Blog post written by Mary Brintnall-Peterson, Ph.D., MBP Consulting, LLC, Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Extension
Caregiving is only one part of my life and at times the other parts of my life need attention or should I say demand my time. As a caregiver, I just don’t seem to have enough time to get everything done. It’s like being on a treadmill or going round and round on a hamster wheel in a cage. So what can I do? The reality is that there are only 24 hours in a day and I do need to take some time for myself or I’m not good for anything or anyone. That means I need to get sleep every night, spend time exercising and do enjoyable things.
I’m more energized when I do things I like such as read a book for a few minutes, watch my favorite TV show or take a bubble bath. Being energized enables me to get a lot more done in a shorter period of time. When I take care of myself I’m more positive which helps me deal with the unexpected or difficult things that the day may bring. In reading lots of different time management articles and books, the following strategies are the ones most helpful to me.
- Keep a log for a few days to see exactly where your time is spent. You may be surprised to find out how efficient you are but you might also discover some time wasters. You’ll also note how often you are multi-tasking. I found preparing dinner includes much more than fixing the meal—it includes unloading the dishwasher, reading the mail or Facebook, and talking with my spouse or children.
- Use a “to do” list. I love to mark off completed tasks on my “to do” list. Sometimes I put things on it that I know I can mark off right away. It makes me feel better and gives me a sense of accomplishment to see all those marked off items. Another trick I use with my “to do” list is to identify which items are most critical to do versus those that would be nice to do. This way I can focus on the most important items first. Sometimes I find an item on my list that is large and has multiple steps. I play games with myself and list each step as a “to do” task. This helps me see that I’m making progress on completing the larger task.
- Putting objectives in their place was a suggestion from another caregiver. She has special places for things like her purse, keys, medicines, medical folder, phone numbers, pass words for websites, etc. This way she spends less time searching for items. I discovered that I was wasting time looking for things so I am attempting to declutter, organize and to put things away where they belong. I realize this isn’t easy but taking the time to do it now will save me time in the long run. I guess I’ll have to add this to my “to do” list.
- Be realistic about what I can and can’t do. This includes saying no to requests from others for things I know I can’t do or don’t want to do (including requests from other family members). I have a tendency to underestimate how much time it takes to get things done and then become stressed. So I am trying to be more realistic about how much time it takes to do things and to only do the things that are high priorities.
- Be aware of distractions—this is a hard one. If I hear my phone ping I’m off to see who texted me and then end up spending time looking at messages or postings on Facebook. This can be a time waster. Take a few minutes and think about what distraction might be your time waster and how you can take control of it. One way I take control of my phone is to turn off the sound and then look at it only a couple of times a day. Spend some time thinking about your time wasters.
I’ve shared a couple strategies to manage your time and I hope they are helpful to you. I’m hoping many of you will share your time wasters and how you have taken control of them. Also please share tricks or tips you have for saving time. I know I’d like to learn other ways to use my time better.
This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on September 25, 2015.