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Making Time: The Art of Prioritization and Parenting

It’s 11:59 PM, the end of Mother’s Day 2017, and I’m writing this post with full knowledge that I won’t have time to finish it this evening.

I don’t have time.

Sound familiar?

Just last week, a colleague at work was unleashing that all known feeling of, “I can’t keep up” in a conversation. I thought for a minute and decided that I was done feeling like I don’t have time. There has to be a better way.

It’s time to stop being so hard on myself and instead celebrate what makes me feel confident, proud, and accomplished.

Being a mom these days is practically impossible. We’re expected to work full time either at home or in an office. We’re expected to make gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, and nut-free cookies for the school bake sale. We’re expected to get in a 21 Day Fix workout, plan our next Pinterest-worthy party, keep our house as spotless as a Pottery Barn magazine, all the while looking put together and effortless. When really, we all look and feel like this…

mom covered in a messy house with not enough timeWe have to get over this thought that we can’t keep up with the day to day. No one can!

So instead, I say forget about that idea of having time. If we constantly tell ourselves we don’t have time to get things done, we’ll simply fail ourselves and our expectations.

If you don’t have time to get things done, learn how to make it.

Before you run for the hills screaming, I promise the concept of “making time” isn’t some weird kind of magic potion that suddenly turns a 24 hour day into a 30 hour day. The last thing we need in our days is MORE time. Instead, this is about learning the art of prioritization.

One thing a day

A while back, I started to re-structure my days with the idea that I wanted to do one big thing a day. Just one. Just one thing that has been sitting on my to-do list and mocking me for weeks. This could be as little as scheduling a dentist appointment or as big as organizing the cabinets. In the past, I would be so focused on trying to knock out everything that I never really got anything done. My day would become a conglomeration of 100 tiny unfinished projects. Death by one thousand paper cuts.

So that’s it. One thing a day. And I repeat this to myself every. single. day. If I got my one thing done then I constantly feel like I’m progressing in the right direction.

Try it out! What’s your one thing today?

Need to do vs. have to do vs. want to do

Many years back, I learned a trick to prioritize my daily tasks based on breaking up my to-do lists into 3 buckets: what I need to do, what I want to do, and what I have to do. For example, I have to feed my family, get the kids on the bus, go to work, etc. I need to go grocery shopping or throw in a load of laundry, and I want to go for a bike ride, get my nails done, or clean out my closet. Either way, there is always room to restructure days based on the noise.

If you have to get something done, you have to get it done. The goal is to fill up your day with the most important tasks and work your way backwards from there. Again, don’t try to do it all, that’s impossible. But also, don’t forget to give yourself some time to do the things you want to do. Otherwise, life would be awfully boring!

When playing, cooking, and cleaning collide

First off, I’m not very good at playing. My mind runs a million miles a minute and I constantly am thinking of what the next task is that I need to get done. Every time I sit down to play, I’m constantly thinking about the water that might be boiling, that email I still need to send, or the laundry that needs to be changed. The problem with this is I often forget that I need to put myself and my to-do list aside and prioritize the littles. So, we started combining play time with chore time.

Every night, I cut myself off from work around 5:30 and put my phone away. I started inviting my kids to help with making dinner and chores. My kids help with laundry, we make games out of cleaning their room, and we celebrate getting things done with family art projects in the evenings or walks after dinner. This is our time to be 110% present together.

You may think these are weird examples and that cooking and cleaning together doesn’t constitute “playing” but this is what works for us. My 4 year-old gets proud when he makes dinner and is also more likely to try new foods. My kids are learning to help with laundry, and we all love spending this time together. I’m also hopeful that they are learning to take care of themselves and that we’re all getting a little free time back by prioritizing things together.

This video really says it best (seriously… we all need this reminder):

Finally, it’s ok to give up

As a mom, I don’t do this enough. The amount of stress it takes to run our household can be overwhelming, time-consuming, and cumbersome. Sometimes, the best thing to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed is to do nothing. When there simply isn’t enough time, maybe that’s the best time is to throw out the to-do list and stand in the sun! We need to give ourselves permission to be imperfect. To give ourselves permission to close the door and remember that everything can wait and that YOU and your family are your priority. So forget about the perfect bake sale cookies and go buy some from the store.

Because when you make time for you… everything else will fall into place.

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