How I Make the Most of My Day

When my big boy started Kindergarten last Tuesday, I suddenly had much more free time during the day. My little one is now three months old, and while he is becoming more awake, alert, and aware of his surroundings every day, he still spends several hours during the day resting his quickly growing body and brain. With my oldest son at home this summer, I spent much of those hours playing, eating, talking, and cuddling with him. Now that I have those hours to spend as I wish, I decided I needed a tool that would keep me on task.

For those of you with the super-organized, no-amount-of-time-is-wasted, Type A personalities, you are way ahead of me on this concept. Without the presence of a full-time job or a five-year-old to determine how I spend my time, it’s almost overwhelming for me to have such freedom. And also counter-productive. I have about a hundred different projects, chores, and ideas that I could begin on any given day, but without some sort of organizational tool, I can’t seem to focus on any one task in particular, and my day ends with laundry in the washer but never dried or put away, halfway washed dishes, and the bathroom torn apart, because I started reorganizing our toiletries, but never quite finished…

Hence, I went back to a concept that I learned years when I sold Mary Kay products for extra cash. As part of the training process, my leaders taught me to use a tool that Mary Kay herself used. It’s called “The Five Most Important Things.” Every day, Mary Kay used to make a list of the five things she knew she needed to get done that day. Whether is was chores around the house, things to do for her family, tasks to push her business forward, or for her own personal development, she wrote down the top five things that she needed to accomplish that day, and she made sure that she did those five things. Because that’s the kicker. You can make plans and utilize the best organizational, task management tools that are out there, but if you don’t actually see to it that those things are accomplished, then the time you spent thinking about, writing, typing, or organizing those tasks was wasted.

So last week, I found a spare spiral notebook, made my five most important things list, and I made sure that I got those things done before it was time to pick my son up from school. Not only did this help clear up my evening and weekends to spend more quality time with my big boy and husband, but the house has been cleaner, and I have a greater sense of accomplishment. I look at those five things crossed out at the end of the day and give myself a mental pat on the back. It takes away stress, and gives me more time to focus on things that are truly important to me: my family.

A quick way to get organized. No fancy print-out needed. 🙂

Here’s a little glimpse into my weekdays:

6:30am-Wake up time for myself and my big boy. Snuggle and watch cartoons.

7:00am-Breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth, combing hair.

7:30am-Leave for school.

7:40am-Drop of my big boy with a hug and a kiss.

8:00am-Mommy and Baby time. Nursing, intriguing conversations, peek-a-boo.

9:15am-Baby’s “poundings” (a treatment for his CF)

9:30am-Baby takes a nap. Mommy starts tackling that list!

11:00am-Baby wakes up! Mommy stops whatever task she is doing to nurse and play with baby.

1:00pm-Baby gets sleepy again. Mommy rocks him to sleep and gets back to her list.

3:00pm-Daddy comes home. Dog barks and wakes up baby. Mommy nurses him, and keeps him entertained while Daddy has some post-work destressing/showering time to himself.

3:35pm-Daddy is calm, cool, and collected. He takes Baby, and Mommy goes to picks up her big boy from school.

Let’s be realistic. My day doesn’t always go quite this smoothly. That two hour afternoon nap sometimes ends up only lasting thirty minutes. Sometimes I’m holding my little guy in my arms while I blog, because he’d rather sleep there than in his crib (or my bed, or the swing, or the vibrating bouncy seat.) Sometimes I play peek-a-boo with my little guy using our clean clothes as I fold them. Sometimes I may only get three or four of the things on my list done. Sometimes I get them all done by noon. It’s just as important for me to be flexible as it is for me to have a plan. Without a plan, I may start everything but finish nothing. With flexibility, any little setback can leave me frustrated or stressed. Like all things in our lives, a healthy balance is key.

Another thing that has a big impact on my day is television. I can be a TV junky at times, and having a decent amount of time to myself everyday, it is tempting to plop on the couch and start flipping channels. For that reason (and to keep my little guy exposed to the least amount of TV as possible) the TV mostly stays off during the day. I may watch The Price Is Right while sorting through worn or outgrown clothes to donate to charity, or I may watch a recorded episode of Project Runway while I eat lunch and blog, but 80% of my daytime hours are TV-free.

Last, but definitely not least, is that I make a little time for myself during the day. Things that will make me feel good about myself. Most days, this is time to read the Bible and pray or reflect during my son’s morning nap, and time to exercise in the afternoon (or vice-versa if I want to go for a run with the jogging stroller. It’s still too hot in the Midwest afternoons for me to run outdoors!) I think it’s important for our well-being and as models to our children to make time for ourselves every day. If we are constantly putting everything else in our lives first, that’s what we teach our kids to do. Our physical and mental health suffers when we don’t give them a high priority rating.

Obviously, I left out a detailed description of how I spend my time when my little one is awake. You can look forward to that later this week! We’ve been having a lot of fun. 🙂

How do you make the most of your time?


11 Comments on “How I Make the Most of My Day”

  1. Chris says:

    It’s so wonderful you are finding a little time for yourself everday. It is definately a balancing act, leaving you feeling exhausted some days, but etching out te to indulge yourself is so important.

    • I totally agree. I was putting myself last for a while there, and after reading a great parenting book (I’ll blog about that soon) I realized what an injustice I was doing to myself AND my family (especially the kids) by doing that. If I don’t make it a priority, my exercise and healthy eating won’t get done.

  2. It’s good that you limit it to five as you will have a better chance to accomplish. Prioritizing is important.

    • Anymore than five and I’d be setting myself up for failure day after day… That’s just torture. This way I get the main things I want to accomplish finished and anything else is a bonus!

  3. I like this approach, mine is similar but not as clear cut. I would like a bit more clarity to be able to see my achievements and keep things balanced with time to reflect and rest. Another Great post!

    • Time management is important but the methods are different for everyone! I just have to have something to keep myself on track and motivated. So far t has helped tremendously!

  4. I don’t know what I would do without my to – do lists. They keep me focused and like you I give myself a pat on the back when one task is completely done. I work full time and would get nothing done at home but for the lists. I even have seasonal lists, grocery list that I use to mark off when something is used up, holiday meal lists and they’re all used.
    I look forward to following your blog.

    • When I worked full-time, I rarely used lists. I would spend a bit of time each evening tending to whatever chores were in need around the house, but never specific plans on which tasks to do when. Now that I’m using this system though, I think it would have helped me even then! It just helps get the most productivity out of my day. I like the concept of a grocery list and a holiday meal list too! May have to start ultizing more lists… I may turn into a Type-A that I’ve always envied a bit after all! 🙂
      I found your blog through “raising rural kids,” and I look forward to following your blog as well! Love the recipes!! 🙂

  5. […] be a no-show. I am much more effcient with my daily time management when I make a list of the Five Most Important Things. I can get things accomplished; I just need to write it […]

  6. […] am NOT a naturally organized person. Although I know that making To Do lists every day helps keep me on track and to feel more productive, I’m not great at it. I like the way Bill […]

  7. […] I was struggling with post-partum depression, I tried getting myself organized. I tried exercising. I tried eating better. But my mind wasn’t in the right place. It […]

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