24 hours. 1,440 minutes. 86,400 seconds. That’s what we are given in a day. No matter who you are, where you’re from or what you believe, we all have the same 24 hours to do whatever we need to do in a day. In 2018, I’m going to be very deliberate about the way I spend mine. My word: Intentional.
According to Google, the definition is “Done on purpose. Deliberate.” This is the way I want to spend the majority of my time –deliberately and with purpose. I want to own those 1,440 minutes and decide where they go each day. And the truth is, whether we are conscious of it or not, we all already do. From the homeless guy with a sign and a cup to Oprah, Jeff Bezos and even Beyonce or JK Rowling (who were in the top 3 highest paid entertainers in 2017, according to Forbes), we all have the same 24 hours every day. I want to waste less and enjoy more, accomplish more. I want to make memories with my kids instead of being in the background of their memories. I want to make these moments count.
How do I plan to do this?
Step 1: Track
The first step in taking ownership and being more intentional about how I spend my time is identifying where it is currently going. There are lots of free tools and apps available for you to do this, (try toggl, or Timesheet) but a simple pen and paper are what I find works best.
I have some spreadsheets of my own you can download and print, which are included in my Productivity and Time Management for Moms workbook. You can get it here for free:
Track everything you do for a few days up to a week. Do it in 15-30 minute increments so that you don’t get too overwhelmed or side-tracked trying to log it all. Just check in and write down whatever you were doing during the last increment. Remember to be real. This isn’t the time to write down what you think you should have been doing or wanted to do, but what you were actually doing. You don’t have to be over specific, and track that you talked to your mom for 5 minutes about the kids and then 3 about cats. You can just log that you were on the phone with your mom. But don’t leave anything out either. If you were also browsing Facebook while chatting with your mom, or swiping through Instagram while cooking dinner, make a note of it.
Step 2: Analyze
After a few days to a week, analyze your time logs. Are you satisfied with where your time is going? If you’re a visual person, I find it helpful to come up with 5-6 broad categories to define different ways of how I spend my time. For example, housework, family time, blog work, life management (running kids around, making appointments…etc.), my board work, me time. And sleep – that’s important too! Assign a color to each category and then highlight or graph your time logs with those category colors. This will help to give you a bigger picture view of how you are spending your time. Does it align with your goals? If not, what could be done differently?
I also have printouts/charts for this in my Productivity and Time Management for Moms Workbook:
Step 3: Set Your Priorities & Where You Can Make Time for Them
Once I have a clearer idea of where my time is going, I’ll be able to more easily see where there is room for adjustment. It’s important to note that this exercise is something that can and should be done periodically on a yearly or even semi-yearly basis. Seasons of life are always changing and the needs and demands of your time today may look quite different in a year. So don’t be afraid to go back and re-evaluate so you can make adjustments as needed.
I already know that I want to spend more of my time engaging and interacting with my kids and family in a meaningful way, so when I do my analysis, one thing I will be looking for is how much time I currently spend at this, and where I am wasting time through multi-tasking, on social media, or just identifying general distractions. You’ll be able to see where you can give and take to get to your goal.
Step 4: Realign with Time Blocking
Once I have a clear idea of how I want my days to go, I plan them in blocks of time, making sure to carve out time for those true priorities in my life. I know as a mom this idea can seem intimidating. Especially if you have very young children because they don’t always stick to schedules. But remember, this is just an outline and you can adjust your day as needed. If you use a planner, find one that is broken down by hour (for a great guide on planners for 2018, check out this post by Emily McGee of My Adaptable Career). Or you can download my workbook and use the logs I have included, or break out your good old Bullet Journal. Plan your day in blocks of time. Plan for only one task per block of time, during which you will focus only on the task in that particular block. Start by filling in any scheduled appointments or activities. Then fill in your non-negotiables. Build the rest of your day around that.
A few tips:
It used to be that the ability to multitask was touted as something we all should strive to achieve, but in reality, not many of us are actually able to multitask at all. Research indicates only 2% of us can actually multitask. And for the other 98% of us — According to Harvard Business Review, doing several things at once, aka multitasking, reduces our productivity by up to 40%, and lowers our IQ by 10 points – the equivalent to a lost night’s sleep (which, as moms, we all know is never a good thing!).
When you’re trying to do two or more things at once, you’re not giving any task your complete attention so nothing is getting done well or as efficiently as it would if done on its own.
When you’re time tracking, take note of when you’re multitasking – you might be surprised by how often you actually do it. I know I’m actually pretty terrible at it, yet I allow it to happen a lot (I’ll soon see how much during the time tracking exercise!). I often find myself answering an e-mail while trying to get the kids a snack. It takes me forever to get through the reply (with lots of typos) because I keep getting interrupted by hungry kids who don’t understand why it is taking so long for their mom to slice an apple. If I just separate the two, or set aside a specific few minutes to check and reply to e-mails (while kids are eating snack, for example) I would get both done a lot better and a lot faster. Which brings me to my next tip:
Set aside time for things like checking your e-mail, browsing social media or checking your phone. And set limits on that time.
We live in a digital world. It’s not a bad thing to browse social media or check your phone or e-mail. The problem is we have instant access to so much information with the swipe of our fingertips. It is so easy to find yourself being sucked down a rabbit hole and suddenly you’ve lost 30 minutes, or more. Set your phone aside, step away from your screen and make an appointment instead. Schedule time for this. It could even be a few times throughout the day – maybe when you first wake up, after lunch or after the kids go to bed. But make sure to limit that time. Use your phone to set a timer – you’re probably on it anyway – and when time is up, put it aside and don’t pick it up again until your next scheduled check.
Identify what your common distractions are and find ways to reduce them.
Again, this will become more clear during the time tracking and analysis exercise, but you may already know what some of them are. For example, I get sucked into my phone a lot. I find myself responding almost robotically to all the chirps and pings from all the various notifications. Turn them off. I know I can check my phone during my pre-set times. I don’t need the alerts. My ringer is on and if someone needs to call me, I can hear it ringing from nearly anywhere in the house. I don’t need to be carrying it around with me all day. And text messages can wait for a response just like e-mails or other alerts. You don’t need to be at everyone else’s beck and call. You can reply when it is convenient for you. If it’s an emergency, you’re probably not going to get just a text message about it.
Maybe your distraction is clutter. Maybe you find you just can’t focus on anything in a cluttered space and find yourself cleaning up all. the. time. (Side note: Been there! I’ve got some helpful resources for you too – start here). Once you identify that issue, you can start coming up with a way to resolve it so that you can take back your time for what’s most important to you.
Why am I doing this? Why should you?
Last year my word was “simplify” and it has touched every area of my life in a positive way, and even been the catalyst behind why I created this blog. I’m tired of letting time get away, letting things happen to me, letting days escape and wondering what I’ve done with them. My kids are growing and changing every day. They want to play with me. They want to do things together. It won’t always be this way. I want them to remember me. I want to share moments that we remember together. I don’t want to always be trying to finish one more thing.
You have the same 24 hours, if you could be in charge of how you spent every single one of them, what would you do? Play more with your kids? Connect with your family? Read a book? Why aren’t you? By committing to living a life with intention you can make more time for what matters and stop settling for overwhelmed. You get to decide where your time goes each day. And if you realize you’re spending a bulk of it doing something that doesn’t align with your values, you have the opportunity to come up with a strategy to change that.
So what’s next?
In a few weeks, I’m going to be kicking off a special time budgeting challenge for busy moms like you and me. Over the course of 7 days, we’ll dive into these steps and find ways to make more time for what matters. We own our time, it doesn’t have to own us. Let’s get intentional about how we spend it and find ways to have more of it to spend doing what we love!
I hope you’ll join me. Sign up here if you’re ready to get intentional with your time:
We’ll start the challenge soon, but before we do, I’d love to hear from you. What areas do you struggle with most when it comes to managing your time as a mom? Leave a comment below or send me a note (Kristin at totalllythemom dot com)
I’ll see you in your inbox soon!
I need to reduce my multitasking as well. It actually reduces my efficiency and I am not able to live in the moment. Excellent post on managing and analyzing time.
It really is surprising how much we do it once we start paying attention. Thanks for the nice comment! 🙂
Thanks, Rajlakshmi! Sometimes I think it is almost more of a challenge not to multitask. But I just keep reminding myself how much more efficient I am when I don’t do it.