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Posted April 30, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Making the most of each moment: Time management, mom-style


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Donna Dunn -- Daily Correspondent

When you're a mom, the idea of time management can seem like a contradiction in terms. Keeping to a schedule when you're at the mercy of so many other schedules, is a challenge.

As a newborn, your child made it almost impossible for you to know what to expect from feeding to feeding. As a toddler, his energetic exploring kept you constantly on a chase. And as your child moves from preschool to high school, the time management challenges -- from Little League to ballet to school plays -- continue.

But just because you're dealing with more schedules than you did before you had children, doesn't mean that you've lost control of your time. You may need to approach it differently, but you can make the most of every moment.

Try these tips to add a few more minutes to each day:

Get organized

If you're spending 10 minutes a day trying to find your keys or digging through piles of paperwork to find the bills you need to pay, you may need to get things in better order. You can do this with just a few simple principles:

• Put things back in the same place every time. That means making a place for everything. Consider whether bins, boxes or other organizers might help.
• Simplify! Suzanne Racer of Winchester said, "The number one thing I'm trying to live by -- not necessarily always successfully -- is the less stuff you buy during 'retail therapy' the less time it takes to manage it at home. As much as possible, I'm trying to evaluate before I buy whether it's really something that is needed in the house."
• Only handle mail one time. File it or toss it.
• Don't let things pile up. Do a little each day.

Get the kids to help

Learn to delegate to your family -- considering what is age appropriate. Mary Buchholz of Cross Junction said, "The biggest timesaver I can think of is to teach my kids and delegate. If 30 minutes of instruction can teach them how to fold laundry, I've just saved myself hours of future work."

But wouldn't it be quicker to just do it yourself?

This may be true in the short-term, but remember that along with keeping your house in order you need to teach your children how to live in the great big world. Out there, they will have to clean up their own messes.

"Teaching time up front may be a hassle for the moment, but such a long-term time saver," said Cathy Burzio of Berryville. "It also builds self-determination and problem solving skills for our children."

So help them as needed, but get in a habit of asking them to clean up. Give them assignments. Start when they're young and think this is a fun game. It will eventually become habit.

Make every trip count

Around town and in the house, don't waste your time.

• If your home has more than one level, always keep a basket at the bottom of the steps. Never go up or down without carrying something that needs to be put back in place.
• When planning errands, group trips together if possible.
• Try to keep trips to the grocery store to once a week. Plan your meals and take a list.

"The crock pot and planning out meals ahead of time is so crucial, especially if you are working," said Christine Kriz of Stephens City.

Get help

Sure, you thought being a mom meant having a June Cleaver dinner on the table every night and freshly pressed shirts in the closet. But then your real life happened. Give yourself permission to get help from time to time.

• Start a supper swap with friends. For example, six friends make six of the same meal and then trade. You then have six different dinners in the freezer that are home-cooked and so easy to pop into the oven.
• Consider taking shirts to the cleaners periodically to be cleaned and pressed.
• Run your car through a carwash every now and then instead of doing it by hand. The kids will love watching the sprayers.

Make a to-do list

Lists are actually a great way to organize your grocery list -- and your time. Divide your list into MUST, NEED TO, and WANT TO. This will help you prioritize what to tackle first.

Put all commitments on one calendar

"The Kriz gang has a calendar on the fridge that we go over as a family every Sunday evening," said Kriz.

Because you can no longer think about just your schedule, make sure you keep a calendar with everyone's commitments on it. That way when you're asked to help with a fund-raiser, you know you have a basketball game that night.

Juggle - but just a little

Don't multi-task at the expense of safety or inefficiency. You might think you're saving a ton of time making dinner, talking on the phone and folding clothes at the same time, but an overflowing pot of pasta tells a different story.

Likewise with making your calls in the car. You may save a few minutes, but you are also at greater risk of an accident because of the distraction.

Go get 'em Mommy!
Motherhood is an adventure -- the most wonderful and challenging job of your life! Be a great time manager so there's more time for the really important things: blowing bubbles with your little girl or reading a book with your little boy. That's where your time really counts!

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