Have you heard the myth of the “supermom”? She can leap tall buildings in a single bound, with her child strapped to her body in a baby carrier, her briefcase in one hand, and her smartphone in the other hand – she can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan, all while sending emails, checking homework, and washing dishes! Who has that much time?! Yet, as working parents, we expect to be able to accomplish all this and so much more. Instead of trying to be superheroes, working parents should implement effective time management techniques, so we can maximize our time both at work and at home.
Here are some tips to help us effectively manage our time as working parents.
Having a daily schedule is essential for working parents. By appointing time each day to accomplish tasks, we can maximize our productivity and monitor how we use our time. We should plan for each day, rather than just letting things happen. Establishing a schedule can also help us reduce the amount of time we waste. If you’re like me, then you can easily waste an hour browsing the internet, when more pressing projects are pending! I use the calendar feature on my phone to keep track of my schedule, and I receive notifications for upcoming meetings, deadlines, and events.
Additionally, my schedule reflects my overarching professional and personal goals. With my goals in mind, it is easier to set my schedule, because I can simply eliminate items that are a distraction. For me, a distraction is anything that is not in line with my goals. Of course, daily interruptions are bound to arise, but a schedule helps me stay on track.
We all have projects or tasks we can delegate to others. It is okay to ask for help when we need it. For some reason, parents have received the incorrect message that we are “bad parents” if we ask for help – that a “good parent” does everything on his or her own. This message has left us feeling overwhelmed as we attempt to be superheroes at home and at work. The amount of stress faced by working parents might be relieved if we simply ask for help and outsource some routine tasks.
For example, we can ask other staff members at work to complete clerical tasks, which will free up our time to focus on tasks we cannot delegate. At home, we can hire a cleaning company or lawn service to handle those necessary tasks while we’re at work, so we can come home to a clean house and mowed lawn. Isn’t it much better to spend time with our kids, instead of cleaning the toilets?!
Working parents should also assign priority to the tasks we have to accomplish each day. We may have a number of items on our schedule, but it is important to determine which ones are top priority – and which ones we can handle another day or delegate to someone else. I regularly prepare “to do” lists, which help me to prioritize tasks, goals, and deadlines. The lists also give me a visual representation of all the items on my plate – if I see my plate is full, then I take a few moments to reassess the priority of items.
Saying “NO” is an essential time management skill. Reviewing our available resources may reveal when we should decline taking on a new task. If we don’t have the time, materials, or money to allocate to a new task, then saying no is the proper response. Sure, we might disappoint others, but it is better to disappoint by saying no, rather than by providing a sub-standard product.
We have to accept that unexpected events will happen. By anticipating surprises, we can be more proactive rather than reactive. We’ve all received a last-minute project. My favorite is the one that arrives on Friday afternoon, right before the weekend! In those situations, it’s a waste of time to bemoan the circumstances. Instead, we have to rearrange our time to accommodate the new project. Maybe that means staying home on Friday night or getting up early on Saturday morning to work, so we can finish the project and enjoy our weekend.
Adjust as needed
Being flexible is crucial to managing our time effectively. There will come a time when we have to adjust our schedule to accommodate changes – both the expected and the unexpected. Once I finally accepted that I will not be able to control the people or situations I face, I’ve been better able to adjust my schedule and priorities as needed. I am a self-defined control freak, so if I can do it – you can too!
*A version of this post was published in the April 2014 issue of Helotes Life magazine.