It’s Time for Change (How Managing Your Time is Like Managing Your Money)

time for change

Lately, I’ve been feeling like I am drowning under a sea of responsibilities and To Dos: blogging, homeschooling, parenting, relationships, chores, volunteer commitments – the list is endless.

I’m constantly running two steps behind and wondering when I’ll get “caught up”.

I go to bed way too late, trying to “get stuff done”. My kids, unfortunately, never got their sleep-in memo — which means, I’m routinely getting less than six hours of sleep a night.

And since I’m being totally honest, I’ll add that my almost four year-old daughter rarely makes it thru the night in her own room — compounding my already fierce sleep deprivation.

Big goals rarely get accomplished, since I am too busy fighting fires.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Perhaps your list is different, but the drowning feeling is eerily similar. Or maybe you’ve felt like this for so long that you’ve accepted it as “normal”.

Over Pesach, Frankie and I had a long talk. We realized that it’s time for change.

As we delved into our time management issues, it occurred to me that the lessons we have learned about budgeting our money are actually a great model for budgeting our time.

After all, six years ago, we couldn’t imagine living within our means — let alone being able to saving money for emergencies, kids’ college, retirement, travel and other important goals. But today, month in and month out, we manage to prioritize our spending based on our income and do exactly what we once thought was impossible.

Maybe we can apply the same discipline to our time management that we do to our money, I wondered aloud to my husband.

Perhaps we’re wasting time on stuff that doesn’t really  matter, which prevents us from doing what’s most important? And maybe we’re losing time to inefficiency and mismanagement? And then there’s the possibility that we’re simply trying to do too much — with too little time.

As Dave Ramsey taught me, a budget is “telling your money what to do, on purpose, on paper”.

We’ve figured out how to be purposeful with our money. Now it’s time to apply that skill to our other most value resource: Our time.

I realize that the analogy isn’t perfect, since no amount of hard work will allow me to “earn more hours”. But hopefully with some increased efficiency, prioritization, delegation and a healthy dose of reality we will begin to be able to allocate the 24 hours we do have each day in a more purposeful, planned way.

Over the next several weeks, I will be sharing with you how my husband and I do a “time audit” of our household; how we determine our top priorities — and figure out what needs to be let go for the time being; and ultimately, how we develop a schedule that allows us to start swimming and stop drowning.

If you’re interested in managing your time more efficiently, I hope you will stay tuned! And if you have mastered the clock at your house, I know we’d all love to hear from you!

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  1. Oh Mara – I love this!! I cannot wait to read this series.

    I feel like things have gotten a little better for us this year… which means that we are just slightly drowning instead of being completely under water, lol. I still have a long way to go and I love the idea of treating it like we do a monetary budget… Telling our time what to do, on purpose, on paper.

    I’ve never been good with scheduling my time, but I wasn’t good with budgeting either until I forced myself to do it.

    • Mara Strom says

      Another friend commented that maybe it’s “self-management” more than “time management” — and I think she is so right. I’ve figured out how to be disciplined in one area of my life… now if only I can harness that to other areas!

  2. I’m sure I’ve emailed you before, but you must read 168 Hours (maybe you already did, because she talks about the time audit). Great book.

  3. Yes!!! So needs to be talked about!!
    I am so often overwhelmed with everything and it feels like sinking most days!
    I’m trying to simplify our lives, do what is most important, but I know I’m not alone because I hear it time and time again!

  4. I look forward to reading this!
    There was an interesting article in Saturday’s wall street journal, review section, by a woman who also was feeling swamped with work & family. She started reading Machiavelli’s The Prince, and applied it to her family. Made a world of difference!

  5. I am SO excited about this project. Count me in!

  6. This is going to be a great series Mara. One thing I’ll say as you schedule your time is that you should do the same thing you do with your budget which is give yourself some ‘whatever the hell I want to do’ time. You have your blow money- you should also give yourself some blow time. The other thing I would suggest is that proper sleep gets moved to the top of your list not the bottom. Computer off at 10:30pm (at the latest-earlier would be better) . Eyes closed by 11:00pm (or even earlier). In fact, even if you still get 6 hours of sleep it’s better to sleep from 11-5 than it is to sleep from 1-7.
    For me personally, it’s just not something I will negotiate on (barring illness/emergency). Yes I could earn more money if I gave up some sleep. I could get more exercise if I gave up sleep. I could have a cleaner house if I gave up sleep. But I just won’t do it. Getting enough sleep makes my waking hours even more productive. I’m happier, more able to handle stress, and it is adding years to my life. Ok, getting off my soapbox. 🙂

    • Mara Strom says

      This is a soapbox that I personally need you to be on!

      (And I’m curious – do you have links about that “better form 11-5 than 1-7” thing. I’d be curious if there have been studies on that, b/c I’m definitely in the 1-7 camp. Or more like 2-7:30 camp. 🙁 )

      • In the book “Ben Ish Hai” (first year, parsha Vaishlah) it says: “It’s better to sleep during the first half of a night, than the second. It’s better from material (health) perspective and from spiritual – for tikhun neshama and tikhun olam.” And from the author “Ruah Haim” p.90 : “Going to bed earlier and rising earlier are habits that bring a person health, wisdom and strength.”

        • Mara Strom says

          Very cool. Thank you, Asya.

          And such a good reminder that with all our modern day “problems”, we’re not needing to reinvent the wheel here!

      • I just sent you an email with a bunch of links in it. Too many to post here. 🙂

  7. I am definitely staying tuned. It often seems like each day is a race to — as you say — get things done. If not for Shabbat, I would never breathe! Really looking forward to seeing this series.

    • Mara Strom says

      It’s true – Shabbat is definitely the breather. But even the getting ready for it… adds to the craziness a bit, as well.

  8. Danielle says

    We totally struggle with time management too. One issue we did recently get under control is the sleeping. I hesitate to share, as I don’t want to jinx myself, but if it helps anyone else than I’m happy to share, because having an older child not sleeping through the night is horrible. My almost five year old was waking several times a night and spending half the night in our bed. It was a nightmare for me. I was constantly tired, miserable, and making everyone else miserable too. I was really just at the end of my rope from lack of sleep. What finally worked for us was making bedtime rules for her, I actually wrote them out and posted them in her room. We read them out loud every night and always stick to the order. We also instituted negative consequences for not staying in her bed and positive reinforcement for staying in her bed until morning (we also got her a Dream Lite which seems to have made a difference too). I was amazed at what a difference it made. She’s actually sleeping through the night for the first time in more months than I care to admit. We’ve had some push back, but for the most part she’s a different kid when it comes to bedtime and sleeping through the night in her own bed.

  9. I am most excited to hear your results of this! I am even doing a research project on time management for teachers for my master’s degree right now! Hope you had a great Pesach!

    • Mara Strom says

      Wow – I can’t wait to hear more about that, Rachael! I’m sure you’ll have great insights based on that research.

  10. Dealing with same issues! Just started reading Stephan covey’s “7 Habits of highly effective people” book. Very powerful and also very in tune with torah!

  11. Stephanie says

    Stephen Covey’s book was the first time management book I ever read and it was so helpful. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam is useful too. She speaks to a more affluent crowd and is huge on outsourcing household tasks but I took a lot from the book anyway. She is good at figuring out core competencies and the time use journals are useful too. I have time management issues due to a ton of doctors visits every week on an irregular schedule and being chronically ill so I do what I can when I feel up to it and my poor husband picks up as much slack as he can.
    Probably the biggest quality of life issue for our family is everyone getting enough sleep. Luckily they are good sleepers, their parents not so much. We are VERY strict about bedtime (other than special occasions) because they are holy terrors when exhausted and I physically can’t handle them when there are like that. Usually they are pretty good listeners but that goes out the window- after being up late two nights in a row on Passover they thought it would be a fine game to stand on the old oxygen tanks (stored on their side while waiting for pick up) for a rolling log game like lumberjacks going down a river… I was in the kitchen making their lunch and they received a very long time out. Ugh.
    Do your kids have chores? Yours are pretty small too but anything they are capable of doing they should in order to help the family. It took at lot of time at first but the girls help unload the dishwasher, help sort laundry, put away their own toys and clean their rooms with supervision among other things. It helps take the load off my husband- even if it is only 5 five minute jobs spread across the day that is 25 minutes that my husband can play with the kids after work. If they complain I remind them Daddy wants to be able to play with them and then they run off and want to get it done so he can play too.
    I know you asked about time management and I’m also talking about sleep and chores, I have found them to be interconnected and so far this works for us. That said, every family is different and you mileage may vary.
    Are you going to writing more bout homeschooling anytime soon? It is highly unlikely we will ever do it but I found your thoughts interesting.

    • Mara Strom says

      Stephanie – These are great thoughts and you are absolutely right about the sleep connection. This is something I’m keenly aware of and will definitely be focusing on in our time audit and time budget, going forward!

      Re. homeschooling, I do actually have a video of our homeschool classroom set-up, which I’ve been meaning to edit and turn into something presentable and just haven’t had… time… (LOL). It is on my list of things to work on tho, now that Pesach is over.

  12. Not sure what I have to say about time management at the moment (other than I feel free to cut out things when I just can’t do them anymore), but for sleep issues:
    My son had major sleep issues as a baby. Like undiagnosed sleep apnea. For years. This year, we actually took him to Children’s National Medical Center to their sleep clinic. Know what they said? They said that he used to have sleep issues and now we needed to do some sleep training. I could be as gentle about it as I wanted, but he had to go to sleep in his own room and stay in his own room. It took 2 nights, and he is like a different child. He is eating better, growing more (he was also very small) and is more able to socialize and enjoy activities. So glad I took him, and so glad I followed their advice.

    Oh, and yes, good sleep hygiene has to apply to parents too. Sorry, no more 2:00 AM;)

  13. One more comment — I read somewhere that instead of saying, “I don’t have time for X,” try saying “X isn’t a priority for me,” and see how that feels. For me, that’s been a powerful tool. It has also helped me realize that, frankly, some things are truly not priorities for me — and others absolutely are.

  14. I can’t wait!! I’ve been struggling with time management for so long I don’t even remember when it started, but my guess is sometime right after having my oldest.

    • Mara Strom says

      Oh for sure, children throw all sorts of “kinks” into our very best plans for time management! Especially since stuff I think will take 10 minutes ends up taking 30 — and there’s usually a huge mess left in our wake, which needs to be cleaned later. 😉

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