Use these five simple time management strategies and habits to help you plan the simple handmade life you want for you and your family and not just let life happen to you.
Over the years I have asked through surveys and email some form of a question like this:
What's your biggest challenge to living the simple homemade life you want?
An overwhelming majority of the responses are TIME.
At first I was a bit surprised that it was the top challenge for An Oregon Cottage's readers (I was thinking it would be more cooking related…), but I shouldn't have been, since it's something I think we all struggled with.
I know I still do and if there's one thing I've discovered after all the years of writing and interacting with you on this blog and community, it's that we share a lot of the same struggles, desires, and dreams.
In our community, I hear over and over that we want to live simply, making beautifully imperfect things with our own hands (food, flowers, furniture - whatever) and not just pursue things.
We want to spend sweet time with our families and provide healthy, inspiring environments for us and them.
We want to find joy in the everyday.
The challenge is to be able to do these things to make our lives better while juggling all the other stuff that life throws at us - jobs, kid's school activities, family obligations, and even the distractions of social media and entertainment.
I have learned that when we just let life happen to us, all these things can suck our most valuable asset - time - leaving us feeling that nothing was really accomplished at the end of the day.
I've felt this many, many times over the years. And I have learned that the one surefire way to have a life you enjoy is to plan.
Having a plan set in place is the only way I've been able to accomplish the things I've wanted - when I just "go with the flow" days and weeks may go by without me feeling like anything meaningful occurred.
Yes, my family was fed some kind of food, laundry was done, and we made it to all the places we had to go, but nothing more.
Ugh, plan - really?
Don't worry - by "plan" I'm not talking about huge, overarching, life-long, detailed lists of everything you want to do (not that there's anything wrong with that - it's just overwhelming to me!), I'm talking about setting up a few simple strategies and habits throughout your day.
It's these strategies that will free you up to either make time for what you want to do or the habit moves you along the road to the life you want.
Basically, envision what you want for you and your family and then plan to make it happen- even if it takes years, you are moving along the path you want!
I'm sharing the five time management strategies and habits that have made the most difference in my life and the lives of my family. See if they can work for you, too!
5 Time Management Strategies
1. Menu Plan!
I'm using an exclamation for this since it was probably the biggest game-changer for me.
Meal planning can be super simple - I have never done anything more than plan our dinners, sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly depending on the season of life we were in.
Or it can be a bit more involved with planning all your meals and snacks, doing meal prep, cooking once a week, and more - do what works best for you in your season of life.
This meal planning guide will get you started with the five easy steps I use in my simple planning.
Here's my biggest tip on getting started with meal planning:
If you've never planned menus before it may not seem at first like it will work for you or that it's making a difference - I stopped and started many times before it 'clicked' for me and worked for our life.
So don't give up - keep trying different ways to get it to work for you because when you get it right, you'll never go back.
2. Use a Planner & Set Goals
I used to think a calendar was good enough - but that just set me up to only think about the things we had to do (sports, doctors appointments, birthday parties, etc.) not the things I wanted to do - or how I would make time to do them.
Yep, that's what setting simple goals are for - and a planner is the best way to motivate and keep track of the goals you want.
That's one of the reasons I created The Flexible Planner that includes areas for what we have to do as well as what we want to do (goals). I wanted to make it even more useful, so included a list area for things we want to remember - including my menu plans.
TIP: Keeping a list of your previous menu plans makes future planning SO easy - pick and choose the meals you liked best and plug them in!
Set Simple Goals
You can use a note pad, a purchased planner like my Flexible Planner, or something digital like Google Calendar to plan out your days, weeks, and months, but whatever you use, set up areas to set - and track - some goals.
They can be goals for the whole year, with monthly breakdowns, quarterly goals you revisit every 3 months, or just a goal for each month (like to learn how to make bread, or set up a raised vegetable garden bed).
Start small with just one or two goals that are most important to you and track your progress - it's super motivating! To help you with ideas, you can see the different goals I've shared through the years here.
Brian and I have shared about setting goals on the podcast as well - here are those two episodes if you'd like a bit more guidance:
- Podcast Ep.19: How Setting Goals Can Make This Year Your Best
- Podcast Ep. 50: How to Set and Achieve Goals
3. Have Set Work Hours
Those of you who work outside the home already have this one set for you, but now that more and more people are working at least part time from home, we have to me more intentional about this.
I have learned (and am still learning…) that it is key to have set work hours that you put in your planner and stick to.
There can still be flexibility to go have coffee with a friend, just plan it in and make up the hours elsewhere.
When I don't plan for certain work hours, I either:
- Feel like I'm working all.the.time.
- OR don't get my work done.
Neither is good - let's strike that happy balance by planning those hours where you want to get some quality work done!
4. Set Up a Household Management Plan
Okay, this sounds more complicated than it is, so stick with me here - it's easy, too, I promise!
What I mean by "household management plan" is basically that you work out with your family who does what and when.
The key is to have everyone involved.
This is not just one person's burden. Even when I was a stay-at-home mom I couldn't do all things and still be someone anyone wanted to be around. Family cleaning night came to my rescue. Amen and amen.
Our family plan was more informal in that we didn't have anything written down in a binder or paper (though I think it's a great idea!). We simply had our cleaning night and then we had tasks divided up throughout the rest of the week (I cooked, Brian did dishes, the kids set and cleared; outdoor tasks were divvied up, etc.).
Figure out how to deal with everyday and weekly tasks together and how they work for you.
As an example, as soon as our kids were old enough to figure out the washing machine (about 4th grade), I taught them how to use it, set a laundry basket in their rooms and their laundry was up to them (you can see more specifics of our laundry system here).
Your household plan can look like anything you want, just be sure to DO it, because if it's not planned it will fall to one person. #beenthere
5. Take Breaks (and Schedule Them!)
I still struggle with this since I am a get-it-done kind of girl, but I know how mentally tired I start to feel when I don't take regular breaks away from the clock, my planner and computer.
I have found that habits 1 through 4 will become more doable when you schedule in breaks.
My breaks usually look like exercise and reading in the morning (my AM routine), 4:00 walks with the dog or garden check, my evening routine with reading time, regular date nights, coffee work dates, Sunday afternoon hikes or kayaking, and occasional weekends away.
Are these scheduled in my planner? You bet! If they weren't they would probably not happen (except my AM/PM routines - those are habits now, though at one point they were scheduled).
Your time breaks may look different - maybe it's cooking for you, or crafting something, playing a game, or gardening - do whatever brings you peace and fills you back up.
Looking back, I can see I was spinning through life just reacting to things before starting these simple habits.