If moms went extinct, the universe would be in trouble.
What would your kids, spouse, or friends do if one day you suddenly disappeared?
Some days, it feels as if you can’t even leave the house for half an hour without getting a phone call about something gone wrong. Other days, there’s a page-long to-do list screaming your name (maybe even louder than the kids), but you’re too exhausted to pay it any attention.
Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom or a single mom working over 40 hours a week, odds are you’ve faced this problem before, if not everyday.
So what do you do when it seems the weight of the world is on your shoulders, yet somehow end up getting nothing productive done?
Keep reading to discover the 10 best time management strategies for the overwhelmed mom.
But first…do you just feel like you don't have enough time?
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3 Reasons Why Women Feel They Don’t Have Enough Time
Before getting into the ways you can make the most of your time, take a moment to ask yourself why you feel like you don’t have enough of it already.
You might think this is just a mom thing, but in reality, it’s a people thing. While it’s true that moms have a lot more responsibilities than some other people in the world, the problem of needing more hours in a day is an age-old issue.
If you’re unsure why you’re struggling to get things done, take a look at these 3 common reasons why other women feel stuck in the same dilemma.
1. You’re Needed by Other People
For moms, this is perhaps the biggest reason.
Regardless of which stage of life they’re in, most people feel like they are needed by someone else or have standards set by other people that they are obligated to fulfill. Think about it, you’ve been wired to think this way since birth.
As children, we are taught to follow rules set in place by our parents, complete homework that has a deadline, and help out with household chores.
As college students, there are papers to be written, tests to study for, and certain grades you’re supposed to make.
And as an adult, there are jobs to be done, tasks to check off, mouths to feed, and partners and bosses to please.
When this many expectations are held over your head, it’s no wonder you feel drained at the end of the day.
2. You Feel Guilty When Having Time to Yourself
Whether it’s because there are people who need you or work that has to be done, when you take a small moment to yourself, you feel guilty and unproductive.
Although self-care is essential to success, it’s hard to get past the thought that you could be doing something much more productive.
Feelings like this not only make downtime less relaxing like it’s supposed to be, but they also make getting those tasks done more exhausting.
3. Work Takes All the Time
Isn’t it interesting how the day can feel like such a drag at work, but then speed by as soon as you get off?
It doesn’t matter how many hours you work if at the end of the day, you feel like you can’t get anything else done because work took too much out of you.
Whether you simply want to spend time with your family, watch a Netflix show, or work on your side hustle, it can seem as if there are more hours during the work day than there are in the evening.
10 Strategies for Time Management and a More Productive Day
While there’s no possible way to add more hours to your day, the good news is that you can always make more use of the 24 you already have.
But how do you do so and where do you start?
Allow me to introduce you to 10 insanely effective tricks to give you a better managed and more productive day that you can quickly adopt as your superpowers.
1. Use the Pomodoro Technique
If you’ve done some research into time management before, you’ve probably heard of the Pomodoro technique.
The purpose of this technique is to make tasks more doable by breaking them down into smaller, timed segments, giving you breaks in between. It also allows you to be more focused and leaves less room for distractions or getting bored.
To use the Pomodoro technique, set a timer for about 25 minutes. As soon as the timer is set, get to work on whatever task you have at hand. Once the 25 minutes are up, step away from your task and take a 10 to 15 minute break to regain energy and focus before starting the next 25 minute session.
After the break time is up, repeat the process until the task is complete.
2. Establish Your Own Office Hours
This tip is especially useful if you are a stay-at-home mom.
It’s easy for friends and family to forget that you have just as many responsibilities as any other working woman, which means they’re likely to text, call, or try to get ahold of you at any given time of the day.
While it’s an honest mistake in most cases, this can be detrimental to your productivity and take big chunks out of your time.
To prevent this from happening, set your own “office hours.” Whether it’s the average 8 to 5 work day, or 7 to 9 in the evening, this is your dedicated time to get whatever you need (or want) to do done.
During these hours, put your phone on silent or “do not disturb,” close your door, and if necessary, tell your spouse, kids, and friends that if they try to reach you during these hours, they’ll have to leave a voicemail or save it for later.
3. Be Early to Bed, Early to Rise
You’ve heard the saying by Ben Franklin “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” Now it’s time to put that proverb to the test.
In 2015, a study was published that revealed repetitive negative thoughts is directly related to low amounts of sleep. And according to Everyday Health, if you’re anywhere between 18 and 65 years old, you need at least 7 hours of it.
Not only does getting enough sleep benefit your health and prevent you from feeling tired all the time, but waking up early also means you’re ahead of the game.
Many well-known, successful entrepreneurs start their mornings before the sun even starts its daily shift.
For example, Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, starts his day at 3:45 A.M., Michelle Obama works out at 4:30 A.M., and Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey goes for a 6 mile run before the crack of dawn.
Just think of all the incredible things you can get done by getting up just 1 hour earlier than you already do.
4. The Word “No” is Your Superpower
Although it might be hard, it’s time to start saying “no” to some things — or maybe a lot of things.
Perhaps the reason you don’t have enough time is because you’re giving it all away.
Whether it’s the neighbor asking for a favor, friends inviting you to a get-together, or your colleagues asking for help with a project, if you don’t have the time, you can’t invest it.
Saying “no” to things outside of your daily duties doesn’t make you a selfish person.
Instead, it makes you more self-aware and able to provide for the needs of your family and yourself in a much more effective and healthy manner.
5. Take Breaks (And Don’t Feel Guilty About Them)
No, your break does not count as the 10 to 15 minute rest period in the Pomodoro technique.
In order to function as a healthy, effective, human being, you need downtime and rest. Yes, you are allowed to kick back and watch Hallmark movies every once in a while.
Even if your to-do list still isn’t complete, if you’re feeling low on energy, tired, or distracted, taking a break is the best thing you can do for yourself and your tasks.
It’s better to get work done when you’re energized than it is to push through it and produce something low-quality.
6. Give Your To-Do List a Deadline
What’s better than having a to-do list?
Having a to-do list with a deadline.
This might seem a bit counterintuitive since the other tips are supposed to alleviate stress in order to do work more efficiently. However, if you make a list of things to do “by the end of today,” you tend to take much more time than what’s necessary to actually get them done.
Instead, try saying “get these things done by 6 p.m. tonight.” If you give yourself a specific deadline, you will do your best to make sure it’s met.
In turn, this gives you the rest of the evening to relax, spend time with family, fill in the blank.
7. Let Others Manage Their Own Responsibilities
As a mom, it’s easy for us to do things for our children that they can honestly do themselves.
If you have infants or toddlers, there’s obviously not much they can manage on their own. But kids from the ages of six to teens are more capable than you think, and it’s causing you distractions and unnecessary time.
For example, do you still fix your kids’ lunches for school? Do you still wake them up and remind them to get ready? Do you get them juice or turn on the TV at their demand?
Instead, let them pick out their own lunch. Tell them to set an alarm in the morning. Teach them how to get their own cup of juice.
This not only goes for your kids, but for your spouse as well. Although grown men might not realize it, they can unintentionally depend on or expect things from their wives.
It is not your job to clean up after your man, fix things just the way he wants it, or do anything for him that he can do for himself.
8. Practice Mindfulness and Be Present
According to Headspace, mindfulness refers to “the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever you’re doing at the moment.”
It’s very easy to get caught up in thinking about the future, whether that be an hour from now, tomorrow, or in ten years. Instead of getting anxious about the problems to come, take a few moments to be present and mindful of the task at hand right now.
Fear of the future not only gets nothing done, but it can also be paralyzing to the point where you don’t know where to start. In the end, you get nothing scratched off that to-do list.
While you’re practicing mindfulness, also tell yourself that you do have enough time, even if you don’t feel like it. Because even if we had more than 24 hours in a day, they still wouldn’t be “enough” if you don’t believe they are.
9. Use Visible Habit Cues to Inspire You
Building a new habit requires consistency, but sometimes, staying consistent is hard. Other times, you just forget to do it. This is where “visible habit cues” come into play.
A visible habit cue is something that is set up to remind you at a specific time or throughout the day to continue pursuing your habit or achieving your goals.
For example, if you have to work at your desk tomorrow, clean it off today so that when it’s time to get working, you have a clean and organized space. If the desk is cluttered and ugly to look at, the last thing you’ll want to do is sit there and work.
You should also lay out the things you’ll need so that when you see it, you remember to do it. For example, if you plan on meal prepping tomorrow, lay out a cookbook or a few of the non-refrigerated ingredients in an organized manner on the counter.
Not only will these cues motivate you to get started, but they’ll also save you time.
10. Set Timers for Everything
Timers and alarms are absolute life savers, and they aren’t just meant for waking up in the morning.
Set individual timers or alarms for breaks, tasks, and reminders.
Whether you’re using the Pomodoro technique or simply working on a task, set a timer for the amount of time you want to spend on it before taking a break. This is extremely useful because, like setting a deadline for the to-do list, you’re essentially setting a super close deadline for that individual task.
While taking a break is necessary, it’s easy to get distracted or lazy and not return to your tasks. For this reason, set a timer for however long you want your break to be. It can be 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, fill in the blank. But once the timer goes off, it’s time to move on to the next task and repeat the process.
Not only do I love timers for breaks and tasks, but also for reminding me to do small things that I can easily forget while caught up in work.
For example, you can set timers to pick up the kids from school, start dinner, or reply to a text message.
FAQ’s About Moms and Time Management
Feeling overwhelmed is a part of life, and frankly, quite normal for moms. But sometimes, it can feel as if we’re struggling all on our own.
In the midst of these struggles, it can be easy to forget that we’re not alone. Take a look at some of the most common questions other overwhelmed moms have about time management strategies.
How Do You Balance Your Career and Motherhood?
Finding the perfect work-life balance is a challenge for anyone, but it’s even more difficult when you’re responsible for more than just yourself.
For moms, creating that harmonious balance can be a struggle, but not impossible.
One of the most important things you can do is to establish a routine. Routines give balance to nearly anything, so being able to wake up and know what to expect in a day takes away much unnecessary anxiety.
This can include a morning routine, on-the-road to work routine, or if you’re a stay-at-home mom, various little routines throughout the day that include your work life and spending time with your kids.
Another great way to reduce stress and free up some time is to outsource chores. Whether it be hiring a cleaning lady once a month or getting an in-home chef, outsourcing is one of the best ways to create a balance between work time and free time.
How Do I Look After Myself as a Mother?
If mama’s sick, the world just stops rotating on its axis.
Kids don’t have any supervision, spouses don’t have anyone to cook for them, and as the old saying goes, “when mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy.”
For this reason, it’s important that you stay healthy as a mother, not only for yourself, but also for your family. However, prioritizing self-care and finding the time to keep yourself in good health can be a task in itself.
One of the best ways to get healthy and keep yourself there is through exercise. This doesn’t mean you have to get a gym membership, buy a treadmill, or go on a 6 mile run before the crack of dawn like Jack Dorsey. Instead, it can be as simple as choosing to take the stairs instead of the elevator, stand up instead of sitting down, or go for a walk in the backyard while the kids play.
Another important way to maintain health is to feed your body properly. You don’t have to go on a diet, but you should at least establish a healthy eating routine, eat complete meals, and stay hydrated throughout the day.
Finally, you need a social life (yes, even if you’re an introvert). As human beings, we need connection, even if it’s as little as going out to lunch with a friend once a week. Give yourself tiny rewards and spend some quality time investing in your relationships outside of the home.
How Do Stay-at-Home Moms Stay Organized?
Whether you thrive for everything to be organized to the T or you’re the mom who isn’t bothered by piles of laundry on the living room couch, an unorganized environment or day lead to chaos and exhaustion.
Whether you a work outside the home or are a stay-at-home mom, these tips can apply to you.
The first thing you can do is prepare your day the night before. Whether this means setting out your clothes before bed or writing out the things you’d like to get done, go to bed confident that you’re well organized for the next day.
You can also take it a step further and meal prep for the next week. Meal prepping has become more and more popular in recent years because everyone is busy, in the home and out. Meal planning can be as simple as writing down what’s on the menu tomorrow or actually cooking and freezing the next few night’s dinners.
Finally, have one calendar for everything — and color code it. Not only is it quite aesthetically pleasing, but color coding allows you to prioritize, manage, and recognize tasks in a single glance.
For example, you can write appointments in blue pen, deadlines in red pen, and meal times in pink pen.
You Don’t Need More than 24 Hours in a Day, You Just Need to Make Use of Them.
If you’re feeling like you don’t have enough time in the day, there’s always a way to change that, and it starts with acknowledging that you do.
Whether you need to wake up earlier, set office hours for yourself to reduce distractions, or start saying “no” to a few things, you can start strengthening those time management skills in this very moment.
So if you’re feeling stressed out, take a deep breath. Be present. And start putting to practice these simple time management strategies for the overwhelmed mom.