,000 mamas surveyed sacrifice sleep, date nights, and hobbies to get things done.
Since moms are stuck with 24-hour days and nobody is coming to save us from our chaotic schedules, how can we help ourselves? How can moms better manage those hours so they get things done and also feel somewhat rested? I have a hunch that it isn’t by turning ourselves into robots and trying to maximize every minute of every day. It also isn’t by further succumbing to capitalism’s demand that we prioritize profit over people and work ourselves ragged.
So what then is the answer? Whether you’re a working mom or stay-at-home mom, an important component of time management is centering self-care and focusing on the things that matter. Here are some tips for better managing your time based on that idea.
Kick Urgency to the Curb
Because moms are always inundated with tasks, it’s easy for urgency to become our default. The dishes have to be washed “now,” that email has to be replied to “now” and that order for next year’s Christmas decorations has to be placed “now.” Remember that everything can’t be urgent — certainly there are things that can wait. To unlearn urgency as a way of life, focus on putting out burning buildings first and then addressing your other tasks at a reasonable pace. You may also want to organize your to-do list by prioritizing things that create the most mental clutter. This is a way to minimize anxious feelings around the “millions of things you have to do.”
Another tip is to practice putting only three to four things on your task list a day to help you really think about what’s important and what can wait. According to a OnePoll study commissioned by H&R Block, the average American is putting off 14 tasks from their to-do-list. Perhaps that’s because there are just too many things on there.
Accept That To-do-Lists Are Never Ending
Years ago, I would fill my daily to-do-list list with six or seven tasks. Oftentimes, I’d wake up feeling heavy because it felt like I was on a ferris wheel I could never climb off. Why was there always something to do? And when would I ever experience true rest?
Accepting that as a mother and adult there will always be something to do is one way to make better use of your time. The next step is to stop trying to conquer an unrealistic list every day.
Focus on the most important things, do your best, and leave the rest. When I started doing this, it was easier to be present and stop driving myself crazy worrying about all the things I had to do later. It also reduced the burnout that came from filling my days with endless tasks. In other words, I was able to be present with and enjoy “today” versus living in and stressing about next week or month.
Initially, I hated using apps to manage my schedule because keeping up with them felt like another task. Instead, I would use a notebook to jot down my tasks but then I would forget to look at the notebook some days. Managing my time and tasks got easier when I started using Google Calendar. It has been a great way for me to stay organized and saves me from missing deadlines and appointments. Google Calendar is also a helpful tool because you can set reminders 30 minutes before, a day before, or choose a custom reminder date if needed. The best feature for me is being able to sync my personal and work calendars.
Aside from Google Calendar, other apps you can try include Cozi, specially designed for moms and families. It’s free and works with both Android and iPhone. Todoist is another popular app that can help you stay on track.
Incorporate Self-care Into Your Daily Routine
Managing your time effectively often requires you to be present and engaged. If you’re lethargic, it can affect how quickly and efficiently you get tasks done. Likewise, if you’re feeling emotionally and mentally drained, getting through tasks can be a challenge. To avoid both things, keep your self-love tank full by replenishing it once a day. Include your chosen gesture of love in your task list every day and write it at the top.
If you think you don’t have time for self-care, remember it doesn’t have to be a full spa day. Taking 10 minutes to sit in the grass and soak up sunlight or 15 minutes to do breathing probably won’t spiral your day into a catastrophe. Also, by prioritizing this practice, you may find getting through tasks and surviving the days are easier. Daily self-care may also be your portal to thriving more days than not.
Outsource, Outsource and Outsource
If you have a supermom cape, it might be time to put it down. You don’t have to and shouldn’t have to do everything on your own. There is no award that goes to the mom who can do the most things and burn herself out the fastest. And as a reminder, you have nothing to prove. Don’t be afraid of relinquishing control and outsourcing daily tasks to others so you can free up time.
Examples of time-consuming tasks you can get somebody else to do are laundry, money management, house cleaning, home repairs, managing your calendar, walking your dog, and groceries. Fourty-eight percent of respondents from the OnePoll study previously mentioned put off cleaning their homes and 27 percent were trying to make time for a doctor’s appointment. Again, outsourcing could help remove such tasks from your list and also eliminate the mental load.
If you’re worried about the expense, it might require some sacrifice on your part be it giving up a few Starbucks coffees or the impulsive online shopping. It’s also ok to ask friends and family for help every now and again or look for a student who needs to earn extra bucks. Another idea is to ask for outsourcings services as a gift for your birthday or holiday.
I also want to add a point for all the perfectionist mommies out there. Outsourcing might mean you won’t get things done exactly how you like them. Sometimes that’s the cost of allowing other people to help you and perfect isn’t real anyway. It’s ok to let go of control so you can physically and mentally rest. You deserve it.