Does anyone remember life before kids? My little one is only 16 months old so it’s not quite yet a distant memory for me. One thing in particular that sticks out about life before motherhood though, is how I always used to complain how busy I was. If I had a time machine I would go back and karate chop myself in the face because that woman absolutely DID NOT know busy. And if I thought making time for horses was hard BC (before child) then I was in no way prepared for how I would manage it post child.
Truth is, even after kids we are really good at making ourselves seem busier than we actually are. I know you’ve just instinctively got your hackles up and are ready to say, “excuse me I AM busy” and it’s true, you are. We all are. We’re raising babies and that isn’t easy. But, for most of us, we’re not as busy as we think. We’re just inefficient.
When you think of time management techniques your mind probably automatically goes to those in business, but absolutely anyone can employ these tactics in their everyday life and watch their efficiency and effectiveness soar. Today I wanted to share with you my favourite time management techniques and how I think equestrian mamas can use them in their life to reclaim some time for horse-related activities.
Do a time audit
One really easy way to make more time is to first find out where you are wasting time. A simple way of doing this is by choosing one day (make it a regular day, not one where you’ve got activities or events planned) of one week and logging everything you do during that day – the task and the time spent on that task.
At the end of the day, sit down and evaluate your report to see what activities you spend the most time on and consider ways this time could be better spent.
I recently did an audit of how I spend my time and one thing I discovered was that I waste a lot of time:
- Making cups of coffee; and
- Browsing social media
Yikes, right. They’re complete unproductive activities.
On days where I know I’ll be busy – like the days I work from home – I’ll still allow myself my coffee breaks, and while the coffee machine is pouring me my cup of liquid gold I use that down time to browse social media.
In order to be more productive, I also try to use that coffee break and social media time in a positive way, I’ll post something in the Mama Equestrians Worldwide group, network in business groups or respond to comments on Instagram. No more mindless scrolling!
There are tonnes of ways to more efficiently use your time, but first, you need to highlight those problem areas. So get auditing!
Set some goals
I’m a multi-passionate person and love lots of things. But I’d have to say that goal planning is probably in my top 10 of all time.
Confession time, I’m a bit of an organisation nerd and I’ve written myself professional and personal goals for 2018, broken them down, into smaller action steps and plotted them out in my colour coordinated google calendars (yes, that’s plural). While that may sound intense to some people, and like a total time waster to others, I’ve actually found that it helps keep me on track and reduces the amount of time I spend procrastinating over what to do next.
But you need to set your goals correctly in order to make this work. I recommend setting SMART goals, rather than just creating fleeting statements about things you want to achieve.
SMART stands for:
This means your goals need to be specific AND measurable, so instead of setting a goal of ‘I want to ride more’, set yourself a goal of ‘I will ride one time per week’.
Your goal also needs to be attainable, you don’t want to set yourself up for failure so be realistic. Are you really going to have time to ride three times per week? Or is one or two rides more achievable?
The goal should also be relevant. This is the big picture stuff. You’re not likely to achieve this goal if it doesn’t mean anything to you, so what’s the WHY behind this goal?
Lastly, your goal should be time-bound. When do you want to achieve this goal by?
Learn to prioritise tasks
This tip ties in great with goal setting, as goal setting, can help you identify what is important (or a priority) and what can be pushed down the to-do list.
As a biz owner, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned so far is that the things you procrastinate on are usually the things that will push your business forward, and I feel the same is true personally as well.
So when you’re sitting down to think about what you’ve got to do that day, or putting together your to-do list, put the big things first and just get them out of the way. Less procrastination on big tasks = more time for other activities!
Monitor device usage
As we’ve already discovered devices can be MAJOR time wasters.
How many of us have sat down in front of our telly and said, “just one episode” only to binge-watch an entire series. I’m putting my hand up and listening to Law and Order: SVU as I type. So believe me, I get it.
Now I’m not saying you should completely give up your screen time or throw away your mobile phone. But there are a few ways you can be smarter about device usage.
Let’s go back to my social media tip from earlier, you may not be a coffee drinker but I am sure there are some points in your day where you are standing around not doing much at all – maybe it’s waiting for a pot to boil on the stove, or at your kids weekly football practice… whatever it may be, that time could be spent scrolling Facebook, uploading photos to Instagram or sending out a tweet.
If TV is your jam, then make it a rule to not have TV on during the day or to watch TV at night time while folding your washing.
Screen time doesn’t need to have its own dedicated time slot in your schedule.
Ask for help
Let’s all say it together, there is NO SHAME in asking for help or seeking out help.
An initiative we’ve recently implemented in the Mama Equestrians Worldwide group is a network of mums in local areas who come together to share the load – they may offer babysitting services so one mum can ride, or all meet at a local property or barn and ride/kid watch together.
I take lessons each week, as my own horse is retired, so I admit it is a little easier for me as I only have to commit to a few hours of horse related activity per week and my husband watches our daughter during this time.
One thing I will say about asking for help though is that it needs to be done correctly.
If you are approaching a partner or family member then do so in advance and have an explanation as to why you need the help ready to go. I know that we automatically think that the people in our lives should understand why we need a break or why we need help, but that isn’t always the case, sometimes people just simply don’t get it and it’s our job to inform them.
I know in the past I have been quite abrasive in my approach and I also know it hasn’t worked. But when I sat down and told my husband that after 12 months of constant one on one contact with my daughter that I just needed something of my own to reaffirm my identity and give me some sense of independence, that he was much more understanding and accepting.
You catch more flies with honey, right!
Set time limits for tasks
I don’t know how many times I’ve set out to do a task only to find it dragging on and on and on and more often than not it’s because I’m dragging my feet. We’re our own worst enemy, right?
A simple way to ensure that you don’t spend unnecessary time on tasks is to give yourself a time limit in which to complete them.
I bet dollars to doughnuts that if you challenge yourself a little and give yourself a time frame to complete a task that you’ll inadvertently find ways to be more efficient and get the tasks done in a way that’s easier and quicker.
Plan your week
Failing to plan, is planning to fail.
Has to be one of my favourite says of all time, and I love it even more because I’m a huge planner. Hello, 6 google calendars!
How often have you woken up in the morning, had your coffee, got your kids ready and then thought “well what can I do today?” only to spend the next half hour, hour, maybe even longer planning out your day.
What a time suck.
I know, as well as you, that as mums we sometimes get stuck just going through the motions. Get up, get dressed, get kids ready, breakfast, out the door, off to school, to work, home, dinner, bath, bed. Same, same, day in and day out. But even though it might feel like we have a routine, we are not being our more efficient.
Who hasn’t got to the weekend and suddenly realised the house works piling up, the lawn needs mowing, the dog needs a bath, the kids have sports, the fridge is empty… whatever it may be, suddenly it’s all being crammed in to one day and THAT right there, is a perfect example of poor planning.
So what I want you to do my friend is grab a diary, or a virtual calendar if you’re like me and that’s your jam, and plot out some tasks in advance. Make 10.00-10.30am every second Saturday the time you wash the dog, make every Wednesday night from 7.00-7.30pm the time you chuck a load of washing on, make 8.00 pm-8.30 pm the time you pack the kids bags and lunch boxes ready for school the next day.
Whatever you do, make it consistent, so that when you wake up each day you’re not running around like a chook with no head wasting time trying to figure out what to do next.
Stop striving for perfection
This was a hard lesson for me to learn because I’m a bit of a perfectionist and control freak. I like this to be done the way I like them to be done, and if I’m going to do something I want it to be right. Unfortunately, perfectionism can also be a total time suck because it can double, or triple the time it takes to complete a task.
Something I’ve been trying to implement in my life (and business) is taking imperfect action. That is taking small, imperfect steps in order to get a task done. There are a tonne of benefits to taking imperfect action, but I think my top three would have to be that:
- It allows you to analyse what isn’t working for you and adapt
- It ensures that stuff actually gets done (instead of perpetually sitting on your to do list)
- It reduces the risk of you procrastinating over tasks and wasting even more time that you don’t have
Let us consider a specific scenario here so we can understand the idea of imperfect action a little better. Whose ever been faced with a pretty big project or task and wondered where to begin? I think everyone can put their hands up to that.
Recently, I set myself a goal of completely overhauling my wardrobe. It was something I hadn’t done for about three years (when we moved into our home) and it was a job that was WAY overdue. Let me tell you, I procrastinated over this task for weeks because I was constantly coming up with ideas in my head about how to best tackle this job instead of just getting on and doing it.
I wanted to figure out how I would decide to cull – would it be based on clothes I hadn’t worn for x amount of time, only for things that didn’t fit, based on what I thought I would continue to wear/wouldn’t continue to wear. I wanted to figure out if I would keep both summer and winter clothes in my wardrobe all year round – or would I store the clothes I didn’t need. I wanted to figure out the best way to dispose of these clothes – should I drop them in a donation bin or should I donate them to a local women’s charity.
When I finally got around to getting the job done, it took less than 2 hours. Yet it took over 2 weeks for me to actually get to it.
You get the point right? This task, which was literally just cleaning out my wardrobe, became a mammoth undertaking simply because I didn’t really want to do it.
Imperfect action would have been just jumping in, taking small steps, and slowly working away at the job at hand. Adapting and learning and answering all the questions I outlined above, as I went, and would have resulted in much less time wasted (and thus more spare time up my sleeve).
Learn to say no
Us mamas tend to be people pleasers. We want to keep our families happy, our kids happy, our friends happy, our co-workers happy… but often this comes at a cost, and that is that we don’t leave time to make US happy.
Something this mama journey has taught me is that you can’t pour from an empty cup.
You NEED to make time for you. It’s not selfish, it’s not wrong. It’s necessary. It’s necessary because you can’t properly take care of anyone else if you aren’t properly taking care of yourself first.
So sometimes, in order to be able to say yes to yourself, you need to say no to others.
Batch your tasks
Batching is another business related tip that I picked up and have implemented in my biz, but I find actually translates really well to mama life as well.
So, what is batching?
Batching is basically get a long list of similar tasks completed in just a few hours or days. While it may seem tedious to do the same thing hours in and hours out, batching tasks has numerous benefits but the one which stands out the most is that it can save you ridiculous amounts of time over the course of weeks or months.
There are a few things you can batch in your personal life to save you time in the long run. Two of the home chores I batch are cooking and cleaning.
Let’s take cooking as our example, every month I choose one day where I go to my mums’ house and we spend an entire day cooking. Last time we got together we cooked 2 soups, a curry, a stew and some spaghetti sauce. We then portioned it into plastic containers for freezing, so at the end of the day when we get home from work and we’re tired and time-poor we can pull something out of the freezer and have dinner ready in minutes.
If batching sounds like something that you think might work for you, here are some things you’ll need to know before you get started:
- You’ll need to be able to set aside a decent chunk of time upfront. I know that can be hard to find, but it’ll be worth it in the long run. Trust me!
- You’ll want to plan and prepare. Know what your tasks are going into it so you don’t waste your precious time getting organised.
- Make sure you’ve got the right equipment, again so you’re not wasting time going back and forth getting yourself prepared.
- Give yourself breaks. Particularly important if you’ll be batching a task over a couple of days. You’ll need breaks, as they’ll keep you energised and motivated.
- Tell people you’ll be spending the next few hours or days batching a particular task. That way you’ll (hopefully) have minimal interruptions.
- Have some activities prepared for the kids to keep them occupied. Again this helps reduce the interruptions and potentially adding extra time to your tasks.