With all the “hats” we wear in our daily lives and our never-ending to-do lists, it’s important that we are efficient with our time so we can focus on the things that truly matter.
How I make time for what matters to me
I’m often asked how I manage a legal practice, a podcast, and a large family. I thought I’d share a few things I do to make time for what matters.
First, a fair disclosure:
- I don’t always do it all well.
- I’m blessed with a husband who has always been supportive and who does his fair share of tasks around the house, sometimes more!
Just for some context, for those of you who may be new to The Productive Woman, I work from home. My husband and I have 5 grown children who are out on their own (with the exception of our youngest son who is home waiting for his college campus to reopen), so for all intents and purposes we are empty nesters. What works for me now is different from when we had 5 kids at home. In this episode, I mention a few things I did to make time when the kids were at home, as well as what I do currently.
Priorities and primary roles
I try to have a clear vision of my priorities and primary roles and keep those top of mind at all times.
When it comes to my top priorities, it is the people in my life: family, friends, colleagues, clients, etc.
As for my primary roles, I am Mike’s wife, my kids’ mom, my grandchildren’s grandmother, a lawyer, an income contributor, a podcaster, and part of the TPW community.
I try to keep my focus on my priorities and roles to the best of my abilities. I find that when I do this, I can accomplish things rather than spin my wheels.
Time to restore
With all I do, you might be surprised to know that I need a certain amount of downtime and don’t do well if my calendar is jam-packed. I love people, but I’m an introvert and need quiet time to think. When I build it into my schedule, I’m energized and far more effective at getting things done.
What this means for me is I know it will likely take longer to accomplish big projects because I can’t go-go-go all the time for very long; I’ve learned to be okay with that and do what I can with the time I have.
Efficiency and routines
I think about efficiency and try to find ways to do necessary tasks faster. This requires me to have the right tools on hand. For example, sharp knives, good software (e.g., TextExpander, and other apps that I use regularly).
I also need an organized environment, so I’m continuously working on de-cluttering projects around my home. The less stuff I have, the easier it is to clean and the less time I have to spend doing it.
Another way I have found to increase my efficiency is by combining tasks–e.g., having the stair basket; cleaning up dishes while the pasta boils; tidying my desk while on hold for a call; wiping out the shower while I’m in there.
The more I practice these habits of efficiency and routine, the more habitual they become. I don’t have to think about it after a while and I continue to get better and more efficient the more I do things the same way
What are some of my routines?
- I have a morning routine to get ready for work. When I worked in an office, I usually would go in very early so I’d have an hour or two to get work done without interruption. Now that I work from home, I have to create boundaries between my work and home life.
- Laundry routines involve doing all (or most) laundry on one day, so it’s all done and I don’t have to think about it or go into the laundry room for the rest of the week.
- Weekly routines for house cleaning and groceries.
- My end-of-workday routine involves me identifying the two to three “Most Important Tasks” (MITs) for the next workday and writing those down. I also like to tidy up my desk.
- My end-of-day routine involves tidying up the kitchen and main living areas, as well as creating a to-do list for the next day.
Check out previous episodes where we’ve talked about routines – Episode 147 “Automating Productivity with Schedules, Routines, and Rituals”. Also, Episode 141 “Sunday Routines“.
Batching means to do tasks of a similar nature all at once in order to save time. So for example, I try to batch my errands, especially now, because we live out in the country. I don’t want to run in to the store for just one thing. If I’m going to town for an appointment, etc., I think about what else I can do it that part of town, and get it all done at once.
I batch podcast tasks like choosing topics, outlining episodes, recording, and planning.
I try to batch the administrative tasks I have to do for my law practice.
Batching tasks has been a huge time-saver for me and especially helpful since I have multiple roles. I can save time on “run of the mill” activities so I have more time for the things that matter.
Have less stuff
If you want to save as much time as you can, have less stuff. The less you have, the less time you have to spend cleaning, maintaining your things, and organizing it. With clothing, for example, the less clothing you have, the less time you have to spend washing, drying, folding, and putting away.
Try to put thought into what you really need and be ruthless about getting rid of what you don’t need.
How I made more time when the kids were home
When my kids were still in the home, I had much more on my plate. I had personal priorities and things that were important to me, but I also needed my downtime. To help make time for the important stuff, we used a number of strategies:
- We had a rule that when it came to chores, everyone pitched in. Even young kids can help with things like putting silverware away, folding dishcloths, feeding pets, picking up their own toys. Start training the children early and make it fun for them. Having your children participate in chores not only gives you a break but also teaches them valuable life skills.
- Another rule we had was that after lunch each day, everyone shorter than me took a nap. This was a rule that we followed every day without fail, even if the kids had friends over. This rest time was important because we could all wind down and relax and it gave me quiet time as well. Sometimes I would read, work on a task, or even take my own nap.
- I also taught my kids to entertain themselves. They had toys, craft supplies, and other things to keep them occupied. We did activities as a family as well. However, it was important for them to understand that I couldn’t always entertain them.
- I created daily routines for our family involving school times, snack and meal times, nap times, etc. Having a routine cut down on messes around the home and made for less stressful days because we all knew what to expect when.
- I minimized the stuff in their lives. There weren’t a lot of toys laying around and the kids also participated in minimal activities. I taught them to use their creativity to entertain themselves, rather than relying on stuff or outside activities that filled our calendar.
No one is perfect and time management is a learning process. You may not get things right the first time and will have to continuously tweak and experiment with what works for you.
We can also learn from each other. If you see others doing something to save time, try adapting that to your lifestyle and see how it works for you and your personality.
What do you think?
What do you do to make time for what’s important to you? Please share your questions or thoughts in the comments section below this post or on The Productive Woman’s Facebook page, or send me an email.
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