With so much to do, we often find ourselves exhausted at the end of the day, with only half the things checked off our to-do lists. We try harder the next day, and only get more tired and frustrated, wishing there was more time in our day. Let’s take a look at how time blocking for busy moms can help.
In a not-so-distant past, I was the overwhelmed mom. I was momming 5 kids, had a husband, with a house and a business to run. I found myself having lists upon lists of things that needed to be done.
There were reminders on my counter, there were lists on my door, and there were sticky notes everywhere. If I didn’t have lists, I’d forget something. So I kept on with the to-do lists.
The problem was, I’d do something important, and the rest was moved to the back burner. And there it stayed until I was done with that “something important”.
I needed a system for balance. Balance has become a taboo word in the motherhood world, but it still has weight in my life.
What is balance?
Imagine a seesaw-type scale with a beam in the middle and two plates on either side. When you add something to one plate, the scale starts tilting to that side. In order to try to get it more even, you need to add something to the other plate.
This “something” you’re adding to the plates is your time. Except your scale has four plates. And they’re all balanced by one beam that holds up the moving parts.
I’ve never seen a working balance scale with four plates. I don’t even know if it’s possible to engineer something like that. But in mom life, everything is possible. In motherhood, we have balance scales with numerous plates.
A plate for Family
A plate for Home
A plate for Self
A plate for Work
Most daily mom activities can be grouped into these four categories.
But how in the world do we keep running from one plate to another, adding a little here and a little there to keep our scale from toppling over?
There is a trick.
Plan your day. And it doesn’t mean that you’re just making a to-do list. To do lists have a place in our lives and always will. But in addition to that, I discovered a system that works for me, and I finally feel more balanced than I’ve ever felt before.
It’s called time blocking
It’s a system where you assign specific time blocks to all four areas of your life (your plates).
To Illustrate what I mean, let’s take a look at an example schedule of a mom with school-aged kids that works from home part-time:
When I first started using this system, my time blocks shifted. Until I figured out what works for me, my time blocks were wiggly and stretchy (as shown in the next illustration).
Once I figured out how much time felt good for each type of plate, my schedule looks more or less the same on weekdays. I do leave space for spontaneity, and I don’t schedule my weekends. I now use this time blocking system every weekday.
Once the time in a time block is up, I’m done. I had to learn to be ok with an unfinished task. This was the culprit that kept me stuck in one plate before. I concentrated on one thing for way too long and got everything else off-balance.
Let me give you an example. When it comes time for your Home time block, you do the necessary, like cooking. If possible, give yourself more time than you need to cook, so you can do something else on your Home list, like decluttering a kitchen cabinet.
When you get one cabinet done, declutter another, but if the time’s up, stop. Don’t try to reorganize the whole kitchen in one day. Once your time is up, you’re done. You’re moving on to the next plate.
Of course, you need to be realistic. You won’t leave a bunch of pans on the kitchen counter because you didn’t have enough time in your time block to put them away. Give yourself a little cushion and put those pans where they belong.
If you know you have 10 minutes left in your Home block, don’t start reorganizing the fridge. Do the silverware drawer instead.
When you feel unmotivated
What if you don’t feel like doing the thing you planned to do in your time block?
Oh, how well I understand feeling like this! I feel this way more often than I’d like to admit. I planned on decluttering a kitchen cabinet one day and found myself walking in circles around the kitchen island because I had zero desire to do it.
With an internal grunt, I opened the cabinet and started to declutter. All it took was just to start. It’s a little hump to go over, and the rest is much easier than it seems at first. I ended up decluttering three cabinets that day.
Word of advice
Fair warning. Do not try to assign the same amount of time for each plate. It won’t work. That’s not balance. Balance is being able to add to each plate on a daily basis. One of the plates may only need one hour of your time. The other plate might need six. Find your own balance.
time blocking for moms with babies and toddlers
Time blocking can work great for moms with independent kids. Moms of babies and toddlers are just surfing the wave of the day, not knowing what they’ll have time for.
I understand. That’s why it’s important to mention that if you are a mom of small kids that need you with them pretty much at all times, you can try to implement a portion of this system.
For example, block off nap time and assign self-care to it. If you have great afternoon sleepers, you may be able to add another time block while the babies slumber and the house is quiet. Everything else gets done as a time window appears. Then, as you are able, add other time blocks to your day.
Here’s an example of a time blocking schedule for a stay at home mom with a baby and a toddler:
Notice how some time blocks are “flexible”? This might seem counter-intuitive to the whole idea of time blocking. After all, we’re supposed to block off specific time and stick to it, right?
Moms with small babies can do the hybrid thing. It’s better to try time blocking this way, even if you can’t commit your whole day to it, than not try at all. This post contains affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase after clicking a link, I will earn a small commission, but it won’t cost you a penny more. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
Don’t I need a planner?
If you have one, great. I’ve used many planners in my lifetime, and found that a planner with times assigned to each line works best for this time management system. It’s a total time saver when time blocking, since you don’t have to count hours, it’s all right there. All you have to do is draw a colored box around a time slot, assign a task to it, and you’re good to go.
The planner I’m using this year is called the Living Well Planner. It’s structured well for time blocking.
This time blocking system might sound boring to the spontaneous mama out there. But in order for something to change in your productivity, you need to do something you haven’t done before.
Try it. If you don’t try, you’ll never know. In order to see if this system works for you, you need to stick with it, so give it at least a couple of weeks.
Adjust to fit your own life. If it works for you, awesome, I’m glad to have been of help. And if it doesn’t, that’s great too. You can check off time blocking as something you’ve tried and move on to trying something else.
“How do you do it all?” Is a question I get often. The truth is, I don’t do it all. I chose what’s important, move things that can wait to tomorrow, and say “no” when necessary. The time blocking system for busy moms has done wonders to my productivity and my feeling of balance. I hope it will work for you too.