We are all busy. And even though we all have the same amount of hours in a day, we are all different people with varying needs and priorities. It’s essential to learn to save time while getting things done to have time for yourself.
I am on a mission to help busy women find time for real self-care and the things that matter most to them. And to do that, you need to be smarter with your time. Sort of work smarter, not harder – save time getting it done.
I’m retired (but still busy), so I like to use my daughter Sarah as my example when I think about helping women like you.
Sarah is married, teaches first grade, and has a nine-year-old son. Oh, and a large, silly dog who sort of looks like a German Shepherd.
I’m guessing that between getting ready to leave the house in the morning and getting home at night, she’s gone about twelve hours. I think she’s usually in bed by ten.
Sound about like you? Except maybe the bedtime? And the silly dog? Good enough.
Why Self-Care is Important
I remember the days when I worked fifty-hour weeks with three kids (one still in pre-school). I used to take bathroom breaks a lot at work, just so I could get away for a minute. Luckily I was able to do that.
I would arrive home exhausted, and I felt stressed and overwhelmed all the time. One evening, I completely forgot to pick up the youngest from pre-school! If it hadn’t been for her older sister…
I ended up getting really sick from the stress and not taking care of myself. I don’t want that for you.
Here’s something I want you to remember: if you give yourself enough sleep and nourishing food, your energy will increase. And if you feel better, you can get more done. Pay attention to your physical and mental health, add some systems for managing your life more efficiently, and you are Super Woman!
You’re Not Looking for Hours
Part of the key to finding time for yourself is in making it a priority over other things, like say, scrolling.
And the other half is learning to save time by putting systems in place and doing some things differently.
You should also realize that many things can be accomplished in just minutes; you don’t need an entire hour for them.
For instance, most people can’t meditate for longer than ten minutes. I’ve been meditating for over thirty years and I still don’t have that patience or ability, but the time I do spend is enough for me.
If you keep practicing it enough, you can learn to drop into a meditation quickly and get results from it. (I am not suggesting “speed meditating”, just saying that it becomes easier over time to get into that peaceful mindset and reap the benefits.)
So start making a list of self-care activities that you would like to try, and then when you have a few minutes, see if one will work.
You need a planner of some kind in order to see the big picture: what your week or month looks like, how busy the days are, where your time is going. It’s hard to save time if you don’t know where yours is being spent!
If you have one that works for you, great. If not, look around to see what might work for you. Just make sure that you can have access to it anytime you need to, and that it’s portable.
I use Google calendar for my appointments and to keep track of my bills. That way, I can make an appointment when I’m out and know that I have time for it.
Here’s a tip: for regular appointments, like your hair appointment, make the next one before you leave the salon. That way it’s done. You don’t have to worry about remembering to call when you need a cut and then trying to find the time between your schedule and the salon’s. I also like to set a reminder.
Our money is completely automated: we have direct deposit, automatic savings transfer, and all of our bills come out automatically. All I need to do is check the calendar and keep an eye on things.
Google lets you see your calendar in monthly, weekly, and daily views. You can also block off time for anything – an appointment, meeting, or maybe block some time out for yourself.
The beauty of this is that you have a very clear picture of what your days look like.
I use a paper planner – just a notebook – for mapping out my days and weeks. My daughter Sarah does too.
I can’t get the hang of listing my tasks for the week on an app. I have ADHD, so I list things that most people wouldn’t – like watering my plants. It’s easier to check my notebook than logging into an app, plus there’s less distraction in my notebook.
Once you get into the habit of using a planner, it can help you save time by helping you plan more efficiently .
Let’s Look at Your Time
If you’re like my daughter Sarah, you have about four hours each day of “free” time. That adds up to twenty hours during the week, plus the weekend. That’s more time than your forty-hour a week job!
Maybe it’s not about saving time, but seeing where it goes and using it wisely.
You have laundry, cooking, shopping, cleaning, kids, and your own self-care to take care of. I’m sure I missed a few things.
Let’s walk through a few of them:
Each family member does their own, plus you have towels, sheets, kitchen towels. By dividing the laundry duty among all of you, it helps you save some of your time.
We started our kids doing laundry when they were about ten. They were each responsible for one load of towels (we counted – ten towels worked, plus washcloths) one day a week. Wash and dry. Also, the entire time I worked, I always put a load in before work, and whoever got home first put it in the dryer. When we were first married, we didn’t have a dryer, so I would wash the clothes and hang them on the clothesline in the backyard before I went to work. This was before kids.
Cooking and shopping for meals
Is it just me, or do you feel like you eat the same things week after week?
Go on Pinterest and find ten easy meals for weeknights. Or you could do the theme thing, like Taco Tuesday. With ten meals, you’ve got two weeks that you can alternate, and if they’re themed, you have more variety. Plus, that’s an hour or more a week that you have saved.
Make a basic shopping list for each week and keep it in your planner.
Here’s a tip from me, courtesy of my mom: make some kind of roast each Sunday. It doesn’t matter if it’s chicken, pork, or beef. You can get at least two meals from this. And any of the leftovers can be used on Taco Tuesday!
Now get used to the idea of ordering online. Sarah has done it for a few years now, and I do it now and then. We’ve never had a problem. Plus Sarah has a membership for delivery (Instacart) and you can use it for things other than groceries. That’s really handy if you have a sick kid and need something from the drugstore.
The best one was ordering my groceries from the car when we were on the way home from vacation. By the time we got home, they had been delivered and our son had put them away.
Keeping your home clean is probably the biggest job you have to do. I have some tips here, but I’ll do a quick summary.
We all have clutter, and if you have kids, you definitely have clutter. Picking it up and putting it away takes more time than you think. And if you don’t have a place for it all, then it’s just going to be a mess, because there’s nowhere for it to go.
Just so we’re clear here – I’ve got a big pile of clutter in front of me that’s always there. My planner, my laptop, some books, and notebooks. I have a place to put it, but I use it all the time, so it stays out.
And that’s OK for you, too. You live in your home. It shouldn’t look so perfect that people are afraid to sit down. (I had a cousin who decorated her house in ALL WHITE and then covered everything in plastic because she had kids. No one ever wanted to visit.)
Here’s the short list of what you should aim for each week:
- Dishes done by the end of the day. If you have a dishwasher, load it throughout the day. Table and counters cleaned.
- Bathrooms wiped down – sink, shower, and tub, toilet. (I scrub my toilets every day. It really doesn’t take that long.)
- Floors swept and cleaned. I know you can mop and it’s dirty five minutes later, but if you did it, it counts.
- Sheets changed.
- General pick up.
- Laundry under control.
Let’s Talk About You
You need to save time, but you also need to take care of yourself.
You could get up earlier if you want to add time for yourself, but I’m not a fan of that plan. You need your sleep.
Here are a few ideas to help you get your self-care in and save some time:
- Set up a morning and nighttime routine. Your nightly routine is the most important because it will help you prepare for the next day. Check your planner to see what’s happening tomorrow. Check the weather and pick out your clothes. Get lunches ready and decide what’s for dinner. Put the things you need to take with you by the door.
- Your morning just got easier. Get up, shower, get dressed, have breakfast.
- Wipe the bathroom sink and countertop when you’re done. Same with the kitchen.
- If you want to get up a few minutes early – like ten or fifteen – you could use that time to do some exercise or journal or read something inspirational. Maybe even meditate or pray.
- Get your hair and makeup routine down to something easy and simple.
- If you find you’re constantly racing the clock, take some time to think about what you do and how long you think it takes. Chances are you’re either underestimating how much time things take, or not using your time effectively.
Take Things Slowly
There are a lot of ways to save time and get more out of your days, but you don’t need to try and implement all of it at once.
Look at where your biggest problems are and begin there. Also recognize that some tasks are bigger than others. Saving time while keeping the house clean is a way bigger task than setting up a morning routine for yourself.
Choose one or two areas to work on, then pick one to start.
After that, break it down (All of this should be in your planner, by the way.)
Give yourself three to four weeks to establish one habit. That might mean getting into the habit of wiping out the bathroom sink once a day. Don’t rush it. You’ll get there. You’re already doing better than you were.
Use your planner to keep track of how you’re doing and so you know when to add another step and what that step is. This is important because you will be able to look and see how far you’ve come. It will encourage you to keep going.
And remember – you are always first.