9 Time Management Tips for Mums
A couple of weeks ago I got a lovely email from one of my readers, asking me how I found the time to do everything that I do, as she said she just didn’t have time to do anything and she wanted to know how I managed it. So I decided to pull together my time management tips for mums, for you lovely lady…and for all those other mums out there, banging their heads against brick walls as they try and find a way to fit it all in.
Before I go any further I want to give a bit of background on my almost 10 years as a mum, for those who don’t know.
I have 2 daughters, a 9 year old and a 3 year old. In the almost decade that I have been a mum I have been a working mum, a stay at home mum and a work at home mum. I have raised my kids in France, in London and now in Mauritius. I am married to my daughters’ father and we’ve never really had family around to help out on a day-to-day basis, although when we lived in London my parents were a 90 minute drive away so could be called upon to help in case of emergencies.
Now everyone has a different set-up, so I’m going to share my own time management tips for mums and what works for me, so that you can draw from that what might help you.
Time Management Tips for Mums N°1
Learn to be Little Miss Organised
When I was at university my housemates used to take the piss out of me because I was the one who organised everything – phone bills, nights out, you name it, I’d be the one organising it. And that’s the way I am. I am an organiser. This is something which helps massively when it comes down to time management for mums. I have an in-tray at home for home admin – letters, bills, kids’ party invitations and so on. This makes it easier for things to not go missing! I have reminders in my online calendar for PE kit days, for school bake days, sports day, dress like a pirate day and for anything else that I might be required to do something for!
Ben and I have both used Google Calendar for years, and we share our calendars with each other, so we can both see at a quick glance – on our phones or our computers – if the other is around and any activities the kids have planned. This helps massively to avoid double booking, and also to make sure there is always someone around to parent!
Time Management Tips for Mums N°2
When Léna, our eldest, was born we had a cleaner who came once a week to give our house the once over. As neither Ben nor I are particularly stressy about house cleanliness, this meant we didn’t do any cleaning the rest of the time. Since then we have had a cleaner most of the time we’ve been parents, and I would rather eat pasta and lentils every day to pay for my cleaner now than go without!
After we moved to London we discovered that childcare is just a tad more expensive than in France (as in 70€ a month in France and £80 a day in London) – ouch! So we decided to get an au pair. Whilst this is not the solution for everyone, it worked brilliantly for us! We didn’t have a huge home – we were in a 3 bedroomed house with one bathroom and toilet, and the idea of sharing it with a stranger was a tough decision to make at first. But we decided to give it a go and see how it went. It turned out to be a fantastic solution!
At the time Ben and I were working full-time and we left the house at 8am, not getting back until 7pm, and sometimes later. Léna was 4-5 years old at this stage so it was great to be able to leave her at home in her pyjamas when we left for the day, and not have to get her dressed, fed and out the door to childcare. Our au pair also used to give her a bath in the evening, so when we got home from work we didn’t have the horrific bath meltdown to deal with 🙂
Before we got an au pair we thought they were for rich people but they are by far the most economical childcare option (in London at least). We used to pay £70 per week for 25 hours of childcare from 8am-7pm Monday – Friday, and in addition we could ask for up to 2 evenings of babysitting a week, one during the week and one at the weekend (we also used to pay our au pair’s Oyster card so she could travel “for free”).*
Our first au pair started off well and then went steadily downhill and we had to terminate her contract, however our second one was INCREDIBLE, and Léna built up a fantastic relationship with her (she even came back twice to stay with us for holidays after leaving). I cannot recommend the au pair option enough – it certainly worked brilliantly for us!
Now that we live in Mauritius, household and childcare help is incredibly reasonably priced so we have much more free time here which is just brilliant.
Time Management Tips for Mums N°3
Split up the tasks
I definitely picked a good man to marry. Ben has always been really good about helping out round the house, both pre and post kids. He’s an incredible cook and also really enjoys it, and over the years of living together we have worked out what chores work best for each of us.
When I was a stay at home mum and on maternity leave we both agreed that I would be the 1950s housewife who does all the chores, because he was out at work all day, working in a very demanding job. But once I went back to work we sat down and worked out who should do which tasks and I highly recommend doing this.
Sit down together with something to drink once the kids are in bed and draw up a list of every single last chore that has to be done – right down to taking the bins out and answering invites to kids’ birthday parties. Say which you’d most like to do and which you’d really hate to do, throw in a healthy dose of compromise and hopefully by the end of a bottle of wine you’ll have hashed out who does what.
For us it was a bit of a no-brainer – Ben loves cooking so he opted for the food chores: cooking and shopping. I am not a fan of shopping but don’t mind doing the washing and I didn’t want to leave admin tasks to Ben, so I ended up with washing, paperwork and washing-up while Ben got cooking and shopping. Once we knew what our chores were there were very few arguments because we knew whose role it was. It also meant I could plan my time based on what I needed to do every day. When it comes down to the household tasks there are some time-savers that are worth knowing.
Time Management Tips for Mums N°4
Don’t stress the small stuff
The way I see it I have two options:
- My house can be perfect, my children can be impeccably dressed with clean, ironed clothes and be beautifully coiffed but I don’t ever get to spend time with them, as I’m so busy making sure my house is perfect, my children are impeccably dressed and so on.
- My house can be messy and mostly clean, my children can be in mostly clean, slightly crumpled clothes with hair that could do with some decent sorting out but they get cuddles, tickles, a listening ear and an unstressed, unshouty mummy.
9 times out of 10 I’m going to go for option 2. Mostly because I’ll pick cuddles over ironing any day of the week!
So I’ve learnt not to stress the small stuff anymore. It also helps that I don’t really care what other people think of me. They may well be whispering behind their hands “look at Sophie’s kids, they’re always so messy!” but I really don’t care. I’m happy and my kids are happy which is all that counts really, in my book anyway.
Sometimes it does bite me on the bum though – just last week our 3 year old, Clémence, only had one pair of clean knickers left to wear, I grabbed them, put them on her and didn’t think anything more of it. But on the walk to school she kept playing around with her knickers, through her dress, which is strange as she’s not really a fidgety child. So I lifted up her dress to see what was going on and her knicker elastic had completely gone, so every step she took saw her knickers fall down just a little bit more. Poor thing! So I ended up carrying her on my shoulders the rest of the way, and explaining it to her teachers at school. Thankfully she had a spare pair of knickers in her bag, so I didn’t feel too bad. I have made a mental note now to check clothes are good to go the night before 😉
Time Management Tips for Mums N°5
What can be dumped?
When I first moved to France I would run around like a headless chicken trying to find decent birthday cards and calculate postal times to get them to numerous friends and family members. Christmas was a whole other level of stress. Christmas cards don’t really exist in France, so sending them was a nightmare, I would end up buying them in the UK the year before and would be terrified I wouldn’t have enough. Until one year Ben told me just to forget cards. He was all “what’s the big deal?”. So I sent a message to my friends and family, telling them that it was too hard to keep up with birthday cards and Christmas cards from France, and I just stopped like that.
I’m pretty certain I’ve not lost any friends or family over it. But what I have lost is an enormous amount of stress and what I have gained is a huge amount of time 🙂 Now I just do birthday cards for Ben, our girls, my siblings, nephews and nieces and my parents.
What time-consuming activities can you stop now? Or what can you multi-task? The other day I had a Skype planned with my mum but I had loads of wrapping up to do (that’s a whole other story!), so I set my laptop up on the table and chatted to her while I wrapped, meaning I didn’t have to cancel our call but got through my to do list too 🙂
Time Management Tips for Mums N°6
Keep work time for work
Way, way back in the day when I first started working in an office there was nothing to do when at work other than work. There were no mobile phones and no internet. Your computer was your work tool and with the exception of calling friends when at work, or reading a book, you couldn’t do anything except work when you were in the office.
Now it’s so easy to get distracted, whether you work in an office or for yourself. Our phones ping, buzz and vibrate with exciting news. We get pop-ups on our computers and are constantly being invaded by messages that it is hard to actually get on with the job at hand sometimes. This makes it hard to be as productive as we could be when it comes to our work.
I am very strict with myself when I’m sitting down to get some work done. My phone gets switched to an internet-free zone and I disable all notifications on my computer. This means I’m more productive as I’m not being constantly disrupted and enticed into doing something more fun! It also makes it easier to stay focused and in the zone of my work.
I used to spend huge amounts of time on social media, and I’m sure some people still think I’m on it all the time, but this is due to carefully timed and scheduled posts. I went on a digital detox a couple of years ago as I was getting absolutely obsessed, going online first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Since then I’ve not been into social media in the same way at all. I still love it but now reserve it for set times, so will have an hour long splurge for example but then not touch it for the next 24 hours.
Time Management Tips for Mums N°7
If you don’t have time to do it, if you don’t want to do it, if it’s not something you ought to do. Say NO. If you’re a crowd-pleaser or a bit of a pushover it’s so easy to find yourself saying YES to everyone and everything.
Will you make a thousand cakes by tomorrow morning for yet another bake sale?
Will you organise the school summer fair?
Will you run yourself into the ground because you didn’t find the courage to say NO?
Just remember that when you say YES it should be because you want to – whether you want to do it, or you want to help, it should be a want to. If you’re doing it against your will you’ll be regretting every single minute involved, and that is time away from your kids, your to do list, your couple time, your Me Time.
I used to be a real YES person but realised I was driving myself into the ground whilst everyone else was sitting with their feet up, a glass of wine in hand, watching Downton Abbey! So I started to say NO little by little, and it was quite liberating. So now I only say YES when I really mean it. Why don’t you try it too?
Here are some phrases that can help if you struggle to say that two letter word:
“I’m really sorry but that’s going to be tricky for me.”
“I’m afraid but that’s not going to be doable for me.”
“I’m pretty certain I’m busy then but let me check and get back to you.” (It’s easier to go away and prepare a NO than to try and come up with one on the spot.)
Don’t feel bad about it. If it is making you exhausted, taking you away from your family time, or much-needed down time then you need to say NO.
Time Management Tips for Mums N°8
Sometimes there is just so much to do that you don’t know where to start and overwhelm sets in.
If this sounds familiar you need to get yourself a list. Or ten.
Find a to do list that works for you – in the past I’ve used Trello and Toodledo. At the moment I’m finding that Workflowy works for me best, but play around and see what is easiest for you, your way of working and what’s on your plate.
When you’ve got things to do, whack them on your list, get some kind of priority order in place and then just work through it. Don’t stress the size of your list or what you’ve not done, just work through it, ticking off as you go.
If you’re not sure what order to do your tasks in, remember to eat that frog first!
Time Management Tips for Mums N°9
Take time out
This might sound counter-productive but if you are on the go 24/7 you’re going to struggle to do anything of much value. You’ll be a shouty mummy, a nagging wife, a stressed out friend and an inefficient worker.
Take some time out for you. This might be as simple as a bath and a glass of wine. It could be a spa day. Maybe a whole weekend away. Or perhaps your idea of time out is going for a run. Whatever it is, book it in and make sure you take time for your own self-care!
Hopefully my suggestions here have helped you to carve out the time you need to get your stuff done, without going crazy! I’d love to hear your own time management tips for mums, so do share any in the comments below, you never know who it might help today 🙂
Being indecisive takes up an awful lot of time and if it’s something you suffer from grab my free video guide to decision-making and facing your fears.
Take care and remember to put your oxygen mask on first!
Disclosure: I’m not being paid to share any of these links they’re all genuine recommendations.
* Please note that this was according to the rules back when we had an au pair, these have since changed (although it still remains a very reasonably-priced childcare option), find out the current guidelines for the UK here.