Thinking Outside the Box to Maximize my Time

posted in: Family, Leading Lady | 0

Last time I talked about prioritizing my time based around the roles God has given me. Because, let’s face it, life is constantly choosing what to do and want not to do.

As a mom of two Littles (2 boys under the age of 2 1/2), I still find it is hard to find time to accomplish much more than just keeping my kids alive on any given day. I really have to be intentional and creative about finding the time.

my boys

There are two strategies I’ve used lately to find more time: 1) using the little pockets of time, 2) using planned quiet times. If you are going to use either of these strategies, you still have to have a short list in place, organized by priority so that your time is not wasted when you sit down to work. (I’ll talk more on creating and utilizing this list next time.) Be prepared by having a to-do list of 5-minute and 15-minute tasks. Secondly, you need to stick to your plan the best you can (don’t get distracted by facebook or Pinterest). Find what will motivate and drive you – maybe it is writing down “I will accomplish…. so that….” statements, setting a timer, or coming up with a reward for when you finish the task.

BUT FIRST you need to find the time.

I so know how hard that is.

1) Using little pockets of time

This will look so different for everyone depending on whether or not you have kids, whether or not you work outside the home, etc. Here is a list of little pockets of time I’ve found (or created) in my life:

  • wake up just 15-30 min earlier to work on tasks
  • while sitting in the passenger seat of the car
  • waiting in line (or for someone to arrive)
  • while you are waiting for dinner to cook, clean the kitchen
  • if you have young kids, use bath time to clean the bathroom (since you have to be in there anyway)
  • holding your baby until he falls into a deep sleep (I use a carrier, so I can do things with my hands on my phone, or listen to an audiobook, podcast or periscope using headphones.)
  • if you find yourself going to facebook or Pinterest to browse, instead knock out needed tasks first
  • ten minutes at work before a meeting
  • multi-tasking (sometimes this is necessary and works well, sometimes it doesn’t prove to be more efficient)
Google keep
Google keep

Make sure you have a list of 5 or 15-minute tasks that are most pressing for you. I use the app Google Keep to keep track of most of my to-do lists (see picture below). Here are some examples of 5-10 minute tasks:

  • write a to-do list and prioritize it (look at this list and reassess the remaining tasks multiple times a day!!)
  • clear the spam from your email inbox
  • tidy a room
  • knock out a few emails
  • make a phone call
  • tidy and clean the kitchen
  • read a few pages from a book you are working through
  • write a thank you note or two
  • update your grocery list
  • check your calendar for upcoming tasks or appointments
  • call to chat with a friend
  • listen to an audiobook or podcast
  • outline a blog post idea
Make sure you have a list of 5 or 15-minute tasks that are most pressing for you. Click To Tweet

Every night before you go to bed, take 10 minutes to plan the next day. Think through what you need to do. Star the important tasks and make a separate list of the quick tasks you can accomplish. Cross some things off your list without doing them if they are not necessary. Don’t pack your schedule so full. Work hard, then rest hard.

I do want to caution – don’t be so wrapped up in maximizing your time so that you are missing life –

whether it be time spent with your child, spouse, co-workers, or friends!! Time passes by so quickly and there are many opportunities you do NOT get back again. I want to be present for my kids childhood. This is why I’ve chosen to also use the second strategy:

2) Using planned quiet times

Lately (and this only started last week), I’ve been trying this routine during week days of going to bed early and sleeping for 3 hours, then waking in the middle of the night to work on my blog, get “focused” tasks done, or work through Bible studies, etc because I have no interruptions. Then I go back to bed and when I wake I start the day with things already accomplished. It’s been working!

A couple of things to note: I’ve learned the hard way that you need to go to bed shortly after your kids do. Don’t wait until 10 or 10:30pm to go to sleep, because then you are waking a later time in the middle of the night and might not get your second stint of sleep (because your kids may wake earlier than normal). Set a hard, must go back to sleep time and stick with it!! If you don’t finish your task, there is always nap time that day. But if you work too long in the middle of the night, you will have to sleep during the kids naptime instead of getting something else done.

Sometimes my nursling wakes during the time I’m up in the middle of the night, sometimes he doesn’t. He’s 7 months old now and is a good sleeper. Please don’t try this if you are waking 2+ times each night already with a baby!! I’ve kinda just had to play around with it a bit to figure out what works.

I’ve got a sleep app on my phone that will “track” my sleeping and I’ve set it to wake me in a certain time range when I’m in a lighter sleep. That way, it’s much easier for me to get out of bed. I’m not just waking to an alarm from a deep sleep.

If this sounds much too intense for you to try, then forget I even mentioned it, haha! There is always the option of waking an hour of two earlier than your kids. Maybe you have older kids that wake at a certain time each day. Go to bed early and wake early. I tried the staying up late to work, but it’s never worked out too well for me. I don’t get as good sleep plus I’m much too tired and not motivated at all at the end of the day so I end up wasting my time. But that’s me and you may be different.

Give yourself Grace

Ain watching an educational video while I clean the kitchen.
Ain watching an educational video while I clean the kitchen.

Finally, you may be in a season of life where you just need to rest during the night all you can. And that’s okay!! Don’t let me talk you out of that. Please, please don’t run yourself ragged. Take the rest YOU NEED. You can still take advantage of the planned quiet times during the day. Set a time (right after lunch or during naptime usually works well) and if you have kids that don’t nap give them a quiet activity to do (read books, independent game or activity, or watch something). I’ve heard many moms talk about keeping this routine of a quiet time, even as their kids get older. You can give the older kids a timer or clock so they know when “quiet time” is done and they can interrupt you.

Keep your to-do list short so that no matter how busy you are, you get a few things done each day! And give yourself grace if you have a rough day. Maybe you have to take a break and come back to a task.

Keep your to-do list short so that no matter how busy you are, you get a few things done each day! Click To Tweet

I fail all the time (just ask my husband, haha!). For example, right now I still have a load of clean laundry that I haven’t folded in a week. I’ve just been slowly pulling out clothes as we need them. I know I’ve got a lot more learning to do in this area as well. As my boys get older I’ll have new challenges.

I hope this has given you some ideas on how to accomplish more with the time you have. Let me know what you have done to get to your to-do lists!! I’ll be writing more next Monday on creating to-do lists and routines.