Are you scrambling for more time as you juggle work and family? Many of us say we’re busy, but it turns out we have more time than we think. Here’s why.
Moms, we’re busy.
We suffer from chronic sleep deprivation. We work outside the home. And even more of us prepare meals, help with homework and clean the house. The ubiquitous “having it all” can’t seem further from the truth. Especially when the decision to perform well at work and at home seems to only fall on our shoulders.
No wonder we feel like we have no time.
Except author Laura Vanderkam has found that many of us do have more time than we think. In her book, I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time, she interviewed working moms with six-figure incomes to see how they get things done. Somehow these women are able to earn high incomes and spend time with their kids.
What’s their secret?
2 reasons you have more time than you think
If you’re like me, you may have assumed they outsource their tasks with personal chefs, trainers and nannies. Except that’s not what Vanderkam found. These moms still do many of their own household tasks, some even without a partner.
If you think you don’t have enough time, look closer. It turns out you probably have more time than you think.
#1: Things can be “good enough”
The spotless house. The gourmet meals. The bento box lunches complete with cute notes to our kids. Moms have taken parenting to a new level that’s difficult to achieve, much less perfect. We measure ourselves by how much we do that it’s become overwhelming.
This isn’t a call for messy homes or fast food dinners. Instead, pick a few tasks that are important to you, and accept that everything else is good enough.
Because given the time and space, we feel obligated to do housework rather than relax. We believe that busying around the house is a sign of a good mom.
We set out to organize so we can do less. But it turns out we end up doing more. These organization systems may contribute to us feeling like we have no time. Moms with admirable organization were the same ones who also spent more time cleaning.
[P]eople in what I’ll call the “Good Enough Camp”—and I would include myself in this—just have a different attitude about chores in general. We outsource what we can depending on our budgets and preferences, and we’ve also realized that we’re not participating in some game show that gives us points for having empty clothes hampers. There is no daily eleven p.m. home inspection, with someone coming into our homes and noting whether all the toys are put away. Remember: the toys will just come out again the next morning, whereas you’ll never get that time back. Consciously choosing to spend less time on things you don’t enjoy leaves more space for things you do.”
If you want more time with your kids, choose to spend less time doing other things.
Still, I also understand that I don’t need to bleach the kitchen sink every night. I’m fine with the toys sitting at a random arrangement on the shelves, even if they don’t look pretty. And I base my days on a loose schedule, not one tracked by the minute.
Be okay with “good enough,” not perfection. Define what’s important, and leave everything else. Then, use organization systems to help you, not make you feel overwhelmed. They’re meant to free your time, not fill it.
#2: Calculate your hours by the week, not by the day
If I asked you how many hours you work a week, what would you say? 40? 55? 65 or more?
We tend to overestimate our working hours because we value overworking and outperforming. Working long hours makes for juicier stories than “I work regular hours and came home by 5:30pm.” And we often forget how many hours we work.
So if you only look at your 10-hour day, you might say you work 50 hours a week. Instead, take a look at your entire week and calculate your hours then. Because if you’re like many of the studies in Vanderkam’s book, you might find you work less than you think.
Where do the extra hours come from? For one thing, even though you’re in the office for eight hours, you’re not working all eight of them. You take breaks and chat with coworkers. Even at your desk, you don’t always work the entire time.
Second, we don’t take into account the whole week. You might remember how you stayed at work until 8pm on Tuesday. But you’re likely to omit that you came in late the next day to make up for it.
And if you have a flexible or unpredictable schedule, this is even more common. My husband is a perfect example of this. Just last Saturday, he had to work from 9am to 2pm on top of his regular work week. Other times he doesn’t get home until 8 or 9pm.
If I remember only these days, I might say he works a whole lot more than the typical 40 hours per week.
But he’ll also have days when he doesn’t work until 10am or leaves the office by 3pm. Or the many vacation days he’s able to take. He has an unpredictable schedule that allows him to do school drop offs and pick ups often.
This doesn’t deny the genuine overworked schedules many working parents endure. Many truly do work well beyond 40 hours even taking into account the entire week, month or even year.
But for many of us, try and calculate your hours by the week. You may find that the average time you work may not be as long as you thought.
We all have the same 24 hours, but somehow, others seem to know exactly what to do with theirs. And they seem to rely on two ways to find that time: being okay with good enough, and taking an overall look at their schedules.
Turns out, finding more time isn’t about getting everything perfect. Instead, be okay with “good enough” by prioritizing only what’s important. Then, take a look at your week as a whole instead of multiplying a long workday by five.
You just might find that you have more time than you think.
If you’re like me, you could use reminders and to-do lists. I made one you can print as a reminder of everything you need to pack for the next day. You can also list your to-dos, from simple tasks to grander plans. Download it below:
Get more tips:
- How to Make Time for Yourself (Even If You Have Kids!)
- Can’t Remember the Last Time You Read a Book? Start with These 26 Book Recommendations
- Time Management Tips for Your Evenings with the Kids
- Smart Ways to Cope When You Feel Tired All the Time
- 9 Quick Actions You Can Do Today to Make Extra Time for Your Family
Tell me in the comments: How many hours would you say you worked? Do you agree with the author that we overestimate our hours and have more time than we think?
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