11 Smart Time-Management Tips for Busy Moms
Experts share the best ways moms can manage their time for success.
By: Maressa Brown
When you’re a busy mother, it seems like there are just never enough hours in the day or days in the week to get everything done. As a result, you may worry you’re not necessarily tackling your to-do list in the most efficient way. Thankfully, there are smart strategies you can use to manage your time so you’re firing on all cylinders! Here, 11 expert-approved time-management tips for even the most overscheduled moms.
1. Make your to-do lists work for you. To-do lists are essential for busy moms, notes Kerri Zane, author of It Takes All 5: A Single Mom's Guide to Finding the Real One. “They take a few minutes to write and can save lots of time in the long run.” Zane recommends creating lists for each month at the beginning of the month for bigger-picture tasks, ranking them 1 through 10 in order of importance. “Whatever doesn't get done moves into the next month,” she explains. Then, from day to day you can create smaller lists. “My trick here is to write your to-dos on a yellow sticky note,” Zane explains. “Only write down what will fit on the slip. Cross off each task as you complete them. At the end of the list, you can take a deep breath and revel in your glorious achievement of completion. Crumple up the list and toss it in the trash!”
2. Set realistic goals about how much you want to accomplish. This will of course make it easier to actually complete your tasks. But you’ll also do well to narrow down the top to-dos. “Prioritize the two or three most important tasks and complete them at the start of the day, so that you're not worrying about them,” recommends stress management coach and therapist Nicole Liloia, LCSW.
3. Take care of yourself. Building in “you” time will keep you energized and your spirits up. “Look for small blocks of time and use that time to take care of yourself to feel supported and nurtured,” recommends career and life coach Wanda Sealy of Multi-Task-Her Coaching & Consulting.
Even if these breaks are just meant for a quick walk or breath of fresh air, they’ll help you stay on track. “The longer you work without taking a scheduled break, the more tired you will become and you won't be as focused as you need to be,” explains Liloia. “Taking regular breaks will keep you feeling refreshed.”
4. “Chunk” your chores. “Do similar tasks during the same block of time,” explains Liloia. “For example, do all of your bill paying at the same time, all of your decluttering at the same time, and meal prep at the same time. This will cut out on any wasted time that occurs as you switch from task to task.”
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5. Avoid multitasking. You’ll also want to make sure that when you are working on one task or the other, you’re focused on that specific to-do. “Multi-tasking is stressful and causes you to feel like you didn't complete things well or you weren't paying attention to what you were doing,” Liloia says. “And you will get through things quicker if you don't multi-task!”
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Often, what we think of as a strictly solo effort can actually be turned into teamwork that will help us save time. “This seems to be the most difficult thing for busy moms to do!” says Sealy. “Don’t try to do everything yourself. Also, don't be afraid to delegate tasks at home to your partner or kids to alleviate stress.”
7. Realize it is OK -- even advisable! -- to say “no.” This is one thing so many of us struggle with, but it’s essential to getting the most out of our time. And you don’t have to feel like a “mean mama” when you do say no, explains Zane. “Only say yes to the things you know you [can] give and/or accomplish,” she advises. “After all, it's better to say no than over-promise and not deliver.”
8. Designate certain days for certain chores. “Don’t let household chores run your life,” advises Liz O’Donnell, author of Mogul, Mom, & Maid: The Balancing Act of the Modern Woman. “Take a page from Laura Ingalls Wilder and ‘wash on Mondays!’ Have a laundry day, a shopping day, an online banking day, etc. Otherwise, you'll feel like your home is running you instead of you running your home.”
9. Uncover the root of your procrastination. “If you have tasks on your list that have been sitting there for ages, there is probably a reason that you haven’t done them,” says certified professional organizer Bonnie Joy Dewkett, The Joyful Organizer. “Many times, we put off things we don’t know how to begin. Stop and think about the smaller tasks that need to be completed in order to accomplish the larger task. Then, schedule these smaller tasks on your schedule. Keep appointments with yourself just like you would keep an appointment with your boss or doctor.”
10. Limit distractions when possible. “While you can’t stop urgent matters from coming up or keep the kids from getting sick, you can schedule time each day to close the office door, stop answering the phone, or turn off the Internet,” advises Dewkett.
11. Give yourself a pat on the back. Focusing on what you did accomplish vs. what you didn’t can keep you motivated and productive. “Busy moms often focus on what still needs to be done, which can make it feel like you didn’t get anything done at all,” says Sealy. “When the house is quiet, and you have time to breathe and reflect, briefly review your day before you go to bed. You might be surprised by how much you actually got done. Celebrate your accomplishments -- no matter how small they are!”
What tips can you share that have worked for you?
Maressa Brown is a senior staff writer for The Stir. She loves writing about and reading up on health/fitness, relationships, and pop culture -- preferably on a beach somewhere.