7 Life-Changing Time Management Tips for Working Moms
We all want more time in our day.
This is particularly true for working moms, who often try to squeeze more into each day than 24 hours allows. Between work and our responsibilities at home, it feels like we don’t have enough time for everything we need to do – let alone everything we want to do.
I’ve rounded up seven of my favourite time management tips for working moms. While these time management tips won’t give you more hours in your day (wouldn’t that be nice!), they will help you to manage your time effectively so you can make the most of it.
Before we dive in, a quick note. While this article focuses on time management tips for working moms, many of the tips will be applicable to all moms – whether you stay-at-home, work-from-home, or some combination thereof. In my experience, the challenges of each are sometimes very different. Pick and choose the time management tips that work for you.
Time Management Tip #1: Schedule your priorities
The first and most important time management tips for working moms is to schedule your priorities. If you make time for what’s important to you, you’re going to feel like you have more time in your day.
Take the time to figure out what’s most important to you. Perhaps it’s fitting in regular workouts, or spending quality one-on-one time with each of your children. You might be passionate about volunteering for your favourite cause, or you may be an avid reader.
Then, be intentional with your time. Build your schedule around your priorities, instead of trying to fit them in when you can. Plan when you are going to do the things that are most important to you, and write it down – this gives you a much better chance of making them happen.
I went through this process earlier this year. We were in survival mode, and I felt like I didn’t have time for everything I wanted to do. I hadn’t read a book in months, I hadn’t been to the gym in even longer, and I wasn’t spending nearly enough quality time with my husband. My free time was disproportionately spent on my blog, and I was mindlessly wasting way more time than I wanted to on social media.
Since then, I’ve adjusted how I spend my time. This blog is a priority of mine, but it isn’t my only priority. The way I was spending my time didn’t reflect all of the things that were most important to me. Over the last few months, I’ve reduced my posting schedule, and cut way back on my social media time. I started planning my evenings in advance, scheduling exercise, and adding things like reading to my daily to do list. I also make a point to take some evenings completely “off” from other obligations, so I can spend quality time with my husband.
The result is that I feel like I have way more time than I did before. When you’re able to make time for the things that are most important to you, time no longer feels like the enemy.
You may argue that you don’t have enough time in your day for your biggest priorities. And that may be true. But I would challenge you to critically examine how you spend your time. Most of us waste more time than we care to admit on our devices or zoned out in front of the TV. I’d encourage you to identify your time wasters, and ask yourself whether or not that’s how you want to spend your time.
For an objectively accurate snapshot, track your time. Record what you’re doing in 15 or 30 minute intervals for a day or – if you’re ambitious – a week. You’ll likely find pockets of time in your day that can be utilized more effectively.
Finally, be realistic about what you designate as priorities. You may not be able to train for a marathon, volunteer twice a week, read 100 books this year, KonMari your house, and cook from scratch every day with a newborn at home. But if you’re realistic about what you’re able to accomplish – taking into account the demands of your current season of life – the process of prioritizing what’s important to you, and intentionally planning your time around it, can help you make the most of your time.
Time Management Tip #2: Use a planner
As moms, we’re often the person managing schedules, to do lists, deadlines, and everything else that goes into running a household. Finding a planning system that works for you and using it is the key to doing so effectively and efficiently.
A planner allows you to manage your schedule effectively. When you sit down to look at your week in advance, you can spot any scheduling conflicts and pain points. You’re able to identify nights where a quick dinner is required, and can notice that your child has a birthday party to attend on the weekend so you’re not scrambling to buy a gift at the last minute. Planning in advance allows you to batch tasks like running errands in a certain part of town, or schedule meetings back-to-back, rather than creating unusable pockets of time between them.
It also enables you to maximize your efficiency. Each week, I have a weekly to do list, and each day I write down the tasks I want to complete. If I find myself with unexpected downtime, I use those lists to remind myself what I want to accomplish, so I can make the most of that time.
The act of writing things down creates accountability and increases your likelihood of accomplishing those tasks. We all know that written goals are more likely to be met. The same is true for our daily tasks and activities. Use this to your advantage, and write down the tasks and activities that are non-negotiables for you. As I mentioned previously, I’ve started scheduling workouts and reading, and it’s made a shockingly big difference in how often those things actually happen.
Your planning system can be digital or paper-based – use whatever works best for you. The key is that you actively use it.
My current planning system is unnecessarily duplicative, but it works for me. My husband and I use an app called Cozi (I highly recommend it – it’s free!) to keep track of our family members’ schedules and activities. We both have access, and it allows us to easily coordinate schedules for the entire family. We also have a wall calendar in our kitchen for quick reference and visibility by all members of the family (or at least those that can read!). Finally, I have a paper planner that I use as my personal planner. I record each family members’ schedules and activities in my planner, but also use it to plan my personal priorities for the day and week, and to keep track of my daily and weekly to do lists
Time Management Tip #3: Set limits
The best way to manage your time is to actively manage it. This means you are going to have to set limits, create boundaries, and learn to get comfortable saying no.
Every time you say yes to an activity or obligation, you’re saying no to something else. This is true even if what you’re saying no to is a quiet evening at home.
Before you take on additional responsibilities, or agree to an social engagement or activity, ask yourself if that’s how you want to be spending your time. If it is – by all means accept. But if not, remind yourself that graciously declining is an option.
Setting limits is critically important at work. I’ve talked before about the importance in establishing working hours and sticking to them. While emergencies may crop up that require your attention outside of your regular scheduled working hours, make that the exception rather than the rule. I’m by no means perfect at this, but I try my very best to ignore my phone between the hours of 5:00 and 7:00 p.m., so I can give my family my undivided attention during that time period.
Time Management Tip #4: Create systems and routines
The less time and energy you waste on routine tasks, the more time and energy you’ll have for other things.
Because of this, creating simple systems and routines is one of my favourite time management tips for working moms. We have an evening routine that sets us up for a stress-free morning, and a morning routine that starts our day off on the right foot, and ensures we get out the door on time.
Creating systems allows us to make the most of our time, so we’re not wasting mental energy and time on mundane tasks. Here are some of the systems we’ve used to simplify our lives:
- Our school paper organization system makes dealing with school papers quick and easy.
- I keep on top of the never-ending task of organizing kids’ clothes and managing hand-me-downs with this simple clothes management system.
- Everything in our house has a designated home, which eliminates wasted time looking for lost items.
- We date everything in our kitchen, so we can quickly decide what leftovers should be eaten first.
- Laundry is done daily, which means it never has a chance to build up. It’s very little effort to fold a load laundry at the end of the night while watching TV or listening to a podcast.
- Amazon Subscribe & Save automates the delivery of various household items, and means I only have to think about these items once a month.
- Meal planning and online grocery shopping simplify the task of feeding our family. I switched to monthly meal planning this year, and it’s been a huge time-saver.
Simple systems not only help you manage time more effectively, they can get all family members involved in the running of your household. While this may not be a time-saver now, it will pay off in the long run. For example, my boys know that when they come home they’re responsible for bringing their bags upstairs, emptying their backpack and lunchbox, and putting their coats and shoes away in the same place every time. After a meal, they are responsible for clearing their dishes and putting them in the dishwasher. These systems not only build personal responsibility, they will (hopefully!) save time in the long run.
Time Management Tip #5: Delegate
One of the most important time management tips for working moms is reminding ourselves that we can’t do everything. Delegating and outsourcing tasks that don’t have to be done by us personally can be an incredibly effective way to get more time back in our days.
If you can find room in the budget, consider outsourcing certain tasks. We outsource housecleaning, and I would cut many other things from our budget before I would give that up. You can also outsource laundry, lawn maintenance, shovelling snow, home improvement tasks, and even cooking.
My husband and I are big on dividing and conquering, which allows us to delegate certain responsibilities to each other. For example, most days I leave work for the day around 3:30 p.m. I’m able to do this because I go in early, and my husband handles the entirety of the morning routine. This gives me a big chunk of usable time back in my day – even on busy work days.
Similarly, my husband usually walks in the door as dinner is being placed on the table. He’s can do this because I handle all of the after-work/dinner prep routine. Our divide and conquer schedule allows each of us to maximize our quality time with the kids, and use our limited time more effectively.
Time Management Tip #6: Make the most of little pockets of time
Chances are, there are little pockets of time in your day that can be used more effectively – either to tackle simple tasks, or to squeeze in time for you.
A prime example of this is maximizing your lunch break. If you take one (and you should!), don’t waste it. I love getting out of the office for a quick walk at lunch. You can also use your lunch break to catch up on errands, read a book, journal, or squeeze in a workout.
You can make time for “me” time at other points of your day as well. Instead of dreading my commute, I cherish it for the 20 minutes it allows me to listen to a podcast or music of my choosing – or just enjoy the silence. You can bring a book to your children’s activities (if you’re lucky enough to not have other kids in tow!), or squeeze in some exercise with a walk or bike ride to your children’s school.
Finally, while multitasking is rarely an effective time management strategy, it can be used for tasks which don’t require your full concentration. For example, if you have older kids who don’t require your full attention in the bath, you can do a quick wipe down of the bathroom while they play. You can fold laundry while watching TV, or clean while listening to a podcast.
Time Management Tip #7: Downtime is a completely legitimate use of time
It’s important to emphasize that effective time management doesn’t mean you need to become a time-maximizing robot, using every moment of time efficiently. Downtime is a completely legitimate use of time. The key is to be intentional with your time. Avoid mindlessly wasting your time – instead, use your time in a way that recharges and reenergizes you.
Do you have other time management tips that have made a big difference in your life? I’d love to hear them!