Time Management Myths
Years after I quit believing in Santa Claus and cellulite creams, I still clung to belief that living a "balanced" life was possible. In my mind I envisioned a slender, married mother of three who had mastered the time-management system that smoothes every bump, makes every appointment and absorbs surprises like a ShamWow!
Over-commit? Not this mom. She preheats the oven. She starts preparing in August for the holiday pageant in December. Her kids never look disheveled. Their beds are made and their rooms are tidied before breakfast. Their books stay shelved according to the Dewey Decimal System, and her kitchen is spread before her like a NASA control center. Oh, how I longed to be like her.
Then, one day, in the face of overwhelming evidence, I accepted the fact that the mom I dreamed of becoming was a myth. As I let go of my dream, I held on to a few time management principles that had emerged as truth. I've been pondering those principles this week while our family is on vacation in the mountains of Colorado. I realize that little of those truths has changed over the years, though some applications have shifted with the size and age of our family. They continue to point me due north, and I share them here for those searching for a way -- a realistic way -- to manage the minutes of your days.
There is no faultless daily planning system. No time-management method will run your schedule with the precision of a German clock. This truth doesn't remove plaque or eliminate permanent rug stains, but it does set you free.
No system is perfect, but no system at all is insane. Despite no foolproof process, you still have to manage your home, family and personal life. When this second truth hit me like a bat rolling off my middle son's closet shelf, I cobbled together my own time-management method. I devised the Daily Hit List and implemented lots of shortcuts and time saving solutions. I draw on all these tools to use time wisely.
You can plan but you can't predict. Toilets overflow. Babysitters cancel. Sidewalks break front teeth. Kids need you right now. Flexibility promotes mental health.
Time management is about priorities: Yours. Unless you know your first things, it's easy to bypass the important for the urgent, especially when dishes in the sink look like a science experiment, your neighbor's on hold while you answer another call and the ironing basket's overflowing. But a conversation with your husband about an issue at work is more important than a shiny sink. Listening while your daughter tells you about her new friend outweighs listening to your neighbor recap "Oprah." Helping your son build a model sailboat should take precedence over ironing. (In my mind, most anything takes precedence over ironing.)
Life is more about rhythm than balance. We constantly trying to maintain a sense of equilibrium between things like work and rest, productivity and recreation, giving and receiving, but since life is never static, we'll never achieve perfect balance. We can, though, get more in step with life's rhythm.
Consider the rhythm of your own life. As a parent, you constantly adjust with the seasons of your children. In the first year or so, your sleeping patterns are defined by your child's. Just when you think you'll never get a night of uninterrupted sleep, your baby sleeps through the night. As your child grows up, she joins a soccer team and again your rhythm alters, this time to weekly practices and games. You learn to adjust mealtimes and anticipate traffic jams along new routes. Recognizing life's varying rhythms makes it easier to adjust with a positive attitude. Part of that recognition is preparation. If there are predictable times of extra stress (in September if you're the mom of a football player, just before tax season if you're an accountant, before December no matter what you do) take steps in advance to make life easier for you and your family.
Visit the Family Manager web site to learn about other timesaving resources, Family Manager Coaching and Kathy Peel's speaking schedule.