Hello everybody, welcome to episode 133 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino and we’re going to have a discussion today about time management for busy moms! Love this one. It’s very easy, especially these days to just fill up our schedules completely. For some it’s based more on fun activities, for others it’s based more on legitimate needs. Today’s listener is more of the latter, but hopefully what we talk about will help everyone wrestling with time management. Let’s dive on in. Here it is…
QUESTION: “I am struggling with time management. I am a mother of a two-year-old daughter. We live in our own house, and my family lives 300kms away. I'm planning to pursue a PhD scholarship in the next three years. I have to get more publications to better my CVs, so I need to conduct research. But the problem is I don't have time. I have to take care of my family, teach classes (both official and extra), and do part-time jobs.”
Time Management Strategies for Working Moms
Sounds like you’ve got a full plate! And as much as I want to just help you find ways to cut the extra unnecessary stuff out of your life like social media scrolling and TV watching, I’ve got a hunch that there’s not much of that right now anyway.
Assuming there’s not, I have a few ideas of my own for you, but I also recently learned about a specific time management strategy that was actually tested predominantly on working moms like yourself, so let’s talk about all of that starting with some of the time management strategies I’m most familiar with.
An odd thing about bettering time management is that we often resort to to-do lists. It’s odd because to-do lists aren’t necessarily bad, but I do think that just having lists of tasks to accomplish is more effective when we just have a busy week as opposed to long-term challenges like what you’re facing as a working mother who’s also pursuing a PhD.
When it comes to long-term time management planning, there are two ways to enhance the to-do lists.
1. Align Your Lists With Your Values
The first, more important way is to align our lists with our values. As we start to cross reference the items on our to-do lists with the values we actually want to base our legacies on, it’s easier to cut things out that we find may not even align with who we want to be, or at least make sure that the things we believe in most are the things that are being taken care of first.
You might even come to the decision that the PhD just takes you away from your daughter more than you’d like it to when she’s this young, and that’d be okay.
Approach this all with an open mind, including your big goals. I can’t stress enough the importance of having flexibility even when it comes to life altering pursuits.
Now it doesn’t seem to be like any of the items on your to-do list are based on unimportant values, but still, having your values readily available will make it easier for you to cope with days that you don’t get around to less important stuff.
For example, right now, you might be beating yourself up on days that you don’t get around to doing research to build your work portfolio. But when you remind yourself that you didn’t get around to doing that because your daughter, a more important part of your life, had an emergency, it stings a little less.
2. Prioritize Three Top Items Each Day
This philosophy sort of blends with another thought, which is to prioritize three top items each day and tackle them first.
If you can really hone in on what’s most important each day, based on both value and volume, getting those out of the way first before distractions set in will insure that at least the priorities are taken care of.
And if there’s ever a time to create a to-do list that’s full of small tasks, this is the time. Break down each of your three big tasks, break them into small steps required to get them done, and fill up your list that way. Big tasks are always dealt with easier in small steps.
Other strategies to deploy that will help support all of your daily actions will of course be delegating to other people whenever you can, designating different spaces in the house to different tasks, and keeping your house organized so as to avoid physical clutter contributing to mental clutter.
I’ll also say that in the face of a time management struggle, many people choose to sacrifice a few hours of sleep or exercise.
Everyone’s different, but I’m very much against that. Proper sleep and exercise are important elements of being a functional human being, and moving them to the bottom of the totem pole will negatively affect your performance in many areas of life, including your ability to be sharp at work and in your studies.
Not to mention that keeping up with these things as best you can will allow you to maintain some sense of control.
Time Management via Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions (MCII)
So enough of my little ideas; I promised you a specific time management strategy that I did not come up with, but I’m happy to share it with you as it’s pretty intriguing.
This strategy is called M.C.I.I., designed by Gabriele Oettingen out of NYU, and it stands for mental contrasting with implementation intentions. And the cornerstone of MCII is that you visualize a positive event (the result you want to happen) in addition to the possible obstacles preventing it from happening. You then prepare remedies in advance for said obstacles.
The process is broken down into another acronym (this time a fun one), called W.O.O.P.
WOOP stands for:
- make a W-Wish about what you want to do,
- consider the best O-Outcome,
- what O-Obstacle is in the way,
- and a P-Plan to deal with the obstacle.
W.O.O.P is also used as a separate acronym for participants to base their mindset on when approaching goals in this way; standing for Wise, Optimistic, Open-minded and Powerful.
This concept may not seem very novel, but research found that the single mothers who first tested this approach had better results than their counterparts who were not testing it, and that they even saved both time and money compared to mothers who were indulging in apps, life hacks, and other miscellaneous time-saving strategies.
Time Management for Busy Moms: Conclusion
So to me, the best way to master time management is a hybrid blend of basing your tasks based on long-term, intrinsic value, prioritizing them and breaking them down accordingly, making sure the space in which you’re accomplishing them is up to snuff, and visualizing/planning just as much for the potential obstacles as the goals themselves.
To the woman who sent this question in, thank you very much. I wish the best for you and your daughter. You’re juggling a lot right now, but others have managed the same feat and I’m sure you can too.
And like I said early on, if you find that any of your well-intentioned professional goals are simply taking too much time from you and your daughter, there’s no shame in dialing back. Just because you started something or said you were going to do it doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind.
For everyone else out there, thank you for listening and thank you for continuing to send in questions. Keep them coming. You can email them to us at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
All people and all types of problems are welcome, and it’s totally anonymous. We’re all done for today, folks. Thanks again for being here, and I’ll see you all in the next one for more fun and friendship. Take care guys.