Are you a busy mom with zero time in the day to get everything done? Check out these tips on time management for moms you can actually apply!
For most of us moms, time management skills feel like it should be easy. Maybe you only have one child, not 10. You don’t have financial struggles or health issues that take up your extra time. Perhaps you’re still young, with no reason not to feel capable of managing your daily routine.
Why, then, does effective time management for moms feel impossible?
Sure, both you and your partner work, and you don’t have regular help from others. But your house is always a mess (weekend clean-ups don’t last too long). Your newborn keeps fighting sleep, and you have zero time to exercise or cook.
Everything can feel like a game of catching up with too many things going on. This doesn’t even count big picture tasks like saving for an emergency fund or potty training your toddler.
I know I’ve woken up with a million things on my to-do list: Pay the car insurance and take an inventory of our household supplies and essentials. Sign up for a parent-teacher conference time slot and sign off on the kids’ homework. Carve out time to find recipes and write a grocery list. Buy the birthday gift and pants for the kids. Oh, and we’re low on salt and olive oil.
I’ve also left a load of wet laundry overnight in the washer, forgotten my phone, and couldn’t find my shoes. We all have those days when we feel frazzled and disorganized.
Time management for moms
I know what it’s like to run a household with little ones to care for. Even if you’ve always been good with managing your time, being a new mom can change all that. Less time and more responsibilities can be overwhelming even for the most organized mom.
That said, if there’s one skill that has saved me more than once, it’s organization. I live on systems and routines and can schedule tasks like no other.
So, rest assured, if you’re at your wit’s end about how much time it takes to do everything, you’re not alone. Even better news: you can manage your household, run errands, and of course spend quality time with the kids without feeling completely burned out.
I’ll walk you through my best time management tips that have kept me sane even as a working mom with three kids. I rely on these tactics whether our days are humming along or when a catastrophe strikes.
The most important place to start? With your mindset.
For instance, don’t…
- Think you’re just not the organized type, or that family life is always hectic. Don’t cast yourself as a scatterbrain or that you’re stuck this way, because you’re not.
- Rely on your memory. Our heads can only take so much. Put your tasks into a “collecting” system, which we’ll get into more later.
- Think you’ll get it together once XYZ is finished. Don’t wait until something happens before you get going.
It’s these kinds of stories that make it that much harder to change. After all, you can’t fix the behavior if your very identity is rooted in the opposite of what you’re trying to change. Once you’re ready to commit to being the type of mom who can manage her time, you’re ready to start. Here’s how:
1. Plan and write everything down
No shame: I have two notebooks, a planner, a paper calendar, and a journal, all of which I use every day. This doesn’t even count the digital calendars, school calendars, spreadsheets, and Google Docs I rely on.
If using these resources feels overwhelming, consider how disorganized we can feel when we try to keep all this information in our heads.
Think of writing things down as a way to take one idea out of your mind and onto paper, so that you feel less overwhelmed with things you need to do.
Get a planner with a monthly calendar as well as a weekly overview. Schedule events and places to go on the monthly calendar, and write smaller details in the weekly schedule. No task is too small, either!
Planning and organizing doesn’t mean cramming your days with tasks, but taking a realistic view of what you can get done. You can’t donate old stuff to Goodwill after getting work done if you’re spending that time cooking dinner.
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2. Make lists
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Time management for moms relies not only on planning your schedule, but on making lists to stay organized. I use lists for everything, from grocery shopping to stickies on my laptop.
Like your planner, lists relieve your brain of remembering everything you need to do and organize them in one convenient place. You can make lists for:
- recipes for the week
- grocery shopping list
- errands or chores for the day
- household items you’re running low on
- activities you want to do with the kids
- goal-oriented lists (such as checklists for your next vacation)
For meal planning, set aside a day every week to gather recipes and write a shopping list, then another to shop for ingredients. Some moms save even more time with a meal planning subscription or meal prep delivery.
Another trick is to use your phone’s calendar to set reminders. For instance, I need to swap my contact lenses every two weeks. Even if I write it down on the calendar, I’ve forgotten to check my calendar and have lost track of when I need to swap. Now, my calendar notifies me so I don’t even have to check it.
Setting reminders is also useful for school tasks, like volunteering for activities or PTA monthly meetings.
Create an in-box in your home, whether an actual in-box, a place on your desk, or the entry way table. Choose a place for important items to go, and clear the area once you’ve taken care of them.
And take an inventory of your household supplies. Have you had to make an emergency run when you realized you’re down to your last paper towel roll? Write a list, or glance into your storage room or cabinet. See which items you’re low on, and which you have enough until the next shopping trip.
And if you see you are low on something, write it down so you don’t forget to buy it next time.
3. Take care of tasks online
Gone are the days when you’d have to drive from store to store to see if they carried the items you needed. Now, you can simply log online, browse at your own pace, and have your items delivered straight to your door.
These days, you can buy a ton of things online, from books to read to the kids’ shoes.
Besides shopping, you can also take care of many tasks online, like making car service appointments or paying bills. Speaking of which, set up automatic payments so you no longer have to remember deadlines or send in a check. A few payments you can automate include:
- insurance (auto, life, home)
- utilities (cell phone, internet, cable, electricity, gas, water, trash)
- services and memberships (big-box stores, educational or hobby memberships, grocery delivery)
And if you prefer doing certain errands in-person, batch them together to save on time and driving expenses. For instance, buy the office supplies you need, then drop books off at the library that’s on the way home.
4. Outsource tasks you don’t enjoy
Outsourcing isn’t just getting your house cleaned, but finding ways to get tasks done by others besides you.
Let’s say you spend over an hour shopping at the grocery store, but your grocery store might offer free pickup or delivery service for $10. Even with delivery, don’t think of it as $10 lost, but an hour gained to do something else.
Other tasks or duties you can outsource and save time include:
- meal prep services and delivery
- gardening and landscaping
- an accountant to handle your taxes
- someone to install your new coffee table
- a plumber to fix a stubborn clogged drain
- buying a gift already gift-wrapped
5. Revolve your life around your priorities
I don’t know how many times I’ve told myself that I needed to exercise—but still didn’t. I knew the importance of working out regularly, but everything else seemed to take precedence. From work to errands, I felt like I had zero free time to exercise.
But I realized I couldn’t keep blaming a lack of time or distractions. The truth was, I simply wasn’t making exercise a priority. You see, we don’t fit top priorities into our lives—we revolve our lives around our priorities.
What do you keep telling yourself to do but still haven’t done? Ask yourself if it truly is a priority, and if so, make the rest of your day fit around it, instead of the other way around.
Maybe that means waking up at 5am to exercise, setting time blocks to organize finances, or scheduling evenings for online courses. Only then do you fill the rest of your time with other tasks, once those priorities are set in your day.
I decided to make exercise a priority by working out in the backyard while the kids played. Rather than treating exercise as a secondary task, I put it front and center in my day.
6. Clean as you go
Does a massive chore list or cleaning day make you shudder? Consider cleaning as you go. Talk yourself into doing something right away instead of putting it off.
For example: Hang your coat once you get home instead of throwing it across the bed. Wipe the dining table after each meal to avoid build up gunk and strange textures (you know what I’m talking about). Even better: delegate these tasks to your kids, who can start doing chores regularly.
And write a chore list—with due dates. Not only do chore lists make sure your house stays clean, it also keeps things fair. No one person is doing everything.
Make a list of chores that fall between daily upkeep and deep cleaning. “Washing dishes” may not make it on the chore list because it’s a daily maintenance. But you can remind yourself to clean the tub, mop the floor, and dust the baseboards.
And don’t forget to declutter. The less stuff you have, the less you need to organize.
7. Interrupt your mom funk
Think of a time when you felt like a rock star mom. Your home was clean, dinner was planned, and you had a lot to contribute at work.
Then, think of the times when you felt like you were in a funk. The kids were fighting, you were barely able to tackle your to-do list, and to top it off, the car broke down.
Life ebbs and flows—we can’t control what happens, but we can control how we respond. We get into a “mom funk” because we allow ourselves to get sucked into the negative messages we tell ourselves over and over.
So, how do you interrupt your mom funk? By training yourself to respond to negative triggers with positive feelings.
Start by thinking about the things you tell yourself and later feel when times are good. Maybe you were proud of how you handled something at work or felt capable dealing with a tantrum.
Then, think about the triggers that make you feel down. What happens right before you feel bad about something? Is it the pile of dishes in the sink, or when you can’t seem to soothe the baby to sleep? Is it when you get frustrated with the kids fighting, or when you crash at bedtime, completely exhausted?
When they happen, don’t allow yourself to linger too long in self-pity or negative self-talk. Instead, remind yourself why you’re an amazing mom. Draw on your past experiences as well as self-affirmations on why you can handle this.
Dialogue with that negative self-talk and “prove” it wrong. Read resources to give you a pep talk, shake off the bad vibes, or call a friend to talk about how you feel.
And place a “pause” between the trigger and your reaction. As I say in my book, Parenting with Purpose:
“This pause can be as simple as taking a deep breath or acknowledging the situation by saying to yourself, ‘You’re fighting over the same toy’ or ‘She’s whining.’ A simple phrase can be all you need to keep you from reacting. And more importantly, that pause between your cue and the reaction you would’ve had breaks old habits.”
You don’t have to stay stuck with the same negative self-talk that only keeps you down. Remind yourself of how awesome you are, regardless of what life throws at you.
8. Expect changes (and be willing to make them)
One of the reasons we feel like we’re running the same race over and over is because we don’t make the changes to actually get us out of it. It feels easier to complain about our circumstances or even blame others for the way things are. But unless we decide to make changes, nothing new will happen.
And it’s not just about making a change and seeing where it goes. When you decide to take a different route, you need to expect something to change. You can’t pay lip service to something you want to turn around.
What are some changes you need to make? Maybe they’re smaller, more doable changes like waking up earlier in the morning or automating your bills.
Other times, we need to make bigger changes. The kind of change that might scare you, like telling your partner you want him to pitch in more, finding a new job, or sleep training your baby.
We can’t simply say we want things to be different without expecting anything to change.
9. Have a good life now
Some might believe our circumstances determine how we feel—that life would be much easier if we had more money, more time, or more help. And that if we don’t have these things, then the prospects of having a happy, organized life are non-existent.
But that thinking is actually backwards. We shouldn’t have to wait for circumstances to line up to be happy. In fact, we need to be happy first, and then we’ll likely find ourselves having more of what we want.
For instance, what do you tell yourself about being a mom? Do you chalk up your hectic schedule as the way it is, with few options to consider? Maybe you feel trapped, that there’s no way to spend time with the baby and earn the income you want.
These stories you tell yourself about being a mom reflect in the life you lead. You don’t have to look far to see what people think of themselves—you need only look at their lives and see exactly what they believe.
So, if you feel that being a mom means making sacrifices or always feeling stressed, then you’ll surely feel that way. But if you start telling yourself that anything is possible and you can be happy now, then your life will also follow.
Time management for moms can be a challenge, but certainly a doable one. It all starts with your mindset and replacing negative labels with more positive self-talk.
Then, adopt new small habits, like planning, writing everything down, and relying on lists for just about anything. Take advantage of online convenience, like automating regular payments and shopping online. Outsource tasks you don’t enjoy, even for small time-savers like grocery delivery.
Make the decision to revolve your life around your priorities, instead of trying to squeeze them into pockets of your day. Only when we make the time for important things will they actually get done.
Maintain a healthy dialogue with yourself, not only when you’re at a high, but even when you’re in a mom funk. Decide that you can have a good life now, without waiting for circumstances to line up before feeling happy.
Expect changes to actually happen, instead of only paying lip service without keeping your word or following through. And finally, implement simple changes for quick wins to help you stay afloat or give you the motivation you need.
Maybe you’ve felt unorganized for years, or are now overwhelmed with your responsibilities. With these principles and habits in place, time management for moms can be easy—without the burnout.
Get more tips:
- How to Spend Time with Your Family (Even as a Busy Mom)
- How to Be a Good Mom (Even When You Feel Discouraged)
- Want to Practice Minimalism with Kids? Focus on These 3 Key Areas
- 7 Reasons You’re Not Enjoying Motherhood
- Top 16 Books for Working Moms
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