Parents who work outside the home and those who are full-time caregivers can all benefit from incorporating good time-management skills into their day. Effective time management can increase your productivity during work hours and help you maintain a sense of structure and flow in hours spent at home. Here are four techniques to help you manage your time more effectively as a parent.
Where Did the Time Go? Keeping a Time Diary
When you’re trying to lose weight and ensure you’re eating a healthy range of foods, many experts recommend keeping a food diary to help you recognize where excess calories and nutritionally empty foods sneak their way into your diet. The same is true for time management. Jan Jasper, author of Take Back Your Time
Take Back Your Time, recommends keeping a time diary to show you where your 24 hours each day really go.
Keep a folded up piece of paper and a pen in your pocket, and every time you change activities write down the time and activity you’re now starting. At the end of the day, add up the minutes spent on each activity. You might be surprised to see how many minutes appear beside activities such as “internet” or “watching TV” compared to “reading stories” or “putting the kids to bed”.
Creating Routines Helps Manage Time Effectively
Once you know how long you’re spending on the various activities in your day, you can start managing your time and shifting the focus towards activities you’d like to spend more time doing and away from low reward or time wasting activities. One way to move through basic daily activities more quickly is to create regular, predictable routines.
Children benefit from routine because they can predict what is going to happen next, which gives them a sense of security about their life. Routines also make it easier to speed up the morning preparation or bedtime ritual.
Setting Limits and Saying No
By identifying time-wasting activities using your time diary, you’re now ready to start setting some limits on your personal time drains. Clocks and timers can be effective tools to help you manage the time you spend doing these activities. Setting aside uninterrupted periods of time to focus on work can help you keep that time productive. If you find yourself being asked to take on extra work for others, ask yourself where the time required is going to come from. If you’ll have to sacrifice time budgeted for essentials such as sleep or family mealtime, or you’ll be giving up your afternoon to yourself for yet another week, don’t be afraid to assertively say no.
Of course, when you’re dealing with children you need to be prepared for the fact that even the best laid plans will be laid aside when your kids do the unexpected – get sick, drop a nap or have a crisis. Time management doesn’t mean you have to be a slave to your routine and the egg timer. Let the routine and time management skills be tools to help you make the most of your day, ensuring that you’ve made time available to get your top priority things done and limited those activities that drain away your time and energy.
Originally published on Suite101.com on July 21, 2008