Time Management Skills
There are several skills that are essential to any method of time management. Gaining these skills puts you at an automatic advantage – whether you learn an existing management system or develop your own.
Decisiveness is the most important skill, or habit, for you to develop. It has also been for me, personally, one of the hardest. I can remember hating being asked “where do you want to eat” as my parents drove by all the fast food restaurants in town. Being indecisive, or “wishy-washy” just kind of grew up along with me.
Unfortunately, it's a horrible habit. As a mother and as an entrepreneur you need to make solid, confident choices – and you often need to make them quickly. You need to decide the order of your priorities. You need to decide what to do right now without going back and forth… and wasting more and more time.
Remove hesitation from your life. Start by making quick decisions during your working time. Don't spend more than 60 seconds on a choice. At the end of 60 seconds you're done – it's time to decide. Flip a coin if you need to.
As you work on developing this habit, you get better at it – and more confident. You can apply it to situations with your children and feel good about it.
If you really need to think something through, do it at a time that's normally “down-time” – while you're cooking dinner, driving a child to lessons, waiting in line at the store, etc. That's a good time to ponder over a decision that takes more effort.
Follow a Routine
I've written about schedules and routines elsewhere on the site, but the bottom line is, you need a routine. Get into the habit of sticking to a routine. As you first start to develop a routine or schedule for yourself or your children you'll have some false starts. You'll need to go back and “tweak” things. But eventually you'll develop a routine that keeps yourself and your children happy.
Stick to your routine and you'll get more done. It works, it really does. Sure, once in awhile things will interrupt. Kids will get sick, grandparents will come to visit, and field trips will be enjoyed. But in general, stick to a routine so you have time to manage your home, care for your family, and work on your business.
Multi-tasking will ruin your ability to get anything done. There are times that multitasking can work. You can listen to a lecture while you cook supper, read an article while you wait in line at the grocery store, or dream up your next business idea while you're in the shower. But in general, multi-tasking while you're trying to work on a task is counter-productive.
Instead, prioritize your tasks and then focus on one task until it's completed – or you've gotten as far as you can without something else happening or somebody else assisting.
I'm a mom and I know that the reality of life as a mom is that you're going to get interrupted, you're going to have kids in your lap, and sometimes you have to do two things at once. I try to keep reading that needs to be done on my list of “to-do's.” If my baby needs to nurse or my child needs a cuddle while I'm working, I pull up the reading material and go through that while my baby is nursing or I'm rocking a little one. Then I go back to the task I was on. (do remember to just treasure those sweet moments with your child sometimes, however!)
The above time management skills bring in another important one – learning to prioritize. You have to decide which things need to get done first before you can really use your time effectively.
This goes in context with your other skills. For instance, if you've developed a routine you don't need to put certain tasks on your list to keep them as “priorities.” An example is lunch – you know that you prepare it at 11:30am. You don't need to put that on your list and mark it a “high” priority. If you check and answer your email at 7:30pm every night, you don't need to make “check email” a task.
This runs along with being decisive as well. Go through your list and look at the things that you've put down. Which things need to get done today (which are so important you'll stay up late to finish them)? Those are the things you need to act on first. Some may be mundane, such as “scrub toilet before Grandma arrives this evening.” Others may be exciting “Prepare notes for tonight's mastermind call.” It doesn't matter. Decide which things are the highest priority based on how soon they need to get done. Be decisive. Flip a coin if you have to.
As you get used to putting things into perspective and prioritizing, you'll become faster at it. You'll also get better at being decisive. It's OK to feel like you can't make up your mind at first – just practice. Pick what needs to be done most. Get started on it, and stick with it (don't multi-task). Soon you'll have mastered these basic time management skills and you'll be able to apply them to any time management system you choose.