I read a statistic somewhere that the average mother finds herself 21 minutes short on time at the end of each day. Yup, I thought as I fell into bed, exhausted, that’s about right.
If you too are starting to feel like you’re spinning your wheels, never quite reaching the end of your to-do list, take heart: There are ways to streamline your day and to help ease the stress of today’s modern world. Read on for 9 simple tips to help stop feeling overwhelmed and give yourself the gift of time:
1. Grab time for yourself where (and when) you can.
Even if it means giving up 15, 20, 30 minutes of precious—and all too elusive—sleep, consider getting up a bit earlier in the morning, even if it’s just to grab some quiet time before the rest of the household wakes. I like to make my coffee, sit down, cup in hand, and watch the sun rise—and I do it every single day, putting aside my nagging to-do list and pinging cell phone.
2. Plan dinners ahead of time.
Some moms (or dads) are organized enough that they can plan an entire week of meals at a time, grocery shop, and then actually cook them—over the weekend. This undoubtedly saves immeasurable amounts of time during the week, but if you’re not quite up to the entire task, you may consider planning your meals and doing the majority of the shopping over the weekend, when work and school schedules are less demanding. You may still need to make a few quick stops for produce during the week, but at least some of the pressure will be alleviated during those hectic workdays.
3. Take advantage of downtime.
Got some time to kill while you wait in the stands at baseball practice? Put those minutes to good use—finish sending work e-mails (within reason), clean out your overflowing purse, or sketch out next week’s meals. Or, even better, take the time to refresh and actually do something for yourself: Take a walk, read a book, knit, call a friend—whatever helps you get some of that vitally important, and all too rare, “me” time.
4. Keep a family calendar.
When my husband first suggested instituting an online calendar, I revolted. The prospect of reducing schedules to our phones seemed so … clinical. I also feared we would let the calendar take the place of actual dialog and we would neglect to discuss important events and family details. But I’ve gotten used to it and it’s helped to avert an untold number of scheduling disasters. It keeps everyone in the loop on upcoming events.
5. Realize that your kids may be able to do more than you think they can.
Your children may be more eager than you think to help with simple tasks around the house. Put the younger one in charge of taking out the trash; an older child can help set or clear the dinner table. It’s the little things that can help build not only responsibility but also save you a few extra minutes.
6. Let your older kids pack their own lunches.
Not only can it help save you some money, but having your kids pack their own lunches can instill healthier eating habits early on. Try having your kids take their own lunches the majority of the time—and let them get in on the act by choosing what they want to pack (within reason, of course). If they need a bit of help in selecting items that constitute a well-rounded meal, make a checklist with categories, such as the following:
Also, consider making a few sandwiches ahead of time; or lunch-worthy smoothies that the kiddos can grab in the morning on the way out the door.
7. Ignore your e-mail, at least a little.
Not only can the practice of constantly checking and responding to email be an intrusion into your home life, but it can also eat up oodles of time. A recent study1 found that workers spend a staggering 7.4 hours per workday on email, often starting while still in bed. Another study2 found that people who check their email only three times per day, as opposed to unlimited amounts, experience less psychological stress. Yes, it can be hard, but try reducing the number of times you’re checking email throughout the day. Your cortisol levels will thank you for it.
8. Set up an errand co-op.
Bringing tots along on errand runs can be exhausting for all involved - with the constant potty breaks, hauling kids in and out of car seats, and inevitable pleas for toys/food/etc. Enlist a friend and take turns watching each other’s kids while the other tends to errands…it’ll go faster and everyone will likely be happier.
9. Schedule time for yourself.
All of this may sound fine when it comes to managing your all-too-hectic life and household. But what about the part about taking care of you? Unfortunately, all too many moms make the mistake of managing a million different details of other people’s lives, but they neglect to manage their own. So just like you schedule your kids’ entertainment, school and sports activities, start scheduling your own. That’s right—put your workout time on your family calendar. Or your facial. Or your gardening. Or your weekly Jenny Craig consultation. And stick to it, just like you would for your kids.
We hope you take these suggestions to heart not only for your own stress levels and sanity, but so you have more time in your day to enjoy family and life!