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Free ebook: Time Management 101


In the past year, I’ve received numerous emails from women begging me for my “secrets” to time management. They ask me to please share how I manage to seemingly “do it all”.

Every time I get an email like that, I wish I could invite the woman to my home. Because seriously, I think it’s easy to make bloggers out to be someone they are not when you’re basing all your conclusions of them upon the little sliver of their life that they share on their blog.

I know, because I’ve been guilty of it myself. I’ll read a woman’s blog, see the pictures and ideas she shares and begin to wonder if really and truly she might be superwoman’s clone. And I feel badly because I don’t measure up in any stretch of the imagination to this blogger. When in reality, I know good and well that every single woman has their strengths and weaknesses and no one has it all together.

–from the first chapter of Time Management 101

Thanks to the help of the wonderful Money Saving Mom® team, I’m excited to bring you a brand-new downloadable ebook, Time Management 101.

This 66-page ebook is a revised and edited compilation of my Time Management 101 series.

I hope it will be an encouragement to many of you! And if you know of someone you think it might be a blessing to, feel free to share the link or print out a copy and give it to them.

It’s in an easy-to-read, downloadable format. Just fill out the form below and you’ll get a copy in your email soon!

Time Management Tips for the Work-Outside-The-Home Mom

Guest post by Sarah.

Some days are more hectic than others: baseball practice, the gym that is seriously calling my name, my 5-year-old who wants to build the (what seems like) millionth set of Legos I’ve bought him, dinner has yet to be started and my word, how can there be so much laundry for just three people?

My husband and I both work full-time outside of the home so maintaining a sense of organization can be quite challenging at times. It’s an everyday occurrence, this organization thing, and I’ve learned several tips and tricks along the way to help me stay (somewhat) sane.

I’ve been a full-time working mom since my son was 18 months old and have compiled a list of my favorite ways to make the most of my time as a full-time working mother in the hopes of being the best wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and employee I can be.

Make the Most of Your Time

We all love our downtime. I know I do! Reading a book, cooking, spending time with my family, those are some things that I find such joy in doing. But I know that if I have three piles of laundry on the couch waiting to be folded and put away, I am not truly enjoying my downtime.

One trick that I’ve learned is to set the timer on my oven for 15 minutes right when I get home from work. I don’t sit down until that 15 minutes is over and I’ve accomplished a task that needed accomplishing! You can easily fold and put away a load of laundry in 15 minutes!

Another thing that I do to get more out of my day is to utilize my lunch hour at work. Instead of going to lunch with co-workers, I use it to run errands, study (I’m in school part-time) or pay bills. It’s a win-win because I save money by not eating out and I get things done.

Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is crucial. While we all know that life has a way of deterring us from our plans, if we have a plan in place, it makes those times of distress appear much more calm.

Here are some of the things that have really helped me in the whole planning arena:

:: Calendar :: I use my BlackBerry calendar feature for things like doctor appointments, class times and reminders of little things that need to be done throughout the day. For the things that require more space, I use my momAgenda Home Office Edition to stay organized. It is a major lifesaver! I can write down birthdays, jot down to-do lists, keep random things in the front and back pockets (such as our tickets to events) and elaborate on calendar items that need more than just a “doctor appointment at 11 a.m.” notation. Plus, I purchased it in the fun zebra print so it’s functional and stylish.

:: Chores :: I created a color coded chore chart in Microsoft Excel (I heart spreadsheets!) and hung it up on the refrigerator so that we could have a visual of what needed to be done each day. For example, on Monday evenings, I do one load of laundry. On Tuesday evenings, I clean the kitchen and do one load of laundry. Obviously, my load is heavier on the weekends but even just doing something small each night really goes a long way.

:: Clothes :: My 5-year-old is at the age where he likes picking out his clothes for school and getting himself dressed on his own. My mom helped me come up with a system that works for us: each Sunday, we choose five outfits for the week and fold them up (pants, shirt, underwear, socks) in the very bottom drawer of his dresser. This way, he can pull open the drawer himself and easily have access to his clothes. We keep his backpack and jacket in the car so that we don’t have to worry about forgetting it in the morning. As for myself and my husband, well, we (I) could do better in this department. I’m still working on a system for myself… if you’re a work-outside-the-home mom, I’d love to know your secrets.

:: Meals :: I first read about menu planning on Organizing Junkie and thought it was genius! Plan your meals on Sunday, go grocery shopping and you don’t have to worry about the, “What’s for dinner?” conversation that we’ve all had time and time again. You’ll already have a plan in place and if you do deviate from the plan, no big deal.

Sometimes I just don’t feel like cooking and grabbing take-out is more simple and that’s perfectly fine. Freeze the ingredients that need to be saved from the recipe that you were going to make or just make it the next night. I often work in one night of leftovers a week for that very reason.

A word of advice: when I first started menu planning (several years ago) I tended to choose meals that were difficult and time-consuming. I was proud of myself for planning and doing the grocery shopping but when it came time to actually make the recipe (at 6 p.m. after a long day at work), I was exhausted. I quickly learned that crock pot meals and casseroles are fabulous meal options for my family. In no time, you’ll be able to figure out what works and doesn’t work for your family.

It’s Okay to Take Shortcuts

This one might sound a bit odd but here’s an example: I’m all for buying the celery that is not pre-washed and pre-sliced. It’s less expensive because you have to do the work of cleaning it and cutting it up as opposed to buying the one that comes all neat and tidy and ready to be eaten. I have found though, that sometimes it’s better for me to just by the things that are already pre-cut, pre-sliced or pre-cooked.

Why? Well, a few months ago, I bought a block of cheese with the intent of cutting it into cubes for my lunches during the week. Somehow, I totally forgot about doing it and the mundane task of chopping up cheese before work each morning seemed like too much trouble. To make a long story short, the cheese molded and I had to throw it out —  $4 and some change that I may have well just thrown down the garbage disposal.

So I looked for an alternative. Sargento makes cheese bites that you can buy pre-cut in fun little shapes so that all you have to do is toss them in a Rubbermaid container or Ziploc baggie and call it a day. It may not seem like much but I promise, it made my life just a tiny bit easier. While more expensive, yes, you can bet that I didn’t throw the $3 and some change that it cost me for that pack of cheese bites down the drain. I ate them all week long and nothing went to waste.

Other things that I like to buy already prepared for me (from time to time) are: apple slices, grapes that are washed, watermelon cubes, sliced carrots and frozen brown rice. Again, I’m very picky about what I purchase like this because I do know that it’s cheaper to do it yourself. But when you work full-time, go to school part-time and have what seems like a hundred things going on at once, the few extra dollars are totally worth it.

Accept the Fact That You Can’t Do It All

I don’t like the word can’t. In fact, I’ve tried to eliminate it entirely from my vocabulary but in this instance — the notion that you can’t do it all — I’m totally, 100% okay with using it.

It took me several years after my husband and I got married to admit to myself and my family that I can’t be the person who does all of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, bath-giving, boo-boo kissing, grocery shopping… the list goes on and on.

As much as I’d like to be the one who does all of these things, I simply can’t. I’ve learned that it’s okay to ask for help; in fact, my 5-year-old loves cleaning with me. I give him a task (i.e, spraying the doors with a vinegar/water mixture and going to town wiping them down) and he loves the challenge that comes with doing something that a grown-up would normally do.

I had to re-program my inner control-freak to not have a meltdown when my husband folded a piece of clothing differently than I did. Once you accept the fact that you can’t do it all, you’ll actually find that you will accomplish so much more.

And while this all looks good on paper there are some nights that I come home, collapse on the couch and watch a movie with my 5-year-old. Dinner doesn’t get made, clothes are left to wrinkle in the dryer and all I care about is curling under a blanket with a good book.

Sarah is a wife and mom who loves to read, write, be outdoors, watch television and most importantly, spend time with her family and friends.

Time Management Tips for the Single Mom

Guest post by Missy

Mothering in any sense requires serious time management, but when the number of children increase and the father leaves, it becomes an essential life skill.

1. Assess your resources and enlist help

  • Car pool with a neighbor and split the number of trips made to school, along with less time spent in the minivan lineup.
  • Trade chores. This works with meals and babysitting – other single moms are especially good prospects for this.
  • Get your sitter or nanny on the same page. Have the kitchen clean and toys picked up when you get home.
  • Enlist your children’s assistance in meal preparation, writing lists, putting away silverware and other simple tasks.

2. Streamline everything you can

  • Make your mornings simpler and set a better tone for the day by placing all needed things together the night before.
  • A two-week menu plan keeps my grocery list relatively constant. Immediately add used items to the shopping list. I clip coupons (or print online) for the items I know we’ll use and let other deals go. Occasionally, add in something new or seasonal to the repertoire.
  • For me, it works best to have daily, weekly and monthly routines as described in Emilie’s Creative Home Organizer. To save time on laundry, I put a load in the wash each morning and move it to the dryer after dinner. I have to be committed to folding and putting away just as soon as they are dry. If I don’t, it piles up and gets overwhelming.
  • Clean as you go. I’ve also found with two little boys that flushable cleaning wipes are also great for a daily quick bathroom touch-up!
  • Combine tasks. I clean the bathroom while the children are in the tub. My one who bathes in the morning often eats breakfast in the tub. I do the dishes while the children are cleaning up their evening toys and I garden, weed or mow while they are playing outdoors. We all know to combine errands, that stopping by the bank, the dry cleaner or the market on the way home from childcare are standard ways to avoid fragmenting my day. I keep clipboards in the van so that homework and artwork can be done en route. We also practice our memory verses on the go and read our daily Scripture during dinner.

3. Work the Web

  • Make the most of your time by connecting with family and friends online.
  • Upload photos and print from home.
  • Do your Christmas shopping online.
  • Earn extra money through sales on ebay or Craigslist.
  • Donate items to others via Freecycle – they will even come pick up!
  • Look for grocery bargains, make your lists online, send yourself reminder notes.
  • Of course, do your banking, bill paying and rebates online.

The possibilities are endless, just don’t get sucked into spending more time here than is beneficial. I loved Crystal’s computer time budget suggestion.

4. Capitalize on personal time

Not every single mother has a co-parent. But for those who do, I simply cannot express the importance of managing that time when your children are at the other parent’s home.

This is the time to get in as many errands as possible, tackle bigger projects like painting or re-arranging your furniture, steam cleaning the carpet, cleaning the refrigerator and whatever else is impossible to with children underfoot. If you do not co-parent, ask grandparents or a friend to keep the children overnight from time to time.

4. Celebrate!

Make an end-point to your day, then relax in the tub, read or just indulge in extra sleep. Such sweet times for yourself empower you to be all you can for those little ones depending on you.

Missy June is a hard working optimist doing my best to enjoy life with my three little ones in this not-so-perfect world. She blogs at Little House in the Foothills.

Are you a single parent? If so, what tips, tricks and ideas do you have for time management? Share them in the comments.

How to Manage Your Time (and Sanity!) as a Military Mom

Guest post by Megan at To Love a Soldier

I wake up to the shrill sound of that horribly annoying ring and I smile. It is 6 a.m. and he is calling. “Good afternoon! How is your day so far?” There is no noise on the other end.

“Please work, please work, please work,” I think to myself.

Then I hear it, a voice that has become all too familiar to me, “The call could not be completed. Please try again later.” I jump out of bed and begin to pull up the sheets, flatten out the comforter and smooth over the coverlet. I grab the throw pillows from the empty side of the bed when the phone rings again.

“Hello?” I say, truly asking. White noise. “Hello?” I ask again knowing there won’t be an answer.

I touch “end call” and place the remainder of the pillows in their places. I head into the bathroom, start the water and place the phone next to the shower, it rings one more time. “Hello?” I ask again.

Static. I put the phone on the hamper lid and step into the steam.

The way I see it, Military spouses have two choices when our loved one is deployed: pull up the covers over our head or smooth out the comforter. A year is a long time — and this is how long my husband will be gone from myself and our two boys. For them, for me and for him, I choose to get out of bed.

There is so much that goes into a day when you are the mother of a two-year-old and a nine-month-old and all of this becomes so much greater when your husband is in Kandahar. My focus is on these things: keeping this family strong and together and helping fellow military wives do the same.

There are many things we can do to make the time go by faster, to make the homecoming seem closer. I try to focus on what can be done and what must be done to thrive in this very special life. It can be overwhelming, it can be stressful, it can be heart-breaking; but it can be so incredibly rewarding and full of joy.

It is easy to get lost in the struggle, to become broken in the battle and to grow tired of the heart-break. But each day brings us closer and each day can make us stronger. Here is how I do it:

Wake Up!

It is quite possibly the most important step of each day along this journey. And I don’t mean wake up at 8 a.m. and lie in bed waiting for him to call and then maybe go watch TV and eat a bowl of cereal. Seriously, wake up! My number one goal is to wake up before my children because if I wake up after them my entire day changes.

You should know that I am not a morning person. I am a triple-shot-venti-give-me-as-much-espresso-as-you got-if-you-want-me-to-speak-clearly kind of person! But I cannot tell you how much better I feel each day if I am up and showered before my kids start babbling or my son sits on the potty still wearing his pj’s (forgetting that all too important step, yet again!).

And if I get to wake up to the sound of my soldier’s voice, it is already a blessed day. But if I stay in bed and wait for that phone call, I could be waiting for a long time.

Send an Email

I know, I know. How technology-dependent have we become? Well, very. And at this point, I don’t answer emails, mainly because I probably only have a couple minutes (if that) before my kiddos are up and moving like they’ve had three shots of espresso and because I don’t want people to begin to think that I will be up and ready to answer their questions at 6 a.m. every morning.

I check my email for one reason: to see if he sent me a message. If he did, he is probably frustrated with the phone system and apologizing for the call not going through (as though it is his fault at all). If he didn’t I know that his plate is even fuller than usual so I email him a few encouraging words, an “I love you” and a “stay safe” and log out.

Enter the Craziness

Yup, there’s my two-year-old, sitting on the potty, pants on, smiling. Luckily, since I have been up and showered, I catch him in time. Pants down, diaper off, M&M looming before him and I hear the babbling in the other room. I open the door and there is my 9-month-old, standing in his crib laughing at me. I wish my husband could see that smile.

Answer Emails

This is important for me because there are 18 soldiers (other than my own) who have their families depend on me to be their link to them during this deployment. Their parents, their spouses, their children, their fiancees, all have my information if they need me. I do not, for a moment, take that responsibility lightly.

I check to see if any questions have come up and I answer them quickly through an email if appropriate or a phone call depending on the time and taking into account the four different time zones there are family members in. This will bring me into perhaps one of the most important things for a Military Wife to remember…

Reach Out for Support

We cannot get through this alone. Okay fine, you can, if you want to be mediocre, if you want to just make it through and if you want to burn out somewhere down the line. But to be a strong support to my soldier, to be a good mother to our children, to take care of myself, I need to recognize that support is nothing but good.

I can only speak for the Army as far as personal experience, but there are so many incredible resources at our disposal during deployments. There are so many people who can help along the way — to do the simple things or to manage the hard things.

Every Army post has an MWR and ACS building/center that can be a major life-line for a military spouse. Use them! I cannot stress this enough. Any welcome center on a military installation can direct you to this building or center and when you enter you will find a plethora of information and people to help you to understand it. (Army OneSource is the online version).

This is also a great way to know what amazing free shows, deals and events are being offered for military families in your area. My children saw Disney on Ice: Toy Story 3 free because of information like this! You won’t know about it if you don’t reach out.

Set a Goal

Deadlines make everything go by so much faster and to have a deadline for something other than when your soldier will return home keeps your mind focused on other things. Many women run marathons, begin blogging, go back to school or volunteer.

To volunteer in the military community has been one of the most fulfilling things in my life. To support those in the same situation and to find support in them does nothing but strengthen the spirit.

Make Time Everyday for Daddy

My children have so many reminders of their Daddy. We aren’t able to Skype right now, so my husband has not seen our boys in about two months. But our boys have a Hallmark book that holds his voice, video recordings of him reading stories, a doll that is a likeness of him and each has a stuffed animal with his voice telling him goodnight.

Everyday we go through pictures, watch videos, talk about him and keep him present. This may be one of the most difficult things to juggle. We are like single parents when our soldiers are away — but at the same time we aren’t.

We are constantly trying to keep our soldiers part of their children’s lives and it can be so stressful. As a friend pointed out, it can make it difficult to enjoy the moments they are missing because we are constantly videoing, snapping pictures, taking notes and trying to keep them up-to-speed.

Let Him Know About Today

Each night I email my soldier with what went on that day and what amazing things are children did. I try to describe it as best as I can for him. This is a double-edged sword: I know he wants to know these things so very much but I also know how much it hurts him to know that he is missing these moments.

My son has crawled, sat up, pulled up and began to try to walk; when my soldier left he was rolling. When he returns, my son will be running.

I tell him about myself, too: what I did, what I hoped to do the next day. I also tell him how much I love him and how proud I am. I do this each day and I will continue to.

Make Time for You

I said how important and stressful it is to keep “daddy” present everyday. But it can be so very tiring, and it is so easy to get caught up in it. So everyday, when you put your children down to sleep, when the world has slowed for a moment, take that instant and breathe.

I write to my boys or I simply sit still. It is amazing the amount of emotions that run through the body if we sit still for a moment when they are gone. And I still say to take that moment and feel it. I do not think we should wallow in our heartache but I do think we should acknowledge it. To be present in it for a time is healthy, to overcome it is empowering. To hurt when they are gone does not make us weak, but to only hurt when they are gone will make us broken.

Read a book, find a blog of a military wife who lets you know that we all feel how you feel. We all hurt how you hurt. We all fear what you fear. Be empowered by the strength that exists within the band of sisters that surround you. Reboot. Recharge. Relax! You cannot be Mommy and Daddy everyday if you don’t.

I love this life. I miss my husband but I am so very proud of him. I want our children to be proud of him, too. If they see me sulk while their daddy is away, if they grow up with that image in their head, they will only remember that. They will not remember the pride, the love and the support.

I want them to understand the importance of his job as they age. I have to set the example by my actions as they grow. What our young children think of their fathers rests on our shoulders. There is so much we should do, everyday, to make sure that image is the same thing we see.

Stay strong. Stay committed. Persevere!

Megan is an Army Wife to a wonderful soldier currently stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan for a 12-month tour. She seeks to strengthen those around her, encourage those she’s never met and enlighten anyone who doesn’t understand this life. She supports the men and women in uniform with everything in her and looks forward to the next time she will see her husband marching in formation when they welcome him home next summer. Megan blogs at To Love a Soldier.

7 Time Management Tips For the Working Woman

Guest post by Sarah

1. Lists are a Girl’s Best Friend

Lists can bring sanity to a chaotic household. My husband and I have learned that something as simple as a magnetic list on the fridge ensures we don’t return from the store only to realize we’ve forgotten to purchase several key items!

Packing lists eliminate frustration with trip preparation.

Meal planning lists make grocery shopping significantly more efficient.

We also keep a list of household project ideas, so that with any down time, we simply pull out our list and determine which potential project would be best suited to our available time and supplies.

2. The Power of Prioritizing

I now have a “To Do List” template that breaks my daily tasks into three distinct categories:

  • Urgent tasks that must be completed by end of day.
  • Important tasks to work on as time allows.
  • Future project ideas.

This ensures that my available time is always spent on the most urgent matters, and as time allows, I can easily knock out additional tasks that may be less time sensitive.

In addition, as one item is completed, sorting tasks in this manner allows for immediate selection of the next task at hand.

3. Multi-Tasking is a Must

Always look for ways to be productive while you wait!

If you let your dog outside each morning to do his business, use that time to pack your lunches for the day. While waiting for water to boil, you can empty the dishwasher. While on the phone, you can open mail, straighten your desk or fold a load of laundry.

4. A Chore A Day Keeps the House at Bay

Take 10 to 15 minutes a day to tackle a single household chore — emptying trashcans, dusting, vacuuming the main rooms or cleaning a bathroom. This will keep the house tidy, without requiring an hour and a half of cleaning each weekend.

5. Dinner After Dessert

Each night before bed I will plan our dinner for the next evening.

This allows advanced planning if meat or other items must be thawed, and helps me identify any potential ingredients I may be missing and need to pick up on my way home the following day. In addition, this eliminates my biggest pet peeve — coming home from a long day of work, and trying to come up with a plan of what to make for dinner!

6. Combining Work & Play

Finding ways to make your chores more enjoyable will increase your chances of actually completing them! I now save all my ironing for the weekends, where my husband and I will put on a good movie, and I tackle the ironing as we watch.

7. Just Say No to Procrastination

Procrastination is time management’s worst enemy. Take the bull by the horns and knock out the task at hands. Period!

Sarah is a Regional Sales and Customer Service Manager at Simmons First Bank. She and her husband do not yet have children (although she’s confident that will take time management to a whole new level!). However, with demanding jobs and a number of volunteer commitments, their schedules are usually very busy, and require a significant amount of organization and effective time management.

photo by Mitchell Bartlett