Use these five time management strategies and habits that to help you plan the life you want for you and your family and not just let life happen to you.
When I asked you guys through a reader survey what your biggest challenge was, an overwhelming majority of you said TIME. While I was a bit surprised that it was the top challenge for AOC readers (I was thinking it would be more cooking related…), I shouldn’t have been, since it’s something I have struggled with most of my life.
If there’s one thing I’ve discovered after more than 8 years of writing and interacting with you on this blog it’s that we share a lot of the same struggles, desires, and dreams.
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 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. 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 certainly felt that many, many times over the years. And I have learned that the one surefire way to have the life you enjoy is to plan.
Having plans set in place is the only way I’ve been able to accomplish the things I wanted – when I just “go with the flow” days and weeks may go by without me feeling like anything meaningful occurred. Yes, we were all fed some kind of food, laundry was done, and we made it to all the places we had to go, but nothing more.
And by “plan” I don’t mean there has to be some overarching, life-long, detailed list 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 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. Envision what you want for you and your family and plan to make it happen.
5 Time Management Strategies
These five time management strategies and habits have made the most difference in my life and the lives of my family:
1. Menu plan!
I’m using an exclamation for this since it was probably the biggest game-changer for me. I have never done anything more than plan our dinners, sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly depending on the season of life we were in. Some people like to plan out all their meals and snacks – do what works for you. This guide will get you started with the easy steps I use.
Here’s my one warning: if you’ve never planned menus before it may not seem at first like it works 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 because when you get it right, you’ll never go back.
2. Use a planner.
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.
That’s why I created The Flexible Planner that includes areas for what we have to do, and also what I want to do (goals), what I want to remember (lists), and even to keep my menu plans!
You can use a note pad, a purchased planner like The Flexible Planner, or something digital like Google Calendar to plan out your days, weeks, and months. Better yet, set goals! (You can see examples of my goals I’ve shares through the years here). They can be for the whole year, with monthly breakdowns, quarterly, or just for each month (like to learn how to make bread or set up a raised vegetable garden).
I have found that looking back over a year of things you worked toward or accomplished is so motivating.
3. Have set work hours.
Those of you who work outside the home already have this one done for you, but more and more people are working at least some from home and 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, 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, okay?
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? Everyone is 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.
Our plan was more informal – we didn’t have anything written down in a binder or anything (though I think it’s a great idea!), we 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.).
Your 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 in your planner!).
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 1-4 will become more doable when you schedule in breaks.
Right now mine look like exercise and reading in the morning, 4:00 walks with the dog and Brian, regular date nights and coffee work dates, and monthly or bimonthly weekends away. Yours may look different – maybe cooking is a break 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 and that it wasn’t until after using these easy-to-implement concepts that I’ve really been able to do more of what I want, like making real foods, remodeling our home, growing our food, and reading books.