Do you want to be a stay-at-home mom who still has a career? Or maybe, like me, you want to write, create, exercise, and keep learning? Perhaps you are toying with the idea of homeschooling, but can’t imagine teaching your own children all day in addition to housekeeping, meal planning, shopping, and being a wife, daughter, and girlfriend? Possibly you need a way to add an hour to each day so you can sleep longer, read more, write that book?
Or maybe you just need a way to find a little extra time in each day.
Below are ways I have found time within the 24 hours given to us to write. This list doesn’t limit itself to writing, it also gives me time to exercise and read, but for simplicity, I’ve used the word write. Plug in your own hobby.
Mind over Mattress. “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a (wo)man healthy, wealthy and wise.” I believe it was Benjamin Franklin who said this. Imagine our world if we all had a little of his accomplishments! However, the benefits of waking early are surprising: The house is quiet; The coffee is all yours!; Your mind is fresh and unencumbered (or it will be soon, after coffee); Starting the day early sets the tone for the day, meaning, this will be a day to accomplish great things; It sends a positive message to your family - that you want to focus on them during the day, so you set aside the quiet morning to achieve your own dreams.
Benefits of going to bed early:You can actually lose weight by having an earlier bedtime. Imagine all the late-night snacking you will skip! I find that I sleep better when I am in a consistently going to bed early, possibly because I’m not filling my mind with the images from TV and movies. I read before bed too, which always makes me sleepy and keeps the images from the books I read limited to the author’s description, not embellished by a director's imagination, which usually looks for shock value.
Work off a To-Do list. People who keep an ongoing to-do list accomplish more than those who don’t. Where’s my proof? On the days I keep a to-do list, I can stay focused, write more, work on household chores, and usually make a decent dinner. On the days I don’t, I don’t finish anything. And, yes, I do write in things I’ve already completed before I start my list. It sets me up for success!
Set a Schedule. There is a time for a schedule and a time to be carefree. Keeping a flexible schedule is necessary when children of any age are involved because it provides the entire family with a framework within which to live - and for our children who need a schedule, they will thrive. In our family, we wake, get dressed, and make our beds (mostly). We have breakfast together and clean up. Chores are next followed by home school. In the afternoons, our schedules are different depending on the day. Monday is library day followed by band and orchestra. Tuesdays are music lessons. Wednesday we have History with other families. Thursday is my day to write. Friday is Family Fun night, so we work through the afternoon and enjoy dinner and a movie together. Saturday is a day for visiting family, working in the barn on the bigger projects, or during Cross Country season, we travel to meets. Sunday is Church and family. That’s our schedule. It’s subject to change on a weekly basis, but that is the basic plan.
Stick to the Schedule. A book is only useful if it’s read. A brush only works when you brush your hair. And a schedule only works if you work it.
Say “No.” Sounds super simple, but is actually difficult to put into play. There will always be fun play dates, great classes for your kids, lunch with friends, movies, concerts, pottery painting, extra activities at church, the list goes on. Decide how much time you need in your week to accomplish your goals, then respect the time you need to do that. It’s perfectly acceptable to say, “You know, that sounds great, but I’m going to have to pass. I’m trying to be diligent in keeping a schedule that works for my family and this will interfere with some plans we’ve made together.” That’s not the full story, not is it a lie. Use it. Other women will respect you for it and you might even inspire other women to free up their own schedules. But as you’ll see in the next tip, it’s not all no’s!
Set aside one day a month for you. From those who’ve heard that all moms need to take time for themselves, it’s true. But how much time do we need? Honestly, a little time each day is necessary, which is why I get up so early. But there are other needs as well: time with the husband, lunch with the girlfriends, afternoons alone. For me, my husband and I try to go on a date once a month. I schedule an afternoon or evening out with a girlfriend once a month. I also escape from my house once a month alone and spend hours in a bookstore or at the library. It’s not just one time a month that we need to schedule a time away from our home and children, but once a month with different people and for different purposes. This might not help you find more time to write (the task I’m always trying to make time for), but, speaking personally, these little ‘dates’ energize me in a way that is necessary; when I come to me own quiet time, I feel fulfilled, satisfied, and ready to write.
Keep a calendar with smaller squares. I do my very best to not over-schedule our days. The best way for me, being a visual learner, is to keep a calendar that looks full when I have 1 or 2 things written in for a day. If the day has anything written in, I hesitate to add more, and practice #5, saying No. Since moving from the city to the country, we’ve had to change that plan a bit - living at least 25 minutes from ‘in town’ activities, we do book several errands together to save on time and gas money. But on days we don’t go to town, we don’t go anywhere. The benefit? Compacted time doing errands = longer stretches of time at home = more time to stick to my schedule.
Track your progress. Every six months, I check my status on completed essays, projects, blog posts and novels. I track word count, pages written, anything that shows progress. I also keep a “To Read” list in my notebook and write the date that I finish each book after the title. I write a short review after my notes on that book, just as a means to spend a little more time reflecting on what I’ve read. It’s all a means to keep my self-education goals in forward motion. It also helps my children know that even Mom reads and writes as a part of her homeschooling process. (I do the same for running/walking/cross country skiing. It’s fun to see how many miles I cover in a year.) How does this helps find more time? Being intentional with tasks keeps the focus on progress and getting the job done, wasting less time.
Know the seasons. There are seasons of the year (and of life) when I just can’t have the same amount of time to write as in others. Speaking in annual terms, the winter is the best time to write. Spring and fall, not so much as my children run Cross Country and Track. Summer is gardening season and, to be honest, I’d rather be in the garden. I still fit 5-8 hours a week in for reading and writing, but that can stretch to 10-15 hours in the winter. During Summer months, I can read and write outside when I take breaks between tilling, sowing and mowing. Know your schedule, understand when your family needs you most, and make the most of the seasons that are less busy. There are times when I must schedule in the 'less busy' times. If I don't, my schedule is swept away in a torrent of chores, errands, and activities.
Hire out the things you can afford to hire out. This can save TONS of time, I just wish I could take better advantage of this! There was a day I had someone come twice a month to clean the house, but alas, we moved away. If I could hire a personal chef, I would! If there was someone who would do my meal planning, grocery shopping and meal prep for my family, they would have a full-time job. If you are fortunate enough to be able to afford these luxuries, do it.
Do it Right the first time. This is for those of us who can’t hire out help. We pick up and move mail, papers from school, etc. about seven times before we finally file it or throw it away. Don’t put it down, put it away. Everything likes to be in its home. Why waste the time? Spend your time doing what you love, not hauling junk around from room to room when it should be tossed. I sound like your mother, don’t I?
These are the tips, the hints, the gentle push you might need to take your personal goals to the next level. But it all comes down to this: be honest with yourself and make any changes you need to do to be the person you want to be; to achieve the goals, to lose the weight, to do the thing that will make you feel accomplished. I didn’t wake up one morning and implement all these changes. I discovered them gradually, implemented them slowly and repeatedly. I do well for a while, them slip a bit on my progress.
If you found this helpful, please let me know what your goals are. We can pray for each other as we both progress forward.