Wednesday, June 22, 2011

10 time savers for busy moms

"Why are you always doing two or three things at once?" my husband asked me recently.

"Well, duh, I'm a mom," I wanted to say. But what I said was, "That's how I have to get things done."

True, isn't it? For any mom?

In addition to multitasking my way through the day (which I don't really do all the time), here are other things I do to make the most of my time or to make tasks easier.

1. Prepare the night before. I am not a morning person, as much as I would like to be. It's easier for me to get breakfast, papers, bills, etc. ready the night before I need them than to try to force my brain to work in the morning. When my son goes to school, his lunch and backpack are ready at night too.

2. Use lists. I'm a big list maker. If I can find the time to focus on things I need to do or prepare for (like my two-year-old's upcoming birthday party) and write down what I need while I'm concentrating on it, this saves me time later because all I have to do is refer to my list. And then I better not lose that list! Lists are essential for regular tasks like food shopping, too.

3. Buy more than you need at one time. If something you use all the time is on sale, scoop up more than you need! You know you'll eventually use it, and you'll save yourself another trip to the store. Of course, this can't apply to things like fresh produce, but this tip does help save time for most other household items.

4. Give your kids incentives. I like to think this isn't the same thing as bribery. But it might be. For example: "I'd be happy to buy you a toy car if you help me in the store by being a good boy." It doesn't always have to be a newly purchased item: "I'd be happy to take you swimming if you are nice to your sister this morning." Because, let's face it, kids who don't behave or get along can slow down the operations of a family.

5. Delegate. Who says you have to do it all? Give your kids and other household members tasks that are appropriate for their age. My country-raised stepmother would say, "Many hands make the burden light." And the mom happy.

6. Get into a routine. I know many people think routines are boring, but I think routines can actually help a family save time because everyone knows what to expect. When you have young children (who thrive on routine anyway), they usually won't put up a fuss when the family does what they expect them to. As many moms know, if there's ever a break in routine, you might lose time by dealing with a fussy, cranky little person.

7. Make smart use of technology. I admit I can get sucked into Twitter or Facebook, and lose track of time having fun catching up with online friends. But some technology does save time, like online and/or automatic billing, and the new Starbucks Card Mobile and Starbucks for Android, which let you pay with your phone. Fast and easy!

8. Save time at the library. This is one of my favorite time savers that I like to share with other moms. There's a great program at my local library system that allows you to reserve a book online from any library in the county library system, then keep it on hold for you at whichever library you choose. Instead of me driving to several libraries or even just rummaging the shelves at my local library, the librarians do it for me. Then all I have to do is ask for the book at the front desk, check out and leave. And it's free! Check your local library system to see if reserving books is available.

9. Combine trips. It's amazing to me how much time my family spends in the car, just driving to and from places! If you can save some shopping or pick up/drop off time for a trip that takes you nearby, that saves time and gas.

10. Factor in some down time. Time seems to go by quickly when you are busy trying to get through a to-do list. But time seems to slow down when you do -- so make the most of it.

For me, saving time and making family life easier has to do with being organized and taking a little time to think things through. It also really helps to have a supportive husband who enjoys helping out. If you can't do it all, ask for help -- from a family member, neighbor or friend. Someday when you have more time, you can return the favor.

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I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Starbucks blogging program, for a gift card worth $30. For more information on how you can participate, click here.