4 Things Every Parent Should Know About Time Management

time management for parentsTime management is hard enough when it’s just us. Throw a kid or two into the mix? Your schedule just got a whole lot harder! Many of you know we had our first child this year. Here’s what we’ve learned about time management in the past 9 months.

1. Start the day ready

My husband and I both work full time, and we would both be in a perpetual state of “trying to get to work” if we didn’t do EVERYTHING the night before. Bottles made, lunches made, clothes picked out, computer packed up, etc…I hate doing this the night before, but when I wake up and don’t have to worry about it, my stress level instantly decreases. It sets the tone for the rest of the day.

2. Understand when it’s OK to be flexible

I hate being late. I love having a plan. When we had our daughter, I had to quickly realize that plans are great but not EVERY plan is a life or death situation if it doesn’t happen perfectly. Whenever I sense that a plan is about to derail, I think, “Am I mad about what’s happening right now? Or am I just mad that my plan didn’t work.”

3. Allow more time

After a few months of being upset that “unexpected” things kept making us late, I realized I needed to start expecting the unexpected. A sudden screaming fest, or outfit change isn’t a surprise anymore. Instead, it’s a welcomed surprise when it doesn’t happen and I have a few extra minutes of breathing room. It’s all about adjusting expectations.

4. Change your mindset

Finally, “busy” and “rushing” are a mindset. I don’t want my daughter to think we just rush around all the time. I want her to know that you can get a lot done and still smile about it and stay calm.

Now, lest you think my home is always perfectly organized, we’re always on time, and we never get upset…let me assure you that is NOT the case. However, I’ve found that the days we’re able to achieve the four things listed above are FAR more organized than the days we let them slide.

Check out other publications by Emily Schwartz The Time Diet: Time Management for College Survival on Amazon.com

Time Management Book for Students

Time Management Book for Students

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We’re Shortchanging The Rewards We Give Ourselves. Here is Why.

time management rewardRough day? Busy season? Rewarding ourselves for a job well done is a great habit, but I’ve found that the WAY we choose to reward ourselves can say a lot about our time management. Here’s why…

Things and Experiences

We often reward ourselves with tangible things. We’ll earn a raise, and buy ourselves a new watch. We’ll have a stressful day and pick out a new outfit. There is nothing wrong with this, but rewarding yourself with an experience can be even more meaningful. Be it a weekend getaway, a fancy night out to dinner, or even a movie night in at home, experiences are memorable and enrich our lives.

No Time!

Perhaps you’ve caught yourself passing on an experience because “I don’t have time”….THAT is precisely the problem!

I enjoy fancy things as much as the next person, but I think it’s easier for busy people to buy things for themselves instead of experiences, because things don’t require time out of our day.

I challenge you to make the time for experiences. It’s the best reward you can give yourself. Not only is it a reward for a job well done, but it’s a break from the work you put so much time into.

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My Focus Increased With This Small Change

time management changeFocus. It’s the time management epitome of productivity we all seek to achieve. This week, I found a surprising way to achieve a greater level of focus, and it started with something I initially dreaded…

My “Big” Change

This week I moved my desk. I wasn’t looking forward to it, mostly because I have a ton of STUFF that needs to move along with it. After all the schlepping, and after my space was all set up, I realized that the placement of the power outlet meant it would be easier to put my computer monitor on the other side of the desk than it was before.

If you’re a detail-oriented person like me, you know that is HUGE! I’m now turned differently in my chair, looking a different direction, looking at different things, seeing a different part of my desk. But a funny thing happened as I began to work this week..

…I noticed that the move made my more focused.

A Change of Scenery

We know a change of scenery can be just what the brain needs sometimes to tune out distractions, but that change of scenery doesn’t need to be something as drastic as a trip to Maui. (Though my desk move didn’t come with a Mai Tai, and for that, I’m disappointed.)

This week, what small change can you make to your working space that will shift your environment? I bet your focus increases like mine did!

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In Defense of The Dress

the dressIf you’re reading this blog sometime in the near or distant future, let me set the stage for you: in February 2015, someone posted a picture of a dress on the internet and social media exploded. People disagreed on what color it was. Families were torn apart. Marriages ruined, households were forever divided. (Possible exaggeration)

No sooner had the Facebook comments started, than the cynics began shouting, “What a waste of time! We have more important things to talk about!” From a time management perspective, I’d like to offer an alternate opinion.

My Thoughts

Do we have more important things to talk about? Absolutely. Does that mean we can’t sometimes use our time to engage in debate about something more frivolous than politics, religion, or current events? The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

Social media in itself can be a real Time Killer, but I noticed something interesting about the “dress debates.” A lot of them happened offline. My sister called me to say, “OK, this dress thing, we need to discuss.” I overheard it talked about at coffee shops, college campuses, and dinner tables.

Could Be Worse

I’ll also argue, that of the other frivolous conversations out there, it’s not too bad. We’re not discussing a celebrity wedding, divorce, or scandal. It’s not vulgar, inappropriate or disgusting. This dress simply got people asking each other if they saw things the same way they did, and at its core, I’m not certain that’s such a frivolous thing anyway.

So, in summary, yes: I’m kind of sick of hearing about “The Dress.” But before we cynically dismiss it as a waste of time, let’s just be amused by the fact that the internet all came together one week to argue about something silly, and we all deserve a break from the serious once in a while.

#WhiteAndGold

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Balancing Your Schedule With Your Family’s Schedule

time management familyManaging your own schedule: Difficult
Balancing your schedule with your significant other’s: Very difficult
Balancing your schedule with your kids: There is no balance, there is only survival

Balancing a hectic schedule with your family, girlfriend, husband, child, or even roommates can be extremely difficult. Before you rip up the calendar and scream about it, try this:

1. Regular check in

Pick a time during the weekend to discuss the coming week’s schedule. When are your most stressful points? When are your partner’s? When will you need help? When can you offer help? When can you plan some mutual relaxation time? When is that unlikely to happen? Going over the week from a more global perspective can help set up realistic expectations for the week ahead.

2. Priorities

When family time management conversations break down it’s sometimes a result of conflicting priorities rather than conflicting schedules. Your husband does his best work in the evening…but that’s when you want to spend together time relaxing. You are a morning person and feel a burst of productivity in the morning…but that’s when you’re scrambling to get the kids ready for the day. Talking about each other’s priorities can help pre-empt schedule arguments later on.

3. Flexibility

When we over schedule ourselves or have an unexpected emergency, it’s frustrating, but we have nobody to be frustrated with but ourselves. When other people are involved, it’s tempting to blame them. Remember, spouses have bad days too. Babies know when you’re in a hurry and choose THAT MOMENT to blow out their diapers. (That’s what they babble about when they get together. I’ve seen it happen.) Cut the other people in your life the same slack you cut yourself.

There is no magic solution that makes the balancing act easy. It’s hard work, but we do it for the people we love.

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Brilliant Time Management Advice My Grandma Gave Me

time management grannyA few days ago, I had the pleasure of chatting with my Grandma (“Granny”) on the phone and she told me what my blog needed to be about this week. Remember, no matter how many degrees you hold or how much experience you have, your grandma is wiser than you, so you should generally listen to what she has to say. That’s why, this week, I present time management wisdom from Emily’s Granny…

Make Time For Family

According to Granny, we should never become too busy to make time for family. Whether it’s a note, a call, an email, or even a visit, family connects don’t happen by accident. We have to purposefully protect time in our days, weeks, and months to make them happen.

For me, this is tough because my family is spread out all over the country. Visits are expensive and logistically challenging. Instead, I used to reserve weekends to call family and friends. Now, weekends have become hectic too ever since our little peanut, Avery, was born. So I’ve revised my plan.

Now, instead of listening to the radio on my way home from work, I use the time to call family or friends. It’s 30 minutes every day that I know will be there and it’s a great way to clear my head from work and catch up with the people I love.

Save Your Communications

Granny’s other piece of advice: save the letters people write to you. We hardly write letters anymore, and when someone takes the time to do so, save it in a special place. You may not want them now, or even next month, but years from now you’ll be glad you saved these precious communications.

Your Challenge

This week, I challenge you to make time to reach out to your family, wherever they may be. And if you’re fortunate enough to still have your Grandma in your life, write her a letter. She’d love to hear from you.

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Why We Lose Focus

time management lose focusFocus is one of the biggest buzzwords when it comes to time management. I’m so unfocused today! I can’t seem to focus on what’s important! I keep getting distracted! Sound familiar? It’s true, focus is one of the vital components of a productive day. So then why is it so difficult? Here are the three main reasons we lose focus:

1. Looking for excuses

Whether we realize it or not, when we’re doing a task we dislike, we look for reasons to stop. We call these things “distractions,” but they can function as excuses. For example, “Oh darn! I can’t finish this task because these emails just came through.” Try not to catch yourself prowling for reasons to switch tasks.

2. Don’t have a goal

It’s hard to focus when you don’t know what you’re focusing on! If you catch yourself jumping haphazardly from one task to the next, you may realize it’s because you haven’t clearly defined what you should be working on. Try taking out a blank piece of paper and writing the task or goal in the middle. It may sound silly, but the clear, visual reminder of what your focus SHOULD be helps tune out the other tasks that aren’t on deck just yet.

3. Failing to predict distractions

Many of the things that distract us aren’t unexpected and in fact we can take proactive steps to prevent them. For example, putting your smartphone out of reach, filtering your email, and asking coworkers to come back later. Also remember to use your knowledge of your energy patterns to your advantage. Not an afternoon person? Don’t save your most challenging tasks for the afternoon!

Focus is not something that just “happens,” we must actively take steps to achieve the mindset!

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Focus is not something that just “happens,” we must actively take steps to achieve the mindset!

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Three Time Management Hacks

time management hackI’m always fascinated with the creative ways people find to keep themselves focused and reach their time management goals. This week, I spoke with my sister, Gretchen, who shared with me three time management resolutions she had for the new year and the time management goals they were meant to achieve. (When you write a time management blog, these are the kinds of things you discuss with your family.)

Check out her interesting ways of changing her behavior. Could any of them help you too?

1. Put a book near the TV remote

Gretchen wants to find more time to read, but she knows that flipping on the TV to watch Netflix is much more tempting and convenient. Worse yet, as soon as the TV is turned on, it’s difficult to turn off! By putting her book near the TV remote, she’s more likely to use that time to read instead of binge watch House of Cards.

 2. Put the candy bowl away

We all have our Time Killers, those little things that steal our focus while we’re working. Gretchen analyzed her day and realized her Time Killer was snacking. She tells herself she’s hungry, but she’s really just looking for a distraction. To help achieve her goal of staying focused, she’s putting her candy dish away.

 3. Wear a watch

Smartphones are distracting. We know this. But Gretchen noticed that when she looked at her phone to see the time, she was consumed with email and Facebook alerts. Checking the time could turn into a 15 minute distraction. Instead, she’s going to wear a watch and avoid pulling out the phone all together.

This week, I challenge you to ask your friends and family for the creative ways they meet their time management goals. You might find a strategy that works for you too!

Give the gift of time management! The Time Diet: Time Management for College Survival on Amazon.com for $11.99

Time Management Book for Students

Time Management Book for Students

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NPR Told me I Don’t Have Time To Think and They Are Right

78321193 thinking“I’m so busy I don’t have time to think!” Do you feel like that sometimes? I know I do. The thing is, I realized this week that I DO have time to think, I’m just spending that time doing other things instead.

My Gut Reaction

I’m an NPR junkie, and I heard a story called “bored and brilliant” this week that made me instantly feel defensive. The premise was that because of the instant and constant availability of Smartphones, we don’t allow ourselves to be bored anymore. My gut reaction was, “What’s so wrong with that? Sure, I use my phone a lot during the day, but it’s to be efficient with my work and squeeze every moment out of my workday. I never pull my phone out during family time. This is just another story making technology out to be evil. Grumble grumble grumble.”

Then I listened more closely to the story. The author makes the point that we’re more likely to get our most brilliant ideas when we’re bored, daydreaming, or thinking about something else. Makes sense. That’s why we come up with our best ideas in the shower right?

My Realization

Then it hit me. The shower is one of the last places we still let our minds wander, and when waterproof phones are everywhere, that will probably change too.

Now I notice my aversion to being even the slightest bit bored all the time. Waiting in line at the post office? Pull out my phone. Arrive a few minutes early for a meeting? Pull out my phone. Out to dinner and my hubby gets up to go to the bathroom? God forbid I sit and enjoy the ambiance of the restaurant for 90 seconds. That’s 90 seconds I could be using to check my very important email.

There is a very fine line between being efficient, and never allowing your brain any moment of downtime. I’m going to try to manage that balance much better. Because you know what? I DO get my best ideas when I’m not trying. So I’m going to try to “not try” more often.

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Do You Do This Before A Meeting?

time management meeting reminderI’m a living, breathing, reminder app. Are you? If I have a meeting with someone, I email 24 hours before to confirm we’re still on for the meeting. I’m like that little digital calendar message that pops up to say, “Hey don’t forget! You’ve got that thing tomorrow!” Even though I’ve done this for years, I’ve recently starting weighing the pros and cons of the practice. Here is what I’ve come up with:

The pros: You’re minimizing your risk of wasting time. If you block off time in your day, or worse yet, drive out of your way to a meeting only to have the person not show, you could have spent that time doing something else. Plus, even the most organized person forgets appointments from time to time and a gentle reminder can avoid an oversight. Finally, a reminder email also tells the other party that YOU didn’t forget either.

The cons: You’re contributing to the world’s epidemic of superfluous email communication. Email is so easy to send that sometimes we end up sending unnecessary messages, making it more difficult for the recipient to find messages that really matter. Reading email has become more like a treasure hunt- quickly sorting out the junk to find the important stuff. If you sent too much email, you might risk being associated with the “junk” and having your important communications glossed over.

My Conclusion

So what’s a person to do? After much deliberation, I’ve decided that the pros outweigh the cons in this situation. I will continue to be a meeting reminder, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts? What do YOU do before a meeting?

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