January 10, 2011

Time Management - how to make it all fit when it just doesn't

Of all the e-mails I've received since I started this blog, there is one that is asked quite often.  In short, the question is, "How do you get everything done?"  I have promised several of you that I would answer this question in a post and I've put it off for a while.  Why?  Because I don't neccessarily feel like I've completely mastered this.  I am far from perfect, but I am happy to share some ideas with you.

Please keep a few things in mind as you read this post. 

1) As I said, I'm still figuring this all out just like you.  I don't have a perfect solution.
2) Don't compare yourself to me or anyone else.  We are all in different stages of life.  If you have a newborn you are nursing and you feel like you're never getting anything accomplished, that's okay!  There are different types of productivity and there are times and seasons for everything.
3) What works for me may not work for you.

Okay, now that I've got that out, let's get started.  My mom has often told me, "If you have something you need to get done, give it to a busy person."  The idea is that people who are busy are people who get things done.  The family I was raised in is very project-oriented.  I don't have memories of my dad sitting around.  He and my mom have to have something to work on.  Between family, work, and church responsibilities there is little time to be idle.  This seems to have been genetically passed through to me because it's kind of in my blood as well.  (While this motivation can be helpful, it also has to be kept in check.  Sometimes there are much greater things than those that are listed on my to-do list.  I have to watch myself.)

Have you ever heard of Parkinson's law?  It states:


I heard this in college and I found it to be a fascinating idea.  What does it mean?  It means if I give you an hour to write a letter, it will take you an hour.  If I give you 5 minutes it will take you 5 minutes.  We tend to expand tasks according to the time alotted.  What does this mean to me?  If I have a day ahead of me and the only thing on my list is to do laundry, that's all I will do.  On the other hand, if I know I have 10 things that need to get done that day I will make them happen. 

This makes the step of PLANNING and STRUCTURE very crucial.  I like to make "to do" lists. A visual reminder of what needs to happen helps me focus.  I can then look at the list and prioritize.  What absolutely has to happen today?  Do it first if at all possible.  It's nice to have an overall pattern or plan for the week.  For me, Rex goes to school on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, so those are the times I buy groceries and run errands.  I also try to plan one outing a day.  My boys go crazy if we don't leave the house, so on Mondays or Wednesdays we'll head to the library.  Friday nights we go out as a family.  I think having some consistent structure definitely helps the kids, too.  Weekends give me a little more time to work on projects so I don't have as much to get done during the week.  I wake up at 6 am to guarantee myself a little alone time before the boys wake up.
Beyond just planning, one of the biggest, most important keys is GOAL SETTING.  Really.  If you don't have a plan for success, you have a plan for failure.  I set a goal to post everyday and follow the schedule I have set.  If I hadn't set that goal, I probably wouldn't still be blogging.  However, I made that commitment and I have you to answer to.  So, if it's 8pm and I don't have a post ready for tomorrow I choose that rather than watching TV.  Your goals might be totally different than mine, but they can lead you to where you want to gp just as mine do for me.  I think goals have to be written down and referenced often, for optimal success.  Goals can also help us through the "writer's block" phases.  Some of my best posts have come from moments where I didn't have any ideas and wanted to give up.  Then, I remembered what I had set out to do and I pushed myself a bit further.

Now on a personal level, here are some things that help me get more things done.  My husband and I aren't super social people.  We love to be at home with each other.  We don't have plans with friends every night of the week or even every weekend.  I don't watch much TV and if I do I'm usually multi-tasking and writing a post at the same time.  I don't get a shower in every single day.  Sometimes there is a pile of laundry ten feet high in my bedroom.  We all pick and choose what fits because frankly, not everything we want to do is going to fit.  It's the sad truth.  I want to pursue music more.  I want to pick up a new hobby.  I want to live at the spa.  We have to pick and choose, but that picking and choosing makes us who we are.  Maybe you are more social and I craft more.  That's okay.  Maybe you are Julia Child while I don't find time to make incredible dinners.  That's okay.  Try not to compare yourself to others. 

If we have a POSITIVE ATTITUDE I think we accomplish more.  I try to read my scriptures (the Book of Mormon or Bible) before the boys wake up because it helps me get off on the right foot.  Maybe it's meditating or exercising for you.  If I can start the day right things tend to go much more smoothly.  I'm more patient with my boys.  I feel happier.  I also try to tighty up the house before I go to bed.  Waking up to a filthy house makes me instantly cranky.  Not good.  Emptying or starting the dishwasher, putting away stray toys, and clearing off the table and counters help me feel like I have a clean slate in the morning.

Lastly, as I mentioned I have to keep it in check.  My husband and I try to turn off all computers and the TV at 9pm so that we get some us time.  It gives us time to communicate, which helps us a lot.  We have set times that we spend time with the kids.  (Monday is our family activity night and Fridays we go out together.)  I try not to get so busy that I can't wrestle around with my boys.  I also try to involve them in what I'm doing.  (Rex can name any crafty item :)  My family comes first.

I feel like I've written a novel here and just kind of thrown everything down on the page.  I hope this is helpful in some way.  I'm sure I'll think of a billion other things I meant to mention, but for now this is where I'm at and these are the conclusions I've come to.  Be patient with yourself as you try to do it all.  Sometimes it's easy to get down on yourself and feel like you're never getting anything important done, when you really are.

Here's a quick picture, since this post had a TON of text.  This one helps me remember what's most important.  This is when I became a mom.  Me and teeny, tiny Rex.

Thanks for reading.  Feel free to ask questions or add time management suggestions in the comments. I think we can all learn a lot from one another - especially on this topic.


jillian sara said...

Thanks sooo much. This was helpful. Love your blog girl!

Neumaisse said...

Love this! (And what do you mean teeny tiny Rex? Look at teeny tiny YOU! LOL! You looka about fourteen in this pic! It's a beauty!)

Erica @ Acire Adventures said...

Great post! Thank you.

And it's adorable that Rex had super cool hair even as a newborn. :)

F e l i c i t y said...

Thank you so much, Cheri! I definitely needed this. I was ready to cry in frustration about ten minutes ago. I feel like I have so much that I'm expected to do, and no time to myself. The sad thing is, because I feel like that I tend to spend way too much time doing things that I only want to do, and my other priorities get terribly neglected. After reading this, I am determined to make a list and truly prioritize, and not only that, but ACT! I can do this. I can make it through life, and not just make it through, but really enjoy life.

Thank you for reminding us not to compare ourselves to you, and others. That is something that I really need to remember, and I greatly appreciate the fact that you aren't telling your readers how exactly they have to live their lives, but you are simply giving them wise and brilliant tips.

I love the baby Rex picture - you both look so cute! That was another reminder to me of what my efforts and hard work now are for - family. I'm not married yet, I'm only seventeen, but I'm learning that everything I do in my life should be for my Savior, my family, and His children, and should in some way bring me closer to fulfilling my mission - that of marrying, bearing children, and raising them up to the Lord. If it doesn't fit those things, it's not worth it, and I should be doing better things.

Ah! I can breathe now. You're awesome, Cheri. I love your little family. Reading your blog is always a highlight in my day.

Felicity, at {Simple Elegance}

Taylor Swim said...

That was an amazing post and quite inspiring. I know all these things about you but I like reading about it too. You are doing a great job.

Mandi@TidbitsfromtheTremaynes said...

Man I wish I looked that good right after giving birth!

I like this post-- it's fabulous. I've learned a lot of things about myself in the last few months; and remember Pres. Uchtdorf's talk on busy-ness? That has changed my life. I am trying to prioritize. I love to do projects . . . you know that. But I HAVE to put God first, and my family second. If I don't, things are just completely off. I think it's okay for me to do a project during the day occasionally, but I try and pick my times very carefully when I'm oblivious to the world, making something.

Great post. :)

Shell said...

Um, I just give up sleep. ;)

Laurel said...

I need to finish reading The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I feel like that is a testament to how disorganized I am, I can never seem to finish that book!

I think I'm going to try waking up at 6 AM for a week and see which is more important to me, the extra sleep, or the extra no-kid time.

Steph at ModernParentsMessyKids.com said...

First things first, you look way too pulled together in that pic. for just having a baby - are you sure there's not some secret you're not sharing? Some super antioxidant smuggled by monks from Nepal or something?

Second, thanks for the post. It sure is nice to know I'm not the only one that doesn't get a shower every day (btw - baby powder is a great tip for soaking up hair oils on those days).

My husband and I have decided to dedicate at least one night a week to date night even if we don't leave the house (which we don't with a 6 month old that still won't take a bottle). And I also find that having small routines (like wiping down bathroom surfaces with Clorox wipes daily) makes it so that large clean up sessions are needed less frequently.

I'm having a giveaway today in the spirit of helping readers keep their New Year's resolutions (one of which is to get organized). Hope you don't mind if I share it here:


Emily said...

Great Post, you could totally be a writer, does that every come up in your list to do ?

Thanks for sharing. I only looked that good after my 3rd child amazinly. The first and second child, I looked like a train ran through me.lol

Boden said...

If I ever have a day when I just can't work up the motivation to get things done I set my timer! I'll set it for 20 minutes and see how much I can get done, it's amazing! Sometimes all the house needed was a quick pick-me-up and then I've got the day free to craft, play, and have fun!

jBrink said...

Perfect. Thank you for the wonderful reminder. I've never heard of Parkinson's law before - but it makes sense. Thanks for the insight and suggestions.

After having our second baby I was getting so frustrated that I wasn't getting as much done anymore...not taking into account that I was nursing 24-7. Now that our baby is closing in on 9 months, I feel I am getting some of myself back. Getting up early is great - now that she sleeps through the night, I think I need to get back in that habit. My husband I have have been making a point to go to bed at the same time - it makes such a difference that we can talk and connect at the end of the day.

Thanks again!

Also happy to hear I am not the only one who doesn't get to shower everyday. :)

Jil ~ said...

So impressed with your atttitude toward how to make things happen! I think attitude makes the difference in everything we do!

Thanks for the wonderful post!

Tiffany said...

Ms Cheri, this was a great post! I couldn't agree more about comparing yourself to others, definite no-no. And I luv to-do list, it helps my brain operate better. Lastly, I would like to share a quote, my dad shared with me, I'm not sure who originated it, but I refer to it all the time...People don't plan to fail, they fail to plan. Keep up the good work Chica!

Mandi@TidbitsfromtheTremaynes said...


I just listened to clips of one of your CD's. Does the talent ever stop??


Lily B said...

I feel fully identified with your post. I love your blog and admire you.

F e l i c i t y said...

Just want to say thanks for the sweet comment on my blog!

Love and blessings,


Capturing Joy with Kristen Duke said...

Never heard of Parkinson's law and I LOVE it! so true! I get that question a lot, and I'm going to point the people here;)

Lynette @ My Craft Discovery said...

I love Parkinson's law. So true! Thanks for sharing! I am just loving your blog. It's well rounded with advice and thoughts, and crafts and sewing stuff too! I love it.

Jennifer said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing your tips and tricks. Sadly, I think many of us try to cram too many things into one hour, one day or one week. And when we do this, none of the tasks ever gets to properly. AS you said, we need to realize where we are in our lives and prioritize :)

Callie said...

Thanks for being you and sharing! And that pic at the end is totally adorable!

Sabra at Sew a Straight Line said...
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Sabra at Sew a Straight Line said...
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Sabra at Sew a Straight Line said...
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Sabra at Sew a Straight Line said...

Such a great post. Everything in here is one (or many?) reasons I love your blog. I can feel your priorities in all of your posts. You seem very centered. And even if you haven't "mastered" it, your goals and direction are pointed in a place I want to be, as well. It's the same with Christie. I find it so inspiring. Thank you.

I'm a list maker, too. I make one daily on Word for what has to be done that day. I also keep a running list on the same document, above the daily, with things I need to be getting done over time.

My son is getting baptised (!) this weekend, so the things to prepare and get done by Saturday have been on my list since mid-December.

I like having a running list because some things can't get done until closer to the "due date", but are too important not to be thinking about and planning for. It is also helpful to have them right there as I'm making my daily list, so that if I can fit in something extra that day off of the running list, it's all right there for me to see and work off of.

I also always put even the seemingly meanial daily tasks on my list. It feels good to cross things off, and with those, I always have a given even if the rest of the day ends up as a flop. Also, it reminds me that even the simple things are incredibly important and keep our house running smoothly: my scripture study, beds made, meals, etc.

And speaking of it, I've found that if I don't get my scripture study in (I also do it in the morning before my kids are up), I just don't get things done like I normally would. I'm grumpier, have less patience, things just don't "flow". It's such a drastic impact on the day, for better or worse depending on if I read or didn't, that I know there is something more to it than just *ME*, you know. There have been times I've legitamitly forgotten, and the day is going crazy and I can't figure out why. Then I remember and as soon as I've read, things settle down. It happened a lot when I was first trying to read in the mornings. Anymore, it's such a habit and I've had such amazing experiences from doing it, that I hardly ever forget or put my scripture study off.

Anyway, those are the things that help me. I'm far from organized or where I want to be with running my home perfectly, but I hope I'm on the right track and doing the best I can for where I am in my season of life.

Thanks for the post. It was a good thing to think about this morning (plus, I just read about Ruth this morning so the whole "Priority=Family" thing was on my mind anyway :) )

Sabra at Sew a Straight Line said...

and sorry, I have no idea how that posted multiple times. I only hit "publish" once. Weird.

candicem said...

Great post! I think this is the most important thing said in there:

"Be patient with yourself as you try to do it all. Sometimes it's easy to get down on yourself and feel like you're never getting anything important done, when you really are."

I'm not sure why we women (particularly new moms it seems) seem to compare ourselves to other moms and families so much. It's a hard habit to break but one I'm determined to keep in check better.

Loved the ideas about goals and having a plan too. Thanks so much!

Biz said...

Wonderfully stated.
I have to say that I too make "To-Do" lists.
Not everything gets checked off as I hope, but it definitely keeps me in check.
Also I have to say I was born a busy person.
I have my days where doing nothing is just what I need, but most days I just keep moving until everything is done.
Another motivator for me is that I don't want to have to do a lot of cleaning on the weekends and since I work a full 40 hours so when I get home, I have to hit the ground running if I want the luxury of doing little to nothing on Saturday & Sunday.
My husband is a social butterfly and I'm more of a homebody so we balance eachother out in that sense. He knows when I need to stay in and I know when he needs to get out.
It's so much about balance in what your life requires. You are absolutely correct in saying that we can not compare ourselves to others.
It would be easy for me to stress about how much I can't get done each week after reading all the cleaning blogs, but I realize how many women are stay at home moms and I'm not at that stage yet...someday!
Thanks for your tips and reminders.
It'll all get done, if not it'll be there tomorrow :D

insertnamehere said...

Excellent advice/pointers.

Disney said...

What a great post! It actually made me feel like maybe I'm more organized than I give myself credit for. My only problem is that everything else in my life takes priority over crafting. Which is, I'm sure, the way it should be...but it makes it hard to keep a blog! :o)
I'm so glad that your family has priority, and look how cute you are in that photo!!

Unknown said...

Great post, thank you for sharing. It was very motivating :)

ellie g said...

I read this the day you published it, in my reader, and meant to hop over and tell you how much I TRULY loved it.

And something happened. I think my daughter yelled "Mom.....wipe me!!" And I never came back to say that I just thought this post was completely amazing.

Not that you're posts aren't ALWAYS amazing. But just that for some reason, this one really spoke to me.

I'm sure it's something we all struggle with. Bloggers, in particular.

But when you mentioned the music thing, it really struck me. Fitting in all the "things" I want to do has been the biggest challenge of the last few years of my life.

My Mom told me the other day that I needed to remember that "to everything there is a season" means that I can't do all the things at once. So maybe music isn't now. But it will be....a couple years from now.

Anyway. It was just something I hadn't thought of before. And it made me feel better about not being able to do it all. Right now.

Love your blog. As always!

Delia said...

Cheri...thank you for sharing your thoughts honestly and openly. It is nice to get to know you better and it helps me feel empowered to be myself. My husband and I are not super social either. I used to be but now that I have a family, I cherish being home alone {well with kids sleeping} with nobody to impress... a lot more than I used to.

I am struggling to balance everything right now and your words were encouraging and just really uplifting. Thank you!

Christie // lemon squeezy home said...

I've been thinking so much about these types of things! I think you are wonder-woman and such an inspiration, Cheri. Thank you! (I feel like I always say that, but really, you completely are my hero:)

The Coleman Family said...

Thanks for this post. I have been trying to turn over a new leaf this year and set some resolutions, and stick to them. One of them is being more organized and keeping my house clutter free. I was about to give up as I stared at a sink full of dishes this morning, but your post was excatly what I needed to hear to keep me on track! Thanks for sharing.

ApronTails said...

ok, I really needed this one today. I am definitely having one of these weeks. I am doing a whole house clean sweep and have hit a wall. I am absolutely un motivated, where as last week, I was unstoppable. What gives??

This at least gives me some perspective on catching back up with myself.

Hope your day is wonderful!

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing how you time manage. I posted a similar topic the other week as I have two little girls under two and life is busy and hard to complete things YOU want to get done, not just the chores and running after the babes.

My family is all about to do lists and emailing each other 'meeting requests' so we don't forget appointments or plans with friends and family.

Tanya x

kim west said...

so I read this last week when you posted it...and couldn't get these quotes out of my head. Had to come back and copy them down! Love them! lOve you!

Alex said...

Thanks for the post. I really appreciate hearing these real words from another mama. I think many of us are in the same boat and should be talking about it more.

Neda said...

Thanx girl...I realy needed this. I thougth i will never get time for my self... And the good thing is I do like get up early...and now when baby have arived i get lost... baby having a day nap I'm going to make a plan... (sorry for bad english)
Take care

___ said...

This was a great post and i thank you a lot for writing it.
With your permission i would like to use some of your thoughts in a discussion group we hold with new mothers.
I love the humble way you write about everything. It gives the reader plenty of space to breath and feel free in your written lines.
Thanks again!

Erika said...

This was well said. I really enjoy your blog...of the many blogs I've perused, followed, and unfollowed, you are definitely one of my few favorites. Keep doing what you do--you're great at it!



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