Life is unpredictable, especially with kids. You may not be able to avoid chaos altogether, but with our essential time-saving tips, you can learn how to maximize the time you have and make the most of those precious minutes.
1. Assess your time. Look closely at how you spend your time. Experts say that most people spend up to an hour a day on tasks that could be put on hold or completely eliminated from their schedule.
2. Prioritize. The key to organization is knowing what's a priority and what can wait. Experts suggest that you divide your to-do list into three sections: those things that need to be taken care of immediately, those that can get done anytime during the week, and those that are long-term or ongoing projects.
3. Think ahead. Look for ways to delete steps from a task or cut the amount of time you spend getting ready. For instance, prepare as much as you can for morning the night before. Or set the table for the next meal with the dishes you unload from the dishwasher.
4. Organize, organize, organize. Get a file cabinet and keep a copy of everything. Keep a folder for each child so you know exactly where to find all of their information (school, doctors, etc.). Make copies of things such as phone numbers and class lists, and keep one at home and one at work.
5. Pick your battles. Decide what you can live with and what really gets under your skin. Maybe you can't stand a dirty floor, but you can live without the bed made just right.
6. Multitask. Learn to consolidate jobs and get things done during downtime. Pay bills or go over your child's homework while you're sitting in a waiting room. Get a phone headset so you can do other chores while making phone calls.
7. Ask for help. You don't have to be Supermom and do everything yourself. Recruit other resources when you're running short on time (and sanity). Consider bartering with another mom; she can run some errands for you one day and you can watch her son for two hours another day.
8. Give everyone a job. Whether it's sorting laundry, licking stamps, or picking things up, there are chores that even the littlest of helpers can do.
9. Post it. Hang a family wall calendar to keep track of everything from PTA meetings to doctor visits to movie dates with your husband. Post an ongoing grocery list on the fridge. Buy an erasable white board and hang it in the kitchen to post lists and reminders.
10. Be ready to go. Have a bag packed with essentials and keep it by the door. Fill it with baby gear, snacks, napkins, coloring books, stationery, stamps, etc.
11. Use the Internet. Pay bills online and have them automatically deducted from your bank account. Buy gifts from Web sites and save yourself from store crowds. Save time by researching items online before you head out to the stores. This way you'll know exactly where to go and what you're getting.
12. Put everything in its place. One of the biggest time-wasters is looking for lost items. Make sure things are put away after use so they don't get shoved someplace when you're in a hurry.
13. Consolidate. Keep everything of the same "subject" together in one place. Keep all of your children's sports uniforms in one drawer, or store the entire family's rain gear in one place.
14. Baskets are a Mom's best friend. Place a good-size basket in every room to store toys, books, videos, etc. Put one for each family member by the door to store backpacks, shoes, and whatever else goes out with that person in the morning.
15. Make extras. Whenever you cook a meal, always double (or triple) the recipe and freeze the extras. In addition, use paper plates and plastic utensils when you're running late or eating something simple. Save the good dishes for fancy meals.