Two words—time management.
One minute you think you’ve got it figured out, and the next, everything is in chaos again.
My wife and I constantly felt like circus performers; you know, the ones that spin plates on those little sticks, and you’re just waiting for them to all come crashing down. Balancing our life with five kids, a career, getting dinner on the table at a reasonable time, trying to keep our home picked up just enough so it wouldn’t be embarrassing if company stopped in, and so much more was just exhausting.
Throw our life goals in the mix, and we didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. We kept wondering, what can we do to find more time in the day?
It all seemed so overwhelming—every day of the week. Even Sundays. Have you ever tried getting five kids ready for church and being early enough so your family of 7 can sit together? It all takes time. So. Much. Time.
Or does it? Does it take a LOT of time, or does it take better time management to find more time in the day?
We reached a point where we felt like we were drowning, and the only option was to make time to figure out what needed to give.
How to find more time in the day.
1. Write everything on one calendar, and don’t lose it!
Sports practice, school events, extracurricular activities, birthdays, appointments—jot it all down on the same calendar. Doing this allowed us not to overschedule our family on any particular day.
Angela and I take this a step further by using Google Calendar on our phones. Using Google Calendar on our phones allows us to schedule everyone in our family to have a shared calendar. We color code each person, set up reminders, and this helps our week run smoothly.
We even color-code extended family birthdays and wedding anniversaries. Woohoo! Bonus points to us for being on top of it!
Keeping a calendar gives us the ability to spread the love by evenly distributing the activities that we have scheduling control over amongst those we do not.
2. Communicate with your spouse.
Each morning, Angela and I make it a point to briefly chat about what is on our schedule for the day. Whether this is running kids around or my busy workday full of meetings, we let each other know.
We try, but not every morning do we get to chat. Enter your cell phone! It doesn’t take much to send a quick text to your spouse. If you haven’t already, look into using and getting familiar with your talk to text feature. I can’t say I’m a fan, but Angela gets a TON of use out of it. She can keep her eyes on the kids and still send a text to me without ever looking at her phone.
Doing this each day and sometimes the night before has allowed us to create a quick plan of attack for the day. By knowing what the day will likely bring, we can find more time in the day for other things, like at-home date night!
The takeaway here is for you and your spouse to communicate your day’s key points and how the other may be impacted by it. Then, develop a simple game plan to coordinate so everyone can use their time wisely and skip the frustration of wasting time.
Is communication not your forte? Take a few minutes to read Angela’s tips on how to have effective communication with your spouse.
3. Schedule bills for autopay.
Hallelujah for automation! Set it and forget it. Seriously, this will save you so much time each month. Take an hour and log into your accounts and set up autopay for most of your bills.
You might read conflicting pieces of advice on this tip. Setting up autopay has helped us find more time in the day, but it can cost you money if you do not keep track of your monthly budget. You don’t want to wind up paying for a gym membership, streaming service, or subscription that you quit using but forgot to cancel.
Pro-tip for setting your bills up on autopay:
- Schedule the automatic withdrawals throughout the month. If they are all coming from one paycheck, you could completely wreck your budget until your next paycheck because you won’t have any money left over that week for non-fixed spendings, like groceries or gas. Most of the folks sending the bills will allow you to set up the day for the withdrawal to take place.
- Call your bank and see if they offer overdraft protection. If they do, sign up for it. Overdraft protection authorizes your bank to remove money from your savings account if there is not enough in the checking account to cover a charge at the time of withdrawal. This feature helped us avoid being charged overdraft fees, saving time and frustration.
- Use our Bill Pay Checklist to help keep your monthly bills all nice and organized!
4. Purge toys and other clutter, so there’s less of a mess.
Find more time in the day by spending less time cleaning up the clutter. Less stuff to make a mess means less time spent cleaning up the mess. I don’t even want to think about all the time I’ve wasted picking up and putting away all the unnecessary clutter.
You’re probably thinking of a few clutter-some items right now. Let’s confess together a few we all have:
- Random puzzle pieces, or puzzles missing plenty of pieces.
- Fast food kid’s meal toys.
- Junk mail piling up on a counter somewhere.
- Dollar store toys that no one plays with anymore.
I think we would all have a hard time coming to terms with how much time we spend picking up and putting away random, unnecessary stuff. Just get rid of it.
My wife and I are just as guilty as our children. I acquired an electric shoe polisher many years back. It’s cool, and it was free, but I think I’ve used it maybe twice in the last four years. I could probably make a few bucks by selling it online. Decision made, it’s time to part with it and free up some closet space.
My wife could probably part with a few purses. In the past 13 years, a few of them have never been used. She acts like she will use them one day, but she and I both know better.
5. Evaluate your grocery shopping routine.
To help find more time in the day, my wife started using a grocery pickup service once our 5th child was born. Gone are the days of rushing up and down the aisles every week with kids begging to get this and that, questionably clean restrooms, and the danger of a kid being snatched up by some human trafficking lunatic (I’d like to take a moment to remind everyone to stay vigilant while out and about!).
All she has to do now is shop the sales online and toss the items in the virtual shopping cart. While checking out, she selects a day and time for pickup, drives 25 minutes round trip, and the grocery shopping is done without ever getting out of the van.
Angela spent anywhere from 2 to 4 hours or more going to grocery stores to shop the sales. Now it’s a one-stop-shop. Out the door and back home in less than an hour. Such a time saver and a great way to find more time in the day!
There are several grocery pickup and delivery services on the market today. A simple search online will show the ones in your area. Some services charge a pick-up fee. Honestly, spending an extra $5 is worth the time saved.
6. Meal plan just a little.
To help find more time in the day, decide the night before, or worst case, that morning, what will be served for supper. From there, you can set food out from the freezer to thaw, set up a crockpot meal to be ready for supper time, or at the very least, know where you are ordering supper from that night.
Angela uses the small magnetic dry erase board on our refrigerator and writes out a mini-meal plan that she intends to stick to each week. If it changes, no big deal. At least she has a game plan figured out ahead of time and doesn’t spend needless time surfing Pinterest for ideas.
Whatever the case, even a little planning ahead can help you find more time in the day because you will spend less time stressing over the details and the cleanup.
7. Put the kids to bed earlier.
This one is huge for us. As young parents, we were definitely guilty of getting our kids to bed anywhere between 9:30 pm and 10:00 pm. One minute, you can’t wait for bedtime to roll around, and then the next minute, it’s an hour past the intended bedtime.
Try to follow the National Sleep Foundation recommendations. We settled on 10 hours based on our children’s age and the time they needed to be awake for school. Because we were the first stop on the bus route, my wife would wake up our school-agers at 5:30 am to get ready for school. We counted 10 hours back from there, and BAM! Their new bedtime was now 7:30 pm.
Initially, this was a difficult adjustment for us to make, but we made it a goal each night and stuck to it the best we could until it became the norm.
Seriously though, it was astonishing to see the difference in our children once they were fully rested. We welcomed the newly found couple of hours we now had each evening to spend time with each other and decompress from the day.
As our little Mini Riches get older and depending on how the day went, we will let our older children read in their beds with their book lights until 8:30 pm.
Did we help you find more time in the day?
I still wake with night terrors from the fall of 2016! Our youngest son was an infant, and our older three boys were playing on different baseball teams. We had Cub Scout meetings, two boys weren’t school age and were staying home through the week, two were in school bringing home math homework, and our weekends were spent catching up on chores and rushing out the door on our way to church. It was a madhouse rushing around for nearly two months.
On top of it all, we were a one-vehicle family at the time living 900 miles away from both of our families, I had recently started a new job, and we were in Mississippi where the grass doesn’t seem to know how to stop growing and requires constant mowing.
Our lack of time management and inability to find more time in the day led to decreased productivity and added stress for everyone in our family. Coming to this realization and zeroing in on ways to better our time management has allowed us to be happier and not always feel like we’re struggling to get ahead. Extra time affords you the freedom you crave to run your life and not let your life run you.