What’s Your Order of Operations?

time management prioritiesDo you remember middle school math? Turns out your math teacher knew a thing or two about time management. I’m not talking about ways to pass the time while bored in the back row. I’m talking about the “order of operations.” It’s important for math, and it’s important for your productivity too. I’d like to share my morning order of operations with you.

Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally

In math, we learn that the order we do things matter. That’s why we learn the following order: Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiply/Divide, Add/Subtract. You probably learned “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” to remember this. (Math teachers, PLEASE tell me they still teach this. Or am I old now?) If you try to solve an equation by doing the addition before the multiplication, you’ll get a different answer than if you follow this order.

My Morning Routine

Trying to get out the door one morning this week, I realized the same principle applies to time management. It shouldn’t shock you that I’m a pretty efficient person, but with the addition of our second child, I’ve had to adjust a few routines (I had a second baby this month, did I mention that? Baby Zachary was born 3 weeks ago!)

After a little experimentation, this is my new “order of operations:”

  1. Pack lunches for all family members the night before
  2. Get myself completely ready before the kids wake up
  3. Get toddler up and dressed and eating breakfast while husband does the same for baby
  4. Drink coffee while toddler eats breakfast
  5. Play time with both kids including a few books and puzzles before school
  6. Load kids into the car for preschool drop off before continuing on to work. Eat my own breakfast on the way.

Creating Your Own Order

Sounds pretty good right? I’ve been practicing while I’m still on leave so it’s easier when I have to do this for real. Here are two things you can consider while creating your own order of operations:


There are two parts to this routine that don’t have to be there, but I put there because they are important: coffee and playtime. I know I could easily throw my coffee in a travel mug and drink it on the way, but I feel like so much more of a complete and relaxed person if I can spend 5 minutes sitting down and drinking out of a real mug. Playtime isn’t technically essential either, but it is to me. It’s important to me to start my day off with quality time with both kids so I make it a priority in my schedule.

What are your priorities? Put those in your schedule first and work around them.


It would be so much easier to stumble downstairs in my pajamas and get ready last, but with a toddler, that’s not efficient. Let me break this down for you non-parents out there.

Time needed to get ready by myself: 15 minutes.

Time needed to get ready with a toddler standing next to me: 1.5 hours

Hence I get ready first before the kids get up. What tasks are more efficient for you to complete first?

You can apply an “order of operations” to any part of your daily life, not just mornings. Do you have a routine for when you sit down at your desk? When you go through emails? When you clean your house? Feel free to share!

Connect with The Time Diet for more time management tips

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