5 Choices When You’re Short on Time

posted by Andrea | 08/20/2012

As much as I don’t want to admit it, the lazy days of summer are winding down, and the crazy, busy back-to-school days are just around the corner.

Since Dave is a teacher, our day-to-day routine drastically changes once he heads back to school (I’m sure all of you with school-age kids know what I mean!) Not only will he be busy with lesson planning and grading, he’s also coaching again this year, leading student council, and a regular “fan” of school sports teams and music groups.

Plus, we’re involved in a bunch of committees and groups that are starting up again at church, we have yet ANOTHER family wedding (my other sister), and then the holidays (and Nora’s 1st birthday) will be here before we know it!

Whew! 

Can anyone relate?

If you’re feeling overly busy right now — or if you’re like us and wondering how you’re going to fit everything in over the next few months — I have some tips that might help :)

First of all, I just want to draw attention to a post I wrote back in March. I mentioned that I often get lots of emails from people saying, “I don’t HAVE enough time for _________”. And even though I know I’ve spoken these words many times myself, the real issue is that we just don’t MAKE enough time because we choose to do other things. 

You know I’m right :)

Secondly, I need to continually remind myself that I am ultimately in control of how I spend my time… and for the most part, I am able to choose what I do and don’t make time for. I’m not saying I always choose the right thing 100% of the time… but it is my choice!

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With that said, if you are still feeling like there just isn’t enough time — even for the important things that you’re trying to make the time for, here are 5 choices you have:

1. Get stressed out, worry, and lose sleep over it.

Ok, so this isn’t really one of MY tips… but it is a really easy option!

However, I can speak from experience that getting stressed out, worrying, and losing sleep over your to-do list is not a great option :)

2. Streamline the activity to take less time.

I talk about productivity A LOT and that’s because my FAVORITE way to “make more time” is by streamlining and trying to become more efficient at all the tasks I do each day. I make it a game and see how fast I can clean out the dishwasher or fold the laundry; I time myself at the grocery store to see how fast I can get in and out; and I write all my blog posts for the week in one day so I can limit distractions and be as productive as possible.

You can do the same thing (at home and at work) by doing your best to stay super focused, limiting distractions (when possible), and streamlining the activities that NEED to be done so you can make more time for the activities you WANT to do.

If you’re interested, here are a few more of my posts about productivity and time management.

3. Steal time from another activity.

This choice might be somewhat obvious, and it’s basically the same concept as using the “envelope system” for budgeting. If you run out of money in your grocery budget for the month, you can either get less groceries OR you can “steal” money from another envelope (like your entertainment envelope).

If you’d like more time to exercise, to spend with your family, or to work on a house project — you might find that time if you “steal” it from another activity. Maybe you can choose to skip your annual weekend shopping trip with the girls in order to make time for a fun family weekend at home. Or maybe you choose to take a few vacation days at work to make time for a quick home renovation project (don’t tackle the kitchen if you only have a few days!)

By stealing time from one activity, you can then make time for other activities that are more important to you at this time.

4. Find someone else to do it.

This might be somewhat obvious, but if you don’t want to make the time to do something… why not find someone else to do it for you?

And no, this doesn’t have to be expensive. 

Think of the other people in your home — can you ask your spouse to help you with some of the house work, making meals, packing lunches, or running errands? Are there other tasks your children can help with (vacuuming, taking out the trash, folding laundry, etc)

Another option would be to trade tasks with a friend — a.k.a barter! For example, if you are a very quick and efficient house cleaner and your friend loves to do yard work, you might consider some type of agreement where she weeds and mows your yard once a week and you clean her house once a week. By doing only the task you enjoy, you’ll finish faster and have more time for other activities.

And obviously, there are some times when it just make sense to pay someone to do the work for you too. We pay someone to change the oil in our car, and we pay for $3.00 car washes because it just makes more sense to spend 5 minutes running through a car wash than an hour getting out all the hoses, buckets, etc. and making a huge mess (oh, and we don’t know how to change our oil!).

So if you’re really short on time, consider finding someone else to do some of your tasks.

5. Drop the task completely.

This option might not be the most popular option – especially if you have perfectionist tendencies. However sometimes it really IS the best option.

Dave and I made the choice to drop several activities this summer in order to make more time for family, kitchen renovations, and  relaxing this summer. For example, we basically gave up on trying to keep our yard looking nice this summer because we had a major drought from the end of June through the beginning of August. Even with our underground sprinkling, our yard looked extremely brown and it just wasn’t worth our time any more. So we just dropped it… once the kitchen is finished we’ll try to get back out there again.

And obviously with our kitchen renovations, I’ve dropped most of my baking and cooking and replaced it with very simple salad/sandwich meals (and some eating out too!)

So the next time you catch yourself complaining that you “don’t have enough time” or the next time you feel like you just “can’t make enough time”, consider one of these options.

Options 2-5 are listed in order from “least drastic to most drastic” so if you’re wondering where to start, I’d suggest first trying to streamline your current activities. If that doesn’t work, then try to steal time from another activity or find someone else to do it for you. If all else fails, dropping the activity might just be your best bet.

What are your best tips for making time?

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9 comments

  1. Kaui @ Thrifty Military Mommy

    08/20/2012

    My favorite is bartering with friends. A while back our house needed to be painted and our neighbor had a lot of things that needed to be done with his house. So him and my hubby spent each weekend rotating between houses. It saved both of us tons of money.

    Currently I’m helping a friend organize her and her husband’s car detailing business and they will then detail my cars for free. i’m totally convinced that if EVERONE did this there would be absolutely no need for money!

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  2. JoAnn C.

    08/20/2012

    I pay a lawn service to mow my lawn every other week. It’s too hard taking care of mom, the house, etc. I have also dropped tasks completely. I’ve learned this year to not feel guilt about either one of these. If I can’t do something, I can’t do it! I’m still a very good woman, plain and simple.

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  3. Erica

    08/20/2012

    These are some great ideas… might have to do a post about them on the work from home blog I’m a contributing writer for…

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  4. Patty@homemakersdaily.com

    08/20/2012

    #5 is the one I’ve had to do. I still think of myself as a full-time stay at home wife but it’s just not true. I write daily for my blog, do the books for my husband’s business, and babysit the grandkids a couple times a week. I don’t have near as much time as I think I do. So I’m having to lower my expectations and realize that I can’t do as much as I think. I’m trying to STOP referring to myself as a full-time homemaker. I think that will help me recognize my limitations better.

    Great article. I love the title – takes away the helpless feeling and makes you realize you have choices.

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  5. thecleverspender

    08/20/2012

    It must be this time of year – I have been feeling so disorganized and short on time. Today I was so thrilled to get through back-to-school clothes shopping with both of my daughters in 1 hour! That is a record for us! One is a tween & one is a teenager, so it is sort of a miracle for us. We need to remember we all have the same 24 hours, it’s just how we budget our time. I think that in general, we are so worried about getting things done, we forget to enjoy the little things in lfe.

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  6. rebecca

    08/26/2012

    One major tip that you probably just assumed we knew Andrea! MAKE LISTS! I am not a compulsive listmaker at all, so when I find that I am losing time/feeling overwhelmed, that is something I do. (I know it should be a habit rather than a last resort;
    I’m working on it!). But making a list of just ten things that I really need to do helps me prioritize, especially when I promise myself some blog-reading time or pinterest time at the end of the list. Sometimes I even put that ON the list.

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  7. Love List 8/27/2012

    08/27/2012

    [...] 5 Choices When You’re Short On Time [...]

  8. Alison

    10/20/2012

    Hi Andrea, I have just discovered your site, and have enjoyed reading your posts on time management, and schedules. I am naturally an organized person (work from home with 3 kids), but I do get overwhelmed because I feel like I am always ‘stealing time’ from other activities, due to the unforeseen events, that continually pop up every week. These are the sort of interruptions that I can’t say “No” to. These last two weeks I have had 3 visits from out of town family, and these have been rare and special occasions. Two meetings with the High School because of a teenage crisis. Studying for a High School yearly exam to be able to help overwhelmed daughter. Meetings with other teachers, about my special needs daughter to try and manage some challenges. Appointments with psychologist, and Orthodontist for daughters 2 and 1. You can see child no. 3 didn’t get much of me this week. I always feel like I am trying to spread myself between the three of them. Anyway you get the picture. I said “No” to a bunch of routines that I would normally do, like reading at school on a Wed for child no 3 :( not doing the after school activities, not helping child No. 3 with homework at all for the last two weeks, paying someone to do one of my chores. Not to mention working till 10pm to fit in my “work” work, getting takeaway a few times and using the canteen, but when I am having to dig frantically through the clean laundry pile to find the school uniforms the next morning, and running late for school because I was up late the night before, because I stole the getting ready for school time, for some other crisis….then I start feeling a little crazy. I know we all have seasons in life where there is more pressure than usual. My husband and I often say to each other “busy day, busy week, busy year, busy life”… The real problem starts when, I stop doing the work, or whatever catch up, at 11pm (but ran out of steam to do the prepare for next day routine) that I then feel like I need down time, and spend hours on the internet, (which is how I found your blog), and end up getting stuck (Yes I’ve pulled the timer out now, thanks). I’ve tried to “schedule” down time, but my interruptions seem to hijack that, and I feel guilty, but deliciously indulgent about blog reading in the peace and quiet at 2am. In a way it’s almost an addiction, a distraction and maybe my coping mechanism for all the other stuff. I am about to redo my schedule, and buy the “Tell your time E-book”, but how do you manage when the crisis’ keep on coming? I do also feel that when you work from home, that people don’t think they are stopping you from work, but then at the same time, those family visits are important too… PS. tried to click on “How to Add Hours to Your Day” but it directs me to “Keepsakes and Family Heirlooms”

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  9. Ann

    01/26/2013

    I’m all about dropping a task, just be careful what you decide to drop…because it could definitely cost you more time (and money) in the long run!

    [Reply]

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