While video games existed when I was a child (contrary to popular belief I’m not that old), I never had my own video game system. I did, however, have cousins that had Nintendo or Game Boy systems. We played a variety of games but one of my favorites was Tetris. If you do not remember the game, the basic premise was that different shaped blocks would fall from the top and you had to move them and turn them to fit as closely as possible at the bottom. If you did not plan well or just let them fall you would quickly have blocks stacked to the top and lose the game.
As a mother of four, small business owner, blogger, 4H leader, church volunteer and multiple other roles I stay fairly busy. One question I often hear is how do you fit it all in? Before I get to far into how I fit it in, I want to first say I am not advocating that you take on more than you can handle, leave no white space, or worship busyness. It is okay to have down time, it is okay (even good) to say no to opportunities that would overwhelm your schedule or resources. The concepts and tips in this post are designed to help you best utilize your time to complete those tasks that you need or want to complete not pressure you into taking on more obligations.
When I played Tetris if I just let those pieces fall how they came I was sure to lose in mere moments. With time management and planning if I just let the schedule and the obligations fall I will surely be overwhelmed and probably dropping the ball. When we plan our schedules it is important to look not only at all the small pieces but also at the big picture. If I know that Tuesday nights are busy because of American Heritage Girls then maybe I say no to other obligations on Tuesdays or maybe I schedule afternoon appointments on Tuesdays because I know we are already out of the house.
Planning ahead allows me to minimize those frantic days when I have too much to do and not enough time to do it. Those days where you realize you have 3 appointments, cupcakes to bake, a blog post due, company coming over, and the house isn’t clean are no fun. When I look ahead and know what is coming up I can use time to prepare. For example, if I know Tuesday is going to be really busy and I need to have cupcakes for Tuesday afternoon, I plan ahead and bake them on Sunday or Monday when I have more time. I can prewrite my blog post the week before and have it scheduled to post during a week where I have too many other commitments.
I use a Google calendar to track all of that because it works well for allowing my husband to see what is going on and add anything that he schedules to the calendar. You can certainly use other planners or programs but the important thing is to have something that shows all of your obligations. When you have your sons ball schedule on one calendar, your church obligations on another, and your daughters dance schedule on a third it is easy to overbook your days. When someone asks if we can participate in an event I can quickly and easily look at my calendar and see what else is going on and whether or not it will fit into our schedule.
In addition to basic scheduling planning ahead can look like meal planning and including crock pot or instant pot meals on those busy days when you don’t’ have time to cook. It is knowing that December is a busy month and getting certain tasks done ahead of time so that you have some breathing room during the holidays. I try to have my Christmas cards made and ready to mail the day after Thanksgiving and most (if not all) of my shopping completed by ‘Cyber Monday’. It might mean gathering all of the things you need for an event the week before because the day before is busy with some other obligations.
My children participate in several organizations that have major events such as Junior Historians history competitions, 4-H presentations, and 4-H State Fair projects. If I wait until the last minute these times can become overwhelming and they do not turn in their best work. Since I know those things are coming, I can work them into our schedules. I start months ahead by having them decide what projects and topics they will be working on. I also use that information to determine if I can combine any of these projects with other schoolwork. For example, this month my children are working on a research paper for their writing that will be turned into the Junior Historians competition next month.
When we take the time to look at our calendars and our obligations and plan ahead, we can make the pieces of our lives fit together in a way that reduces stress and overwhelm. Some days it feels like you do not have time to plan and work ahead, but those few minutes of strategic planning will pay off in a calmer and easier to manage schedule. I still have those occasional days where I did not plan well or life throws one too many curve balls but overall, things run much smoother and I do a better job keeping all the balls in the air when I have planned ahead and fit the pieces of our puzzle together with care.
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