Time, time, time. It’s the thing almost every parent says they don’t have enough of. Moms say they are sleeping six hours a night to get everything they need to do done. Dads say they cannot keep up with the increased demands on their home front, so much so they are apparently lying to surveyors about how much time they are actually spending with the children. And the beat-the-clock aspect of our lives seems to only get worse, not better. Those lucky enough to have job in 2010, for example, are spending more and more of their days in the office, and that’s before factoring in commuting.
Not surprisingly, time management is a perennially popular subject for writers and motivational speakers probably because, as our own KJ Dell’Antonia wrote this week in Slate, the subject appeals to our fantasy that we can “get everything done and live happily ever after.”
But what if you are so busy you can’t wade through the various tomes, articles and blog posts on the subject of seizing back control of your days and nights? Herewith a few suggestions, plucked from recent articles and books on the subject of time management.
- Keep a time log. As Laura Vankerkam, author of the recently released 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, points out, you’ll never be able to get a grasp on how effectively budget your time if you don’t know for sure how you are spending it. Dell’Antonia recommends the TimeManager app.
- Just say no. Just because your daughter’s class parent calls up and asks you to chaperone the first grade graduation picnic or chair the fundraising auction committee, this does not mean you are obliged to say yes. Only say yes if this is something you truly want to do. If you don’t value your own time, no one else will.
- Ask for help. A personal example. I recently faced a weekend where I had not one, but two friends visiting from out-of-town. I had a work deadline to meet. And, I suddenly realized, my older son was supposed to complete a crafty representation of John Adams by Monday morning for a school presentation. After a few minutes of cursing my own lack of organization (“We should have done this earlier!”) and the school (“A self-designed cardboard cut-out of John Adams? That sounds like a craft project that would be featured in The Onion!”), I sent an email to my son’s teacher, asking for an extension. What I received was even better: She offered to do the project with my son at Monday recess.
- Outsource. Vankerkam recommends paying someone else to do everything from laundry to housecleaning if you are so inclined and can afford to do so. It’s a great suggestion, but most of us don’t have those sorts of funds readily at hand. Luckily, you don’t always have to pay for household help. If you are looking for an assist with dinner, join a cooking co-op. In the words of the New York Times, “A cooking co-op, or dinner swap, is simply an agreement by two or more individuals or households to provide prepared meals for each other, according to a schedule. The goal is to reduce the time spent in the kitchen while increasing the quality and variety of the food eaten.”
- Sign-off now. A good friend of mine refers to the Internet as “the great time suck.” I can relate. We all know how well self-discipline works when you decide you suddenly must find out the latest about Serena Williams’ performance at Wimbledon RIGHT NOW. Purchase Freedom, the software that will disable your Internet access for up to eight hours at a time.
On that note ….