Whether you are a stay-at-home parent or professional parent (or a combination of both!), you are likely very busy! Balancing a home, family, social life, marriage/partnership or co-parenting, business commitments, community obligations, personal care, and any additional involvements (like volunteering at school, hobbies and other errands) is both energizing and productive and at the same time draining and overwhelming.
Here I highlight a few ways to streamline your busy day and stay on-top of the laundry list of tasks!
Take the time to physically write down what is a priority in your life on a high, medium and low scale. This is a good way to sort through the pile in front of you. It is a perfect reference for yourself when considering your commitment to something new and to conjure up when organizing your day or week ahead. What can be dropped down the task list? What needs to be done in a more timely manner? Knowing where it all really falls in the broader scheme of things will help you make better decisions with your time and energy.
Focus on your high and medium tasks and incorporate your low priority tasks only when you have time (or they are necessary). When asked to add something new to your plate, ask yourself where it falls on the list. Perhaps mom’s night out with the neighborhood girls is not as important as getting a date-night with your spouse this week. Happy hour with co-workers might fall below going to that yoga class after the office. Thumbing through social media likely falls lower on the list than reading that book you have been intending to for months. Keeping your priorities in line day to day will help you feel productive and positive about all the hard work you put forth. There is only so much time, handle it with care.
2. Invest the time
You have to find time upfront to get yourself organized. Download apps that make life easier. Organize your calendar. Manage your passwords so you aren’t spending time resetting them. Clean-up your contact list. Empty your inbox. Find a physical home for everything in your household or car. Organize your desk, desktop, purse, wallet, shoulder bag, bathroom. Update your address list. Whatever it is, do it. Getting everything in order will make maintaining your day-to-day much more efficient! The time and energy upfront will be well worth it as time goes on – I promise!
3. Use the tools at your disposal
There are a million tools these days to save time and add convenience to your everyday. See my post here for a snapshot of a few of my favorite digital delights. In terms of streamlining your busy day, here are my top 5 daily uses:
- Coda.io: Coda can be used to organize meal planning, family budgets, kid’s school and sports schedules, speciality projects and more. We use it to organize holiday cards, plan trips, plan birthday parties, and keep up on our to-do lists.
- Calendar.ly: Set your availability and send out a link for other folks to work around without the hassle of back-and-forth.
- Doodle: Scheduling a PTA meeting? Group playdate? Family reunion? Use doodle to evaluate everyone’s time without wasting your own.
- G-Suite: Google has really figure it out. Their gmail and calendar apps work perfectly together, and I can stay organized and on top of things on the go with these apps. I find them to work much better than the native calendar and mail apps on iPhones.
- Boomerang: This is my favorite e-mail management system and helps me stay in front of communication needs and never forget follow-ups. It helps keep my inbox clean, which offers me a lot of sanity in its own right.
4. Have Less
This sounds like nonsense, I know. Have less to manage so you have less to manage? Duh. But seriously, have less. Commit to less things that don’t fall in your top priority category and have less physical stuff (clothing, toys, jewelry, candles, nicknacks….) to take care of. Have less, enjoy more. Delete apps that waste your time and energy. Get of clothing you never wear. Clean out the toys the kids are too old for. Donate books no one reads. Marie Kondo it. #mariekondo
5. Assembly Line Management
Jumping between tasks waste a lot of time and context switching. This can make you forgetful and feel less productive, accomplished and thoughtful. Do your best to stay on the tasks at hand all at once. If you have a long list of to-dos that will require you to be in front of your computer (such as ordering birthday presents, emailing your mom back, setting up a paperless post invite, and printing out a return label) just sit down and do it all at once. When putting laundry away, do it in one sweep, not a little here and a little there. Wash the dishes all at once, not as you go. Managing your tasks as an assembly line save time and doesn’t require a new onset of motivation later one.
6. Stay out of the weeds
Getting in on the latest playground gossip and water cooler rumors might be fun but it is wasteful for body, mind and time. Focus on your priority list and don’t engage in petty time waster outside of them. Concentrating on both what makes you happy and what does you well (for your family, self and home) will amount to more than you think.
So, skip the comments section on the controversial online article, bow out of the school drop-off gossip circle, save yourself the headache of calling someone out in a meeting unnecessarily, quit the smoking habit that pulls you away from the rest of your life, and don’t rehash old and tired disagreements. Conversations, communication, actions and relationships in your day-to-day should be lifters, make you feel good and think harder. Anything that takes time away from your work, passions, self-care or any happy moments with the ones you love shall be categorized under “to avoid”. In work terms – “LPIs” – lowest priority items.
If your children are old enough to help around the house, they should. Their chores can be centered around taking care of themselves, but making sure they contribute to their own care (laundry, dishes, hygiene, etc.) isn’t where it should stop. Children who are old enough (or mature enough) should have additional responsibilities that assist the family in functioning well – setting the table, doing the dishes, putting away groceries, folding laundry, taking out the trash, etc.
If you have an in-home childcare provider or an occasional housekeeper, delegate tasks that fall under their realm. Our au pair and sitters are not just responsible for taking good care of the children, but their duties include most of the other kid’s related tasks that are applicable and appropriate when they are on-duty. This includes things such as the children’s laundry, cleaning and putting away toys, washing baby bottles, cutting up fruits, preparing snacks, and cleaning out the stroller.
I happily pay an extra 15 or 30-minute of babysitter time when I get home from work so that I can enjoy my children and spend quality time with them before the hustle for dinner and bedtime routines. While the sitter cleans up from the day and gets us organized for the night or next morning, I get a few moments of happiness and fun with my kids that isn’t additional “work” for me as soon as I come through the door. That cash is well worth the time I get with my kids and sanity I keep after a long day at the office. It might not be the most budget friendly principal, but it is a (best) practice I won’t have forever so I suck up the cost and reap its benefits for now.
- Invest the time
- Use the tools at your disposal
- Have Less
- Assembly Line Management
- Stay out of the weeds