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Time Management: 6 Tricks For Parents To Stay On Track

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This post is part of Stress-Less Parenting Club's new workshop. Check out previous posts here, and if you haven’t signed up yet, go to the purple box on the right side of this page to receive our weekly newsletter.

It's no secret that time takes on a whole new dimension once you're a parent. What was once a 15-minute run to the drug store now takes an hour -- and that's if luck's on your side and and there's no diaper blowout or tantrum (or whatever kind of incident typically throws things off for you these days). Some days it feels like there's just no time left once you've checked all the boxes of daily family life, even if you only managed to check the most basic ones, like making sure everyone is clean (enough) and had some semblance of dinner. When you add a birthday party or a piano lesson or a soccer practice or all of the above to the schedule, the juggling act gets all the more intricate.

That's why we're so excited to announce that Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest, bloggers and authors of the new book Minimalist Parenting, are joining us to lead our second Stress-Less Parenting workshop. They say the key to enjoying family life more is to "step off the modern parenting treadmill." As Asha writes in her first blog post, "You -- and only you -- get to decide what's important to your family. Not the modern culture of 'more' and 'faster.' Not the experts. Not even your mother. You choose what your family considers valuable, enriching and fun."

When it comes to the things that we do need to get done, effective time management is key. So for Week One of this workshop, Christine and Asha offer six tips to help parents stay on track. Read them here and get their first challenge, then please give them a warm welcome in the comments!


Don’t Fall into the Multitasking Trap
We get that there’s only so much interruption you can control (you can’t exactly push the mute button on a toddler). But as much as you can, sharpen your focus. Turn off your e-mail, silence your phone, close Facebook and Twitter, and focus on the task at hand.

Tackle Your Hardest Thing First
We all have those nagging to-do items ... some require focused time (e.g., generating a budget) whereas others come with emotional weight (e.g., a difficult phone call you need to make). Either way, procrastinating depletes your energy -- every time your eyes hit that to-do list item and you don’t address it, it slows your momentum.

Try this: start with the most onerous item on your to-do list. Often, you’ll find that the task did not actually take that long, and you’re immediately feeling freer and ready to rock the rest of your day because that burden is lifted.

Schedule “Serendipity Space”
When you’re caught up in the routine of everyday life, it’s easy to forget that you’re modeling for your kids how to structure their time. Consider “padding” your activities with periods of quiet -- “serendipity space” -- where there is nothing to do and nowhere to go. That way, you can take advantage of the in-the-moment opportunities for puddle jumping or couch-cuddling that tend to get lost when there’s always someplace to be five minutes ago.

Take Advantage of “In-Between Minutes”
The more you use your calendar, the more you’ll notice little snatches of time throughout your day that are too short for anything substantial, but are perfect for one- to five-minute tasks and/or distraction breaks. The secret is to have those little tasks queued up in your to-do list so you can take advantage of the in-between minutes. Good “in-between” tasks include:

  • Making phone calls
  • Checking social media
  • Responding to email
  • Doing self-care tasks that fall by the wayside (e.g., nail filing, stretching)
  • Tidying up, even a single drawer or surface
  • Sorting the mail
  • Filing papers (or, better, shredding and recycling them)
  • Looking ahead in your calendar and to-do list to see where you could benefit from a little planning (for example, noting a birthday the following week so you remember to put a card on your shopping list)

Tweak Your Scheduling Style
We all continue to evolve in our relationships and realize new things about one another; sometimes these differences come to bear when the system reaches pressure points. Be open to tweaking your scheduling style, either to reach a compromise or to improve life.

Pause Before Saying Yes
Don’t say yes to things you and your family don’t want to do. Obligation is a difficult beast to battle, but really, what’s worse: declining an invite or task, or gritting your teeth and muddling through with “I don’t want to do this” mojo? Beyond the basic things you must do, reserve your energy for the things that make you feel happy and excited. No excuses necessary. Simply respond with “Thank you for asking/inviting us, but we’re unable to do it/attend.”


To put this week's tricks into immediate practice, we're challenging all of you to say no to at least one invite or task you don't want to do but might otherwise accept out of obligation or fear you'd disappoint someone. It could be a task your child's school is asking you to volunteer for, a "made-up" holiday that you just don't think merits a whole bunch of hooplah or an evening activity that requires a babysitter when you'd really rather be home in bed. The only requirement is that you take time you would like for yourself back.

Tell us -- what are your best time management strategies as a parent? How do you take advantage of "in-between minutes"? As you think about this week's challenge, we also invite you to leave your thoughts and tricks in the comments or to tweet them to us @HuffPostParents.

Excerpted with permission from Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More by Doing Less by Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest (Bibliomotion, March 2013).

Earlier on HuffPost:

What's Stressing Moms Out?
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