Time must be one of the trickiest things to manage as a parent (along with mega tantrums). There are so many things you want to do, and so many things your kids want you to do, or at the very least, need you to do.
Time management isn’t about managing time as such. It’s about managing ourselves in relation to time, (and our kids!). It’s about identifying those activities that give you the greatest returns on your time investment, hence allowing you to work smarter, not harder. Think of time as money, and when you’re spending it, ask if you’re getting good value.
Having clearly defined goals will help you determine what is important to spend time on. You might wonder, where do I even begin designing such goals? Start with your values. Figure out what your values are and what’s important to you, what do you want to instil in your kids? Once you do this, you can identify activities that are in alignment with your values and will teach your kids these values. This becomes your “big picture” to-do list. You may need to break it down then into individual steps that will allow the achievement of the overall goal. This is your daily task list.
As you work through your list, keep asking yourself “how much will this contribute to the outcome in the grand scheme of things?” Prioritize those things that will contribute the most. Always remember to schedule in quality time with the kids, family and friends and time for yourself on your to-do list. Time spent in such ways gives you a much higher return on your investment than you might have allowed yourself to realize. This time can help create clarity of mind, inspiration, self-worth and self-respect, (which you’ll no doubt find on your values list).
I’ve had clients who want to reduce weight telling me that they don’t have time to exercise because work is too busy. I ask them how much clearer their thinking and focus becomes with just 30 minutes exercise and they just go “oh, yeah.” Regular exercise enables them to be more efficient with their work. This is because exercise as well as recreational activities such as spending quality time with loved ones de-activates the stress response and stimulates the rest and repair system which directs more energy to higher brain function such as logic and creativity.
The best tip I ever learnt for time management is to segregate each activity into one of four categories. First though, pull out your ‘to do list’. Then, ask yourself the following questions: “is this task urgent?” or “is this task important?” in relation to achieving your goals. As you do this, put each task into one of the following categories:
1. Important and Urgent – this is fire-fighting, get these done as fast as you can so you can move on to the next category
2. Important but not Urgent – this is the state you want to live in most of the time, where everything you’re doing is important and valuable but there’s no stress attached
3. Urgent but not Important – these are usually things that other people want you to do but don’t actually aligned with your own goals
4. Not important or urgent – don’t do these things at all, ever, take them off your ‘to do list’
Once things are in their categories, you can just delete all the tasks in group 3 and 4. Well maybe you’ll keep group 3 for when you’re bored!! Then get on with throwing yourself into the urgent and important things (group 1). You might want to bust your guts for a little while to put out all these number 1 fires before any more erupt, but once you do, you’ll be in the ideal state of doing the important things without the stress of urgency. Initially you might find that you really have to take some time to evaluate the tasks against your goals and categorise them but eventually it will come naturally, and you’ll stop even giving non urgent non important tasks a second thought.
In summary, here’s the steps to effective time management:
1. Understand your values and what you want to experience in your life
2. Write goals that will enable you to have these experiences
3. Break down the goals in to a to-do list
4. As you go about your day to day life, constantly categorise your tasks as urgent or important, both or neither
Things to give thought to this week:
· What are my values and do my present goals support them? If they don’t you may achieve your goal only to find you are unfulfilled
· Pull out any existing to-do lists and categorise them as urgent, important, neither or both