By Stephanie Foster
People tend to think that being a stay at home parent means you have time to sit in front of the TV all day, but anyone who has tried it knows better. Staying at home means getting up early enough to get the kids to school, take care of any children not yet in school, clean the house, prepare meals, get the children to activities, etc. It's not an easy or leisurely life.
The first thing to think about are your goals. What do you need to get done each day and what do you want to get done?
Many parents find it useful to have a calendar or day planner in a central place in their home. This allows everyone to see what is coming up the next day, week, etc. You may instead prefer to keep your schedule on your computer. Don't feel obligated to use the system that works for your best friend, husband or anyone else. It needs to work for YOU. This only works if you are consistent about marking your schedule. If not, you will find this to be a very frustrating exercise. However, a good schedule can greatly simplify your planning for each day.
Be realistic about how much time it takes to get any school age children ready for school each day and get yourself and them out of bed appropriately. If you get up a bit earlier than the children, you'll have time to make them breakfast and lunches for the school day. Alternatively, make the lunches the night before. A good breakfast can be very helpful to your child throughout the day.
To do lists can be very helpful. You might keep a detailed one with everything you need to get done during the day, from feeding the baby to pickup up the kids from school, or just a simple to do list with the activities you do not do regularly listed.
Know your internal schedule. By this, I mean, know when you are most likely to complete certain activities. If you are most in the mood for house cleaning first thing in the morning, make sure you schedule it immediately. If you'd rather wait until after lunch, do it then. Don't forget to include plenty of time for family activities.
If you have work at home job or home business, make sure you have plenty of time to get your daily tasks done there. Once again, knowing when you will be most productive will help you tremendously. Not all opportunities will give you flexibility to change your schedule to meet your preferences, so you may have to find ways to deal with work schedules that are not ideal. Businesses, too, have a way of eating into other plans, so keep a certain degree of flexibility in your daily schedule.
Everyone has things they do that just waste time. Know what you tend to do that is unproductive. This doesn't mean skimping on personal time. However, if you get too interested in tiny details, perfecting things, and so forth, you can waste a lot of time better spent elsewhere. Being disorganized also wastes tremendous amounts of time. Write down important phone numbers, addresses and so forth where you WILL find them easily later.
Don't forget to include everything that uses time in your day. Your children get out of school at a certain time, but how long does it take you to walk or drive there?
Make sure you aren't spending an excessive amount of time doing activities such as watching television, surfing the internet, checking email, gossiping with friends, and so forth. While these are certainly enjoyable activities, if they take up too much of your day you can feel frustrated while trying to get other, more important things done. Know how much time you can spend on these things. Can they be moved to less stressful times of the day? A VCR or Tivo can make it very easy to switch the time you watch your favorite television programs. The internet and email will be there when you have time. Friends will understand if you're too busy for an involved conversation if you tell them so.
Much of time management is simply being aware of what you need and want to do and how much time you will need for it. It need not take much time at all out of your day to plan how best to use that day.
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