Time management tips for busy parents

November 24, 2021

By Carey Ann Dodah

Do you feel overwhelmed at times? Wish you could make life easier and have more time for loved ones and yourself? I have spent the last 14 years trying to figure out ways to balance the busyness of family and working life.

I can’t promise to have all the answers but I think I may have picked up a useful time management tip or two for parents along the way! So here goes… 

Why are time management skills important for parents and families?

Umm, if you’re asking this question maybe you’re not a parent yet! From the moment a child is born they are on a schedule that is entirely different to your own and if you don’t quickly find a way to merge your life schedule and theirs then chaos ensues! (am I right?)

The more people in your household, the more there is to balance and get done. It can feel like life is a roller coaster and you have no control of how fast you go and when to stop. I can handle a rollercoaster for a couple of minutes but if I’m left on there for days I’m going to go completely stir-crazy. “Get me off!”

So, time management allows us to dictate the pace, put on the brakes when we need to and have fun, quality family time without completely losing our minds in the process.

 

What is the key to time management for parents?

My go-to expert on time management is the late Stephen Covey, author of ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’. I highly recommend carving out time to read it but I’ll try and do him justice by summarising the key points he makes about time management. 

To have time for all you want to achieve in life, you have to recognise three key things:

  1. Not doing everything is okay
  2. It’s all right to say no
  3. You need to know what is truly important to you

How to manage time and family

What is most important to you?

This question is not the easiest to answer once you have a family. Wanting to pursue a career and be an amazing parent doesn’t always go hand in hand. In fact, they often pull in opposite directions. 

So, you need to figure out the things that are most important to you – attending the big meeting at work or the kid’s school play? Baking cakes for the school fundraiser or having time for a bedtime story? 

You have to balance out your personal needs, your family’s needs and the needs of your career.

When you identify the things that really matter, you will be able to prioritise and say no to the things that are not important. You’ll know when you’ve got it right because you will feel proud, in control and downright amazing!

 

My top 3 time management tips 

1. Self-care

On an aircraft you are instructed to put on your own oxygen mask first. In life you have to do the same and it took me a while to acknowledge that I wasn’t being selfish doing this. I was doing everyone else a favour. The truth is, you can’t take care of people the way you want when you’re broken. So before you do anything else each day, make time for you. 

2. Meal planning

There’s no getting away from it, the masses need feeding – all the time! To avoid ‘hangry children’ it’s good to plan out all the food you need to have for the week. No last minute dashes to the shops, no having to think about what to make for dinner and a healthier food selection for everyone.

 

3. Online shopping

As you plan your meals, pop everything into an online grocery order and have it delivered to your door. Get it delivered at a convenient time and suddenly a big part of your weekly burden is removed from your schedule.

Looking for more ways to learn about self care for you and your child? Find some self-care and wellbeing tips for families here.

 

Time management for working parents

By the way, I consider all parents to be ‘working parents’ because whether you have a paying job or not, the raising of a family and running of a household more than fills a normal working day – everyday!

 

Learning to say no

This links strongly with looking after your wellbeing and coping with parent stress. It can be really hard to turn down invitations or requests for help from colleagues, friends, family members or school. You need to consider if you are easing someone else’s burden at the expense of your own. The main question to ask is: is it important? Will it make a difference to your life goals by fulfilling it? If it doesn’t tick this box then you need to politely decline. 

Prioritise

Do you find you have an overflowing to do list? Are you prone to setting yourself an unrealistic amount of things to achieve in a day? Do you wish there was more family time in your week? I have found one approach to list making that avoids unachievable ‘to-do lists’ and maximises family time.

This approach to prioritisation involves planning a week in advance and encourages you to give yourself a maximum of 4 tasks per area of responsibility. Here’s an example.

This helps you to think bigger-picture and when you’re planning a week ahead you naturally focus on the important things. It’s amazing how much free time you’ll feel you have. You’ll get things done, feel more efficient and avoid unhelpful distractions.

 

Download your own template planner.

 

Family planner

Why not make your weekly priority list the family planner? Having a one stop shop for all family activities is really useful. Whether that’s a shared calendar online or one stuck to the fridge, it helps everyone communicate better and know what is happening. Hopefully it also ensures that events don’t get forgotten in the midst of all the other family admin.

 

Teach your children time management

Help your children learn how to stay on top of homework and have time for the things they love by planning their own schedules too. Spending a small amount of time teaching children about prioritisation and how to identify what is most important to them can have powerful benefits for the whole family in the long run. 

 

Outsource the jobs you don’t have time for

Whether that’s keeping the house clean, DIY style projects, home maintenance, gardening, general admin, there are many willing and able people ready to take on and support you with those tasks. You just need to decide the ones that are creating the most burden and delegate with confidence.

Supporting your children’s home learning

Helping your child with their homework and supporting their academic development alongside school may be an area to consider seeking external support. Explore Learning can offer a perfect solution here with online maths and English tuition in the comfort of your own home or support in local learning centres.

 

Don’t strive for perfection

If you are a self-proclaimed perfectionist as I once was, this is a hard step to adopt. However, trying to achieve perfection both at home and in the workplace can leave you over-stretched. Much better to strive for good in all areas rather than outstanding in one and disastrous in the other. There will always be room for improvement and that’s okay. 

 

Sharing chores and responsibilities

I have hit and miss success in this area. I have discovered that a child’s ability to do something is in direct contrast to their willingness to do it! However, it is important that everyone in the family feels some responsibility to contribute to your shared home. I find daily expectations are a good start e.g. making beds, tidying rooms, having everything they need for school, looking after the pet.

 

Prepare the night before

Successful days generally follow when there’s been some night-before prep. Whether it’s checking the PE kits, hanging up the uniform, getting your own clothes and bag ready – these little things are really worth prioritising. They give you extra time in the morning to cope with the unexpected crises that you can’t plan for – like a glass of milk spilled down clean uniform 5 minutes before you leave – you might manage to breathe through it rather than lose your rag!

Routines

I know routine sounds restrictive and regimented but it does have a place in time management. If nothing else, your house plants will be very grateful for being routinely watered! Washing bedding and towels, cleaning bathrooms etc. will all stay manageable if you do them as part of a weekly routine.

 

Identify the time wasters

If you feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day, then it might be time for a bit of analysis. Figure out where you’re losing time to something that doesn’t contribute to the important things in your life. Is it scrolling through social media? Getting distracted by your phone? Forgetting what you came upstairs for, for the 20th time? (If only my brain wasn’t such a time waster!)

 

Reduce distractions

Taking control of notifications on my phone has been really empowering. I don’t want my phone to rule my life so turning off social media notices means I only look at it when I have time, the same goes for email. I check it daily when it suits me, not every time something pings through. When I really need to focus then airplane mode goes on. As long as a form of emergency contact remains available then I feel comfortable being a bit disconnected for chunks of the day.

 

Find more parent tips for back to school preparations in our blog.

 

It takes a village…

Time management tips for single parents

I spoke to a friend recently about her experience as a single Mum. Despite raising her two children and working a full time job, she still volunteers at school fundraising events and finds time to organise social events for her kids and their friends. Our time management practices are very similar but her additional piece of advice was – ‘it’s all about the support network… and coffee!’

Having an extended group of people to be able to call on for support, a friendly ear, or a night out all help to balance the demands of parenting alongside her career.

 

  • It’s okay to ask for help – In fact asking for help when you need it is just as important as learning to say no. Struggling with a task that you’re not sure how to complete is inefficient in terms of time keeping so if you can get help with sewing on the school badge or fixing the leaky tap then ask your network.
  • Upskilling – Sometimes having someone to help us can also present an opportunity to learn a new skill. Whilst we know it takes a village to raise a child, it can feel equally empowering if you can develop the skills of the village in yourself too. My friend told me how she’d asked the plumber to show her how he replaced the tap so that she could do it herself next time! 

 

Having more time as a result of adopting time management practices can give you space to develop your skills in new and exciting areas too.

Good luck on your journey to finding time management success. If we, at Explore Learning, can support you and your child with any part of their learning journey then just get in touch. We promise to reduce some of the burden.

Book a free trial session to get started.

 

“After attending Explore for the last few years my children have come on leaps and bounds. Their tutor is absolutely amazing and my daughter has even used the methods she taught her for long division in school this week and she was so pleased with herself. Happy children, happy Mum, happy life!!”Kym, Trustpilot review

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