A guest post from Jessica at Heartfully Present
In the busyness of everyday life, it’s easy to get caught up and lose sight of your priorities. It’s also easy to over commit and forget to make more time for what matters most in your life.
Make more time for what matters
There’s no juggler more masterful than a mom.
Put her in any circus ring, and she’ll manage. Oh, and if the lion tamer’s out, she’ll do that work too. And the tightrope walker, and the trapeze artist, and yes, even the bearded lady… because when’s the last time anyone had a free five minutes to shave a blessed thing?!
But in the midst of all the circus acts, even the best jugglers suffer a few dropped balls.
For many moms, the two biggest dropped balls are:
- Self care, and
- Our marriages.
Whether your work is inside the home, outside the home, or a mixture of both, it never seems there are quite enough hours in the day to get it all done. The pressing needs of children, work, and all the “extras” that bubble up tend to come first on our lists – both on paper and in our mind and spirit.
A mother’s mental task load can feel overwhelming. The moment one item gets checked off, we’re on to the next one. (And 4 more have probably been added to the bottom of the list too.). In the hustle and bustle, we forget to make more time for what matters.
Better time management makes way for better stress management. And the less stressed we feel, the better versions of ourselves we can bring to our marriages and parenting too.
The truth is, we all have time for the things we want. If your blood pressure just shot through the roof, or you immediately starting listing reasons why you don’t have time for the things you want, take a deep breath and consider this thought: we either manage our time, or it gets managed for us.
Effective time management is critical for our wellness. When we manage our time well, we can make room for work, family, play, health, self-care, hobbies, and quality, fulfilling relationships we love.
With poor time management, there’s never enough time for anything, and we find ourselves stressed out, maxed out, and worn out. And it’s not just us who suffer – it’s the people who deserve the best of us who end up getting the short end of the stick.
Time management & marriage
This was a huge sticking point in our marriage, early on. My husband and I both had careers requiring long hours that kept us on the clock six days a week. We ate poorly, slept poorly, lived in clutter, and had no room for connected conversation or restorative experiences together.
I finally came to my breaking point after he snapped at a simple question, to which I remember yelling: I am sick of getting your leftovers! There were things I definitely didn’t know about marriage.
The people we love don’t deserve merely our leftovers. They deserve the very best of us. And implementing simple and intentional time management strategies can help us give the best of ourselves to the people we love most and make more time for what matters.
Time Management Strategy #1: Prioritize on paper
Part of our stress and mental jumble is due in part to the laundry list of things we have running through our minds at any given moment. You can probably rattle off right now a list of 20 things you still need to get to today, things that are distracting you from even fully absorbing what you’re reading!
Imagine an empty dryer. Toss a small pebble inside and turn it on. Now add 50 more pebbles. What you’ve got is a crazy mess of noise that’s destroying your machine.
Our brains are exactly the same.
With 50 unorganized thoughts inside, our minds get cluttered, noisy, and totally stressed out. Take the pebbles out, one by one, and get them on paper.
There are plenty of good digital organizers out there, but what works best for me is a paper planner. Even more than that, I love just a good sticky post-it. I keep stacks of post-its in 2 places in our home, one upstairs and one down, and when an idea hits, I write it down.
Putting those ideas on paper gets them out of my mind, which frees me up to stop the mental spin cycle. It helps makes room for the things I actually want to think about, like that awesome podcast I want to listen to, or that connected phone call with a great friend. I would suggest that you then determine and establish one place to put all the sticky notes!
Create a 4D List
Most days, I create what I call a 4D List and it looks like this:
- Must-dos (no more than 6 tasks that are my responsibility to do today)
- Delegate (whatever tasks that can be done by a spouse, child, assistant, or other helper)
- Delay (whatever tasks that can wait until tomorrow if needed)
- Drop (whatever tasks that really don’t need to be done at all. You will be surprised how many items on our list are really non-essential and can be added to the drop list.)
You can get your own printable 4D list to help HERE. Print a stack of them at a time and check each task off daily as you go. That sense of accomplishment will bring you so much satisfaction.
Here’s the best part – when you’re done, you can give yourself permission to slow down, be present, spend your remaining energy on something you enjoy, and honor your people with your time and attention.
Time Management Strategy #2: Beware the Busy Badge
We have this strange obsession as American moms that busy = important. Busiest mom is the best mom. This is crazy, and unhealthy, and it’s just not true. If you’ve ever felt “sick and tired,” chances are you are actually “too busy and tired.”
One of my most fulfilling gifts to myself is to affirm myself as a “woman of my word.” I love being able to commit to something fully, see it through to completion, and put my seal of approval on a job well done in service to someone else.
I know my limits, though. I can say yes to a certain number of projects or people at a time. When I overcommit myself, I can’t honor my word. I blow up deadlines, or I offer less than my best in quality of work. I end up resenting the person I committed to in the first place.
That is not anyone’s fault but my own.
Questions to ask to make more time for what matters
When we overcommit our time and energy, we do a disservice to everyone involved. Examine your list of responsibilities and be willing to ask yourself some tough questions:
- Is this something I really have time and energy to say yes to?
- Am I saying yes because I feel obligated, indebted, guilty, or afraid to say no?
- What other/better project could I say yes to if I say no to this one? (your own health and wellness and peace is a valid “project.”)
There is no award for Best Busiest Mom. Yet we chase it all the time. Wouldn’t we rather be seen by our families as a calm, present mom? Or a thoughtful, patient wife?
Busy is not better. Shift that story in your mind. It really is OK to say “no” so that you can make time for what matters most.
Time Management Strategy #3: Practice your Ask (you can’t do it all)
When you’ve taken the time to make your 4D list (Do, Delegate, Delay, Drop), you’ve already taken a huge step towards having realistic expectations.
Just because you can do all these things, doesn’t mean that you should, or that you have to at all. There are so many people in your life who are capable (and even eager and willing!) to lend a hand.
This teaches our spouses what we need, how they can honor and support us, and how to help us be more present and patient with them. Asking our children for help teaches them to see needs and fill them, and personal responsibility and accountability skills that will last them a lifetime.
Even the smallest young children can help with simple tasks, and often need no reward greater than a high-five to make them feel special for having helped.
Requests for help
As my confidence in asking my children for help has strengthened over time, I often don’t even phrase them as questions anymore:
- “Please empty the dishwasher this morning after you eat breakfast.”
- “It is your responsibility to walk the dog before 10 AM.”
- “Before you earn screen time today, your room must pass the tidy test.”
My “asks” over time have made the shift from a mom pestering about chores to a child fulfilling their responsibilities. This is a magical transformation. Nothing sucks my energy faster than feeling like a nag. Parenting can be stressful for marriages.
For my spouse, asking for help looks a little different:
- “Babe, could you please tackle the kitchen clean-up tonight? That would help me so much.
- “Baby, do you have a minute today to replace the lightbulbs over our bathroom sink?”
He responds best to a specific, kind request with a little grace on the timeline. ☺
You know yourself and your people best. Be clear in your requests, in whatever form is most effective. Clear communication is kind.
When I have help from my family, I don’t resent them for making me the maid or taking me for granted. Asking for their contribution helps me love them better. And isn’t that what we all want?
Time Management Strategy #4: Give Grace (because you’re going to blow it)
We’re going to overcommit. And we’re going to drop the ball. We’re going to stress ourselves out by overloading our minds and our plates with too many tasks. And we’re going to get frustrated with our spouses and our children because they’re not helping carry the load (perhaps we didn’t ask, or maybe they’re not yet in the habit of seeing the need).
We’re going to blow it.
This is where grace comes in. Forgive yourself and ask your people for forgiveness too. See where the cart fell off the rails whether it was a failure to prioritize, say no, or ask for help, and try again tomorrow.
Teaching to make more time for what matters
Our children will learn these time management tips from watching us too. These things are caught just as frequently as they’re taught:
- Prioritizing your time
- Saying no
- Valuing your own time and energy
- Asking for help
And all these lessons they’re catching will help shape them into calm, self-aware, accountable, responsible, and mindful human beings in the process. Their future spouses will thank you to no end!
As you begin to prioritize your time, ditch the busy badge, ask for help, and give grace, you’ll find you have more room for better emotional management too. When you practice healthy time management, you can weed out the things that cause you stress and anxiety, and instead build in time for the tasks and people who bring you peace. You’ve made more time for what matters.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Peace feels good, doesn’t it?
Which time management strategy resonates most with you? What ideas can you implement TODAY in your time management to bring more peace and presence into your mind, marriage, parenting, and home?
Jessica is a wife, infant loss and adoption mother, entrepreneur, and author of Joy Comes in the Mourning: Living in Love and Walking in Light after Losing a Child. Interested in more tips for cultivating a fulfilling marriage and present life? Check out Jessica’s corner of the Internet at Heartfully Present or find her on Facebook and Instagram.
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