Do you wonder why some people have free time when you don’t even have a moment to yourself? Productive people do things differently. The good news is productive people are not special. They’ve learned some simple time management skills that you can learn too.
For many years I struggled with getting things done. I would end the day with a dirty kitchen, a living room strewn with toys, a list of things I didn’t accomplish.
One day a family friend stopped by after I had just picked up the house. He asked if we were having company because our house was so clean. (Please note he was a single guy in his 20’s. He wasn’t being rude, he just didn’t know better)
I was embarrassed.
Even as a kid I was a pretty clean and organized person. I usually let my bedroom fall apart during the school week and over the weekend I would clean it up and start over again on Monday. I was always on time for work, I studied and rarely procrastinated on assignments.
In fact, when I was in college, I worked three part-time jobs and had a full-time class schedule. Even working 50+ hours a week, I managed to make all A’s each semester.
Once I got married and had a child, I forgot all of my time management skills. Maybe it was lack of sleep, maybe it was lack of accountability (two year olds do not care if your house is messy) but my life was quickly becoming unmanageable.
I wish I could tell you that overnight I changed my life and suddenly became an uber productive mom with a spotless home. But that’s not the case. It took years for me to get back on track and take control of my time.
In fact, I am almost embarrassed to admit that one of the biggest factors in me getting my life together was that I kept having kids. Once I was outnumbered I realized that if I didn’t get it together, I would be overrun with a wild group of toddlers and preschoolers.
Time Management Skills
When I look back on the past 27 years I’ve spent managing my home, I now see a pattern of habits that helped me better manage my time. None of these habits are revolutionary, however sometimes we just forget to do them.
If you are able to implement even half of these time management skills in your life, you will see drastic improvement. I would argue that picking two things from this list will change your life. Just two.
However, what if I told you that if you mastered all these tips you would have an extra four hours every week? With your extra time you could learn a new skill, take a part-time job, read more books, finish the huge projects on your to-do list, or spend more time with your family.
If you are having trouble getting started find two things on the list below that you believe you can implement with the least resistance. (And I’m talking about your own personal resistance, not your family) Commit to trying to consistently work on it for the next 30 days.
Once you master the first two, tackle the next two, until you have mastered everything on the list.
I will warn you, starting new habits is challenging. But most people don’t see improvements in anything in their life without planning and execution.
This is my favorite time management skill and the one most people don’t want to do. I don’t like waking up early either, however I like the results from waking up early.
Once day, while drowning in dishes and laundry, an idea hit me like a smack in the face. Why am I not managing my home like I would a job? It was a full-time job, if not more!
One thing I learned about jobs is that you show up on time, if not a few minutes early. That allows you to get a feel for what is going on and how shift or work day is going to play out. If you show up late, not only will your boss be unhappy, you will be playing catch-up all day long.
I realized that by showing up late to my stay-at-home job I was playing catch-up, every single minute of the day. Waking up before my kids was the best thing I could do for a productive and less stressful day. (Please understand I’m not talking to mom’s of young babies, this is for mom’s of kids who are old enough to be on a schedule).
Even if you are able to wake up 15-30 minutes before your children that’s an improvement. This gives you a few minutes to plan your day, reflect, drink a glass of water (and/ or coffee) and your day will go 10x smoother.
Have you ever tried to plan something with a two year old in your lap? It’s nearly impossible. Planning your day before your children wake up will take you 10-15 minutes. Planning your day with your kids hanging off your arms and legs will take you an hour.
I have an entire morning routine that supercharges my day. While my routine works for me, you need to find a morning routine that works for you. I recommend reading The Miracle Morning if you want ideas on how to get your day off to a great and productive start.
Waking up early: Time saved 45 minutes a day.
I realize that not everyone loves to exercise, but everyone should exercise. Even if it means taking a walk around the block every day or doing a quick set of jumping jacks or burpees in your living room, exercise is a key component for time management.
You might be wondering how exercise gives you more time in your day when it takes up time. I wondered this as well, when for years I said I didn’t have time to exercise.
When you exercise on a regular basis you have more energy. Not only are you more energetic, you have a clearer mind. I’ve solved many of my life’s problems in the gym or walking in my neighborhood.
Many times we are so in the weeds with life, we can’t think about things with perspective. Taking a break (and getting your heart rate up and your body moving) helps with brain fog. When I started exercising regularly I needed a little less sleep every night. I also had less of those exhausted moments during the day.
I was able to get more done because I had more energy throughout the day.
Time saved: Debatable, but you’ll be more productive during your waking hours.
Turn off notifications on your phone
Have you ever looked at your screen time minutes on your phone? My iPhone gives me a message every Sunday, telling me how many minutes I’ve spent on my phone each week and which apps I’ve used the most.
Based on several studies I read, the average adult spends about 2 hours on social media per day. TWO HOURS! That is a lot of wasted time.
The screen time message is usually a wake up call (actually it’s more of a wake up scream) for me to get off my phone.
One of the easiest ways to reduce your screen time is to turn off notifications on your phone. I’m old enough to remember a time when if you were busy, people could simply not get a hold of you. No one could reach me when I was at work, on the phone, or driving around.
Very few things need your immediate attention
Today, people can reach you 24/7 and in a variety of ways. They can call you (do people actually still do that anymore), text, message, tag, email, DM, Facetime, the list goes on and on.
Most of the time, whatever they need is not urgent, and usually not even that important. However we often act as though every time someone attempts to communicate with us it is an emergency and must be responded to immediately.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important to be responsive to people. However don’t let it interrupt something else in your day.
Social Media will literally suck hours from your day. All it takes it hopping on to check one message or DM and the next thing you know you’ve been scrolling for hours while your house and to-do list falls apart.
For me, I use the time taking my kids to school and extra curricular activities as a chance to catch up with friends and family. I’m able to talk, hands-free of course, in my car during the hours I spend driving my kids around.
This method also gives my calls a firm stopping point. Usually when I pull back into my driveway, or my kids get into the car I’m able to get off the call. By doing this, I’m able to stay productive when I’m at home and know that I can always return phone calls when I’m in the car.
One way I stay disciplined with this is to turn off all notifications on my phone. My phone is almost always set to silent and notifications are turned off. I don’t see little notifications flash on my phone screen throughout the day distracting me from the things I should be doing.
Remember you can always give a special ring, or set notifications for your family members so you don’t miss something that is actually important.
If social media is a real struggle for you, I recommend removing it from your phone completely. I’ve never met anyone who regrets removing it from their phone.
Give yourself a specific time for social media. I like catching up with friends and scrolling through pictures on Instagram, but not at the expense of my own productivity. For me, 30 minutes of mindless scrolling a day is more than enough. Sometimes I don’t get on at all, and I never miss it.
Time saved by turning off notifications and having scheduled social media time: 90 minutes a day.
Double your dinners
Personally, I like to make dinner in the morning, however I know that doesn’t work for everyone. What can work for you is to double whatever you are making for dinner. Eat one meal that day and freeze the double portion for the next week.
You will save time grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning up. Do this three times a week you will have three dinners for the next week (or month) already prepared in your freezer.
If making dinner takes you 45 minutes, doubling it will probably take you an extra 10 minutes. Doubling dinner three times a week gives you 12 extra dinners in your freezer for the next month.
Those 12 extra dinners took you 120 minutes or 2 hours to make. Making 12 dinners (at 45 minutes a time) would have taken you 540 minutes or 9 hours. You will save 7 hours a month, doubling your dinner three times a week.
This doesn’t even include the time spent shopping and cleaning up!
Time saved by doubling dinners three days a week: 18 minutes a day.
Delegate, Delegate, Delegate
This one is probably the hardest for me to do, however I know it’s the most effective way to manage my time. Just because I can do everything doesn’t mean I should.
Teaching my children how to do household chores has given me hours back in my life.
You have to realize that when young children start doing chores they will not do them as good as you can. That is because they are children. However they won’t get good at it unless you continue to have them do chores around the house.
If you start teaching them when they are little how to complete simple tasks, by the time they are teenagers they should be able to manage the entire home without your help.
If you need help figuring out age appropriate chores for your children get my free printable here.
Think of how much time you save if your children are doing simple chores like unloading the dishwasher, washing their own clothes, or vacuuming the living areas.
How much time you would save if your children cleaned up after themselves! That alone is a priceless gift you can give yourself by teaching them young.
Time saved by teaching your children chores: 15 minutes a day.
Plan Your Errands
I NEVER go to Costco on the weekend. EVER. In fact I try to avoid shopping anywhere on the weekends because stores are more crowded, traffic is worse and it takes forever to get things done.
I run my errands on the least busy day in my area. Even though it seems inconvenient to run errands on a Tuesday at 1pm, it takes the least amount of time because no one else is running errands.
At one point I shopped at 8am right after I dropped a child off at school. Believe it or not, the grocery store is virtually empty at 8am, you can breeze through the aisles and get everything done in about 1/2 the time.
I also save all my other shopping errands for once a month. Sometimes there are exceptions, but I try combine everything into one big trip. This saves me from making multiple trips a week. I’m also very purposeful because I know if I forget something it will usually be 2-3 weeks until I go to that store again.
It’s possible to save time and money.
About 18 months ago I set up a grocery store routine. With seven kids (five at home) we go through a lot of food. I found myself running to the store all the time. Not only did I find it annoying, it was also expensive and time consuming.
During one of my morning workouts I decided to create a grocery store routine. It sounds crazy, but if my time management skills worked in my house, why couldn’t they work for groceries too?
I wanted a method that would help me save money and time. Typically saving times comes at the expense of money and vice versa. I knew I could come up with a balanced approached that saved a little of both.
My approach consists of using Amazon Subscribe and Save, Instacart, and monthly trips to Costco. You can read more about my strategy to save time and money on groceries here.
Time saved planning & combining errands: 10 minutes a day.
Multitask, Except When You Shouldn’t
There is a lot of debate out there about multitasking. If you are a mom, you probably understand that multitasking is a way of life.
For me, multitasking is one of the required time management skills when done correctly.
When working on projects or planning, multitasking doesn’t actually work. The time it takes you to switch tasks and then back again causes you to lose productivity. Your brain just doesn’t work that way.
However mindless multitasking is a life saver. Here’s a few examples.
- Fold laundry while helping/ monitoring a child with homework.
- Listening to audio books or podcasts while cleaning.
- Catching up on phone calls while in carpool line or running errands.
Anytime I have a mindless task I try to combine it with one of three things.
- Catch up on phone calls
- Talk to my kids
- Listen to a podcast or audio book.
It’s amazing how many podcasts you can listen to every week while driving your kids around.
Think of how much you could learn just by listening to a book when driving? I realize not everyone is an auditory learner. However, I’ve found that filling my mind with helpful information when I have mindless tasks is very helpful.
When I’m reading or listening to podcasts on a regular basis my attitude is better. Not only am I in a better mood, I can solve problems easier, and I’m more educated on a variety of subjects.
Time saved by multitasking: 10 minutes a day.
Put EVERYTHING on the Calendar
How much time do you spend trying to remember things? If you aren’t great at time management this is probably a good portion of your day.
I do not have a great memory, but I have google calendar. I literally schedule almost every minute of my day. Not only do I add normal things to the calendar, like doctor/ dentist appointments, I use the calendar as my running to-do list.
- Need to call and cancel something? Add it to the calendar.
- Signed up to bring something to a child’s class? Add it to the calendar.
- Car needs an oil change? Add it to the calendar.
You can use whatever works for you, but I love google calendar because I can access it from anywhere. It also sends reminders via email or text plus I can add family members to different appointments so they get notified as well.
One other time management tip. I take pictures of everything with my phone. While my phone has a large number of photos of my children, it also has photos of important information that I don’t want to forget.
I usually write my grocery list on paper, but take a picture of it, just in case I forget. Now I don’t have to spend any time trying to remember or searching for paper scraps, I just pull out my phone and check my images. Most of the time, the answer is sitting in my iCloud photos!
Time saved scheduling 90% of my life: 10 minutes per day.
I’ve saved one of the most powerful time management skills for last. Batching (or time blocking) is the secret many successful and wildly productive people do to get more done.
The cool thing about batching is that it allows you to be more productive at work and at home.
For example, I use to do laundry every couple of days. It was a huge interruption to my day. Unlike some people, I actually wash, fold, and put away the clothes on the same day. One of my pet peeves is baskets of clean clothes sitting around my house.
I would start a load, get busy with something else and then find it in the washer a few days later and have to start all over again.
Now, I save all my laundry for one day a week. (Usually Saturday- because you know I won’t be a Costco). My washer and dryer run continuously all day. I wash sheets, towels, and my clothes. (My kids usually do their own laundry)
By late Saturday afternoon all the laundry is done and put away. I don’t worry about it again for another week. While the laundry is running I do other chores (vacuuming couches – we have a dog), light cleaning, and paying and filing bills. I’m able to mindlessly multitask and get a lot of my household chores done so my weeknights are free for family time.
If you have a job outside the home (or work from home) batching is a great way to be more productive.
For example, I set aside a Monday morning to write this post. I haven’t checked email or social media. I simply woke up, did my morning routine and started writing.
If I added in typical distractions (email being #1) this post would take me twice as long to write. If I stay focused I’m able to complete a post in a morning.
The more I can batch schedule everything in my life the more productive I am.
Time saved by batching work/ chores: 30 minutes per day.
Adding it all up
The techniques mentioned above are just a handful of time management skills that will improve your productivity.
All-in-all mastering these nine skills will save you at least 3 hours per day.
Think about it:
- 3 extra hours every day
- 21 extra hours per week
- 90 extra hours per month
- Over 1,000 extra hours per year.
What could you do with an extra 1,000 hours every year?
That’s enough time to exercise three times a week for an hour, write a book, take a few college courses, or deep clean and organize your entire home several times.
Did you know that one year during his presidency George Bush read over 95 books. If the leader of the free world has enough “free time” to read almost 100 books, then you can find the time to pursue your dreams and goals too!
It doesn’t matter where you live, how much money you make, or your education level. Everyone has the same amount of hours each day. It’s up to you to make the best of your hours so you can have the life that you want.
Time management skills are not for people who have any special qualities. The only different between you and someone you admire for their productivity is their ability to manage their time.
I guarantee anything they do to take back their day is something you can do too. This week pick two productivity boosters from the list and get started!
Need help with time management skills?
I use to hate writing in journals, but over the years I’ve come to realize that writing things down is an important part of developing good habits.
After trying a variety of different journals, I developed my own printable journal to help me stay focused on what is most important throughout my day. (It’s SO easy to get distracted!)
Download these pages for free by entering your email address below. You’ll also be redirected to a page that explains how I use the productivity pages.