Little things add up!! If you don't believe me, try having one or two m&m's. Once you realize you've finished the bag, turn it over and read how many calories you've just consumed! The same goes with little time savers.
People ask me a lot how I get all the things done that I do in a day. After all, on top of being a Mommy to my 2 boys, I freelance up to 20 hrs a week as an industrial designer, I run 2 online retail websites, I do face painting for events, I am an active member of my church and local MOMS Club, I keep 5 blogs, I wash and fold cloth diapers, make my own baby food, make home movies and photo albums, cook dinner, scoop dog poop out of the yard, cut my husband's hair, run errands, prepare my on-the-market house for showings 10-15 times a month, and somehow manage to sleep. A little.
I've had a lot of people ask me how I find the time to do everything that I do. In addition to multitasking, multitasking, multitasking, and being very organized, there are many little things that I do throughout the day and week to save time, with the ultimate goal to be able to spend more time with my kids and less time doing boring stuff. Here are some of them...
Skip Grocery Shopping.
What? How do we eat?! I recently started taking advantage of my local grocery delivery service. I save at least an hour a week of driving, shopping, getting kids in and out of the car and cart, and find that I actually spend LESS money than I did when I'd try to tote 2 kids to the store and back. Seeing the list and grand total as I shop enables me to swap out items for less expensive alternatives, evaluate what we really need, and avoid tempting impulse buys. The website saves a list of everything I have purchased, so I can simply run down my own list of things I know I use without having to search for everything every time, saving even more time. I'd say that's all well worth the $5 delivery charge!
Utilize Drive-Through Services. (and I don't mean McDonald's! Okay, maybe I do, sometimes.)
Our vehicle has left no drive-through untouched. From the bank to the car wash to the pharmacy, every errand accomplished via drive through gives me more time playing with my kids and less time dragging them through boring errands. I mean look at them...your errand has now become so fast that you don't even have time to read the entire word "through," so they have to shorten it to "thru."
Skip the Post Office.
Who wants to spend their afternoon standing in line at the post office with antsy kids? Not me. I'd much rather be playing in the sandbox. So, even with two online retail businesses and packages to ship almost daily, I very, very rarely go to the post office. When shipping a package, I utilize the USPS's free carrier pick-up service. I order packing materials for free on their website which are dropped off at my door with no delivery charge. When I need stamps, I pick them up at the ATM (again, multitasking...and at a drive-through at that), for an extra dollar or less. Would you pay a dollar to avoid the long post office line and more getting-in-getting-out of the car with kids? Yeah, I thought you would. I'd pay five. I think now the post office delivers those for free too, if you have a couple days to wait for their arrival.
Don't Mess With Nap Time.
While my toddler's nap schedule has evolved as he's grown, whenever humanly possible I do not mess with it. It remains time blocked out on my schedule, etched in stone, equally as important as any one of my client meetings. Overtired kids lead to unhappy kids. Unhappy kids lead to me spending more of my day calming down tantrums and less time enjoying them or getting things done. Sammy also takes much longer naps when he goes down at the right time, which as you can guess, makes up the biggest chunk of productive freelance work time in my day.
Make lists and Prioritize.
I would like to take a moment to thank my mom, champion list maker, for passing on her list making gene to me. A few years ago my husband bought me a spiral bound book of three lists labeled with the following headings: "Today", "This Week," and "Someday." This has been incredibly instrumental, not only in my ability to immediately prioritize, but to clear my brain of my virtual to-do lists at night and be able to fall asleep!! There's just something so satisfying about crossing off things on a list!
And when I say prioritize, realize that your priorities may change daily, if not hourly, or minute-ly. (Is that a word?) Finding yourself so exhausted that you're not doing well on any items on your list? Time to add "nap for Mommy" to the top of your list and do whatever it takes to get that top priority done first. Think airline safety spiel... put on your own mask first, then assist others! You're no good to others if you've just run out of oxygen yourself!
Learn to Say No.
This is always a challenge for me, and as a woman you've probably heard this one a million times in every magazine and talk show you've seen. But, learning to turn down the things that aren't super important or that you know will add more stress than enjoyment to your life is key to optimizing the time you have.
Learn to Say Yes.
If someone offers to help you with something, let them. And if they don't offer to help you with something, ask them to. ;-) I have a hard time with this too, although when I do I can literally feel the stress lift off my shoulders and revel in the enjoyment of crossing off an item on my list that I didn't even have to do. Also remember to say yes to YOU, especially with questions like, "should I stop working and go sip a glass of wine in a hot bubble bath with a good book for a half hour?" or "Should I eat that piece of chocolate cake?" Yes. Yes, of course you should. Don't be silly.
Manage Other People's Expectations.
This is a big one that applies to my friends, family, my customers and clients alike. If I choose to take on something for someone, I figure out realistically how long it may take me to complete. Then I add on a little extra time, setting myself up to exceed expectations before I even begin. I make sure people know up front how long it will take, so that I don't disappoint anyone. I also make sure that the amount of time I quote is enough that I won't go into a sudden panic when I hang up the phone. Know your limits and hold yourself to them!
Make Boring Stuff Fun.
Okay, so you've done everything you can to be able to spend more time with your kids and less time with the boring stuff. But what if you still have some boring things left on your list? Turn them into a fun time with your kids. They'll take longer to do, of course, (okay a LOT longer) but you'll be accomplishing the most important task at the same time...playing! My son LOVES to vacuum and sweep. I can do it in 5 minutes during his nap, or a half hour with him, but I'm still getting it done in the end. Anything I can get done while kids are awake I consider a bonus, especially when it counts as "play time with Mommy" at the same time. Folding laundry can turn into a game of peek-a-boo with your baby. Make up a song about whatever you're doing. Raking leaves is always fun for kids too (or un-raking them). Let them "help" however they safely can.
Take advantage of "tied down" time.
When my kids are tied down in their car seats, not only can I quickly get my drive-through errands done, but I also often vacuum the car. I find it's worth the 75 cents at the gas station to get the whole car vacuumed in a couple minutes, rather than using nap time to haul the vacuum cleaner outside and do it in the driveway. Now that's just depressing. I'd much rather be napping too. When Sammy is occupied eating or coloring, I can get the entire kitchen cleaned up while still interacting with him and singing goofy songs.
Teach Your Kids to Play Alone.
Of course I don't mean toss junior a Rubik's Cube and then run off to the spa for a few hours. But you can still be in the same room, the next room, or just within earshot while your child plays on his or her own. (make sure it's a child safe room, obviously) It pays to start early on this, as it is something they learn and get more comfortable with over time. Teaching my kids this "skill" has enabled me to get some urgent, last-minute client work done in a pinch many times! (or laundry done, or toilets scrubbed, or dinner started...)
My iPhone has really freed me up and I can safely say has changed my life! In addition to the many app's that really save me a lot of time every day in a multitude of tasks, just being able to quickly get a glance at incoming emails has enabled me to spend a lot less time running up to my studio to check on my desktop. In seconds I can see if there's anything worth reading or urgently in need of a response, and only go spend the time at my desk if it is really needed. Last night I even ordered groceries on my phone, while sitting on the couch watching TV. I love technology!
Dinner Time Shortcuts
While it's great when you're in a pinch, you don't have to have pizza delivered or send your hubby through the drive through to have a quick meal. Some things that I do to prepare for those hectic days when I have not time to cook and we've exhausted the drive-through and delivery venues already are:
1) Use the crock pot. It's really helpful when you know you have a hectic evening ahead to get dinner basically done in the morning or afternoon!
2) Pre-cook & freeze hamburger. I'll often buy a big package of ground beef and brown it all at once, then freeze in 1 lb portions. I have so many recipes that are much faster when the meat is already cooked. (tacos, chili, hamburger helper, hot dishes, gumbo, etc...)
3) Keep some Easy non-perishable meals on hand. The other night I had no time to cook. I boiled a box of dry tortellini, heated up a jar of alfredo sauce, added some shake-n-bake'ed chicken breasts, and had a fancy looking meal in 20 minutes. I can also make chili in a flash by mixing the canned and dry ingredients with the pre-cooked hamburger in my freezer.
4) Frozen Veggies. I always keep a few bags of frozen veggies in the freezer. When I don't have time to make a salad or snip stems off of beans, I zap a bowl of peas in the microwave. Food group done.
These dinner shortcuts have given me many nights where my husband called on his way home asking what's for dinner, I answered "I have no clue yet," and magically had a full meal on the table when he opened the door. Don't get me wrong though, I do still have Dominos and Papa Murphy's on speed dial!
Here are a few more links to articles with time saving tips for moms. Got a great tip to share? Please leave a comment...I know I can still always use more!
13 Time Saving Tips for Busy Moms from iVillage
Time Saving Tips for Moms from Little Rock Family
Time Savers for Busy Moms from SheKnows Parenting
Time Saving Tips for Crazy-Busy Moms from Divine Caroline
15 Time Saving Kitchen Tips for Busy Moms from Baby Zone
18 Time Saving Tips from Real Simple