There’s never enough time. Between business commitments — both on the farm and off — plus all the demands of family, friends and community, it’s all too easy to get run ragged and then not have any time or energy left over to take care of yourself. To help, we searched out four time-management experts. Our question: how do they find time in their own lives?
1. Work smarter, not harder. We all do it already. The challenge is to get more systematic. Always look for the most efficient way to do things, advises Donna Schmidt, a professional organizer from New Hamburg, Ont. You aren’t likely to suddenly free up huge chunks of time, she says, but if you save a little bit of time here and there, it adds up.
If you have 10 minutes while you’re waiting for someone to pick you up you can accomplish some of your smaller jobs like checking the delivery date on your seed order, paying a bill, or making a few calls to committee members.
Tip Keep a folder of things you want to read such as magazine articles or the insert that came with the electricity bill. When you head out the door to
the doctor’s office or the bank or to deliver a load of grain, grab the file to read during the inevitable wait.
2. Think in zones. Put things you use at the same time together. Elaine Shannon, a professional organizer from near St. John, N. B. promises this will save time you otherwise spend walking around gathering them up.
If you make coffee every morning, create a coffee centre with the mugs, coffee filters, coffee, sugar and spoons all together in one place. In the summer, if you like to barbecue, keep the condiments such as the ketchup, relish and mustard together in one container in the fridge to save time hunting for them.
Schmidt agrees with this approach. She suggests having a lunch-making zone in the kitchen where you keep the plastic Baggies, plastic spoons, water bottles, lunch bags, juice boxes and granola bars so you can do as much as possible while standing in one spot.
At one point when Schmidt was making homemade pizza at least once a week, she kept the recipe taped to the inside of the cupboard door with the bowl and tools she used together in the cupboard.
Tip Even young children can make their own cereal if you group bowls, spoons and breakfast supplies in lower cupboards.
3. A place for everything and everything in its place. You’ll save a lot of time looking for things if everything has a place and goes back in its place after being used. Consider using a label maker for containers so it’s clear where things go, adds Shannon. “Organizing is more about function than looks,” she says. You’ll also save time and money shopping for things you already own, but can’t find.
One of the reasons people end up with clutter is that they don’t know where to put things. “People pick things up and then set them down again because they don’t know what to do with them,” says Shannon.
To hire a professional organizer go to www.organizersincanada.com.There are 500 trained members across Canada.
There are downloadable videos, 60 minutes long, available
for purchase at www.organizingconnection.com.
Shannon also offers virtual organizing using Skype Internetbased
Keep baskets by the door to store gloves, backpacks and toys. Keep bins by the door for library books and movie rentals and make sure everyone knows to put items there so you’re not wasting time looking for them the day they’re due back, advises Patricia John, a professional organizer from Oshawa, Ont. Shannon also keeps things for kids after-school activities like ballet shoes and Scout uniforms in a set of plastic drawers in her mud room.
Open the mail near the recycle bin and immediately recycle flyers, junk mail, etc., says John. Shred items containing sensitive information.
Tip Work with your family, not against it. Kids prefer coat hooks to closet hangers, so buy them some hooks.
4. Involve the whole family. Too often, one person, usually the mom, is doing most of the housework. Setting up systems and having a place for everything makes it easier for the rest of the family to help out. Young children can hang up their coats, put away their backpacks and empty their lunch bags when they come home from school. As they grow up, add more responsibilities.
Expect kids to help out with chores like making lunches. “Mom does not have to do it all,” emphasizes Shannon. Getting kids to help make dinner also teaches valuable food preparation skills, points out Julie Stobbe, a professional organizer from Beamsville, Ont.
Set up a central collection area for dirty laundry, preferably near the bedrooms, suggests Stobbe. Have hampers for light-, medium-and dark-coloured clothing. Make sure everyone gets in the habit of emptying their pockets. Keep stain remover nearby so everyone pre-treats stains. This way laundry is presorted and can be quickly tossed into the washing machine.
Tip Give older children a list of meals they must make from start to finish, like Tuesday supper or school-day
lunches. Don’t forget an essential part of the job is to make the shopping list.
5. Use email efficiently. Resist the urge to check your email more than a couple of times a day. Every time you interrupt your train of thought to check an email you waste a lot of time getting back on track.
Responding to emails can suck up a lot of time, says John. Prioritize the emails and respond to the most important ones first.
Sort incoming emails into file folders so you can find them easily, advise both Stobbe and John. For example, create a folder in your inbox called “Orders” for things you’ve ordered online. When the item arrives, delete the email from your inbox. If needed, put followup reminders to deal with emails on your calendar. For example, put a reminder to register for a conference on your calendar a couple of days ahead of the cut-off date. Consider using an electronic calendar like the one that comes with Outlook. Print it off the night before so you are prepared for the following day, says John.
Cut down on the number of electronic newsletters you get. “This saves both time and the stress that comes with feeling like you’re not keeping up,” says Stobbe.
Tip Use the oven or microwave timer to limit how much time you and other family members spend on email.
6. Set schedules for jobs you don’t like. If you have a job you have to do but are having trouble getting started, make an appointment note and post it in your planner or, better yet, on your fridge where everyone can see it. You can even do this a week or more in advance.
But don’t overdo it. Depending on the task, promise yourself you will work at it for a half-hour or an hour. Then stick to it. Don’t do less, or more, than you said. The objective is to learn how to do such jobs on an ongoing basis, not just to get this one task out of the way.
This, says Schmidt, is also a great tool for kids who are having trouble getting started on homework or cleaning up their rooms.
Tip Make sure your kids see how you schedule your time. Even use a timer. The good habits they absorb will help
them later in life, and help you now.
7. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Look for ways to streamline things you do more than once. For example, if you go camping every year, keep your list of things to pack, your menu and grocery shopping list from year to year, preferably on the computer, suggests Schmidt.
Writing out weekly menus for lunch and dinner for the entire week will avoid the last-minute stress of, “What can I make for dinner tonight?” Making a weekly shopping list will ensure you have all the ingredients on hand and cut down on last-minute trips to the grocery store. These menus can be reused from week to week using favourite family recipes.
Tip Create a master grocery list on your computer. Organize it by store aisle and print out a new copy every
week. Then, have the family check off the items as you run out of them.
8. Learn to say “no.” Think about which commitments are most important to you and learn to say no to those that aren’t a priority for you, advises Schmidt.
Despite all of the time-saving devices in our lives it feels like we are busier than ever. By taking control of our time and looking for ways to work more efficiently, we can all carve out time for those things that matter most to us.
Tip Set up a time budget. Figure out how many hours you can realistically spend on church and community activities. Then don’t do more than you have time to do. CG