Managing Your Time When It’s “Just You”

Guest post by Becky, a single woman from Washington State

If you’re only taking care of yourself, how can it be that you still cannot find enough hours in the day?

Value your time

It’s easy to over-commit to work, volunteer or social activities. After all, you don’t need to go home and take care of anyone else. But it’s still important to remember that you do have someone to take care of – you!

You need to eat healthy food, wear clean clothes, maintain your house, pay bills and so on. You may have more time to share than someone with additional family obligations, but nobody expects you to live in chaos because you have no time left to meet your own needs.

Figure out what motivates you

When you’re single, you don’t have to answer to anyone. That can be freeing, but it’s also a lot easier to waste time. Sometimes it can be motivating to have to answer to someone or be working together toward a goal or lifestyle.

When it’s just you, you could spend the entire weekend eating chips in your pajamas and nobody would know. Figure out a way to hold yourself accountable – setting personal deadlines for projects, creating a daily/weekly routine, sharing goals with friends or family; whatever works to keep you productive and using your time wisely.

Be creative

Tweak existing time management ideas to work for you:

A twist on “Freezer Cooking”

Cooking an entire new meal every night for one person isn’t a good use of my time and leads to wasted food. At the same time, I can only eat my favorite black bean soup so many times in a row.

I work to find recipes I like that freeze well and then freeze the leftovers in single-serve containers. These are great to take for lunch or to reheat on nights I get home late and don’t have time to cook.

I cook a couple times a week and then rotate through my leftover “meals” for variety — you can easily add a side salad or vegetable.

A twist on “When your child is napping”

Many articles on time management for moms talk about accomplishing small tasks when your child is napping or you’re waiting to pick up a child from an activity. You can apply the same concept to work.

Instead of chatting with co-workers, you can use your lunch hour or coffee break to pay bills, write a letter or e-mail or run to the grocery store. (Please note, I am not advocating that you multi-task and do these activities during your work hours.)

A twist on “Delegating tasks”

You don’t have a spouse or children you can ask to help you, but depending on your circumstances, you may be in a position to hire help.

I have a friend who works in a well-paying position (with long hours) that she loves. She’s happy to hire someone to do her deep cleaning a couple times a month.

If you’re currently single, we’d love to hear your tips and tricks for time management! Share them with us in the comments.

photo from Shutterstock

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Comments

  1. Ashlee says

    My Grandma lives alone and does the “freezer cooking” with leftovers. Every few weeks she cooks a big deal (a roast or a whole turkey or something) and then makes what she calls TV dinners with the rest by adding a potato and veggie and freezing it. She even re-uses real frozen tv dinner trays to freeze these meals. Then when she’s tired and doesn’t want to cook she pulls one out. It works great for her and if she has unexpected guests she can pull out a couple.

  2. Melissa says

    Thank you for remembering us single folk! I work full-time, have a part-time job, and have a hobby that turned into yet another full-time job! On top of that I am very involved with my family, especially my nieces & nephews, and my friends, and I sure would like to fit in time to date.

    For 2011 I’m focusing on organizing all the disparate parts of my life, including finances and health. I’ve done once a month cooking with my sisters-in-law and mother in the past, adapting what they needed and wanted. Now I’m looking at how to tweak the idea to meet my specific needs. I’m also designing my own planner (with cute pink & green dividers!) for the year so I can manage my long-term goals, short-term goals, and day-to-day goals.

  3. Anon says

    Thanks for sharing! I’m still single and find myself having those “potato chip weekends” every so often…

  4. Amy W. says

    I created a time map of my week specifically mapping how I wanted to spend my non-working hours. I also have a list of 3 to 4 household chores each day to complete. I found myself wasting time by tackling too much each day and not staying focused. With these two simple tools, I was able to get what “needed” to be done completed while freeing up time for other fun activities or getting some much needed rest.

    • Becky says

      @Amy W., Amy, I’ve just recently started breaking down my household chores to a couple each day, too. I’m excited/encouraged to hear that it’s been effective for you! Becky

  5. Katie says

    This is just what i needed!!
    if anyone has a “schedule” of their daily routines/activities, i’d love to see it. i’m struggling with how to structure my days. any help is appreciate!

    • Becky says

      @Katie, Katie, it’s not a formal schedule, but one thing that has really helped me is Crystal’s cleaning list: http://moneysavingmom.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/generic_cleaning_list_set.pdf. I took her advice to heart about making it work for our unique situation and changed titles on the left to revolve around my work day (before work, lunch hour, after work, evening) and then entered some basic routines for those times (morning: make bed, pack lunch, etc…).

      For the cleaning area on the right, I figured out what I usually do every week (laundry, clean bathroom, vacuum, etc… ) and divided things out to one or two items to each day. Now, I don’t constantly wonder/worry about what I should be doing. I just check my sheet on the fridge to see what my “chores” are that day! I make my best effort to get it done, but if I get home late one night or am traveling and don’t get to the items for that day, I know it will get done the next week and don’t feel like I will never catch up. Becky

  6. says

    I think it is so important to take time for ourselves. I have started to have a date night…with myself. I will make a good, healthy dinner, have some wine and get caught up on things while I watch a movie or something.

  7. Ginger says

    Thank you for including us single gals. I really struggle with my time management. I love the customizable daily docket and the customizable forms at the wonderful time management e-book from lifeasmom.com (“FishMama”).

  8. Jessica says

    Great Post…… I am a single grad student with a full time job so these tips will be helpful. I put a few of the tricks I use below:

    Capitalize on your free time- A lot of single people in their 20ies like me think that Friday night is for going out and relaxing. While I have nothing against that, all my friends work on Friday nights so I generally do not go out. So instead of sitting at home, I use this time to get my shopping done- Target, the grocery store-walmart. The stores are generally less crowded and I can get in and out quickly.

    Hold yourself accountable- Since I am single, no one cares what time I come in after a night out with friends or how late I stay up. However, I know that if I am going to be productive the next day I need to go to bed at a reasonable time. For instance- I will go out on Saturdays with friends but I usually end up going home first so I can get to bed. If I stay up, I know that I wont want to do much of anything on Sunday and I will waste my time.

    Cook Smart- When you do cook, cook some basic meat and then change up how you serve it. If I grill chicken, I cook extra to use in other dishes through out the week. I might eat a breast for dinner but cut up the leftovers to add to salad or to add more protein to a soup. If I want a pasta bake with meatballs one night, I might cook some extra meatballs to have with a sandwich with the next day.

    These are just a few of the things I do, that help me. I know they are similar to the ones above. Hope they help someone else.

  9. Anna says

    Thanks so much for this! I just moved out on my own while starting college and working multiple part time jobs in a new city. It is so easy to waste time or get distracted trying to do too many things at once. Cooking ahead and freezing leftovers works pretty well for me, except on occasion I’ve gotten really sick of eating something 250 times in a row. It is difficult to have the discipline to take care of myself / health when no one’s around for accountability – always eating in front of the computer, staying up too late, etc.

  10. siobhan says

    I got my first apartment a few weeks into college, 250miles away from home. I like to always have my house within 5 mins to company clean, so basically my house is always in perfect order. While being single there is no one to blame but yourself. I make sure to do dishes everyday, laundry at least once a week, I have a robot vacuum- so the house gets vacuumed everyday. I work over 40 hours a week and I do love to curl up in bed and watch tv, but I can get up during commercials and clean or pause the tv and get some stuff done. Hope this helps!

  11. Dawn says

    Thanks so much for including the single people!

    I was wondering if any other single people feel that at work/church/community activities their time doesn’t seem valued? For instance I am always given the extra assignments at work and asked to do some extra stuff at church since I am single. At work, we are salary so extra work does not mean extra pay. I just feel like everyone thinks I have so much extra time since I am single.

    • Amy W. says

      @Dawn,
      I completely understand! I have a cousin who is a stay-at- home mom who thinks I have all this free time because I am single. I see it a different way, she has all day to complete tasks and doesn’t have to worry about creating an income to pay the bills. She also has someone to help her when she is ill or just simply needs some emotional support. I frankly applaud single working women, I have no idea how we get it all done ourselves :)

      • Jessica says

        @Amy W.,

        I have had this situation. In my case, I had to stand up for myself nicely and professionally. When my boss asked me to work later, I told her that I could but that if I did work an extra 3 hours tonight, I wanted to come in 3 hours later the next day. I only got to come in an hour later, but an hour is an hour. Plus the more I stood up for myself, the less she pushed stuff off on me.

        • Karyn says

          @Jessica, I agree, standing up for yourself is key. It’s good to help out your coworkers so they can make it to Jonny’s soccer game, but as I read someone wrote once, if you never go out because you are always pitching in at work, you’ll always remain single. Your activities are no less important than someone with a family (and as some write, you have it harder for no one else to rely on when problems happen).

          Suggestions: Join activities such as an organization where you volunteer at or take classes. Then you have a concrete reason that is harder for other people to devalue when they are looking for someone to take on the after hours work. Be firm. Joke (about how lucky they are to find someone already, how you’ll never be able to if you’re always working) if that will help communicate your point. Be kind to your coworkers and take the occasional extra item without becoming a doormat with it becoming a regular occurence. Ask for return concessions (e.g. agree to stay late on Tuesday, but go in late on Monday/leave early on Friday). Take credit for your extra work and demand recognition at review time.

    • Becky says

      @Dawn,

      Dawn,

      I’ve had the same feelings. I really like how Jessica handled her situation. One reason I mentioned valuing your time is because I’ve realized that I can be my own worst enemy. I have a hard time saying “no” or pushing back when I’m asked to help out with something. The more I realize the value in taking care of “just me”, the easier it is for me to set boundaries and gracefully bow out of some situations. Then, when I do step up to do extra work or volunteer, it is something I want to be doing and I don’t resent it!

      Becky

  12. Elizabeth says

    Thanks so much for this! As a single girl, it’s great to have some tips about how to manage our lives, because it does seem like it would be way easier, but it really isn’t sometimes. I’m definitely going to start doing the freezer cooking thing, because the haphazard way I’m doing dinner right now is negatively effecting my waistline…

  13. Sandy says

    I’m single and am now my mother’s 24/7/365 caregiver. Prior to making this commitment I worked full-time (and then some) in a hospital. I found being single far more difficult, in some respects, than most realize. You are the sole person to do the cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping, laundry, auto care, yard work, finances, home repair, etc. And, while one person definitely doesn’t make as much of a mess as a family of 4, vacuuming is vacuuming, dusting is dusting. There are just certain things that needs to be done and it makes no difference how many people live in the house.

    I would work on average 15 hours of overtime a week. The financial reward of time and a half plus bonus helped considerably in achieving my financial goals, but also lent to shorting myself on time to accomplish everything else.

    I worked second-shift which was advantagous in getting errands done for I found getting in and out of the stores or banks was a whole lot faster during the weekdays than evenings or weekends.

    There came a time when I had decided I wanted to simplify my life. I made a list of the different areas of my life and all which I wanted to accomplish in those areas. Once I had identified what goals I wanted to achieve I set a time frame on them. I then looked at all of the goals I wanted to have completed in the 6 month time frame and choose 1 goal from each area and that is what my efforts went to each day until I had accomplished what I had set out to do.

    I found that by giving extensive thought as to what I wanted for my life, identifying what areas were important to me, and creating a list of goals which had a set time frame really helped me to ascertain the kind of life I wanted.

    Now, I spend every day caring for my mom who has been stricken with Alzehimer’s disease. I find it challenging to get anything done! I have made it my priority to devote my attention to her. My focus is on providing the care she needs, cooking healthy meals we both enjoy, and just simply spending time with my mom and being grateful for it.

  14. says

    Thanks for the article Becky! I’ve been doing the single-serve freezer thing for a year or so and I’m amazed at how many people don’t think about doing that! It makes life so much easier and keeps me from hitting fast food or something every night. My biggest problem is getting the energy to do chores in the evenings. By the time I get home, I’m wiped! I work as a nanny for 3 boys so my days are quite busy and active.

    My other problem is my own propensity to get too busy. Ah well! Thanks again.

  15. Melissa says

    I would really love to hear more about this. I am a 30-year old graduate student working on my Doctorate in Music, and there’s not a THING I can give up in between finishing up my coursework and trying to start my professional career. My time is scattered between a part-time job, maintaining and developing a private studio, gigs, coursework, and a small adjunct position at a local college (which I am trying to grow). I am constantly in a state of frustration trying to get in everything!

    PLEASE do another post (or series of posts) for those of us who are young professionals!

    THANKS!!!

  16. laurie says

    I am so excited about this post. I am a single mom by choice to 2 adopted girls from China now 3&6. They werer 10 and 12mos at adoption. I love being a mom,but do not so much like all the other stuff that I have to do when it comes to maintaining a house and all of our schedules. 2009 was a rough yr when we brought daughter #2home. Life was chaos and I was so unorganized. So my goal for 2010 was to simplify our life and get organized. Thanks to money saving mom and all her idea’s I have acheived this goal. I work FT at a Hospice rn also. These are some of things that have worked for me.
    1. Siplify your home. Get rid of all the materalistic things you do not use. I no longer shop at bring much into the home so we have kept clutter at bay.
    2.Laundry on friday nights and completely back in the drawers by Sat afternoon.
    3.Change sheets every 2wks and clean all bedrooms.
    4.Shop once a wk on my lunch hr
    5.All medical appts are scheduled on 1 day so they all get done.
    6.Always on a ascehule for night time routine, weekend routine. Kids in bed no later than 730 every night so mom has her time.
    7. Weekends we are almost always home doing family stuff.
    8.Pay all bills online and pay with cash for every purchase. Makes me financially accountable to myself. We are debt free expcept our mortage
    9. We have had a lot more family time since getting life organized. I no longer feel overextended or overwhlemed with life in general. We still have time to volunteer at church. We love our life and I LOVE being SINGLE. My kids are the best thing that ever happened to me.

  17. Erin says

    @Melissa, I agree, please write more posts for us young professionals! I am a married woman but it is still difficult when you have two people working 40+ hours a week. Both of us have family and friends that we want to spend time with plus other obligations that come up on weekends and after work. My husband and I are trying to implement the one chore per night idea but it can be so tough to get motivated to mop the floor after a hard day of work and then having to cook dinner as well. Thanks for this post, some of the ideas would certainly extend to us marrieds without kids too!

  18. says

    I am single with a child and by that I mean, single…alone…no other parent who takes the child and I have time. and my son will only nap or sleep with me there. so…what have I found that works is he goes. wherever I go. when I go. though I do

    ask for help.

    I just moved but before I moved I had dear friends who would take him once a month and you know what I did then? I didn’t run around like mad trying to get everything done as I do everything with him. I just spent time on myself, reading, watching adult movies, going to a pizza joint with a live band and sitting there for a few hours just enjoying something that is hard to do with a pre-schooler.

    when I didn’t have him, I volunteered. a lot.

    set up a schedule for doing what needs to be done. even if its just you, things get backed up, especially when its just you. no one else cares. but its nice to have your home company ready even if its just you. and doing just a little bit everyday, really helps.

    if you can share meals. its nice to not have to eat the same thing over and over again and maybe sometimes you can take turns cooking with another single friend. or have a group dinner so each person brings just one thing.

    get referrals for people to do things you can’t from people you trust – hair, car repair, home repair. don’t wait till an emergency…establish a relationship now.

    people always say “I don’t know how single parents do it” well we do it the same way anyone else does…we just do. I am lucky I don’t have the expectation of help with a spouse who is working, or doesn’t want kids, or doesn’t want to help. I have only me to rely on and that sometimes makes things much easier.

    make sure you do what helps you to be focused and centered and enjoy life. for me that’s journaling, exercising and drinking water. If I don’t do those things I start to get stressed and sick and unable to accomplish much of anything. don’t let yourself down…just because it seems selfish to take care of yourself, its not.

  19. Kate says

    I’m in the category of single people who tend to get too busy…. I agree it’s important to make some time to relax on your own -if you’re always out seeing people or serving it’s exhausting.

    I also agree with the comments that churches and employers can expect a lot of single people, but I have to add that in my experience I can be too keen to please and I am my own worst enemy in taking on too much. I wonder if the temptation to look to other people for affirmation is especially great for us single women. There is no-one at home saying that I’m great, and so it’s tempting to keep volunteering to do things because I receive encouragement from that. Then it’s easy for me to be so busy serving or working that I don’t have good time for friends, family and personal devotions… Thanks for the article Becky and it’s good to share the challenges!