If you are like most working moms, time is a very precious commodity. Between work and home, there always seems to be more to do than time will allow. Yet, when it comes to managing time, many of us may be our own worst enemy without even realizing it. Many working moms develop habits that actually waste time on a daily basis.
Here are five working mom habits that waste time and some tips and suggestions for how to avoid them.
Daily Trips to the Grocery Store Waste Time
The average grocery shopper spends approximately 15 minutes per trip (parking, getting a cart, checking out, loading the groceries into the car, unloading them again at home) not including the drive to and from the store and the actual shopping time. Shopping during the week between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. can double or even triple that time.
Avoid daily trips to the grocery store with these tips:
- Create a weekly meal plan. Keep it simple. For example: spaghetti on Mondays, tacos on Tuesdays, Crockpot chili on Wednesdays, breakfast for dinner on Thursdays and leftovers on Fridays. Your weeknight meals don't need to be fancy. As a matter of fact, most younger children prefer basic meals to gourmet ones.
- Grocery shop once on the weekend for everything you need for the coming week. The best weekend times for crowd-free shopping are Friday evenings, early Saturday mornings or Saturday evenings.
- Buy extra bread and milk during your weekly trips to the store. Look for expiration dates on these items as far into the future as possible. Even if the occasional gallon of milk goes bad before you use it, the time you save on frequent trips to the grocery store will more than make up for it.
Email Wastes Time
Working moms can waste time with email both at home and at the office. While originally intended as a quick and efficient form of communication, reading and responding to emails can take over your entire day.
How many times per day do you check your email? Are your work and home emails automatically directed to your phone so you are immediately notified each time you receive a message? Do you check email first thing each morning upon arrival at the office only to find it's mid-morning before you actually tackle your first important task?
Avoid letting email take control of your day with the following tips:
- Make a list the afternoon before of the three most important priorities you must complete the next day.
- Hold yourself accountable to completing at least one of your three priorities each day before you check your email.
- Turn off the email alert on your computer so you are not tempted by incoming messages when you are focused on one of your priorities.
- Establish a schedule for checking email throughout the day: after you've completed your first priority, right before lunch, right after lunch, mid-afternoon and just before leaving the office. Any urgent request in the afternoon becomes one of your top priorities the next morning.
Online Diversions Waste Time
You go online to check the soccer schedule or to find directions to your afternoon meeting and the next thing you know, you're reading the news, checking the weather in other parts of the country or reading about the latest celebrity breakup. A few clicks here and there and you've wasted 20-30 valuable minutes.
Change your computer's home page so you are not so easily distracted when you find it necessary to get online. Options to consider for your home page include:
- The home page of your company's website;
- Your company's employee intranet home page;
- The main page of your search engine of choice. (Ex: www.google.com, www.bing.com, search.yahoo.com, etc.)
Television Can Waste Time
Is your favorite show on Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. right in the middle of what should be evening bed and bath time? Or Thursdays at 10 p.m. when you should really be asleep? Or maybe mindless television has simply become a nightly time-consuming habit where you automatically turn the TV on when you walk in the door and don't turn it off until you're on your way to bed.
Control the amount of time you invest watching television with these tips:
- Make a list of three or four shows per week you enjoy and look forward to watching. Limit your weeknight television viewing to those shows.
- Record your favorite shows using a recordable DVD system or a DVR (Digital Video Recorder) system. You can then watch the shows at your convenience on another less-hectic week night or on the weekend. You'll save even more time by skipping over the commercials.
- Watch your favorite shows online the next day with limited commercials. Most networks include full episodes of popular shows on their websites. Or you can visit www.hulu.com to watch many of your favorite shows across many different networks. Most are posted and available within 24 hours of the original airing.
Not Delegating Can Waste Time
Many working moms make the mistake of trying to do everything themselves – both at work and at home.
If you are doing a task that someone else could or should be doing, you are wasting time. Are you putting your child's clothes away when he should be doing it himself? Are you still packing your daughter's lunch when she's old enough to do it herself? Are you copying and putting together a report when office staff is available to do so? Are you making travel arrangements for your next business trip when you have an assistant who should be doing it instead?
It's so easy to fall into the trap of trying to do everything yourself. Here are some tips to help you break those habits that are causing you to waste time:
- Ask yourself why you are uncomfortable delegating. Are you afraid the task won't be accomplished to your standards? Are you uncomfortable asking others for assistance? Once you determine your barriers to delegation, you'll have an easier time overcoming them.
- Ask yourself as you perform each daily task, "Is this something someone else could be doing?"
- Stop what you are doing immediately if the answer is yes. Ask that person to take over the task.
- Remind yourself that you owe it to others to give them new and additional responsibilities and that you owe it to your boss and to your family to focus your attentions on those things only you can do.