“I don’t have time!”
“I wish I had more time.”
“There are so many things I’d like to do if I just had a little more time.”
“If I only had a little more time I would get to that project.”
Have you said anything like that before? Of course you have! Who hasn’t? We all have the thought going through our minds that we don’t have time for everything. And we don’t.
Most of the time I find that when I’m floundering with the thoughts of not having enough time I am actually accomplishing very little. That is one reason I’m so frustrated. I get to the end of the day and wonder what I did. As a mom with young children I can easily convince myself I have no time at all, when in reality I’m just not being observant and using bits of time that come up in the day.
There are three main things that have helped me get a better grip on my time. And, trust me, I’m still working on this!
We must remember that we can’t do everything. We can’t do the playgroup, music lessons, ballet, book club, story time at the library, church events, work, an involved project or goal, an exercise routine, dinner with friends, quality time with our spouse and children, etc, and still expect to keep our homes picked up, our children educated, our lives in order, and relationships thriving.
We just can’t do it. You have to choose. I’m the first one to tell you that this is often extremely difficult. Because we are usually having to choose between good things. But you must choose.
I would encourage you to sit down and write down your activities and priorities. Get out a sheet of paper and write out five categories.
- Non-negotiable: Absolutely this must happen.
- Would be really nice: I would really, really like to do this if at all possible.
- I’d like it: It’s nice, but I’m not going to stress our family out just to fit in in.
- Not important: It really isn’t that important to me.
- Long term goal: Do you have a long term goal that isn’t in your weekly schedule, but you’d like to work on it…someday? Write it down.
Go ahead. Get started right now as things are coming to mind. You’ll add things in as you think of them. Be very specific both about the things you are doing and the things you wish you had time for. You might be surprised at how many things you are doing that actually fall squarely in the “Not important” or “I’d like to” categories. There are probably minutes and days that you can free up if you really think through your activities and days like this. And you might even be surprised about a few things that are in your “wish list” that when you actually write it don’t aren’t all that important to you.
It is amazing how clarifying just putting things on paper can be. It will help you readjust your schedule to really accomplish your priorities for your family. It will help you say no to some things so you can make room for some of those things that are higher up on the priority list. It will give you direction as you fill up the calendar and your days. Be sure and stick to your guidelines to avoid over commitment.
Whether you are a stay at home mom or a working mom this is an important step. I found that I was flitting away valuable minutes or committing to activities without even realizing that they really weren’t important to me or accomplishing my goals. Now that I am adding homeschooling to the mix this is more important than ever. I have to prioritize, or time will get away with me.
Break down projects into small steps
Now, back to that goal you have, but aren’t finding the time for. You know the one. The one that is always nagging you, but you keep shoving it back because there just isn’t time. Maybe you have several. Just pick one. Whatever the goal or project is write it down. Share it with your spouse. Maybe a friend, too, if that will motivate you.
Now write down underneath that goal 5 small steps that you can take toward reaching that goal. Make the steps very small and manageable. De-clutter one drawer, write one page, run one mile, spend 20 minutes researching. Don’t just think about it. Actually write it down.
I’m working on a couple of more involved projects right now. When I look at the big picture I usually start thinking there is no way I have time for this. But when I break it down into small steps I can usually find 15 or 20 minutes here and there to work on it.
It may seem terribly little and insignificant at the time, but those little steps add up to something pretty significant after just a short while.
Oh the difficulty of focusing our attention on one thing! I am trying to teach my son how to focus right now, and I find I actually have quite a lot of trouble myself. The value of writing down your priorities and then writing down a few small steps to achieve a bigger goal is so helpful to focus.
When I have only a few minutes and I see one of my small goals staring me in the face, suddenly I don’t want to waste time on Facebook or surfing the internet. I want to focus so that I can accomplish that one small thing. The busier you are, whether it is will little ones demanding your attention or outside work responsibilities, the more you need to capitalize on focused attention.
I can get quite a lot done in fifteen minutes if I’m focused. The kitchen cleaned, a load of laundry folded and put away, the bills paid, the floor vacuumed, books put on hold at the library, etc. Or, 15 minutes of focused attention toward reaching a more involved goal.
So, back to the “no time” dilemma. You don’t have time for it all. But you do have time for the most important things. It sometimes means making hard choices. It sometimes means breaking down bigger projects into small, manageable steps. And it sometimes means just turning our attention and focusing on something.
What are your best strategies for making sure you have time for the most important things?