Do you feel like you have just too many activities and priorities on your plate? I know exactly how you feel.
As a mother, wife, homeschooling parent, homesteader, and working parent, the hats I juggle can easily become overwhelming and daunting.
A year ago, I broke down. I was a beatdown, pregnant, and feeling as if I never had any time to breathe.
How was I going to handle everything with another baby? It seemed like an impossible feat, but my husband gathered me up and decided we needed a solution.
We had to figure out what my priorities were and how to make sure I had time for what needed to be done.
That meant I had to let go of the expectations I set for myself and pick up new strategies to make my life a bit easier.
Make a Master List of Activities
Before you go any further, I recommend that you take some time to make a master list of all your tasks. It can be quite lengthy, especially if you start to add things that need to be completed once a year or quarterly.
For now, focus on tasks that need to be completed monthly, weekly, and daily. These are your immediate concerns.
Create your master list, then break those activities based on frequency.
For example, on my weekly list, I include activities such as:
- Scrubbing bathtubs
- Piano lessons for my daughter
- Paying bills
- Sweeping between the couch cushions.
Daily activities might be things like:
- Going to work
- Making breakfast, lunch, and dinner
- Washing dishes
Once you have a list of activities that you currently try to complete on a monthly, weekly, and daily basis, you want to use these lists to create a general schedule for each day and week.
It doesn’t have to be exact; we’ll work on that later. For now, plug in the tasks that you think need to be completed on specific days and what tasks need to be done each day.
What Goals Matter Most to Your Family
When I had my breakdown, my husband and I had to sit down and talk about what matters most to our family. That’s going to look different for each family, but now is the time to look at your family’s goals.
Thinking about family goals goes beyond just working, cooking and cleaning. It requires thinking beyond those activities and thinking about what you envision for your family as well as yourself and your marriage.
What do you want your life and family life to look like?
You might find value in attending weekly Bible studies, or you might value weekly self-care to ensure you stay mentally healthy. Our family values homeschooling our children, which is a priority for us.
My husband values time with his volunteer fire department. I need time to spend on myself, whether that’s crocheting or reading.
When we think and envision our family, we imagine time together, watching movies and playing games.
We think of vacations and building memories as a unit. These are the activities that matter and they’ll help you prioritize your activities to build up to the future and goals you desire.
Are Your Activities Working Towards Your Goals?
When you commit yourself to an activity or task, it needs to work towards one of your family goals in some way, and it needs to fit into the time slot that you have available. Remember, you only have so much time per day!
One of our main goals is to help foster and build our children’s educations, so I often say yes to activities such as field trips, clubs, and learning events that I believe will encourage growth and education.
I say yes to adding date nights, family movie and game nights, and family dinners with extended members.
On your activities list, you might have things like:
- Soccer practice
- Art lessons
- PTO meetings
- Bible club
- Staying late to help your boss with a task
The options are endless; I have no idea what is on your list. For now, look past the cleaning tasks and think about the activities you commit to and decide if it’s working in your schedule and if it meets a goal.
For example, every Monday, my son and daughter went to a gym and art class. That seems to fit our goals, right? It sure does, but my husband works at 24-hour shift every Monday.
My days are busy on Monday, and if I continued to commit myself to that particular activity, I was unable to complete the children’s education that day.
I was asked to run a crochet club for a local women’s group. It was a lovely opportunity because I really love to crochet, but I knew I lacked the time.
I might have been able to squeeze it in, but it didn’t meet any of the other goals we set down. Instead, I said no because I knew it would only stress me out in the end.
If you don’t find any of your activities are working towards your goals, it’s time to think about adding them.
We added a weekly family board game night, and that’s been a blessing to our family for the extra family time. You might like to take weekly walks or go fishing once a week.
Urgent vs. Necessary: How to Know the Difference
Distinguishing urgent from important tasks is important. They’re not the same thing, and you need to distinguish between the two when determining your weekly and daily priorities.
An urgent task is a task that must be completed within a specific time frame which is soon. They might be impending deadlines or things that you need to do before something else.
For example, on a day-to-day basis, my urgent tasks may be things like:
- Answering emails from clients
- Working on any deadlines that need to be done
- Making important phone calls
- Paying bills that are due
Important tasks are ones that work towards your goals. They contribute to our short or long-term goals, missions, and values. Sometimes, an important task is urgent, but that’s not always the case.
Look at your daily to-do list you create. It’s general, so you will add and take away. Think about urgent tasks that might end up on your schedule, including work tasks and doctors appointments.
Look at the Value of Each Task and Completion Time
Once you pick out your urgent tasks, you have to put a value on each of the other tasks and consider how long each one takes to complete. We only have so many hours in the day, so we can only stack so much.
The value of each task is determined by their contribution to your goals or family life, and completion time is how long you suppose each task will take.
To help this make sense, let’s take a look at a few tasks that might be on my daily to-do list.
It’s a Wednesday, and my husband happens to be home from work this Wednesday.
Today, I need to:
- Work on deadlines for my job
- Homeschool the kids
- Make breakfast, lunch, and dinner
- Send out the electric bill
- Call the cable company to cancel cable
- Speech therapy at 1 PM for my son
- Pick-up the kids’ rooms
- Vacuum up the living room and kitchen
- Give my sister a call
- Spend some time crocheting or reading
- Watch a movie with my kids and husband
Now, on top of these tasks, we have to remember things like dishes that come with meals, daily laundry, and endless diapers when you have two kids not potty trained.
So, I go through the list and decide a label for each.
- Urgent – Must be completed so I keep my clients happy!
- Important – Top value because homeschooling is a family goal.
- Necessary – Kids must eat, but I can use convenience items if need be or my husband cooks well.
- Urgent – we need the electric on!
- Important – We want to save money, so this is important, but it might take 30 minutes.
- Urgent – We must go to speech therapy
- Extra – I like to do this every Wednesday, but my husband can do this if I can’t.
- Important – we live in the living room and it needs to stay clean. It will take 15 minutes.
- Important – my family matters to me, but this might take 30 minutes.
- Important – Self-care is a huge goal for me, so these activities will happen
- Important – Family time is a goal, so we make these happen.
Now, I have to complete numbers 1, 4, and 6, and activities 2, 10, and 11 need to happen as well. I have to feed my kids – boo – so number 3 is a yes. If I find that I have additional time, I can plug in number 5, 7, 8, and 9.
Let Things Drop
We only have so many hours per day, and everyone needs to sleep, eat, and shower. Yes, shower daily mama, those things matter!
You can continue to add those items to the next day’s list until it finally had a spot to be completed.
It can be hard to let things go because you don’t have time to do them, but it’s necessary. You have to prioritize your activities to find what matters the most in your life.
I know what matters most to me because we spent time thinking and praying about family goals, and listing activities based on their value to our family.
So, to recap, to help you prioritize your activities you need to:
- Make a master list to help you create a general schedule for each day.
- Create family goals and plans to help you figure out what activities matter the most.
- Figure out if your activities are working towards your goals. If not, make some!
- Decide what’s urgent and what’s important to help make your daily list of tasks.
- Look at your daily to-do list and determine the value for each activity as well as the completion time.
- Let things drop as needed
Once you understand your priorities, creating a time management schedule becomes a lot easier. Soon, we will talk about how to create a schedule that works for your family.