I learned a lot about how to better manage my time and schedule over the last couple of years. Pre-pandemic, when I was working from home with my laptop and papers sprawled out across the entirety of the kitchen, the kids would be bouncing from school to after-school activities, Bobby would be at work, and people would be coming in and out all day. Looking back, I have one question: how the heck did we do that?!
The truth is when the pandemic hit, I was not prepared. Our schedules went out the window. Homeschooling, both of us working from home, still making room for family time…I swear I’d blink, and the day would be over. During that time, I was forced to really evaluate where my time was going and how it was being spent. I learned a lot during our time at home, and I still apply many of those lessons to my schedule now that we’re back to normal. All this to say, if you’ve been struggling with time management as I have, I hope you find these tips as helpful as I did.
Make a Plan and Stick To It
Over the last two years, Notes became my best friend. Seriously, write it down! Set a reminder! Type it into your phone! Whatever way you like to do it, put down what you plan to accomplish for the day. Honestly, at one point, I’d include things like “drink water” because pandemic brain was real, you guys.
No matter how simple the task is, it helps just to put it down somewhere that you can refer back to later. Things happen. Texts come in. Our favorite TV shows come on. We lose track of what we’re doing. Referring to the list is a great way to refocus!
And Do the Same For Your Kids
Homeschooling was such an individualized experience. Some of my kids absolutely loved it, some are happy to be back in class. No matter how they felt about it, we learned early on that it’s best to lay down some ground rules. It was important to instill a sense of normalcy—to wake up, have breakfast, get dressed, and then go to school (even though school was just upstairs on their laptops). Plus, it really helped with their productivity levels. They were more attentive during class and got more done during homework time.
I also had them start writing down a schedule for themselves. During breakfast, we’d each create our own list of to-dos and we’d have check-ins throughout the day to make sure they were getting done. It’s little things like this that really make a big difference by the end of the day. Even more important, it helped to decrease their stress and anxiety levels. Now we maintain this daily schedule even though they’re back in school.
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Create a Productive Work Space
Remember what I said about me working all over the kitchen? That was real life for years. I’d sprawl out my laptop, my team would bring theirs, papers would be everywhere…there was a lot going on. And while I’m still prone to the occasional work-from-kitchen day (hey, it’s close to the snacks), I also decided a real workspace was in order.
Even with the kids at school and out doing extracurriculars, personal space in my house is extremely hard to come by. My solution was to carve out a space just for me to get my work done. You don’t need much—a quiet nook, a few tabletop must-haves (think: diffuser, nice pens, stationery, a schedule, a wall calendar), and your computer. Having a quiet space to go to helps me switch between “work” and “home” mode a lot easier.
Did you know that taking breaks increases our productivity? Try to work for 50 minutes straight, followed by a 10-minute break. In those working minutes, set aside the distractions, don’t scroll through your phone, and simply focus on the next task on your list. Then when you’re on break time, shut the work off and step away from the screen.
Our brains and eyes need rest from the computer and phone screens. So go outside, take a quick walk around the block, grab a snack—whatever it is, step away, and you’ll come back feeling much more refreshed.
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Schedule Some Time for the Family
Lastly, remind yourself what’s most important. Give yourself a strict deadline for when work is over. When you reach that point, stick to it. It’s so easy to get sucked into the “just one more email” mentality, but that’s how you end up working long into the night (something I know all too well). Instead, step away and rejoin the family.
We like to separate work/school time from family time by having a fun family activity as the transition. It could be a walk, a dip in the pool, a quick dance break. Something to signal that the workday is over and now’s the time to unwind and relax with your crew.