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Time Management...

It doesn't matter how much money you have, or space, or people to clear up after you, time flies by at the same speed for all of us. Many years ago the Civil Service invested a fair bit of money in teaching me to manage working time effectively; I'm not sure whether they'd appreciate just how useful that training has been in my family life! "Critical Path Networking", teamwork & delegation have got me through many a hospital visit with children visiting different clinics on different floors at apparently the same time.

Yet I still have trouble "prioritising", struggle to get from one Parent/Teacher meeting to another, bite off more than I can chew and end up feeling like a worn-out dishrag, snapping at my equally tired & dispirited children, who have probably done nothing to deserve it.

"Routines" are a lifesaver in the early days, and all children benefit from getting to school in good time, fixed but flexible mealtimes and bedtimes and having a predictable shape to their days. But as we get to the teenage years, our children want to push the limits as many of their friends do, and we do need to be able to respond differently to different needs, but we also need to maintain the basic routines for the rest of the family. Not to mention time on our own together, or even just on our own, to pursue our hobbies and just unwind...

One thing I've learnt is not to put things off. Every time I postpone hoovering the living room I'm just clobbering myself with having to do it in a terrible rush, with "helpers" underfoot, and guests arriving in 5 minutes... There are plenty of jobs that can wait a year or two, like redecorating, while you give your time & energy to your children, but put off doing the washing up for two days and it becomes a much harder and nastier task as well as putting everyone's health at risk. There are also jobs we all take for granted because - well, everyone just does them! - like ironing, which we really don't need to do nearly as much we think we do. So the first task is to work out which jobs are really important, which will be beneficial but aren't essential, and which can safely wait until you do have some "spare" time. Then DO the urgent jobs, instead of having that cup of coffee!

The second thing is to be realistic; I sometimes write myself lists of things I would like to acheive by the end of the day/week/year, then get dispirited when I haven't "done it all". But if I'd been more realistic and allowed a bit of slack for the sheer unpredictability of life in a larger family, i.e. sick children, trips to Casualty, mice blowing up my cooker etc., I would realise that I have actually acheived a reasonable amount in the circumstances.

The third idea I've found particularly beneficial is to keep informed about what's coming up & allow a sensible amount of time for each big task. Sometimes I've been caught on the hop and only been able to give 10 minutes to help with a big homework project, when if I'd only known a week beforehand I could have "scheduled" a couple of hours to help. Or had to dash to the shops and buy the first (expensive) pair of football boots that are vaguely the right size, instead of being able to shop around. This may involve actually searching through your children's school bags if yours are as reticent and/or forgetful as mine seem to be!

Leslie Harrelson has emailed me a simple & elegant solution to the problem of co-ordinating the family calendar:

"We are a family of 6 and all of the girls are constantly busy with school and outside activities year round. In addition to this John and I have busy schedules as well with work and outside obligations and I know I am not alone when I say that I HATE last minute delegation of my time. We rely largely on the some of the girls being able to drive themselves and each other occasionally.

We keep a large desk calendar (a 52 week calendar) that shows 7 days on each page. If you have something happening whether it be school, work or play you are responsible for putting in on the calendar for everyone to see. I look at this calendar each evening to schedule my coming day. The hard fast rule is that if itís not on the calendar then itís not going to happen. This was difficult at first but you would be amazed at how quickly your children, you and your significant other start to remember log their coming activities and events.

This is not only a great way to schedule our time but it also letís us know where everyone is supposed to be and when your children start driving themselves this is absolutely something you're going to want to know.
Hope this helps you, it has really helped us." I rather think it will... thank you, Leslie!

SIMPLIFY! Don't take on more than you can handle. I learnt this the hard way, doing far too much, none of it particularly well... But as a very wise visiting preacher said in our church not long ago, "In England, you have clocks. In Africa, we have Time..." If your life is ruled by the clock, look hard at your commitments and see what you can pass on to others.

But the biggest and most important step is undoubtedly the quickest & easiest, too - it's just taking the decision to MANAGE your time effectively, instead of rushing around like a headless chicken, struggling to stay on top of crisis after crisis, and flopping in exhausted heap at the end of every day, then realising that no-one's done the washing up...

So here is a list of links to sites with some good ideas for Time Management - please let me know of any that have helped you get on top of the clock!

and since my favourite organisational tool has to be the List, here's a list of lists!

 

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