“Time management is an oxymoron. Time is beyond our control, and the clock keeps ticking regardless of how we lead our lives. Priority management is the answer to maximizing the time we have.” – John C. Maxwell
Depending on where you are in the world, it’s very likely your kids are now back in school and you’re embracing a new schedule. For some, this may include having more free time – time to get more productive and achieve things you’ve pushed to the back burner. Contrastingly, for others, this time may have more constraints. For those, things such as driving kids to and from school, after school programs, meals, and volunteering come in to play.
Many of my students and clients struggle to find flow when their kids go back to school, hindering their ability to be productive or achieve their goals.
Whether it’s the new level of intensity after being somewhat relaxed over the holidays, or the sheer new multitude of demands, it can feel stressful figuring out a new routine.
With this in mind, my goal is to help you get more productive and get yourself in gear now that the kids are back in school with three simple tips.
1. Create a Meal Plan
If you own a business, have a job, volunteer, or basically have a life, you do not have time to run to the grocery store every day. I once had a client who was passionate about cooking, had five children, and a home-based business. On top of that, she volunteered.
Instead of making a meal plan, she went to the grocery store every day and spent two to three hours preparing the evening meal. She also lamented she had no time to build her business.
By simply making a meal plan, and cutting back on three grocery trips per week, she gained an extra six hours and felt a lot more sane.
On Sunday evening, sit down and plan your meals for the week. This will give you time to get more productive during the week!
Figure out if there is a way to incorporate leftovers. Chris and I try to cook something on Sunday that will also last for Monday’s meal. We do have three meat eaters and three non-meat eaters, so we also do at least two to three meals per week that are non-meat to save the extra cooking.
I have also noticed a significant savings in grocery money when I make a meal plan. Many of us have some staples on the grocery list every week. We go through a tremendous amount of organic peanut butter for example, so it is important to save that list to your phone. There are great APPS such as Evernote™ that you can use to save recipes and plans. Personally, I like to streamline my life and simply use the note section on my iPhone. If there is a recipe I like, I take a photo and save it to my phone as well.
Likewise, let go of gourmet perfection. Your kids will remember the time spent at the table laughing and sharing more so than your perfect carbonara.
If you are a foodie and love to cook, save it for the weekends when you have more time. The goal is healthy, simple, and quick during the week. As an aside, for those of us who are veggie at heart, this is my favorite food blog. Every recipe I make from here is fast, easy, healthy and delicious.
Another great site for easy recipes is www.buzzfeed.com. Click in your parameters (for example ‘easy’ or ‘kid friendly’) and several options will appear.
2. Do Not Create Competing Goals
When I started a home-based business thirteen years ago, I was also volunteering and sitting on several boards. I had a goal to contribute to my community, as well as a goal to get my family on solid financial footing. These were competing goals because there is only so much time in the day. I knew there would be ample time to volunteer once my family was able to breathe a little easier. Thus, I resigned from the boards.
I observe many people who create competing goals. They want to create freedom for themselves and yet attempt to do too many things that do not work together.
I met a person who had been laid off, started a business, and took up Ironman Triathlon™ training at the same time. Really? I used to be a pro triathlete and trust me – you cannot launch a new business and train thirty hours per week. It doesn’t work! On top of that, he had two young kids.
Ultimately, to be more productive, we need to streamline.
Figure out what is important right now and focus there. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get your workout in or write that novel in your spare time. However, if you say you want to advance your career or build a business, then something is going to have to go.
Your kids, your work, and your faith have to be a priority. If you family needs more money, baking ten dozen brownies for the bake sale doesn’t need to happen this year. There are only so many hours in a day. It is imperative you figure out what your goals are and defer, delay or delete anything that isn’t in alignment with those goals now.
3. Get Your Priorities Straight
Vince Lombardi used to tell his players, “These are your priorities – God, family, football.” He wanted to make sure that his athletes knew how to keep their heads on straight. I have observed people who lost their way; they got their priorities wrong and ended up losing their health to make money, or their family became collateral damage on their quest to grow a business. You have to know your priorities.
When I wrote the book, The Have It All Woman (Available On Amazon), I created the life pyramid. This book has sold tens of thousands of copies and helped women (and men) figure out how to create a balanced, productive life.
I believe that we can have it all. The key is knowing how to prioritize, how to get more productive, and how to get more done in less time.
In order to do this, you are going to have to be disciplined. Put your phone away during meal times, keep your laptop out of your bed, be present with your kids, time yourself doing things, and start and finish each day giving God the glory. In doing this, you will feel tremendously more balanced. For more tips on how to do this, check out my book – Organize Your Life, on Amazon.
Lastly, my friend, and mentor, a mother of seven, and self-made millionaire, used to say to me, “Susan – you’ve got this.” My words to you are the same – “You’ve got this!”
It may feel crazy at times, but it will be worth it creating what you want in a way that includes your family. Go for it and keep me posted.
Susan Sly is a Balanced Living and Productivity Expert. She is a best-selling author and has been featured on CNN, CNBC, Fox, Lifetime and more. She resides in Scottsdale, Arizona with her husband Chris and is a mother of five children.