I have recently been trying to find ways to maximize my time and learn about how to manage it wisely. I read and searched for tips online (while breastfeeding, I might add) and came up with my own list since I figured what may work for certain people may not necessarily apply to others. I actually made this list for myself but I hope it will help you as well (especially if we're on the same boat - that of parenthood) :)
1. Make a To-Do List
This is standard. If you don’t have a To-Do List, you might as well expect your day to get wasted. No plans and no goals equals no direction.
2. Limit Your List to 4 Major Things Per Day
I just recently learned this (why didn’t I think of this before??! duh!). I constantly fill my planner with tons of tasks on most days thinking that there’s some miraculous way I can cross off everything on my list! But I always end up re-writing them on the tasks list for the next day because I wasn’t able to finish them. I just want to be realistic so I can cross off everything on my list once and for all and keep my focus.
3. Make Room for Interruptions
Give allowance for all the interruptions that you will encounter during the day (whether welcome or not). If you’re a parent and especially a hands-on mom (and working from home too), then this is inevitable. Things such as washing poop, breastfeeding (or pumping), kids asking for your attention, hungry toddler asking for snacks, phone calls, email requests from clients, text messages coming in and needing a reply, emergencies, appliances breaking down, home maintenance issues, accounting requirements… Most work tasks that I don’t get to finish is mostly because I have so many interruptions during the day.
4. Start with the Hardest Task
Once the most difficult task is done it will be such a relief and the rest of the day gets easy. You just need to focus so you can get it out of the way. (I admit - sometimes I end up procrastinating because the hardest task is not one I'm looking forward to doing first but the days that I actually follow this simple rule turn out to be my easiest ones).
5. Wake Up Earlier than Usual
Plan your day, pray, exercise, eat without being interrupted (a luxury I tell you), pay bills online, write out checks, read. So many things can be done when everything is quiet and everyone is asleep but you!
6. Learn to Say No
Learn to say no to unimportant things - to things that will only eat up your time but not necessarily essential to your everyday life or goals. This applies to anyone but most especially to parents. Guarding our time with our family and kids is so important. Life just isn't the same anymore (it's much busier!). Also learn to say no to work projects that you know you won’t be able to handle.
7. Leave Room for Yourself
Unwind, relax, exercise, read, write or blog (this is actually my way of de-stressing! hehe and also my way of keeping memories – like an online journal). Just find time to do something that you really like and relaxes you so you can reset and face life with a better perspective. You'll realize that this much needed break is what will actually make you more productive.
8. Delegate Tasks
Delegate tasks that you don’t need to do yourself or can entrust to others. Hire someone to do the cleaning, cooking, house chores like washing laundry and ironing, work tasks, and errands.
You might be thinking though that you prefer to do it yourself to try and save some money? But how about saving time? Sometimes some things are better done by someone else, if it is possible (and affordable). And in my opinion, Money Paid resulting to Time Saved is Money Well Spent.
I hire others to do architectural production drawings for me if I have no more time to do them myself (so I can get some sleep! And be more productive and meet my deadlines). I also try to get someone to do my accounting and run errands such as get my professional tax receipt from the City Hall and pick up my professional license from PRC in
(imagine the savings in time, toll fees, driver fees and gas). If I don't need to be there personally, then I will get somebody else to do it for me. Manila
9. Be Organized
When we're organized, we spend less time (or almost no time) looking for things that we need. I'm afraid I'm guilty of being one of those whose work area is in constant disarray! Piles of paper, books, receipts and toys somehow find themselves in my work place. I've tried to keep it spic and span whenever I can, only to see it cluttered yet again!
One of the things that I found helpful though is doing a periodic cleanup. The last time I did this was when the new year set in. I took everything out of my work cabinet and threw stuff I no longer needed and put all the paperwork and office materials in order. Just a few hours of your time can make a difference for all those other times when you need to find something that you need quickly.
Now if only I could figure out a way to make my tabletop (and scanner top!) consistently neat and organized! :) I am pretty sure it will save me lots more time!
10. Limit Your Time Online
Set a particular time for surfing the internet, going through your social media accounts or even checking emails (how about unsubscribing to online mailing lists that you don't need to check daily so you won’t have to spend time going through and deleting them? i.e. online shopping - which might even lead you to shop, thus taking up more of your time, and probably your money). You won’t believe how much precious time 'losing yourself' online eats up unconsciously. And limit playing games on your phone too! (yes! I’m talking to you! haha!)
11. Learn to Prioritize
It is the art of proper planning and prioritizing that will help you accomplish tasks that are most important and urgent. Learn to identify which things need to be at the top of your list each day, which ones need to be there everyday and which ones need to be done asap.
When someone (whether a client, a family member, or your child) needs something from you immediately, provide it as soon as you can. Or they will keep calling, texting, emailing or bugging you until you do :) (more interruptions!)
12. Make Time for Things or Persons That Really Matter
Time with family - our spouse, our kids (playing, teaching, learning, goofing around), and other family members or good friends are important. This is time spent wisely and moments you will never regret. After all, the most important people in our lives are the reason why we do the things we do :)