Time Management Tips for Busy Parents

If you are one of those parents, who is always strapped for time or finds it difficult to efficiently manage work and home, don’t fret. Here are some valuable tips to get you sorted

By Venkatesh Varadachary

Time Management Tips for Busy Parents

Do you wait for the weekdays to get over, even on a Monday? Do you constantly feel rushed? Is your life reduced to putting out one fire after another (figuratively speaking)? Then, it is most likely that you are not managing your time efficiently.

If you feel that you are the only one having such unique time challenges, you are wrong. Yet, so many manage to have a solid family life and a successful career, while the rest of us move from one crisis to another. All you have to do is start managing your time properly.

Quality Time

Increasingly, we are having dual income families where both the parents work. The challenges for such families are manifold. On the one hand, they have to turn in a minimum level of performance at the workplace to have a good career. On the home front, they need to spend quality time with their kid(s).

One of the great paradoxes of our time, is that we are living together and at the same time we are so alone. One of my friends who got affected by the Chennai floods a couple of years ago, mentioned that there was a silver lining to the whole catastrophe. Because there was no electricity and Internet, the family finally got down to sitting together and talking, and finally getting to know each other!

Give Priority

Let us see how we can effectively and efficiently use the mother of all scarce commodities – Time. Being an effective user of time means that you prioritise and only do the most important activities. Being an efficient user of time means that you do well, what ever it is that you want to do.

Managing time properly means acknowledging that there are more things to do than you have time for. So, you have to give importance to certain activities and make sure you actually do them. If this means, you cannot do three other relatively less important but enjoyable activities, so be it.

Classify Activities

After prioritising activities, it is important to classify them as Important and Urgent, Important but not Urgent, Urgent but not important and Not urgent and Not important. This time management framework was given by the late Stephen Covey in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and has changed the life of millions of people in a good way.

Effective people focus on activities that are important. When you systematically channelise your time on these activities, you are tackling them before they become urgent. However, most of us spend our time from one urgent activity to another, without really getting to the important activities at all.

Like the story about filling a jar with large stones first, then the smaller stones and then with sand, we need to allocate time to the really important activities first. How do you do that? By scheduling them! For example, it is a good idea to have at least one meal together, so that the entire family can bond and discuss how their day was? Do you know that the Gates family used to have this family mealtime, during which Bill Gates’ father used to discuss general knowledge with young Bill? No wonder Gates grew up to accomplish a lot in his life.

With the Covey framework in mind, here are a few things that you can do to manage your time:

  • Schedule and make time for the most important things. This could be family together time. Make these non-negotiable
  • Get organised and stay organised. Most people fritter away a lot of time just searching for misplaced things. As far as possible, prepare the night before for your next day at work/school, so that your mornings are relaxed.
  • Limit screen time – big, medium and small. Most of us are spending way too much time on TV/Netflix /Facebook/Whatsapp. Spend the time with real people who matter instead.
  • Plan your week ahead during the previous weekend. This way, if you have one-off events or activities, you can still slot them in on your calendar. Swimming classes, guitar classes, baby-sitting sessions – all of these can be rescheduled as long as you respect other people’s time and do it well in advance.
  • Have a common calendar for all your family members. This is very important, as you need to have everyone in the family rowing in the same direction.