"The bad news is that time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”
As a mom with a pretty demanding full-time job and two kids that are super involved in sports and school activities, I’m one who needs some serious lessons in time management. Most days, I’m reacting to the things that happen to me. I find myself always saying, “I don’t have time to plan…it’s day to day for me.”
It seems as though there’s never enough time in the day between work, kids, commuting, activities, etc. I feel like its nearly impossible to find time to exercise or do things for myself. For many years, I worked on side-gigs; a baby business, then a makeup artist, then a blogger. But I could never find the time to exercise. I resigned myself to thinking, “It’s one or the other. The moms who exercise regularly don’t have side gigs. The exercising IS their side gig.”
Is there a way to get it all done?
After researching “time management” tips and strategies, here’s what I found.
In an article in Entrepreneur Magazine, the authors outline a difference between “clock time” and “real time”. Clock time is the concrete 60 seconds per minute, 60 minutes per hour, and 24 hours per day we all have. But “real-time” is the time we all identify with; the time that makes the minutes crawl in the late afternoon at the job you hate, and the year that your son went from a boy to a pre-teen fly by in a heartbeat. That’s the time I know. And that’s the time that I need to figure out how to manage; to figure out how to find time to enjoy my kids before they get too old to want to be around me; to achieve the things I want to in my life.
In the article, the question was posed, “Which time describes the world in which you really live, real time or clock time?”. I know you just said “real time”. The authors say, “Clock time is irrelevant. You don't live in or even have access to clock time. You live in real time, a world in which all time flies when you are having fun or drags when you are doing your taxes.” So true.
And for the good news: “the good news is that real time is mental. It exists between your ears. You create it. Anything you create, you can manage. It’s time to remove any self-sabotage or self-limitation you have around “not having enough time”.
So thinking about your time requires a mindset shift. We all have the same amount of time in a day, no matter who we are. Like with the growth vs. fixed mindset, it’s all up to you. Your mindset can be changed.
Trust me, I know this sounds crazy. But stay with me here.
I read the book, “I Know How She Does It”, written by Laura Vanderkam. The tag line of the book is “How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time.” What could I learn from Laura and the women in her book?
First, Vanderkam challenges us to rethink what we can accomplish in the 24 hour day, saying we should look at our time in blocks of a week at a time, or 168 hours. She says that when we focus on how much we can accomplish in one day, it’s easy to become disheartened when many things on our to-do list doesn’t get done. That’s when the “I don’t have the time” becomes our knee-jerk reaction to life.
Vanderkam recommends taking stock of your 168 hours per week by keeping a time log. I did this for a month. In my first week of logging my time, I was shocked (and saddened) by the number of hours I was working at my full time job. It was far in excess of 40 hours. But the following week, it went back down to 40 hours. From tracking my time, I learned the time spent working varied from week to week, but thankfully, it wasn’t always in excess of 40 hours. That was good news.
The next variable that I was forced to confront was my commuting time. My son goes to a private school that is 15 miles away. In terms of miles, it’s very close. But where we live, the traffic is a nightmare, and picking him up after basketball and baseball practice involves fighting traffic both to school and back home. That’s a minimum of 1.5 hours a day on the road. On the days that I wasn’t commuting, I was shuttling my younger son to and from his sports practices.
I had to recognize that those hours involving work, commute, and my kids’ sports were non-negotiable and that I had to work around them. We all have choices. My son could attend the local public school and we would have no commute time, but this was a choice we made and don’t regret. My job and my kids’ activities are also non-negotiable.
The fact is that when you say “yes” to something, it means you are saying “no” to something else.
So, here’s my big takeaway from what I’ve gleaned so far: I have to be intentional about my time. Manage my time or it will manage me (as it has all these years). As we all know, time will get away from you. I have to learn to work with and maximize the time that I have.
“Recognize the choices you make impact other areas of your life, accept what is non-negotiable, and work from there."
First things first. The problem I wanted to tackle most was the issue of weeknight dinners. From reviewing my time sheets, I recognized that Sunday was the one day of the week where I had more time than any other day. So I decided to begin planning the meals for the week and going to the market for the ingredients on Sunday. Since my shopping list was written down in advance, the trip to the market didn’t take too long. I wasn’t wandering down the aisles searching for dinner inspiration or looking up recipes on Pinterest on my phone. And so far, it’s helped. Knowing what I’m preparing for dinner (or if we’re eating out that evening) means I have to make one less decision at the end of a harried work day.
Here’s where I found Vanderkam’s book most helpful. She dedicated a section to how we might approach the busyness of our lives with children to maximize our family time. This may seem obvious, but to me, her most helpful advice was to “Think Through Your Weekday Evenings.”
She suggested actually setting aside some time during the day to think about your evening. And because I’ve adjusted to planning my meals on the Sunday of the week, what to cook for dinner didn’t need to be thought of, but only when and what other activities we could fit in. Being intentional means planning your evening as opposed to letting it simply unfold. Even doing nothing can be planned out and intentional, and totally okay!
Extending this theme is helpful as you can be intentional and plan your mornings as well as weekend play and free time as well. She also suggested sharing a family meal, and to not get boxed into thinking the meal had to be dinner. Plan adventures. If you don’t plan, it won’t happen.
So, to summarize, here’s how to make the most of your precious time:
- Keep a time log to track your time
- Know which activities are negotiable and which ones aren’t. Recognize your time is a by-product of the decisions you make.
- Work around the activities that aren’t negotiable
- Be intentional about your time. Really think about it!
- Change your mindset about time. Think about it as something you create and can manage. Think about it as 168 hour week as opposed to a 24 hour day.
- Think through your weekday evenings.
- Think through your mornings and weekends. Don’t just let things unfold.
- Share a family meal to spend quality time together. It doesn’t have to be dinner.
- Plan your family adventures.
- Plan, plan, plan. One of my favorite quotes, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
Good luck! Please share this article on Facebook, or pin it to your Pinterest boards if you found it helpful!
Mathews, Joe. Debolt, Don. Percival, Deb. “How to Manage Time With 10 Tips That Work”, www.entrepreneur.com. Accessed 8 April 2017.
Vanderkam, Laura. I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time. Portfolio/Penguin, 2017.