Inside: Use these 5 time management tips for moms to override the overwhelm, stop the stress and create a life you love! You deserve it!
The end of another chaotic day. You flop down onto the couch, drained and overwhelmed.
Ending another busy day with barely anything crossed off your list, you feel like a failure. You picked up, changed diapers and put out fires caused by tiny little humans who decided to pull all the snacks out of the pantry, put crackers in the washer, and run around the house naked…all in the few minutes it took you to run to the bathroom and wash your hands.
Hugs, mama. This season we’re in is not easy. Kids are demanding and unpredictable, but here’s the good news: there are things you can do to help decrease the overwhelm and increase your satisfaction in this amazing role as mom.
Here are some of my best time management tips for moms. Read through the tips and apply what works in your life and with your family.
5 Tips for Time Management for Moms
#1: Create an effective checklist.
Here are two issues I see when it comes to creating a to-do list:
- Unrealistic expectations of what moms can get done in a day. “Today I’m going to tackles these 75 things on my to-do list.”
- Writing down giant projects instead of small, manageable items. “I’m going to wash 7 loads of laundry, clean the clutter-packed kitchen and repaper the walls all while keeping my 2-year-old from climbing the curtains.”
Here’s the problem. When we have unrealistic expectations, we end the day feeling like an utter failure. Sure, the kids are fed and happy…but we didn’t get around to putting the clothes away or vacuuming up the dog fur and we feel like we failed.
The key to time management for moms is to write an effective checklist by breaking each giant project into small, manageable tasks. This can allow you to take advantage of the bits and pieces of time available throughout your day.
Here are the 4 simple steps to creating an effective checklist:
1. Pick a project area. Maybe your project is to organize the kitchen or tackle the mountain of laundry taking over your floor.
2. Brain dump. Take a scratch sheet of paper and brainstorm all the things you need to do to accomplish this project.
3. Break it down. Break bigger longer tasks (wash laundry) into smaller ones (wash clothes, dry clothes, fold clothes, put away clothes).
4. Break it down, again. Once you’ve broken down the items on your list, go through it again. Ask yourself, “Does this task take less than 15 minutes to complete?” If the answer is no, break it down more.
In some ways, this may seem much more overwhelming. Instead of having one major project on your to-do list (“Do laundry”), you now may have several tasks. Yikes!
But here’s the secret: each of those tasks is small and manageable and can be done in less than 15 minutes.
A giant project requires an interruption-free day to do all at once, but that will never happen. On the flip side, if each of your tasks take less than 15 minutes to do, you can fit them into the spare moments in your day.
Have 15 minutes before you have to pick up your kids from school? Great! You can empty the clean dishes from the dishwasher and refill it with dirty ones. Did the stars align and you have a rare moment when your 3-year-old is playing independently? Awesome! Throw the chicken in the crockpot or move the wet laundry over to the dryer before you forget about it.
#2: Wear different hats.
There’s this concept in time management called “time blocking”. Simply put, you designate a time period during which you will focus on one project at a time.
In this business world, this makes sense. A time blocking schedule for someone working in an office could look something like this:
- 8 a.m. Draft proposal for the Anderson account
- 11 a.m. Meeting
- 12 p.m. Lunch
- 1 p.m. Create a presentation for the Williams account
- 4 p.m. Email
- 5 p.m. Go home
But as moms, we can’t do this. “I’m sorry, Child, but could your request please wait for 10 a.m. when I start my ‘mothering’ time block?” Yeah, that wouldn’t fly.
So how does this concept work for moms when we deal with interruptions every four seconds?
I like to think of time blocking as wearing different hats. According to Merriam-Webster, the phrase “wear many hats” means “to have many jobs or roles”. That’s totally relevant to moms. We give kisses, open packages, and juggle a baby on our hips, all while trying to get dinner on the table.
I time block out my life with these different categories:
- Household and childcare
- Family quality time
- Marriage quality time
- Personal care
I imagine myself physically changing hats when it comes time to switch tasks.
During “household and childcare” time, I wear my mom/homemaker hat. When I have my mom hat on, I wash laundry, do the neverending dishes, prepare food, change diapers, kiss boo-boos and pretend the floor is lava.
During the “blogging” time, I focus on writing blog posts, emails and social media posts.
When I’m wearing my mom hat, you won’t find me checking email or listening to podcasts about business. When I’m wearing my blogging hat, you won’t find me vacuuming or cleaning the dishes.
You might notice I also have a category for “family quality time.” This is distinct from “household and childcare” because it is time I’m fully present with my family. During this time, I’m not on my phone or doing laundry. I’m fully present building LEGOs or going to the playground.
When discussing time management for moms, we have to give ourselves credit for all the hats we wear and the roles we juggle.
Here’s why you should imagine yourself changing hats:
Let’s say you’re deep into crocheting a Baby Yoda. Your real-life baby is sure to nap for another hour, so you’re golden. You’re super enthralled when all of a sudden, you hear some whimpering on the monitor that quickly turns into a full-out cry.
Now, instead of happily hooking along, you’re stuck here holding a grumpy baby while you shush, pat and bounce. 😒
You gingerly try to put the baby down but fail miserably. Instead of spending nap time working on your grand creation, you find yourself bouncing in a dark room and getting lost on Instagram.
Not exactly how you were planning on spending your nap time.
When I was introduced to the concept of time blocking, my first thought was a snarking “Must be nice to have 2 hours to work uninterrupted on a project”.
You see, I love my kids. But I also love my creative pursuits. My soul needs to learn and grow or else I feel like I’m dying. A bit dramatic? Yes. But how I feel? Absolutely.
I took the concept of time blocking and applied the image of wearing different hats because I needed a reminder of what is important in my life. I needed to switch on my mom hat to remind myself how much I love my kids and honestly, so I wasn’t bitter about the interruption.
When you have to switch hats at a moment’s notice, it helps to take a moment to breathe and envision switching hats. It helps you remember what the priority is at this moment, even if the timing is unpredictable.
#3: Redefine “productive”.
When talking about time management for moms, we need to define what it means to be productive. Here’s one of the definitions Merriam-Webster gives for the word productive: “effective in bringing about”.
It means you’re productive if you bring something you desire into existence. You’re productive if you produce a clean kitchen or run a half marathon.
But you know what else? This definition means you’re productive if you bonded with your child or read the books you’ve been meaning to read. It means you’re productive if you do an art project together or dance in your kitchen to “Baby Shark”.
You’re productive if you’re “effective in bringing about” something you desire to see in the world.
Today, I did things that weren’t on my calendar or checklist but are just as important, if not more. I changed diapers, fed little mouths and comforted my crying one-year-old who realized the fun of pushing the button on the vacuum is offset by the thunderous roar of the vacuum.
These things aren’t put into a calendar or crossed off a checklist, so we often count them as not being productive.
But you guys, those little faces. They are so worth it. They are worth the time and the energy it takes.
You aren’t just molding play dough, you’re molding minds. You’re shaping hearts and guiding dreams.
Let’s redefine our definition of productive so it includes all facets of our lives. We want to create lasting bonds with our children and shape them into incredible adults. We should treat time spent working towards these goals as productive time, not as a hindrance to productivity.
#4: Give yourself grace.
When I first became a mom, I was a wreck. I had never been good at time management, housekeeping or achieving goals. Putting it all together plus learning to care for a tiny human? Well, the result was disastrous.
Dog fur rolled across the floor like tumbleweeds in the Old West, dirty dishes covered the counter and cooking dinner? Forget it. It would take me over an hour to clean dishes and figure out how to boil spaghetti.
The problem was I had unrealistic expectations of what I could accomplish in a single day while also caring for a colicky baby who wouldn’t sleep anywhere but on me.
I used to internalize the unmet expectations. Instead of giving myself a pat on the back for trying my hardest, I’d berate myself for not measuring up to the impossible standards I had set for myself.
If I forgot about the wet laundry until it had started to smell, I didn’t just set the washer to go again. I’d wonder what was wrong with me. I’d wonder why I was such a failure. I’d wonder why everyone else had it all figured out and I struggled with the simplest of tasks.
You know what was wrong with me? Absolutely nothing. I was a new mom, suffering from sleep deprivation and a slow, painful recovery.
If you feel like a failure, give yourself grace. This season of raising little children is so stinkin’ hard. You know what else? It’s so stinkin’ short.
So often someone in their 80s will come up to me at the supermarket with a twinkle in their eyes and tell me how fast it all goes. When they talk to my kids, they’re remembering their little ones who are now grown with their own kids.
This time with little kids, it’s so short. And if we spend our time being hard on ourselves, we’re going to miss it all.
Don’t miss it. Give yourself grace and go be fully present with those babies while they’re babies.
#5: Focus on progress, not perfection.
You’re not going to get everything done. And that’s okay. It’s hard to hear, it’s hard to live, I know. Every single day I have to give myself grace and focus on progress, not perfection.
Today, my to-do list included doing dishes, washing, drying and folding clothes, and vacuuming because my dogs are going through a shedding phase. Ugh.
You know what I crossed off my to-do list? Technically nothing. I loaded dirty dishes in the dishwasher and did 75% of the handwashing. I washed and dried the clothes, but haven’t yet folded them. And the vacuum? It’s only been turned on by my one year old. 😂
If I’m focusing on perfection, I had an unproductive day because I wasn’t able to cross anything off my list.
That’s where the shift to focusing on progress can be life-changing. I may not be able to cross things off my to-do list, but I did take several steps forward along the path. And tomorrow, when I set out to do the same things, it’ll be easy to finish up because of the work I did today. (Except for dishes. That job is never done!)