As a single mother, my life is one big balancing act – kids, home, work, extended family, ex-husband – it can get crazy sometimes. How do I manage it all? Lots of coffee, sheer determination, and a good time management system. I only get 24 hours a day and I must use each and every one of them to their fullest.
Time management systems are as personal as a person’s underwear – what works for me, might not work for you – but there are some general ideas and principles that can help you develop your own plan:
Routines are the greatest things in the world when you have small kids. They may not be able to read, but they always know that storytime comes before bedtime or that you always take a walk after dinner.
How do you develop these routines? It’s simple – pick a sequence of events that you’re comfortable with and start doing them today. The kids may baulk at first – you are upsetting the apple cart – but with time and perseverance, they will get used to the new routine and some, like my son, will revel in it.
Most people understand the importance of goals thanks to their workplace – sales goals, customer happiness, company growth – but rarely do they apply that knowledge to their home life, leaving them to wander though life without knowing exactly where they’re going. It’s even more important for you, as a single parent. You don’t have time to wander the deserts of oblivion.
Thankfully, setting goals is easy – it just takes time and some thought. Sit down tonight and brainstorm about your goals for the next 6 months. Where do you want to be financially? Are there any dreams you want to pursue? How about your health? Write it all down.
Set the list aside for a couple days and go about your business. As new ideas come to you, add them to the list. Once you’re sure your list is complete, pick out three to five that are the most important to you. Break these down into smaller, simpler goals that you can easily reach – these are your stair steps to success.
Know Your Limits / Learn to Say No
Contrary to what some single mothers think, you are not Super Mom. You can not leap buildings, overturn SUV’s, or even stay up 20 hours a day for weeks on end. You have your limits – mentally and physically – that you must adhere to or risk illness. Learn these limits and stick to them.
Related to this subject is the realization that you can say “No” to someone. Your time, sanity, and health are some of the most valuable assets you have. The problem comes when others (like the PTA president, kids’ teacher, neighbor, mom, etc) wants you to drop everything and come help them with something. It’s okay to say no – I promise!
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Take the time every night to plan and prepare for tomorrow. The more you can get done after the kids go to bed, the less you have to do during the chaos of the morning. Make your to-do list, ensure everything you need (lunches, library books, etc) is gathered and ready to go out the door, make lunches, lay out outfits and shoes, pack the baby bag, etc. Believe me – it will save you time and sanity.
Let others help you with the everyday chaos of running a family by yourself. Yes, I know – it can be hard to let go and allow someone in, but it can be a major time saver for you. For example, while grandma take the kids to the park Sunday afternoon, you can spend that time doing something you like or preparing for the week. Every little bit counts – make use of those who want to help you!