Get Organized: 10 Time-Saving Tips
By CANDY REAGAN /
Abilene Families Editor
It never fails.
As soon as you sit down to clean out the cabinets in the kitchen, the phone rings. Your friend asks about carpooling, so you head to your calendar to answer her question when you notice some clothes that did not get put up. You hang up, head to the bedroom with the clothes, only to have your youngest come in desperate to find her shoes. So you spend 15 minutes helping look for shoes that were “just there a minute ago,” and then head back across the house.
An hour has passed and you have no idea what you were doing in the first place.
So goes the life of a busy mom or dad. Whether at home or at work, distractions, clutter, the kids and other “time sappers” lead to disorganization and make stress soar.
“In my experience working with clients who have young children in their households, it really is showing up that time management is at the root of all our organization issues,” says Lara Jane Coffey, a professional time management consultant.
“Once we can get a system of time management going, everything else is a little bit less overwhelming. But we have time wasters all over the place.”
Here are 10 tips from Coffey on how to better manage your time and improve your organization.
1. Write Things Down
Whenever someone misses an appointment, whether for work or simply a trip to the dentist, time is wasted.
“I tell people to write everything down,” Coffey said.
She also suggests that families have a central place where you can keep a calendar. (The same goes for work, of course.)
“Have some where you can put your playday schedules and sports schedules, so everyone has access to them,” she said.
Coffey recommended a calendar that has pockets for the schedules, invitations, etc.
2. Have a Place For Everything
Schedules aren’t the only things that need a place. Everything in your home or office needs one.
“You’ve heard ‘a place for everything, and everything in its place,’” Coffey said. “Well it’s true. If we would make an effort to put everything back in its place, you don’t waste an hour rushing all over the house looking for something.”
3. Place A Value on Your Time
Coffey said placing a value on your time can help you realize how much money you are wasting when in an hour. This is pretty easy for working mothers, but stay-at-home moms sometimes struggle with this, she said.
Even stay-at-home moms can place a value on their time. Imagine if you were taking care of children for a living. What would you charge for that service?
“How much is it worth to you?” Coffey asked. “Every time you have to go look for something, you’ve wasted that much money.”
4. Get Yourself Ready First
“Get up and get yourself completely ready before anyone else gets up,” Coffey suggests. “All of your focus can be on what are we taking and on getting the children ready. You can be ready to go in minutes.”
Coffey said mothers and fathers need to know how long it takes to get everyone ready and leave a reasonable amount of time for that task. She said she puts the responsibility on her children, even though they are young.
After her four children, ages 2 to 8, are dressed and have their shoes on, it is their responsibility to take any belongings that they want with them. She gives them a 10-minute warning, and makes sure they understand that in 10 minutes they must have their belongings in the car and be buckled in.
Then she gives them a 5-minute warning, a 2-minute warning, etc.
“It takes pressure off mom,” she said. “They are gathering their belongings. They are getting buckled in. Once I give the 10-minute warning, it’s up to them to get their stuff. Teach your kids to do it at a young age. It also teaches consequences if they forget something.”
5. Set A Timer For Yourself
Coffey said many parents get caught up in reading their email or blogging or in other computer activities.
“You could easily spend hours every day doing that,” she said. “Set a timer. Then be done.”
She said mothers with young children basically have 15-20 minutes, which is about the maximum that young kids can stay occupied without needing mom. But parents of older children need to keep track of their time as well.
Also Coffey suggests that any activities that you do not want little fingers messing up should be done after the kids have gone to bed. Limit TV to one program or use Tivo so you can watch after the kids have gone to bed.
The same time limits go for the phone.
“Talking on the phone is huge for me,” she said. “My friends know that when I call them, I’m setting my timer. I’ve got 15 minutes.”
She said another way to manage the telephone is to call someone and say, “I called to ask you two questions.” Ask those questions and then get off.
6. Set A Timer For The Kids
One of a parents’ biggest distractions is the children.
“The kids are a big one,” Coffey said. “Teach them that there are things you do that don’t involve them.”
Coffey suggested setting a timer and telling the kids that they absolutely cannot bother you until this timer goes off.
But then when the timer does go off, keep your word and spend time with the kids, she said.
“Go spend 15 minutes with them,” she said.
7. Make A List
Lists are very helpful in staying focused, Coffey said.
“Set goals for the family,” she said. “Set goals for yourself. Not everybody is a list person, but I’m telling you, there’s a little bit of a high when you get to cross something off your list.”
She said to highlight the things that are most important.
“If you get to the end of the day and you’ve been able to cross those things off, it’s a feeling of accomplishment,” she said. “It really does help me stay focused.”
8. Just Say No
Most parents have a variety of things vying for their time. But unless you learn to say no to some of them, you will always be stressed.
“Say no to anything that’s not going to achieve your goals for today,” Coffey said. “I ask myself, ‘is this going to accomplish my goals.’ If not, I say no.”
9. Plan Ahead
A little planning the night before can make the next morning a whole lot easier, Coffey said. In fact, Coffey said she puts her children’s clothes away in sets – each set of shirt, shoes, underwear and socks goes in a large gallon-size baggy.
Then on the weekends, her children pick their clothes out for the week.
“Then when you get up in the morning, there is so much less stress,” Coffey said. “They thrive on that routine. They love getting to help in those ways.”
She also empties pre-packaged snacks into a large mesh container, and each night her children pick out three snacks for the next day.
That way when they want a snack it is already picked out and waiting for them. All they have to do is go get it.
Coffey said children can do a lot more than people give them credit for, and they need to have responsibilities at a young age.
“I delegate a lot around the house,” she said. “A 2-year-old can do a lot. They can make the bed. My 2-year-old can clean her plate from the table. She can sort her laundry. She’s learning her colors.
“My 8-year-old can wash and dry his own laundry. It’s just not a difficult thing.”
She said parents must be prepared to live with the job that their children do – even if it isn’t done perfectly.
“I’m learning to let that go,” she said. “You can’t go over to the bed your 2-year-old just made and say, ‘OK, you did a good job’ and then start straightening it. You just need to be OK if it isn’t perfect.”
She said sometimes it does require more work to oversee the children while they do the work then it does to just clean it up yourself.
“It does require my time to do that,” she said.. “But the payoff is they are learning.”