Back to School Back to ME (for busy mothers)

How Smart Mamas Get It Done While The Kids Are In School

This article is also featured in the Huffington Post.

Dreaming about all of the extra hours you’ll have with the kids back in school? Determined to get on top of your to-do list and have space in your day to do more of what you really want to be doing?

Here’s the truth. Those ‘extra hours’ will disappear into the ether if you don’t watch it.

That’s exactly what happened to me back when my youngest began nursery school.

I was thrilled to have three bonus hours a day to get stuff done. I imagined my amazing life with an additional 12 hours a week!

But it wasn’t long before I felt just as busy as ever.

Two years later when he started ‘big school’, I conjured up more images of what my life would look like with all of the ‘extra’ time I’d have.

I’d create filing systems, put photos in albums, finish the baby books, learn Spanish, train to be a yoga teacher, do volunteer work….

But that time evaporated too.

Here’s what I’ve finally learned (and I hope this fast tracks you through the process):

Your time expands or contracts to fill whatever you put into it. If you’ve got one hour to rush out and buy a birthday present, you’ll do it in an hour. If you have more time than that, you’ll take longer to do it. Sometimes a lot longer.

Full time working mothers will tell you that they manage to get things done in a short space of time because they have to. They won’t go to three separate shops to find a missing ingredient for dinner, they’ll substitute it for something else. They won’t comparison shop, they’ll make a gut decision and move on.

Working mothers look at stay at home mums and wonder what in the heck they do with all of that time. Stay at home mums look at working mothers and can’t comprehend how on earth they get it all done.

We all have the same 24 hours in a day, it’s how you choose to spend your time that matters.

We need to make conscious decisions every day or we won’t get the right things done – and end up frazzled and frustrated.

Having a daily plan doesn’t have to mean you’re tied to a set routine, nor does it need to feel suffocating. You’re the captain of your ship. You set the course for your day. If you decide you’d rather be socialising or hanging out online, that’s your choice. But take control of your decision and drop the guilt. If you can’t enjoy it because you feel bad about all of the things you ‘should’ be doing, see it as a message that you need to do things differently. Let it catapult you into action.

Two first steps to get started:

1. List the things you’ve been wanting to do, but never have time for.

Anything from organising photos and videos, decluttering and purging old toys and clothes – to taking a course or attending a workshop, making a career change, getting into a fitness groove or meal planning healthy dinners.

Now decide what you truly want to make time for. Not because you ‘should’, but because you want to.

Get clear about why you want to make time for these things. (Maybe you don’t actually want to do the work, but you want the result you’ll get by putting in the work.) Focus on the outcome and how you will feel when you’ve done these things.

2. Create an Action Plan.

Print off a Design My Day Action Sheet and begin each day by identifying your 3 M.I.T’s (Most Important Tasks). Get those out of the way first – then move on to the things on your list above. If you don’t schedule them in, they’ll never happen.

I’ve achieved so much by doing this. Over the past few years I’ve become super organised, got fit, learned Spanish, and started my online business.

All of this is down to getting clear about my goals and being focused.

Be determined to spend your time how you want to spend it. As a busy mother there’s bound to be obstacles thrown your way and you’ll need to be flexible and forgiving! No beating yourself up. When things calm down, get yourself back on track again.

Learn my method for keeping track of all of my tasks, projects and daily to-dos in a way that doesn’t require re-writing lists all of the time. Click here to Master Your To-Do List.

In the comments below, please share what you’re going start making time for. 

photo credit: Brenda Anderson via photopin c

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  1. Karen Yankovich on October 3, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    Lists = a superpower! It’s so much more satisfying to get something done when it gets crossed off a list, AND it’s so much more likely to GET done! Thanks for sharing!

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on October 3, 2013 at 1:11 PM

      You’re welcome Karen! I’m a natural born list maker too, but it’s taken me years to realise that just writing stuff down doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. Seeing some of the same stuff on my list for days/weeks/months on end just weighs me down!

      Having a plan of action attached to my to-do’s has been the game changer for me. Identifying my 3 MIT’s and tackling those FIRST is the best part of my day now 🙂

  2. Marie Overfors on October 3, 2013 at 1:15 PM

    What a friendly, fun and wise approach to getting the important things done! I so agree, Kelly: Time expands or contracts in our hands and schedules. This is a great reminder. Here’s what I’m going to make (efficient!) time for today: birthday shopping.

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on October 3, 2013 at 1:55 PM

      Thanks so much Marie! It’s easy to get distracted out there in the shops…. Hope you’re having a focused time and come away with something fab 🙂

  3. Kim on October 3, 2013 at 4:08 PM

    I’m a super busy mom that works a full time job in retail in addition to running my empire. I squeeze every drop out of every day that I can.

    I’ve found that I work best with a monthly plan broken into a daily plan.

    Then, my daily plan gets broken into 30 minute chunks. Then, I plan out how to add in those chunks to my day. I work on my lunch breaks (my favorite time), and early in the morning – before my daughter gets up. And, then again after she goes to bed.

    I read a great piece of advice about not “stealing” time from your family. So, unless I can talk Kathryn into letting me listen in to a conference call while we’re driving home from Tae Kwon Do, I stick to the no work during her waking hours rule.

    I get SO much more done in my short 30 minute sprints than I ever imagined possible. And, I stay super focused for that 30 minutes, then I take a break and relax my brain.

    I loved your article. Such amazing tips to get busy mom’s like ME on track.

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on October 4, 2013 at 9:34 AM

      Woo hoo! Go Kim! Smart moms like you who know how to value their time, chunk down their day, plan it all out AND understand the value of being present with their family ROCK. It’s an acquired skill – and it sounds like you’ve got it down. 🙂

    • Adrienn on April 7, 2014 at 10:43 PM

      So inspiring Kim! Thanks for sharing your story and tips!

  4. Janine on October 3, 2013 at 5:08 PM

    I’m a to-do list junkie. And it WORKS. I also like the idea of prioritizing–so even if you don’t get everything done, at least you can cross off the important stuff. 😉

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on October 4, 2013 at 9:36 AM

      Right on Janine! So nice to meet fellow to-do list junkies 😉

  5. Nathalie on October 3, 2013 at 9:06 PM

    Ah, Kelly, what a great post! And I totally agree – this approach does work. I have two toddlers, two dogs, two businesses, and did a complete university training in the past few years and my lists really helped me a LOT in getting everything done. Combined with a super healthy lifestyle to boost my energy. Thanks for this great article! 🙂

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on October 4, 2013 at 9:39 AM

      You’ve got a LOT going on Nathalie! Glad you mentioned the importance of combining productivity with health as all the best organisational systems in the world won’t help if you’re run down and depleted. Keep doin’ what you’re doin’ !!!

  6. april on October 20, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    although my situation is slightly different (since we’re a homeschooling family), i can truly relate to what you’ve written. i only have one 15yo student now, and he does most of his work on his own. so i have large chunks of time that can easily disappear if i’m not paying attention. thank you for your solid advice, kelly. [and i love the 2 worksheets (as i’m an avid listmaker myself).]

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on October 21, 2013 at 9:07 AM

      Glad you were able to adapt the message to suit your home schooling situation April. Just as mothers with kids just starting school can have a fresh look at how they choose to spend their free time, the same goes once our kids are more independent like your 15 year old.

      Times like this are perfect for a major reassessment of your goals and what you’d like to achieve in a day/week/month/year. Glad the Action Sheets are giving you some fun new ways to fill-in-the blanks. I’m a list making junkie too.

      I hope you’ll find Project Me a great place to put the focus on YOU. You deserve it! 🙂

  7. Theressa on October 21, 2013 at 2:15 PM

    Flexibility is my super power! I used to feel so powerless when the unforeseen would happen (for example; sick kids). But over time I’ve learnt that there’s certain things that are out of my control which I just have to take as they come.

    On the other hand, the things within my control…yeah, your lists are supreme 😉

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on October 21, 2013 at 3:35 PM

      Love it Theressa! I’m picturing you as the mama in The Incredibles with the super flexible, stretchy limbs 🙂 You’re so right. Kids have a way of throwing the best laid plans out the window – and we have to just embrace that and not let it frustrate us too deeply. x

  8. Nancy on September 2, 2014 at 2:00 PM

    I’m a first-time visitor! Boy, do I need a blog like this. I have two in school (one all day, one in the mornings) and a baby at home with me. One thing that I definitely need to make time for is running. I fell off the running wagon over the summer, and last school year, I always managed to have “something else to do” that got in the way of a daily run but since my daughter is in school two extra mornings this year, I really have no excuse!!

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on September 2, 2014 at 2:41 PM

      Welcome Nancy! So happy you found Project Me 🙂

      This is definitely your place to put the focus on YOU, set some goals and find the motivation you need to keep on top of them.

      I’ve created a special Fitness action sheet that’ll help you schedule in your running:

      Ink in the days and times you’ll run – and stick to it! Get an accountability buddy to hold you to it, and think up a reward to treat yourself for doing it. Go for it!!!

  9. Aletha Brennan on September 3, 2014 at 12:58 AM

    I’ve been using the Design My Day (or DMDS as we call them!) For a couple moth this now and it’s been helping so much! I have always struggled with actually being productive during the day and this has been my most successful tool. I’m very excited about this Back to School, Back to You Challenge.

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on September 4, 2014 at 2:45 PM

      I’m so pleased you’re having success with the DMDS Aletha and thanks so much for taking the time to let me know.

      Also happy you’re on board for the Challenge! Here’s to YOU 🙂

  10. […] read my tips on how to make a bit more time for yourself here. I also read a great blog post from Project Me for Busy Mothers about how  you can better use your time, which is well worth reading before starting this […]

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