Just Call Me Superwoman {4 Simple Rules for Managing Your Time}

 I woke up this past Monday ready to start my week with a bang.  I  had spent the weekend getting caught up after last week’s trip, and by 8am I had already finished my work for the day, returned several neglected emails, handed in a writing assignment, tidied my house, put in a load of laundry, set our schedule and made our lesson plans for the day.  We had a lot to get done and I was READY.

And then I got a text message from a Very Important Person asking if I would be available for a phone call in about an hour.

I don’t know how it works in your family, but my kids have an amazing sixth sense that tells them they need EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD right at the exact moment the phone rings.  Since I knew I wouldn’t want to be disturbed during this Very Important Phonecall, I did the essential Very Important Phone prep:  I prepared snacks and water, made sure both girls had gone potty, and then gave Princess a long pep talk about how she is older and needs to be an example and mommy’s big helper and how under NO CIRCUMSTANCES was she to come out of her room or let her sister bother mommy while mommy was on the Very Important Phone Call.

And then I waited.  The hour came and went with no call.  And then another hour.  While the phone eventually did ring and the Very Important Phonecall was successfully completed with not a single interruption, by the time I was finally done the entire morning was shot and all my perfect plans had gone awry.

To be perfectly honest, there was a time in the not-so-distant past that having my entire well-planned morning interrupted would have really stressed me out.  I would have spent the rest of the day running around like a mad woman frantically trying to get ever last item checked off my list, most likely yelling at my poor kids to cooperate in the process.  I would’ve completely overlooked the fact that they had spent two and a half hours playing quietly in their room without fighting, crying, whining, or asking for anything while they patiently waited for me to be done.  I would’ve missed the valuable lesson in responsibility Princess was learning by keeping her 3 year old sister occupied and happy.

But thankfully that’s not what happened this time.  Instead of getting stressed, I adjusted my expectations for the day.  I reevaluated the things that had to be done versus the things that could be done, crossed several items off my list, and then spent the next few hours giggling with my daughters as we worked together to deep clean their room, then ran some errands and even found a few minutes to stop for cupcakes.   No, I didn’t get it all done, but it was a very good day just the same.

Just yesterday someone asked how I do it all.  How do you manage it, she asked, what’s your secret?  You must be superwoman.

Uh, not quite.  Not even close really.

I’m pretty sure Superwoman at least managed to take a shower once in a while!

The fact is that although I have moments here and there where I feel pretty super, more often then not it seems like no matter how much I try to plan ahead, the nitty gritty of life always brings me right back down to reality with an earth-shattering crash.  But as I get older–and hopefully wiser–I am learning to roll with the punches a little bit more.

And while I really am just learning, I have found that abiding by these 4 simple rules for my time help my days go a whole lot smoother:

1. Know your priorities

When there is too much to do, knowing what things are truly most important helps me stay focused.  A few months ago, when I was really struggling to get my priorities in order, I literally wrote down the order that I wanted them to be.

My list looked like this:  God, Family, Homeschool, Friends, Work/Blog, Keeping House, Reading, Diet & Exercise, Entertainment  Sadly the list didn’t match how I was actually spending my time, but it did give me motivation to make some changes.

2.  Start the morning well

One of the biggest changes I made was adding a morning devotion back into my routine. I have always been a morning person, so getting up early to get my work done–or at least started–is what makes sense for me.  Those 3 hours in the morning, before anyone else gets up, when the house is quiet and I can simply be alone with my thoughts, are precious, and I usually wake up raring to go and ready to start my day.  There is always so much to do and that time goes by very fast.

I am ashamed to admit that I often skipped morning devotions because it felt like it was just taking too much time, time that I could be using more productively.  But after reassessing my priorities I realized there was no more important way to spend the first few minutes of my day.  The most obvious way I can put God first in my life is to give Him top billing in my schedule.

I have a few other morning rituals that keep me focused as well–drinking several cups of fresh hot coffee, turning off my phone, not checking email or Facebook until my other work is done, finishing my most dreaded task right off the bat, and then filling out my daily planner & schedule to have a road map to get me through the rest of the day.  I find that doing things in the same order keeps me more grounded and focused, and it is usually only when I stray from my routine that I start to get distracted and lose track of time!

By the time the rest of the family starts to get up, I have usually–though not always–gotten enough done that I can be more relaxed and attentive–cuddling with Trouble on my lap as I finish up a few emails, or sometimes enjoying a cup of coffee together with Husband before he heads to work.

Even on those days where I still feel like I have a million things to do and there is no way to possibly get it all done I have found that making an effort to intentionally start the day in a pleasant & stress-free way really helps the rest of the day go more smoothly.

3.  When in doubt, clean something

Once we’ve finished breakfast and Husband has gone off to work, we almost always start our day with a speed cleaning session.  I’ve written before about why it is so important to me to keep my house clean, and in terms of my own time management–and sanity–a tidy house really is key.

When my house is messy, I can’t think straight.  I can’t find anything, I feel anxious and out-of-control, and I just spin, not even knowing what to do next.  It is almost as if I am paralyzed by some unknown force of chaos, and I just can’t get anything done.

But when I take the time to get my home in order, the rest of my life seems to fall into place too.  I do some of my best thinking while I am cleaning, and when I am done I can then move on to the next thing.

4. In case of emergency, refer to #1

Don’t be fooled by the hype:  No one can do it all.  That is where the priorities come into play.  On the days where my schedule goes exactly as planned and I get everything checked off my to-do list, I usually feel pretty good about myself.  But those days are very rare.  Almost nonexistent.  Most of the time I am constantly having to readjust, re-prioritize, and lower my expectations.

When something unexpected comes up, however, I am finding that knowing what is most important still makes the rest of the day go smoother.  At the end of the day it won’t matter how many things I checked off my list if I turned my back on the things that matter the most.

I am excited to be linking today’s post with Edie’s Life. On Purpose. For Them. series today!  This month’s theme is TIME….be sure to pop by or link up if you’ve got a blog!

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Do you ever struggle with managing your time?  What helps you be more productive with your day?
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{ 19 comments… add one }

  • Rosie January 30,

    More wise words from Ruth! I have completely let January go without really achieving anything that I had wanted to – because I just haven’t prioritised my plan. Trying to take the next couple of days to get myself in order in an attempt to start a fresh!

    Thanks as ever x

    Reply
    • Ruth January 30,

      Good luck Rosie! Let me know how it goes!

      Reply
  • Kate January 30,

    After waking up at 4:30 this morning with my 3 yr old I was feeling very stressed, tired & knew our day was ruined. After reading this, my whole attitude changed. Yeah, we may be tired but we’ll be ok and it just means an earlier bed time tonight :)

    Thx Ruth.

    Reply
    • Ruth January 30,

      Aw I feel you completely on the sleep deprivation! I think Trouble has only slept through the night once or twice since she was born. Little stinker–I often say God made her cute for a reason! :-) I’m so glad my post could encourage you this morning. I wish you many blessings today Kate!

      Reply
  • edie January 30,

    well, you’re superwoman to me, it that counts for anything.
    LOVE your post and thanks for being such an inspiration.
    love you.
    :))
    edie

    Reply
    • Ruth January 30,

      As are you to me, my ahhh-mazing friend! xoxo

      Reply
  • Amanda January 30,

    Wow this was just what I needed to read this morning! My biggest struggle is that sometimes (like today) I just don’t even know where to start. I get overwhelmed and then I do nothing, but when you put it his way it makes it all seem so much more manageable. Thanks for the tips!

    Reply
    • Ruth January 31,

      You’re welcome Amanda! I’m so glad it was helpful for you. I can totally relate to feeling overwhelmed! In fact I’m feeling a little like that right now…..

      :-)

      Reply
  • Jennifer Green January 30,

    My kids are exactly the same way….they can be as busy as can be until the second the phone rings and then they are all over me! It drives me crazy! I am super impressed that they stayed busy for 2 1/2 hours! Loved this post!

    Reply
    • Ruth January 31,

      Thanks Jennifer! :-)

      Reply
  • Hopeful Homemaker January 30,

    I love your 4th point: In case of emergency, refer to #1. It’s really all about priorities, isn’t it! You’re doing a great job!

    Reply
    • Ruth January 31,

      Yes, I have to remind myself of that one daily! Thank you for your sweet comment. :-)

      Reply
  • laura January 30,

    Ruth,
    My farm kids are all getting quite grown up now, but oh, how I could feel the tension rise up in me when you described “The Very Important Phone Call”.
    For decades I was employed outside the home while parenting many offspring, and made so many mistakes in how I prioritized. You are so wise (and blessed), to have come to such vital understanding while your lovelies are still so young.
    I am profoundly grateful to finally be fully home and righting some of the wrongs.
    I don’t remember a single one of those calls…
    You’re doing a mighty work and I am so glad you shared your heart with us again today.

    Reply
    • Ruth January 31,

      Thank you Laura! :-)

      Reply
  • Jennifer January 31,

    Ah, the superwoman syndrome. If only we could trample that ideal in its dust! There is so much great advice in your words and I realize, sitting here, that my priorities are a bit out of order! Thanks for inspiring me to be better :)

    Reply
  • Claire @ A Little Claireification February 3,

    Just read this earlier this eve when I went to search your blog for the “24 Hours In A Day” post to include in MY post. So, yes. Clearly you ARE SuperWoman. LOL
    I am so happy to have finally met you in person, friend, and cannot wait to see you in March!
    xoxo, Claire

    Reply
  • Mara August 25,

    I am new to your blog but finding it incredibly inspiring and comforting- actually a sense of relief is more accurate. I have a 9 month old and have spent the last couple of months trying to figure out how to manage everything while going through a rough time mentally. I have just started to find my way and find your writings are so on point! Thank you for taking the time to write and share. God bless!!

    Reply
  • Elizabeth December 6,

    I would LOVE to have 3 hours to myself in the morning!!! However, my kids are up at 6am, and 5 is the earliest I can manage right now. I totally agree with starting the day off in God’s Word – spiritual food should be top priority. No read, no feed has become something we try to share with our kids. :)

    Reply
  • Diane May 12,

    “It is almost as if I am paralyzed by some unknown force of chaos, and I just can’t get anything done.”

    Haha… I could have written that!

    Reply
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