Time Saving Tips for Parents

"If I could save time in a bottle" was the refrain of a once-popular song. It's also a fantasy in which may busy parents indulge. When time is lost or wasted, it can never be reclaimed. Here are some suggestions for using time wisely and managing it more effectively.

1. Use a schedule.
Schedule your day and week around key activities or important tasks. Match important jobs to your peak energy hours. For most people, peak hours are early to mid-morning and early afternoon. Don't schedule an important task like paying bills for late afternoon or late evening when you're exhausted. Set aside time that is free from interruptions for high priority activities. If you want to cook a gourmet meal, paint the bedroom or go to a movie, you must schedule a sufficient block of time or you'll never be able to do the things you want to do.

2. Use lists.
Make a daily to-do list and rate them by priority. Disregard all unimportant activities on the list; cross them off or postpone them. As you complete tasks cross them off, but save your daily list as a record of your accomplishments. You'll be surprised how much you can accomplish when you get yourself organized. Keep separate lists for different categories of household responsibilities. For example, you can post a weekly shopping list and keep it up to date on a daily basis. You can make a list of all the jobs needed for spring-cleaning. You can start a list of minor (non-emergency) household repairs; when the list is long enough, you can set aside a block of time to do repairs.

3. Organize your home.
The old saying, "Have a place for everything and put everything in its place," are words to live by. Eliminate clutter; keep tables, desk and counters free from papers, mail, toys, utensils, etc. Set up your work areas like the kitchen or laundry so that what you need every day is right at hand. Infrequently used equipment or supplies can be stored in the back or on the top shelf. Set up a record-keeping and filing system for important family matters like finances, medical records, warranties and insurance policies. Get rid of old toys, games, clothes and household items that haven't been used in the past year. Hold a garage sale or donate unwanted or unused items to charity. If you don't think you'll be using a product this time next year, don't buy it. Unnecessary consumer purchases contribute to clutter and waste your time as well as your money.

4. Eliminate time-wasters.
Don't open junk mail or listen to telephone solicitation. Use an answering machine to control the telephone. Although you'll have to return some calls, you won't be bothered or interrupted by a large number of unnecessary ones. Limit telephone conversations; it will save money as well as time. Television can be a terrible time-waster. Don't turn it on unless you have decided to watch a particular show. If you're flipping channels to find something interesting, you're wasting time. Turn the television off when it's not being watched. Have a TV-free family night or weekend. If you don't have the time or interest to read magazines, cancel the subscriptions. Reading week-old news is a waste of time. Why clutter your schedule and your home?

5. Overcome procrastination.
Use the "Swiss cheese" method to poke holes in time intensive, high priority tasks. Divide major projects into smaller, more manageable activities. For example, wallpapering the living room may seem overwhelming, but it can be divided into a series of smaller jobs such as buying the materials, getting all the equipment and supplies together, priming the walls, painting the trim, etc. These smaller jobs can be done without a major time investment. Energize yourself for difficult or unpleasant tasks. Take a brisk walk before tackling the month's bills. Aim for completion, not perfection. The desire to do things perfectly is not only irrational, it contributes to procrastination. Don't forget to reward yourself for accomplishing major goals.

6. Seek cooperation.
Ask others for help. Delegate chores to other family members, including children, according to age and ability. Set up daily routines that involve all family members in sharing household responsibilities. Show appreciation when children do cooperate.

7. Change your habits.
In addition to scheduling, prioritizing, delegating and eliminating time wasters, you may want to try these time management techniques.

  • Start each day an hour earlier. You'll be surprised how much you can get done when everyone else is asleep.
  • Multi-task. Do more than one thing at a time when possible. For example, write a letter or check your e-mail while the laundry is being done.
  • Group similar jobs. Clean all the bathrooms at once. Or do several outside jobs together.
  • If you're going anywhere, think of other things that you can do while you're there. For example, if you're going to the supermarket, what else can you do while you're out in the car? If you're going to the basement to get cleaning supplies, can you also put in a load of laundry?
  • Put "waiting time" to good use. If you're standing in line at the bank, can you balance your checkbook or write a grocery list? While waiting for gas, can you read a letter or news article?
  • Be assertive. Learn to say "no" to anything that is not urgent or important.

Your time is your life - to waste your time is to waste your life. And living is more than keeping busy - it's doing the things that are important to us. When you feel in control of your time, you will find yourself being more productive and enjoying life more.

Source: Tim Jahn, Human Development Specialist, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. Parent Pages was developed by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. HD 37


Anna Steinkraus
Family & Community Development Program Coordinator
(607) 272-2292 ext. 145

Last updated August 8, 2015