A Super Mom.
That’s what we are all striving for, right?
We want to give the best of our selves to our children.
And our spouse.
And our own parents.
And our siblings.
And our friends.
And our jobs.
And we fall short. Day in and day out.
Well, no wonder. Even Super Man had to take a break and just be plain old, normal Clark Kent from time to time.
We set a tall order for ourselves as moms, and we will never be able to reach the star of perfect motherhood.
But we can still try.
The goal is not to be perfect, so much, as it is to give our best in everything we are doing, when we are doing it.
You know those moms who seem to have it all together?
The ones who have the cookies done for the bake sale, the permission slips turned in for the field trip, and their son dressed in something other than holey jeans that are too short for picture day?
Their house is always clean, their kids are always well-rounded, and their husband is always supportive.
They aren’t supermom.
But, then, how do they do it?
By using time chunking.
Think about it.
When you picture a stressed out, overwhelmed mom, what do you picture?
I see a mom talking on the phone, with a baby on her hip. The doorbell is buzzing, kids are chasing each other through the kitchen, and the spaghetti is boiling over.
She is NOT using time chunking.
Gone are the days of multi-tasking.
Studies have shown that multi-tasking is not necessarily an efficient way to get things done. When you multi-task, your mind is never fully on the task at hand. It is split, jumping from task to task and thought to thought. You never really focus on what you are doing. Thus, the spaghetti boils over and the doorbell never gets answered.
But if you time chunk, you tackle one thing at a time, and fully concentrate on just that one task. Your mind never wanders. You live fully present, in the moment, and when the task is completed, you move on to the next item on your list and give it your all. It’s a calmer, slightly more-sane way to get stuff done!
Sure, sure, you say. It’s easy to talk about focusing solely on what you are working on, but I’m a mom. I can’t just lock little Suzie in her bedroom so that I can stare at the spaghetti while it boils.
True. I believe you. I am a mom of six. While I’d love to lock my boys in their room while cooking, I can’t do that either.
But I’m an excellent time-chunker.
And I get a lot done in a day.
I’m no supermom, but here’s how I use Time Chunking to accomplish my to-do list:
- Brain Dump Your To-Do List. Write it all down. Then prioritize. Pick your top three that you need to get done today. Then choose three to five additional items that are important to get done, if time allows, but can wait until tomorrow if need be.
- Assign chunks of time to each task. Block out your day. When are you going to spend time with your kids? Block that time off and do nothing else – think of nothing else – while you are with your kids. Block off time for bookwork, housecleaning, cooking/baking, your husband – and yourself. Do your absolute best to focus on nothing else during that allotted time. Maybe you only have an hour to clean house today. What are the most important parts of the house that need to be touched? Focus on them and nothing else. Enlist your kids as helpers or set them up with a special activity that will occupy their time while you are busy. Same with cooking. There are a lot of cool activities your kids can do while you cook, such as use your utensils to cook up some dry cereal.
- Make the most of your kid-free/quiet moments. Get up before your kids do, utilize nap time, and be sure they go to bed earlier in the evening so that you can get a few things done while they are in bed. These moments are the best time for you to do the tasks that require a lot of concentration, such as bookwork. If you work from home, this is also the best time to get your work done.
- Schedule your most important tasks first AND for when you are at your best. If you are a morning person, use the morning to do the most important tasks or the hardest tasks on your list. If you are at your best in the afternoon, do your most important tasks then, and find easier, ‘filler” tasks for the morning. If you peter out towards the end of the day, use that time for tasks that require very little brain power or energy. But if you are a night owl, utilize the quiet moments after your kids go to bed to get stuff done.
If you have things that you tend to put off, tackle them right away in the morning, regardless of when you are at your best. That way you get them done and out of the way, and you can relax the rest of the day.
- Set boundaries for your family. Your family; your kids, husband and extended family, all need to learn when you are available and when you are off limits. Now granted, infants and toddlers cannot give mom alone time. But once your kids hit three, they can start to learn to leave mom alone when she is completing certain tasks. And you need to teach them to do this, not only for you and your efforts to get stuff done, but also for them. They need to learn to respect other people’s quiet/alone time and they need to learn to entertain themselves. This goes for your spouse and your extended family as well.
Saturday cleaning is something I grew up with. It’s important for me to have a clean house. My family knows that when I am cleaning house, I am unavailable. However, I had to teach my husband’s family this. At first, they didn’t understand why I couldn’t go shopping just because I was cleaning my house. In their mind, I was slighting them – I could easily clean house another day. But in reality, I was only setting up a boundary. This was the day I set aside to get it done, and I was getting it done.
As a mom of six boys, I am often told two things: “Boy, you sure have your hands full!” and “Boy, you sure do get a lot done!”
And both are true.
I’m no supermom. But I have, over the years, been forced to learn how to manage my time better.
And here’s my biggest secret: You have to let some things go.
You simply cannot do it all.
Those items at the bottom of your to-do list – they aren’t priorities. It’s okay to let them go. In some cases, you may let them go for a few days. But in other situations, you may let them go for years.
And that is okay.
You’ll get to it – someday. When your kids are older.
And trust me – that happens much sooner than you think.
Shannon Lambert is a freelance writer and mom of six from Northern Minnesota. She blogs about her experiences at makingmommas.com. When she is not chasing her boys, she loves to slow things down with a cup of coffee and a good book.