Time management for mums
This week I am honoured to be on the Happy Mama podcast with my great friend Amy Taylor-Kabbaz. Amy invited me on to talk about time management for mums and during our talk I promised a blog post that would dive further into a particular exercise I mentioned: Roles and Goals.
As mums we are always short on time. Time with our kids, time to build a business, time with our partners and families, time to do the shopping, time to be with our friends and time for ourselves. In our busy modern world it is easy to feel helpless against the incessant march of time, as days blend into weeks, months and years. But in our rush to get things done we must pay careful attention to exactly what we are getting done. If the ladder we are climbing to stay busy is not against the right wall, every step we take up that ladder is only getting us to the wrong place faster.
When it comes to time we must think long term and begin with the end in mind. It might sound morbid but if we think of the end of our lives and what we want to have achieved and who we want to be it gives us a frame of reference by which everything else is examined. When you know where you are going you can be sure that the steps you are taking are always in the right direction. To put it another way, when we know what is important to us we can manage ourselves each day and do what really matters.
This concept is so important to mothers, as raising our kids and supporting our families is definitely a long term endeavour. When we mix the many parts of being a mum with daily to-dos it’s easy to feel unproductive because we are reconciling long term goals with short-term tasks that keep us caught in the busy cycle. Until we change how we think about time and tackle the underlying processes, we will continue to wish there were more hours in the day and feel we are not achieving all we want to.
I’ve found that the best exercise to help us change how we think is Roles and Goals.
Roles and goals
The following exercise is very practical and it helps you take the first step towards thinking more about how you manage your time each week. In my time management sessions with clients we build this activity into our framework. This work is based on some ideas from Stephen Covey.
Step 1: Roles
What are the major roles in your life? Roles are who you are. They are the different areas in which we have responsibility. Identifying your roles helps you see what makes up your whole life, providing the balance we need for effective living. Many people lose a sense of proportion in their roles and get consumed by one area of their life (typically work) at the expense of others. This is one of the good things about being a Mum: in some ways this balance is forced upon us.
Some examples of my roles are: parent, spouse, business owner, household manager, daughter, friend and volunteer. I also like to add a role especially for us mums: “self”. That one reminds us that if we are not caring for ourselves then our other roles will suffer. Remember, as you move through life you might gain new roles and shed others. Keep this in mind as you revisit your roles over time.
List out your roles.
Step 2: Goals
Once you have your roles it is now time to set some goals for each. This is when you think about your vision for your life. The easiest way to do this is to put your role in the question:
What kind of do I want to be?
- Parent: What kind of mother do I want to be?
- Spouse: What kind of partner do I want to be?
And so on.
For example, here is my response to what kind of mother I want to be:
I want to be a present, encouraging and supportive mum. I want to develop a strong relationship with my kids that lasts a lifetime. I want to help my kids develop a love of learning and a strong sense of self.
Go ahead and write down your life goals for each role in their most basic form.
So how do you accomplish these goals? One day at a time.
Step 3: Activities to achieve your goals
Breaking down your life goals into achievable chunks is essential. A great way to do this is to start to list activities that would help you achieve each of your roles.
What can I do as a , on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis, that will move me toward being .
For example, for my role as a parent:
What can I do as a parent, on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis, that will move me toward being present, encouraging, supportive as well as helping my kids develop a love of learning and sense of self?
- Focused 1-on-1 time with each child several times a week.
- A special activity with each child once a month.
- Dedicated family time each day – meals together and reading books.
- Family outings every fortnight.
- Time away as a family, even for just one night once a quarter.
- Attend information nights and talks at their school each term.
Go ahead and start writing a list of activities for each goal.
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Annie Dillard
Step 4: Get practical and prioritise
Now you have a whole lot of activities to help you achieve your goals, you need to think about incorporating them into your schedule. This will enable you to actually do them and even help them to become habits.
You have a lot of activities and now is the time to get practical about the priority of things as we only have so many hours each day, week or month. Before we get to your calendar it is great to prioritise your activities so if time gets tight you can add the non-negotiable activities and save the others for when you reassess your plans or your commitments change.
List your activities in order of importance for each goal.
Step 5: Your weekly schedule
I find with mums that each day can be very different, so for this activity we are focusing on your weekly schedule as there is often a rhythm to the week. But you can also plot activities on monthly, quarterly and yearly calendars.
Now that we’ve done the other steps creating your weekly schedule should be relatively simple. The hardest part is realising that you actually have constraints around your time and you will have to cut out things you want to do. This schedule helps you achieve all your goals and isn’t just specific to business planning.
To start creating your weekly schedule grab this simple PDF or create your own weekly template in a spreadsheet (Google or Excel).
- The first thing to plot is your sleep time (or at least your wake-up time). As mums our sleep is often broken but it is good to be intentional with how much you are trying to get. It is easy to let sleep slide but we should be realistic about how much we need.
- Next, plot your high priority but fixed time activities. Fixed time is anything where the time is determined by someone else. For example work hours are set by an employer and your child’s dance class is determined by their teacher. Some of the activities you add might not be listed under a goal but you know they are things you must do, like pick the kids up from school or daycare. Just be careful not to add things without questioning if they meet your goals. For example your kids need to go to school but they might not need 4 extra activities after school each week at the expense of 1-1 time with you.
- Once you have scheduled high priority fixed-time activities move onto important but flexible time activities. These might include everything from when you exercise, to dates with your spouse and activities with your kids.
- Continue through and lastly schedule low priority fixed and flexible activities together, with the knowledge that some will not fit. Just use common sense with which ones will fit.
Here are a few tips to help you plot your week successfully:
- Allow yourself plenty of whitespace. So you have time for all the other things that happen in life when you have kids. This also helps you avoid being perpetually late and stressed.
- Not all activities need to be mapped. For example, eating breakfast. Instead you might block out time for morning routine which includes breakfast, shower, getting kids dressed and taking them to school.
- Account for fortnightly and monthly activities that might impact your weekly activities.
- You are a capable person but that doesn’t mean you should do it all. So recognise your time limitations and remember the point of this exercise – making sure you prioritise things that are important to you.
- Having a schedule is great but as a mum you also know that from time to time the whole thing will be thrown out the window when everyone comes down with gastro, and you need to be fine with that too.
- It is okay to say “no”. Be thoughtful and deliberate. Keep in mind we are always saying “no” to something when we say yes to something else, it just might not be apparent at the time. We want to ensure we prioritise the important things.
You have got to the end of this blog post and I hope this activity has given you a framework to help you embed your priorities into each and every week. I hope this helps you to be more purposeful and happy each and every day, because the end game of all time management is to maximise happiness.
This exercise is one of the tools I use with my time management clients, so if you would like further assistance please feel free to contact me. If you are interested in business planning then that is a different process, so get in touch!