My lovely friend gave a demonstration about time management at our work orientation awhile back. A jar was held up and then filled with rocks. The rocks represented the big things we all have to do. For most moms, the rocks are grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, organizing, scheduling, driving, and so on. I work, so I have a bunch of rocks related to that, too. Moms who work at home have different rocks. My friend poured in sand around the rocks to demonstrate the little pockets of extra time that we have in our day. To be optimally productive, we should use these pockets to do small tasks.
Finding Pockets of Time
I find this method appealing, and useful. If I’m waiting for a doctor’s appointment, or stuck in line (alone, if I’m lucky), I make a grocery list or work on scheduling while I wait. When I’m giving my toddler a bath, I bring along a stack of laundry to fold while he plays. If I’m waiting on water to boil, I clean out the fridge. As moms, we rely on these pockets of time to get things done.
But I want to talk about optimizing our pockets of “away time.” For me, there are very small windows or pockets in the week where I have the chance to go somewhere without my toddler or husband. Some of these windows are taken up by meetings, or other important “rocks.” I’ve identified the few windows that are open for me to get away.
My husband has two days a week off work and two daytime hours off each workday. Those are times he can stay with our child while I go out. Obviously, those are also times when we can all do something as a family, so I can’t take all of those hours. For some strange reason my husband also likes a break, so I try to leave downtime for him. As you can see, the pockets of possible away time get smaller and smaller.
In some ways, it’s easier not to use this available away time at all. Using it requires scheduling, planning, and organizing. Over the past few weeks, I’ve gotten steadily better at using this time.
What I’m Discovering
I’ll tell you the secret. I have started to care again about my old ambitions. You know, the ones I had before I became a mom. I opened up the Word doc of my old novel and started re-arranging. Pieces of the old me emerged in each line, blended with my new perceptions.
Now, when friends invite me to write, I say yes (after careful scheduling)! I have two “writing dates” planned this week with different people! I come back from each coffee shop full of new energy. It also gives me the time to catch up with people I love and to invest in what they are working on. I’ve gotten more words on the page in the last month than I have in the last two years!
You might not be writing a novel, but we all have interests that we put on the back burner while our families grow. Finding pockets of time to re-claim those interests is important. It might even be essential to our self-hood. I know that signing yourself up for one more task (even one you love) can sound like a burden, but it is the exact opposite. Producing something you care about is a way of honoring yourself, and it recharges your spirit like nothing else.