Time Management for Parents

With some time management tips, parents can feel less stressed and get more done.
Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Parents juggle. It's what we do. And the reality is that sometimes, we can feel like we're not juggling very well, and just can't keep all the balls in the air. All too often, it can seem like there just isn't enough time in the day to do all the things we want and need to do, whether it's meeting that work deadline, tackling the always-growing pile of laundry, helping kids with homework, and somehow still getting dinner on the table on time. Reminding ourselves that we can't get everything done and that things definitely slow down when we become parents is one of the first things we should do when we feel overwhelmed and stressed before we can begin to tackle the "how" in time management.

Start Using a Timer 

For certain tasks, like checking email or scanning news headlines, it can be so easy to get distracted and fall into the rabbit hole of all those viral videos and GIFs that are calling out to you, enticing you to click on them. Before you know it, you may have spent way longer than you intended to do online. To prevent this from happening (and it happens to all of us), set a timer when you need to do a certain task. That way, you can stay focused and not stray-click on that cute cat video.

De-Clutter Your Schedule

One possible reason Marie Kondo's book became so popular is that it most likely struck a nerve in our jam-packed, constantly-on-the-go lives. Just as our homes can be packed with things that don't give us joy (one of her criteria for throwing something away), so can our schedules.

We can learn to say no to that energy-vampire friend who keeps us on the phone for an hour spreading gossip about other people; we can set a timer (see above) and not browse shopping sites for clothes we cannot afford and don't need; and we can be realistic about how much free time we have to volunteer at school or church.

Volunteer together as a family once or twice a month, or however often you can swing it, but don't over-commit only to feel like a failure when you can't do it all.

Break It Down

Each night, make a list of all the things that must get done the next day—it really is worth taking the time to do this—and see what you can cross off that list or move to the next day or the next week. This will help you prioritize, and seeing all your tasks together will help you see what is and is not essential.

But be sure to also include things like snuggling with kids and relaxing or playing games with them on that must-do list. Not only do these small things make a huge impact on how strong your bond with your child becomes, but research also shows that kids whose parents play with them are more likely to grow up happy and emotionally healthy.

Find Ways to Streamline Your Morning Routine or Bedtime Process

Look for ways to cut down your family's morning routine such as making a game out of getting dressed fast using a timer or putting all book bags and coats and shoes by the door and ready to go. In the evenings, you can try to find shortcuts in your kids' bedtime routines, such as starting the bedtime book during bath time.

Put Down That Remote!

Now that we consume TV shows, limited series, and other binge-able content in a whole new way, many parents out there have found themselves bleary-eyed, clicking "next episode" at 3 a.m. (Yeah, it happens.) But doing this too often can result in being way too tired to function well the next day or beyond. So give yourself some much-needed rest and try not to do more than a couple of episodes. (Yeah, it's hard.)

Find Ways to Reduce Your Stress

One reason why you may not be getting everything done or feeling overwhelmed is that you are stressed. If you don't take care of yourself, you'll be much less productive and unhappier doing what you need to do. Not only that, it sets a bad example for your kids when they see stress taking over your life as you have less and less time for joy and having fun with them. So go for walks and exercise with friends, find a good yoga class, or even try your hand at adult coloring pages, which have been shown to reduce stress.

Be Smart About Multitasking

At one point or another in the course of a day, all parents have to do more than one thing at once. And in fact, making dinner while drilling multiplication tables or paying bills while your child does a book report is not only necessary, it's a good way to motivate your child ("Let's work at the same time and then we can relax or eat or do something fun after.").

But if you are staring at your phone and checking email and posts on social sites when you are supposed to be spending time with your child or doing something together as a family (such as having a family game night or a movie night), then you are sending a message to your child that she doesn't deserve your full attention. It's called phone snubbing, or phubbing, and sadly, more kids today are noticing that their parents are doing this. Bottom line: When it's family time, focus on your child.

By Katherine Lee
Katherine Lee is a parenting writer and a former editor at Parenting and Working Mother magazines.