Making Time for the Things That Matter

I’ve been a little frustrated recently with the way I’m spending my time.

We’re a homeschooling family, but recently I’ve been keenly aware of its opportunity cost. With two little students, a trouble-making four-year-old, and a crazy toddler, there’s just not enough time for the things I want to work on.

I want to make the most of my time, so I’ve been paying close attention to how I spend it. Since I can only become really good at the thing I practice, I want to free up as much time for practicing as possible.

I’ve noticed that when my kids are around, I spend way too much time on low-energy, low-importance tasks. I’ll check my email repeatedly, or check in to facebook or twitter. These tasks use up a lot of time and leave me feeling drained, but I rarely accomplish anything meaningful when I work in fits and spurts during the day.

I’ve decided to put an old productivity strategy to the test this week. For each hour I could spend not-so-productively–on email, or facebook–I’m going to devote 30 minutes to meaningful work and 30 minutes to sleep.

I’m going to go to bed early so I can rise at dawn to do meaningful work. I’m going to tackle the important before I tackle the urgent. I’m not going to waste my time on tasks that don’t really matter.

This 50/50 swap feels a lot gentler to me than the daunting task of converting all my dead time straight into meaningful work. And I certainly need the extra sleep after losing an hour for Daylight Savings last weekend!

What do you do to make more time?

For more on time management, try What To Do When Your Productivity Tools Are Your Biggest Distractions: A Two-Step Plan.

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Comments

  1. says

    {Sigh} I don’t have the kid factor to deal with, but I certainly hear you on the time wasted on not-so-important things, like Facebook and checking email (over and over). Time management has always been an area of struggle for me, and it continues to be something that I have to work on on a regular basis. The timer has helped some (setting it for specific tasks), but it comes down to a lack of self-discipline on my part. I might start out by telling myself I’ll be off of blogs, FB, and Pinterest by 7:00, but the next time I look up, it’s 7:34 and I still “have a couple of things” that I want to see. However, it’s a new day – fresh start – another opportunity to practice self-control. :-) Since I have lots of other blogs and things I’d like to see this morning, I’d better pop off of here! ;-) Have a great day, Anne!

    • Anne says

      Carrie, nobody needs kids to feel distracted and scattered…anyone with a job can relate!

      Here’s to new days and fresh starts :)

  2. says

    I stopped reading blogs that don’t really do anything for me for Lent. (Notice: I’m still here. ;-) ) You know, the ones you enjoy, but sometimes you skip them if they’re too wordy because you don’t have time and you probably won’t get anything meaninful out of it, anyway? I stopped reading those and I find I have so much more time in the day—or at least less wasted time.

  3. says

    I, too, am drawn to too many meaningless tasks throughout a given day of homeschooling and trying to balance life than I am meaningful, high-impact or purpose-filled tasks, so I give myself challenges like yours, too. One that I am trying lately is ‘first fruits”. When I want to do something for me that is not hugely menaingful, I pause, pray and then do something I NEED to do (the important) before attneding to whatever it is I WANTED to do (the urgent). It is helping me reframe my habits. Good luck with your strategy1

  4. says

    I’ve been going to bed early and getting up between 4:30 and 5 for about 9 months now, and while it’s not always fun, it does work for me. For some reason I’m less likely to waste time at 5 in the morning.

    This week has been tough though.

    • Anne says

      I know–if I drag myself out of bed at 5, you’d better believe I’m going to make that time count! But this time change has been killer. It’s been a rough week for me, too.

  5. says

    With five children under nine yrs. old, this question is constantly on my mind.

    I often go on very little sleep so I can relish some silence after I put the kids to bed.
    It is not unusual for me to fall asleep in my reading chair or even in the bathtub!

    I’m open to more specific tips Anne — when you have the time:)

    Thanks for addressing this!!

  6. says

    I have the same problem when the baby is around. She gets into everything, so every few minutes I have to check to make sure she is still in the same vicinity. So I cannot work on anything that requires concentration. Like you, I end up doing meaningless thing like checking email, checking the stats on my blog, etc.

    Lately I’ve come to the conclusion that I will no longer have huge blocks of time to work on my personal projects with a young child around. I need to re-think the definition of free time as spurts of 5 or 10 minutes increments. So instead of cleaning the kitchen in 30 minutes, I can clean the kitchen in 5 or 10 minute blocks over the course of several hours.

  7. Tim says

    Computers can be such time-drains! Whether it’s the internet or email or trying to work out a bug (that usually takes me hours!) I feel like sometimes they suck the life out of me. And yet I keep going back. Oh well.

    We get up early (4:25 for me and a little earlier for my wife) but our bedtime is earlier than some toddlers I know. Still, through teh magic ofDVD, we know that there’s no reason to stay up late just to finish a TV show. Unless it’s Downton Abbey. Who wants to have to wait and come back later to finish an episode?

    Tim

  8. deborah says

    With two independent, older boys I have trouble reminding myself that my three year old is not being unreasonable asking me to play with her. But all I want to do is get the house clean, emails sent and dinner ready. This nice weather makes it worse because all she wants to do is be outside. I have started using a timer, giving myself fifteen minutes to do my chores and then set it to play with her. She isn’t always the most patient waiting, but she is starting to understand I won’t ignore her all day.

  9. says

    What a timely post Anne (no pun intended). I have recently be dealing with a similar issue. We don’t home school but because we don’t we do an great deal of running around. dropping off, picking up, taking to extra curricular things etc etc. But I recently just cut out a couple of things that were totally draining me and making me in turn stress my kids out. Sometimes I have to remind myself of what my PRIMARY purpose is and the time management starts to fall into place. When I remember that I am here to serve my family as a good wife and mother, then some of the other things that clutter up my day really do lose importance and I find I can better make the time to be the wife and mother I want to be. Thanks for sharing!

  10. says

    I really limit my e-mail & social media time, and that is a big help for me. I feel like it drains me to be on the computer all the time when I’m home, and so I do better when I just block off an amount of time for ‘computer time’- usually in the evenings. This is something I think about too & it’s probably a struggle for just about everybody!

  11. Emily says

    just discovered your blog and bookmarked it! And with these thoughts I’m going to get back to what I’m supposed to be doing….sewing an 1828 day dress for a reenactor! And washing my dishes!

  12. says

    I found your blog through MoneySaving Mom. I just wrote a blog post about this very thing! I had a baby three months ago and found myself so tired and feeling unaccomplished. I recently used Money Saving Mom’s time management series to help me make a daily routine. I feel much more energetic and I am able to devote more intentional time to my family.

    • Anne says

      Rebecca, I love your money analogy over in your post! I’ve been reshaping the routine at my house, and that’s a helpful way to think about things. Thanks!

  13. says

    I’ve been working on this too: chunking out blocks of time to an activity instead of puttering here and there from one thing to another all day. This requires more planning on my part. Instead of trying to write my blog a few minutes here and there, I’m writing early in the morning for an hour or two. And leaving for Starbucks a night or two a week (kids at home with hubs).

    I think one of the reasons stay at home moms can get stressed is not because what we do is so hard – it’s because we feel like we never finish anything.

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