My friends at the Oh Get A Grip! blog were discussing time management last week, and while everyone has different ideas on how to go about it, there's really no set in stone method. Some people list; some schedule every single minute down to the wire; others simply attack the day and hope everything works out well.
Three years ago when applying for a job, I was asked about how I manage my time. And at the time I had just finished an exhausting year with a husband with heart problems, and being caregiver to my young niece and nephew. My answer was to look at what chores needed to be done in any given day and to prioritize.
For example, a typical day went like this:
6am: Shower, drink my coffee, and dress. Start getting kids up and dressed.
7:30: Everyone out out the door to drop off older two at school.
8:15: Return home; breakfast for the younger three.
8:30-noon: Housework, surfing web, writing, mediating 3 toddler arguements/tantrums.
1:00: Movie hour; nap time
2:30: If no nap was taken, leave to go to school. Otherwise, enjoy the solitude and write!
3:30: Older kids arrive home, if rode the bus. Otherwise, home at 3:15. Younger kids usually asleep at this time!
5:00- Start dinner
6:00- Eat; hubby home.
6:30-8: Cleanup, baths.
8:30-9: Younger ones storytime; bed.
10pm: My bedtime.
And yes, I've blown my stack. When my MIL fell and broke her back, I tried to squeeze in visits to see her, which entailed an hour trip both ways, and was frustrated by not getting all my laundry finished. I had to learn the world wasn't going to end if it all wasn't finished by 5pm. And at Christmas, when my husband nearly died, a comedy of errors showed me I seriously needed some downtime.
We were supposed to attend a family Christmas party. I also needed to go to the store for dog food. I invited my 'older daughter' to attend the party, thinking while she was reconnecting with her kids, I could slip out and go to Walmart without taking the entire crew with me. Hubby wasn't feeling well...we'd all gone through a bout with the stomach flu....and he thought it was his turn. So the kids and I left for the party.
My 'daughter' never showed up. At 4 pm, I loaded them back into the car with the intention of dropping them off at home and then going to get the poor dogs some food. We arrived home; all three were fast asleep; I left them in the car to enlist my hubby's help in getting them and the presents into the house.
Curve ball #1: He's on the phone to 911; they think he's having a heart attack, and the ambulance is on the way! We arrange to send him to the hospital where his doctor is. I telephone my aunt's house and fortunately my parents are still there. Yes, they will meet me at the hospital (my 2 older kids were going home with Grandma for a few days). I take off for the hospital.
Curve ball #2: Dad meets me in the parking lot; the ambulance had taken hubby to the local hospital, in order to transfer him better.
Curve ball #3: After 2 hours, he still hasn't shown up. St. V tells me they'll call MC to inquire about status.
Curve ball #4: Turns out hubby had vomited blood and MC decided to keep him.
Curve ball #5: I sent my 13-yr-old to the van to get the car seat. Five minutes after I kiss him goodbye and watch him leave, I discover he still has my car keys! After frantically contacting the State Police and giving them not only a description of my parents' van but a detailed route between here and their home, I kiss my 'daughter' goodbye after losing my temper with her over her inquiry about me watching the kids on New Year's Eve.
Curve ball #6: At 11pm, Dad calls from home and says he will return with the keys. And, oh, by the way, would I cancel the APB on him? An hour later, I thank him, get in my van, and head to the RIGHT hospital. Get hubby settled, and at 3 am, finally head to the store for dog food!
Curve ball #7: Walmart is waxing the floors in front of the pet department! I have to detour all the way to the back in order to retrieve the 40-lb bag, also enlisting a very nice person to help me wrestle it into the cart. I'm finally home at 3:30; feed the hungry dogs, and fall into bed!
But those two solitary hours helped me get my emotions under control; I was able to focus on what needed to be done and not just on my own mounting frustrations.
So now, when faced with a seemingly huge task, I've learned to step back and take of what HAS to be done, rather than what I think needs to be accomplished in a certain time period.
And for the most part, it's working for me. Overextending myself only leads to frustration.