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3 Tips for Working Moms With Too Much to Do

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"I wish there were more hours in the day." How often have you said that or something similar?

We say that often intending to imply that if we only had more time then we would get the rest we need or slow down to a more normal pace. But chances are that if we did have more hours in the day, we would immediately fill them up with more things to do instead of creating the space we need to take a much-needed break.

We don't really need more time in the day. What we really need are strategies to better manage our time. The concept of time management is not new: most of use schedules, planners and apps to make us more productive. What's lacking though is the prioritization, decisions, and boundaries required to ensure that the schedule works not just for your job, family, friends and commitments, but it supports the quality of life you want.

One of the things I hear consistently from women in my network is that they are overworked and on the edge of being burned out. When I ask them if they have purposely carved time out for themselves and protected that time regardless of who makes a demand, they look at me as if I have just acquired two heads.

Too many of us, especially working mothers, put time for ourselves last on our list of priorities. It seems to slip our minds that if we get run down (and it really is more of a "when" than "if") we put ourselves at a higher risk of being out of commission and unable to care for our loved ones. I've often wondered why we are only willing to take a rest once we get sick or when we are forced to by sheer exhaustion.

Tip#1: Itemize the things on YOUR list.

Start by making a list of all the task you have to do this week. The things that have to get done. Not your wish list. Not what other people want you to do. And not the things that you can delegate to other people in your house (like husbands, kids, live-in guests). Once you've got a complete list, go back to the very top of your list and add your name. If your name or doing something for your self was already on the list, give yourself a pat on the back and make sure it is at the top. I recently suggested to a client that creating more time in her schedule for herself, started with her recognizing that she is more important than her job. Maybe for you, it's something or someone else that has become more important than you, and you constantly sacrifice your needs and wants in a way that borders on being unhealthy.

Tip #2: Now that you have your list, you have some decisions to make.

Unless you've done a really good job of filtering, you probably have a list that is way too long to be realistic. First, make a decision to carve out time for yourself, it doesn't have to be a bug chunk of time. Try setting aside 15 minute blocks of time for yourself. Use the time to walk, read, take a nap, call a friend. Make a list of things you can do in 15 minutes so when you take the time you don't spend it trying to figure out what to do.

Next, decide on the number of things that are number one priorities. Will you have four things or just two things that must get done? Choose what you can realistically handle. That does not mean that you won't get to other things, it just allows you to take some of the pressure off that comes from feeling like you have to do everything now. It's much easier to invest your attention on four things, than scatter anxious thoughts among the 20 things on your list. Please note that this is not procrastinating, you're not putting it off out of avoidance or fear. You are wisely taking control of your clock and taking care of yourself.

Tip#3: Prepared with your list and your top priorities, it's time to set some boundaries.

Start with setting healthy boundaries in your relationships. This includes relationships at work and with friends. It also means setting limits and keeping promises to yourself. Most of us wouldn't dream of breaking a promise we made to someone else, and if we did, we'd spend days feeling bad about it. But we break promises to ourselves all the time, crossing the boundaries that we've set for ourselves. Until we matter enough, we will continue to dishonor ourselves by breaking our promises and running over the boundaries we've set.

While it's true that no one gets more than 24 hours in a day, we all have power over how productive we are with our 24 hours. Managing time is more than just the ability to layout an organized schedule. True time management means setting priorities that for what's really important to you, making wise decisions that help you set realistic goals, and setting firm boundaries that allow you to happily keep the promises you make to yourselves and others.