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Making Time Count

I need more hours in my day!” I said to my husband with a groan, as I flopped into bed after yet another crazy day.

You say that every day, he teased.

I know. Something needs to change. . . and change soon!

Making Time Count

Although the fact that I have a 9-month-old baby (at the time of the
writing of this article), work at home, and have a husband to take care
of is something that will keep me busy every day that I wake up, I am
attempting to learn time management. I want to learn this so I can be
more efficient than I have been the past few months.

Hence, this article is not about having tackled my time, but about my
discovery process in tackling it. Here is what I have come up with so
far.

I have quickly learned that an early morning time, before my husband
and daughter wake up, is absolutely crucial. Most mornings it’s hard to
get up in time for this little alone-time session, but truth be told,
I’d rather get up early and get it in than miss it entirely. On my best
days I can make up for it with a nap later.

This early morning time is a time to pray, do some spiritual study,
and plan my day’s goals. My favorite place to have it is on the couch
in our living room, looking out the window as the sun comes up, coffee
cup in hand. I find that this time centers me and gets me focused on my
day.

It also gives me time that I can call “mine”, and as a result, I’m
more ready to take care of my hubby and daughter once they wake up.

I’m learning to prioritize. Being a Type A personality, everything on
my to-do list is a must-do, but I am beginning to concede that there
are negotiables and there are non-negotiables in my life. The true
must-dos are preparing meals for my family, keeping my baby clean and
dry, playing with her, meeting work deadlines, and taking care of my
body with at least a series of healthy stretches.

On the other hand, things like cleaning the cupboard shelves, pulling
every single weed in the flower bed, becoming a master at pilates, and
learning Sign Language as a second language, really aren’t things that
have to be done — as much as I might like them to be accomplished.

I am learning to fall into bed at night, considering the day to be a
good one if I have loved my family and taken care of them instead of
berating myself for not meeting unrealistic goals in light of the
demands on my life.

I have a life goal that I have created for myself, and I am learning
to cut out things that don’t match this life goal of mine. Although I
would love to become proficient in playing classical music on the piano,
it doesn’t match my life philosophy of “investing my time and energy,
via writing and mentoring, into young women’s lives so they can be all
they were intended to be and live the lives they were intended to live.”
Starting another flower bed in my yard doesn’t match this life
philosophy, and neither does taking up oil painting.
However, investing in my own daughter’s life does line up with this life goal, and so does writing for different venues.

Taking the time to make cookies and invite a college girl into my
house and talk about life over warm cookies and milk meets my life goal
more than learning how to sew.

I constantly have to ask myself, “Does this to-do list help my life goal
become realized, or does it take me away from it?” If it takes me away
from it, then I am learning to cut it from my list.

The internet has been a big deal in this whole time management issue.
I now have rules about when I can be on and when I need to stay off. As
a blogger and a member of a couple of online communities, it is so
tempting to check my email first thing in the morning and get on my
forums and see who has written what, as well as write my own thing.
However, I realized that this was taking up a great deal of my time that
was better spent on my non-negotiables. So I created some internet
guidelines for myself.

I don’t check email or my forums until my quiet time is over, my
daily cleaning is done, my family has been taken care of, and my work
deadlines have been met. This has not been easy to adhere to, simply
because as a stay-at-home mom, most of my social life comes from these
online platforms. But doing so has opened up blocks of time that I have
been able to use in practical ways. I follow the same guidelines for
television, magazines, and reading.

At the same time, I have also created a time for myself on a regular
basis to do something I enjoy. While I am learning to prioritize my
time, I also know that if I work all day long and don’t do anything
enjoyable, I begin to feel trapped, and even resentful, of what I have
to do.

If I can have even a half hour of an enjoyable activity, such as
online groups or reading a good book, I am more emotionally able to
tackle the must-do’s.

Read : Where to Start Looking for a Job If You’re a Stay-At-Home Mom

For me, this time comes either right after lunch for one half hour to
an hour, if my daughter lays down for a nap, or in the hours after she
goes to bed. Up until a few weeks ago, I was working right up until 9:00
or 10:00 at night, but this proved to be exhausting given my early wake
up time. So lately I have forced myself to shut down for the day as
soon as my baby goes to bed. This means the computer goes off, the
writing notebook is closed, and the to-do list is put aside until the
following morning.

Not only does this allow me to debrief my day, but I’ve noticed that
I’m also more relaxed when putting my daughter to bed. Before doing
this, I found myself rocking her like a crazy woman in an effort to make
her “hurry up and go to sleep” so I could get back to my list. Now,
because I’m relaxed, she’s relaxed, and bedtimes have been a much
smoother affair for both of us.

I have also developed a strict rule for what time I need to be in
bed. If I want to get up at 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. I have to be in bed at a
certain time each night. If I stay up too late, I don’t get up early,
which means I don’t get my alone time. No alone time means no centering
time, and no centering time, for me, means a day that is chaotic with
very little effectiveness.

I am learning that wise time management involves a day of rest at
least once a week. I’m still working on this one, because my tendency is
to try to get all the to-do’s done that I didn’t get done during the
week. Doing so, however, always results in finding myself worse for the
wear come Monday morning.

If I can take Saturday or Sunday to do only the bare minimum for my
family and then use the rest of my time to nap, read, or take walks
(which, my husband’s being home helps make this possible) I am much more
emotionally ready for my new week.

I have a long way to go in all of this. I still tend to stay up on
the computer researching “just one more thing” until 9:00 at night. I
still move for my email button first thing in the morning instead of
sitting down for a quiet time. I have yet to fully convince myself of
the difference between the must-do’s and the should-do’s. But I’m
getting there.

With each step I take, I find myself being more effective in the
time I do spend working and more relaxed in the time I actually allow
myself to stop for awhile -– all of which results in more effectiveness
and more resulting relaxation. I’m finding it’s a self-perpetuating
cycle, and with any luck, it will be a cycle that I will have
permanently installed in my life in a few more weeks.

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