I have been asked by my friends how I manage my time, as it seems like it’s not easy to wear so many hats and not drop any at the same time –well, most of the time.
Just a list of my regular activities will give you some idea. I admit that there are so many outstanding women who have a dozen more items on their list; however, compared to an average woman, my list is a not a modest one, either.
I am a mother of a 10-year-old boy; I can anticipate every mother knows how much work there is related to looking after a boy at such age. I am a full-time employee for a software company; my work schedule is from 9-5 Monday to Friday. I am a part time student taking my master’s degree. I am a Toastmaster member; I go to my advanced Toastmaster club every month. I have a dear mentor; we talk every week for 1 hour, and I always get inspired by her from each conversation. I have passion for learning new stuff; I took 9 online courses in the last 6 months. There are 12 more courses I have purchased waiting for me to explore. I am a part time housewife; I am the only person who cooks in my home, and every night I cook 3 dishes and 1 soup for my son and my family to make sure my family gets various nutrition from different sources of food; I do grocery shopping every week for the next week. And I have a desire to continously improve my English writing. I have had this blog since late 2013; I have written 47 blogs since then in 2.5 years.
After peeking at this list, you may wonder do I have time for fun after I have such a long list? Of course, I usually have at least 4-5 exercise sessions every week for 2-3 hours; I have a list to read for the year and a list of movies to watch on Netflix,too….I still can achieve lots of my plan, although my spare time is all my son’s until he goes to bed at 9-9:30 pm. Every Sunday we go outside to hang out with his friends and friends who are also mothers. Although I have such a long list, I still discipline myself to have a healthy timetable; I usually sleep at 11 for 8 .5-9 hours.
In fact, I was triggered by one of my friends one day, to write this blog. That day, several moms were chatting about their kids learning piano. According to the piano teacher, my son needs to practice 1.5 hours every day as he’s going to take the grade 7 exam soon. So most of the time, my son can practice that amount of time. Another mom, whose kid is 2 years younger than my son, complained that her daughter has no time to practice piano every day as her daughter is just too busy. I joked with her that she can try to make a timetable and see where the time has been spent.
In my opinion, although everyone equally has 24 hours every day, people feel very differently about the way they use their 24 hours.
I would like to share my tips for using the 24 hours with my friends here. I hope there’s something useful for you to consider when you look at your timetable and your habit of using your time in your daily life.
- Use the less busy time for shopping wisely and more efficiently. Do you do grocery shopping often? How frequently do you shop and where do you shop? As a mom of a 10-year-old boy and the only person who cooks at home, I need to do grocery shopping every week. How to do grocery shopping more efficiently? First, I have the habit of typing notes on my iPhone’s notepad. When I find there’s a grocery item I’m almost running out, I will write on my note. Lots of people will say they forget to purchase something after they leave the store. I believe that is because they think they can remember everything from a list in their head. I always have a written list on my iPhone , which is more efficient and error-free than having a list on top of people’s heads. Second, try to avoid to shop at the peak time. How many of you find it’s harder to find a parking spot and there are longer lineups in the weekends? I found that if I go to Costco for shopping on the weekend, I will spend at least twice as much time compared to shopping during the week day. During the week, after my work and before picking up my son from his afterschool activities, I usually go to grocery store using my to-purchase-list on my iPhone. I just do grocery shopping once per week.
- Try to multitask when you can; I am a multi-tasker. Every day after work, I arrive home around 5:30 pm; I only have 2.5 hours with my son before he goes to sleep. Every night, I will cook 3 Chinese dishes and one soup to make sure my son eats healthy fresh food. How long do I spend on cooking every night? You might think that 3 Chinese dishes needs a lot of time. Nope! I only cook the three dishes around 30 minutes. I don’t have the luxury to spend more time than that on cooking. My best choice is to multi task to be more efficient. Tonight I am cooking a stewed fish with mushroom, fried tomatoes with eggs and steamed broccoli with oyster oil. The soup is the pork bone with lotus root. What a healthy and inviting menu! What I did is right after I arrived home, I put three pots on the stove and am cooking the three dishes almost at the same time. So I spent the time for cooking one dish on three. For the soup, I can use the electric cooker to set timer for cooking.
- Leverage the spare time; I am a person who always tries to leverage my spare time. I will give you several examples here. My son spends less time on Chinese learning after he came to Canada. I think Chinese is also imperative, and it’s our native language and a beautiful one. I try to encourage him to read Chinese, but I just notice that I have a way of engaging him in the Chinese environment easily. Every week, we need to spend at least 3 hours on the road as he has several afterschool lessons such as piano, writing, maths, speaking, and basketball. One day after I talked with my mentor, she said her husband and she love traveling and they always listen to audio books on the road to use the time wisely. What a great idea! Soon I downloaded lots of audio books for my son from an app so he can have a chance to get familiar with famous ancient and current Chinese stories written by lots of wonderful Chinese writers. Another example of multi-tasking is , sometimes after dinner, I will sit by my son listen to his piano playing, and I can write my blog, just like I did yesterday; The third example is ,when I have a 20 minutes foot spa before sleep, I usually leverage this time to call my mom or family in China. That’s the way I use my spare time more efficiently. This January, I watched the episodes on Netflix called “Making a murder”; how could I enjoy the ten episodes with my limited time? My son had ski camp every Sunday on Grouse Mountain. His lesson was 3.5 hours, so after sending him to the mountain, I sat in the Starbucks, which is just beside the drop-off and pick-up location, purchased a cup of my favorite cappuccino or latte, brought my iPad and earphones, connected to my mobile data network and enjoyed the movie! Every Sunday when he had the lesson, I could watch 4-5 episodes at once.
- Try to avoid hanging out with friends who are always very late and don’t have a sense of time. I hate to hang out with friends who are perpetually running late, as this will influence my plan. Sometimes we have dinner gatherings with my friends. I would like to give you and example: The appointment was at 6:30pm. After I arrived on time, I saw nobody was there. The other guests were late by 30 minutes. Maybe it is okay to be a little late for social gathering, but it’s not my habit.
- Use a calendar and plan ahead; I like to use calendar for almost everything. I don’t like to give myself pressure to remember anything, I believe that a good memory is not as good as a recording habit. One day I missed my son’s pizza day at school; he called me from school and said that I forgot to give him money for pizza for lunch. From then on, I record almost everything on my calendar; I also set reminder for important dates. Yesterday I forgot to check my calendar and forgot my son’s pizza day which is every Wednesday, luckily before sleep I saw my phone had a pop up notice: John’s pizza day tomorrow. Then I put the money in my son’s school bag immediately. Forgeting things will cause lots of time waste and anxiety. That time I forgot my son’s pizza day, I had to call several friends of mine to see who was nearby and could purchase some food for my son’s lunch; For lots of short or long travel plans, I would like to double check before I go. My friend went to the famous new scenery “Sea to Sky” to have a day trip with her kids. It’s about 100km’s drive and 1.5 hours one way. After she arrived at the destination, to her disappointment, the gondola had not opened, so they could not enjoy the scenery at all. So lots of times, I do not just look at the website information, I also like to make a phone call to confirm to make sure that I do not waste my and my kid’s time on the road and get nowhere. I also like to use the calendar to plan things. For lots of events, such as the preparation for my son’s birthday or booking travel, I always have that on my calendar 1-2 months beforehand, so I can plan ahead of time.
- Have a visual board for big plans. Although I am an mobile person who likes to use my iphone or my notebook to write down plans and notes almost for everything, I also like to have something visual for my big plans because I have lots of things on my iphone I may overlook something. One day I went to Staples and purchased a board and 3 colored markers. I wrote down my 3 months plan on the board and hung it in my study room. On my board, I wrote down my study plans, books to read, online lessons to learn, and preparations for the upcoming trips. Besides my plan, I wrote a realistic timeline to make sure I can meet my goals.
- Limit your time on social media; I also need to mention that nowadays people spend lots of time on social media everyday. It’s great to keep in contact with friends and family on social media, engage with them wherever or whenever we are. However, it can also be a trap or we can become addicted to social media without noticing how much time we spend on it every day. For a while, I kept interacting with my friends everyday whenever I had time, on the way to work, having breakfast, lunch and dinner or even in washroom. I did not notice how much time I spent on it and I did not realize that I had become quite addicted to social media. One day, my son asked me: “Mom, it’s not fair that you limit my game time to 15 minutes per week but you spent hours and hours playing your game –he meant social media.” Did I spend that much time on social media? I checked myself that day. It happened to the last day of 2015. I decided to make a plan for 2016, one of my goals is to reduce my time on social medias to less than 30 minutes per day. Until then, I didn’t realize that if I can spend that much time on social media I can use that time to do something else; I would use my time more efficiently.
- Get your ebook and be prepared to wait; If sometimes I have to wait ,for example, wait in the lineup before we board the cruise ship for a family trip or wait in the airport on business travel, how to leverage my time then? I can download several books beforehand in my Kindle and my iPhone , I can read books while I am waiting. Or watch a movie or listen to a wonderful talk-show. Whatever I do, it’s also a plan during waiting.
When my friends ask me how I do lots of things while wearing so many hats? I reply, well, if you can plan efficiently , use time wisely, leverage your spare time, try to multitask when available, have a visual board for big plans ,limit your time on social media, always carry books or ebooks in your handbag and try to stay away from friends who don’t respect other’s time and who do not manage their time, I think you can be more efficient by enjoy the busy work ,study ,life balance as well have a wonderful family life.