One of my most frequently asked question is how do I get more done, with seemingly more to do. First — I have no more to do than most homeschooling moms. You’re just as busy with 2 kids as I am with 6 children. That aside, you can get more done — improve your productivity — with one simple trick: schedule less.
I can hear the gasps now.
How can you get more done if you aren’t including it on the schedule?
Because we work better and faster when we aren’t rushed or stressed.
And an overly full schedule, with no room for life, just causes stress.
It’s so easy to fill up your days.
We all know it. Between the logistics of laundry, paying bills, running kids to gymnastics and soccer practice, co-ordinating dinner with grandma and making that dentist appointment, nevermind handling a job, meals, and all the other things that go into being a parent and an adult, it’s super easy to get overwhelmed with everything that needs doing.
So how do we handle all the tasks, keep them organized and actually get them all done?
Use 3 strategies: prioritize, delegate and automate.
Time management means having good task management — and good task management means knowing what needs doing, who should be doing it and when it should be done.
When you can prioritize your tasks, delegate and automate them, you end up with less on your schedule, freeing up your mind, energy and time to get more done. Determining what’s the most important task you need to do today will go a long way to getting more done. Because then, you just move down the list, checking them off as you go.
It really is that simple.
It may seem simple, but we have this need to complicate simple things. And this, for most of us, is too simple.
So how does this work practically?
My friend Emma is a mom of 3 kids, and homeschooling 2, with a toddler besides. She also works part time afterschool at the local coffee shop for money for extracurriculars. Her partner works shift work, and her mom helps with watching the kids when their shifts overlap.
Every day, Emma uses the Plan Your Day Planner to help her manage her daily schedule. First, she works off her weekly and monthly schedules to jot down any activities, when her husband works, when she works and any appointments for the day. She puts those on the timed schedule, booking in time before and after for getting ready & driving. Then she writes out the daily menu, based on the monthly menu, and the chores for the day. After that, she looks at her monthly goals break down and her chores list and chooses 1 activity towards one of her major goal. And then after that, she picks out 3 tasks that she wants to prioritize for today, and puts them on her daily list.
Now because she knows exactly what’s going on for the day, she can relax and just follow the daily schedule. This helps automate her day, freeing up her mind and energy to focus on homeschooling her kids, getting ready for their activities, and working on her chosen tasks. At the same time, her mom, her partner and her kids also know what the daily activities are, and they can help out — or she can ask them to do things based on her list. All the decision-making is done, and it’s just a matter of delegating and doing!
Emma’s day is stress-free, and she can stay on track easier because she knows exactly what she needs to do and how much time she has to do it in. Her schedule isn’t completely full on the daily checklist, but instead, there’s room for an impromptu dance party while sweeping or tidying, or a quick detour for a coffee on the way to swim class.
By prioritizing, delegating and automating, Emma can schedule less and still get more done — with less stress.
Let’s break this down into the steps.
When you plan your day, the first step is to note down the “must-dos”.
These are the anchor points for your day. They include things like meal times, naptimes and bedtimes, when you have to leave for work or an activity, any appointments you might have with a doctor, etc. They are the things you pay for or that pay you, and the things you need for health and wellness.
Your anchors are your non-negotiables. These events can’t be moved, and are what will keep your day on track. On the one hand, these activities limit the time you have available for everything else. But on the other hand, these are the rocks you can build your routines off of.
So the next step is to build those routines.
Once you have your anchor points, figure out how much time you need on either side of them for the rest of what goes into those activities. For example, if bedtime is at 8 pm, when should you start your kids’ on their bedtime routine? How long do you want to spend on (or how long does it usually take to do) story, bath, getting their pyjamas on, etc.
For me, bedtime routine needs about 30 minutes, depending on if we’re doing a story or not. So if bedtime is at 8 pm, then I need to start my kids on their routine around 7:30. 5 minutes either way isn’t going to make a big difference in the 8 pm anchor, but my goal is to finish for 8 pm. So on my schedule, I’ll block off 30 minutes before bedtime for the routine.
Do the same for every anchor. Maybe it’s just a 5 min note, or maybe it’s an hour in meal prep? Block it off so you know that time space on your schedule is occupied.
Now it’s time to look at all the things you want to do, need to do, and have to do.
Gather together your master-list of to-dos — or multiple lists — and begin to prioritize. Pick one thing as your major goal for the day — the one thing that if you got it done today, you’d feel like you actually got something done today. It can be as small as making that phone call you’ve been putting off for ages, or as big as sitting down and going through your bills and paperwork. Maybe it’s putting together a new resume, or researching a different math curriculum. Whatever it is, write that down as the GOAL for the day.
The key here is to pick things to do that only you can do.
Then take a look at your plan for your day. How much time do you want or need to spend on your goal? When will you do that? Don’t get specific in your timing here, but instead, pick a general time of day. I tend to break my days down to “morning”, “before afternoon nap”, “naptime”, “after naptime”, and “after bedtime”. So depending on what my goal is, I pick the best time of day for it. If it’s going to be something I can do around my kids, then maybe I’ll aim to get it done in the morning. If it’s something that I can’t be interrupted while I’m doing it, then I might decide that I’ll do it during nap time or after bedtime.
After you’ve planned for your goal for the day, choose a few other tasks to focus on.
Chores, work tasks, homeschool planning, hobbies or whatever else you want or need to work on, pick 2 or 3 to write down on your list. Just 2 or 3, not 10. Then put them onto your time plan for the day — again, not at a specific time, but more into a general time of day. On my daily planner, I just mark “AM” or “PM” or “naptime” beside the task.
Finally, what has to happen today, but you don’t necessarily have to be the one to do it?
Put those onto a daily list that you can post somewhere public, if you aren’t sharing your daily plan. For your kids, maybe assign those tasks to them, or ask them directly to do those tasks. If you have a partner, talk with them about their plans for the day, what their goals are, and what’s important to them to get done. Maybe you can work together on a few tasks.
For the rest, determine whether or not to hire out, ask for help outside your family, or try to fit them into your day. Are your priorities right? Do these things actually have to be done today? Figure out if and how they fit into your plan.
Be honest with yourself.
You don’t want to overfill your schedule, because, as we noted at the beginning, that leads to rushing, mistakes and stress. The important thing is to first determine what your non-negotiables are, and then fit in your prioritized tasks around those. Everything else goes after you’ve done those two things.
And the secret is to work with your anchor points — those things that have to be scheduled — and not to schedule anything else, but just pick general times of day for them.
Schedule less, prioritize and you’ll get more done.
And you’ll be less stressed too.