Time Management Basics
First, let me say that I don’t really like the title “working mom” because I’m hard pressed to think of a mom who doesn’t work. But work-away-from-home-mom is too much of a mouthful, so I’ll stick with the standard. I’ve already shared with you the magic that is Flylady; I couldn’t keep it together without the routines I learned from her years ago. But lately, I wonder if I am holding it together. I work the most basic schedule: Monday through Friday from 8am until 5pm with a lunch from noon until one. I have about a forty minute commute to and from work which is not horrible by any standard. To save you from doing the math, I leave my house around 7:15am and get home around 5:45pm, leaving me with about an hour before I leave in the morning to do my morning routine, and about four hours after work for my evening routine. So that’s basically five hours a day for showering, dressing, laundry, dishes, other housekeeping, cooking, eating, running kids to various places, and anything else that needs to be done.
Please don’t take my tone to be complaining; I’m trying to be pragmatic about what needs to be done and when I’ll get it done. It’s a very basic lesson in time management and I’m sharing it because no matter who you are or what your responsibilities are, we all have 24 hours in each day and we all deserve to make the most of that time.
First things first: I need eight hours of sleep. That is nonnegotiable. I actually need a little more which I learn on the weekends because I’m either catching up or just plain relishing getting enough. But ten hours of sleep through the week is nowhere near realistic so I’m going with eight. Right now my bedtime is 10pm and I wake up between 6 and 6:15am. It takes me about 30 minutes to get ready for work: make the bed, shower, dress, hair and makeup. The other 30 minutes is usually spent drinking my other half’s coffee, watching a few minutes of the news, putting the dishes away, sometimes loading the crockpot and grabbing my lunch.
I work in a very rural area, about 30 minutes from “civilization” so running errands on my lunch hour isn’t really an option. I usually bring a project or a nonfiction book to work for my lunch hour. Right now, I’m working on addressing Christmas cards and reading You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero, so my cards, address book and that book are in my purse. Sometimes I’m lugging bills that need to be paid, or things that need follow up phone calls. So a lot of my home-office chores are handled during the work day. But also while I’m at work, my “should do’s” for the evening are in my head distracting me. I should get some yardwork done this weekend. I should get better about the Flylady Daily Missions. I should take the vacuum and suck up the cobwebs that are multiplying in the corners. I should give my daughter’s tub a good scrubbing. I could go on and on.
When I get home, I usually wash the day’s dishes, start dinner, start a load of laundry, eat, decide I’m exhausted, plop down on the couch and watch tv, rotate the laundry during a commercial break, maybe fold it during another break, maybe wash the dinner dishes before bed, maybe not, change into comfy clothes and crawl into bed at 10.
Today on my drive in, I had my Dr. Phil moment, “So, how’s that working for you?” and the truth is, it’s not. I’m perpetually exhausted and I don’t feel like I’m keeping up with the basics, let alone the whole family and house’s needs. So the next question is, “So, how are you going to fix it? Two things stand out to me: first, I’m not the only one in the house so it’s not all going to fall to me and second, I’m most ambitious in the morning so I need to capitalize on that.
Now let me be very clear: I am not a morning person. The only thing that coaxes me out of a warm bed is the thought of a warm shower and the only thing that coaxes me out of a warm shower are our awesome new towels. But once I get going, I’m good. Whether I’m trying to get out of bed at 4:30am or 9:30am, the first 10 minutes are rough, then I’m a ray of sunshine after that (Ok that’s an exaggeration but let’s go with it). So I have two assignments: try to decide which chores I’m going to delegate to my family (not an easy task for a control freak, mind you) and try to get up earlier so I can accomplish more household chores before I set off in the morning. Then, if I feel like being a couch potato when I get home, I can do it guilt free.
I heard an analogy once that compared our time to a box of rocks. The important things are the big rocks, and the least important are sand. All of us have the same size jar to fit our rocks into. If you start with the sand, your big rocks will stick out the top. But if you put the big rocks in first, then slowly work to smaller and smaller rocks, then fill the spaces with sand, you can fill your jar. My current job is an immovable big rock, I can’t reduce its size or change it in any way. And since it pays for our food and home, it’s kind of important. For me, sleep is the next biggest rock. I acknowledge how important sleep is to my overall health so I’m not willing to give it up to spend more time watching tv, for example. Spending time with my kids and boyfriend, housework, cooking and eating are a few of the smaller rocks that fall in around the bigger rocks. Watching tv, playing on my phone and scrolling Instagram are the sand that are supposed to fill in the free space. Each of us has to decide for ourselves what our rocks are, what our pebbles are and what our sand is. My “work” rock is basically glued to the bottom of the jar, but while the sleep rock won’t change size, I can move it around the jar a little bit so I can squeeze a few more pebbles around the sand.
Once upon a time, I woke up at 4:30am, worked on laundry and housework, and had time to relax and read before I left for work in the morning. Of course, those were the days when my kids were little so we were all in bed by 8:30 at night. I’m not sure if I want to be that lady again but I’m willing to give it a try. I enjoyed starting the workday feeling like I’d already accomplished something. I’m sure I’ll let you know how it works out.