4 May 2012

What Is Your Best Time-Saving Tip for Parents?

On May 16th I’m running a session on time management for overloaded and too-busy parents at The Parenting Place , Greenlane, Auckland.

I’d expected to be delivering similar content to many of my short sessions for the business world but two conversations have made me realise this is a very different audience. 

First was a heart-felt request from a mum. This was her email: ‘I’m excited to see Robyn Pearce is one of the presenters.  Her topic is just what I need help with as I try to juggle too many things and feel constantly rushed & late.  I’ve logged onto her website, signed up for her free emails & videos and just ordered one of her books.  

‘I’m already finding her tips are making a big difference.  I’ve turned the ‘beep’ off my email and deal with them all together now instead of as they come in.

‘I have a favor to ask, please.  Do you think it would be possible for her to include in her presentation some tips particularly for the parenting challenges that relate to time management?  Being a Mum of 6 she must have so much experience with juggling time around the needs of the children.

 ‘I’ve planned my day, have my list of top 5 things to work through and then our 10 year old son comes and asks for help sewing a costume.  Of course I want to help him – nurturing my relationship with our children is one of my highest priorities. But what I constantly find so stressful is trying to rearrange my own jobs for the day and fit in what children ask for as well.

‘I try to schedule in time specifically with our children but that time always seems to extend beyond what I estimate – especially when one of them has ‘quality time’ as his love language.  Perhaps I just need to say ‘no’ more but I find it so difficult to decide my highest priorities when so much is so pressing.’

The second conversation was with Natalie Stephenson, the Centre Manager.

Many young mums don’t seem to know the time-saving things of their mothers, Robyn. Make sure you include really practical things like buying groceries in bulk, cooking enough to freeze extra portions of a meal and using a crock pot so the family comes home at the end of the day with dinner ready.’

I looked at her in surprise.

‘But doesn’t everybody do that?’

‘Absolutely no’, was Natalie’s reply.

Well, the grey matter got busy! Given that my six children all arrived within nine years – to the day – I’ve got a bunch of practical things tucked away in the memory bank. Plus 16 beautiful grandchildren and their very busy parents give me plenty more research material.

However, there’s an even bigger pool of knowledge – and that’s you!

What is your favourite time-saving tip for busy parents? I’d love you to share it here.

[BTW, I can see another tips book along the lines of my About Time – 120 time-saving tips for those with no time’ and ‘About Time for Teaching’.  If I use your tip you’ll get a free copy of the book, as long as you give us your contact details.  If you don’t want to add your email in this blog, please also send your tip with your contact details to [email protected]]

9 thoughts on “What Is Your Best Time-Saving Tip for Parents?”

  1. Lisa Rose says:

    Tip 1: When you have washed sheets, duvet covers etc, if you are not putting them straight back on the beds, fold them all up and put them into one pillow case. This way, all you need to grab out of the linen cupboard is the full pillowcase.

    Tip 2: Lunchbox stuff. Make a double batch of muffins, quiches, etc. Use some of them while fresh, but take 5 minutes to wrap the remainder individually with gladwrap and throw them in the freezer. Then just grab them out in the morning for lunches, and they’ll be defrosted by lunchtime.

    Tip 3: Obviously, buy in bulk when it’s on special and make double sized meals. Freeze half for another day.

    Tip 4: Leave the sandwich bread frozen and put them into lunch boxes frozen. This way you’re only using the bread you need (no wastage) and especially in summer, keeping lunch meats and so on cooler.

    Tip 5: Consider using a laundromat rather than a domestic drier over winter. You can dry 8-10 loads in 40 minutes in a commercial drier, it costs about $6, is much easier on your clothes and is far quicker. You can then just have one giant folding session a week, your power costs are kept down and you don’t have the dampness in your home from running the drier.

    Tip 6: Maintain a “family diary” in a visible spot. If anyone has a commitment – homework, a costume, after school commitments and so on, it must be written in the diary. Try and find something which does a week at a glance, but which you can flip the pages over to see upcoming weeks. The second you get a school notice, have swimming or music lessons or sports or practices, write it in. Ensure that on a Sunday night, you flip over to the upcoming week and review your commitments.

    Tip 7: Network. Build up a network of people with whom you can carpool to the inevitable practices, games etc. This saves time and money.

    Tip 8: Make sure you have enough cans in your cupboard, meat in your freezer or so on, to be able to produce a meal at a moment’s notice without having to shop. If my canned tomatoes get below 6 in the cupboard, I start to get nervous.

    Tip 9: Do one large grocery shop every fortnight, and just top up fruit and veges as you need to.

    Tip 10: If you have the freezer space, freeze spare bottles of milk rather than having to buy more during the week.

    If I think of more, I’ll email you Robyn!

  2. Heather says:

    As the owner of a home-based business, and working with many home and small businesses, blurring the lines between work and home can make time management a real issue.

    Being organised and having a routine is invaluable, as is being realistic about your expectations of yourself and everyone else.

    Here are just a few more ideas, mainly from the perspective of someone who works from home (and my kids are mostly grown now so I have to think back for some of these):

    1. Get everyone to pack bags, lay out what they will wear the next day, pack (and freeze if suitable) lunches, etc. the night before.

    2. Cellphones and other tech tools can be time-gobblers for distracted children. They’ll be ready faster in the morning if they get the toys once they are finished whatever else they need to do.

    3. I add a buffer into my day between having to drop kids at school and having my first meeting if at all possible to allow for delays and avoid turning up harried or late.

    4. I triage unexpected problems and daily tasks into the ones which can be knocked off quickly but are not so important, those which are important but need time and concentration, and those which need to be ditched or delegated (family, friends, etc.) because they are time-consuming but not important to our immediate needs.

    5. Family meals – once a day we all sit down to eat together. There are so many benefits but we also use a bit of this time to update family members on activities, who is in or out on certain days, things which we’ve achieved, etc. The older the kids have got the more valuable this has become. We eat later as a consequence, by the way, so I allow a small, healthy snack in the evening. The benefit definitely outweighs the inconvenience.

  3. Robyn
    As an aunt I find one of the best tips for bathrooms: have a different colour set of towels for each person in the family. Also once children are old enough (4-5) let them sort their washing into three baskets (white, blacks, coloured) to assist with laundry day. Once they are older teach them to load the washing machine.

    another tip for children being organised each day is a plastic folder thing from the stationery shop that hangs from the edge of the table or over the door. label each pocket with a day and they can put finished things in there each day. they then only have one place to look for books, etc that they need for school, practices, etc.
    Along with this if you have space in your entry way is a plastic box for each child – this holds htere backpack and school stuff – you can put things you find in the house in it as well.
    another idea that i have read about especially with children who bring home lots of paintings, worksheets, etc is to post them once a month to grandparents, godparents, relations for them to view. keep one thing a month in a clearfile for each year of school and you will have nice record without too much. the child needs to choose the picture each month.

  4. Karen says:

    1. (BIG time saver!) Use the internet for grocery shopping. You will get very quick at this.
    2. Have a “No Junk Mail” sign on your letterbox.
    3. Build a filing system for your paperwork.
    4. Forget big toy boxes. Have a bunch of smaller boxes. Get one out at a time. Less to pick up and the kids appreciate getting a ‘fresh’ bunch of toys when you choose a different box.
    5. Flannels and bibs don’t need to be folded – throw them all together into a drawer or a bin in a cupboard.
    6. Find ways to get the kids to help!
    7. Cook enough for two nights – have the same thing two nights running. My family don’t complain, and I love the “night off” cooking! Works well with nutritious meals like casseroles, meatballs with vege sauces etc. Have it with rice one night and pasta the next.
    8. Limit the kids’ activities to two each. They need time to just be kids… and you all need time to be a family.

  5. Heather says:

    Forget being perfect…happy is more important than tidy.
    Have a menu for the week and have a kid a night to help cook if possible.
    Family’s help each other and contribute so jobs suitable for the age is good.
    Use a program to sort what tv you want to watch so it is regulated in a positive way.
    Don’t sweat the small stuff…ask will this matter in 5 years…
    A sock box…if you want to match your socks then do it yourself. Why do we have to wear matching stuff anyway??

  6. Andrea says:

    Be Human! I have a sign at my entrance door to our home: :This house is clean enough to be healthy, and dirty enough to be happy”. I stick to that; no home needs to be clinical.

    Focus! Your toddler asking for attention by clinging to you? Give them straight away 5-10 minutes full attention (no more) – it works a treat and you can walk away and focus your own stuff, while they are satisfied and carry on with theirs.

    Dayly Schedule! Make yourself a day-plan; schedule your tasks and stick to that list as close as possible. If anything crosses your plan, don’t try to still squeeze everything in! Think about the plan (list) and simply cross out, postpone/cancel the least important task.

    Deligate! No household should be run/operated by a single person (unless dedicated). A lot of tasks can be done by the kids and the partner, and who ever else contributes to the workload.

  7. Louise says:

    I have made a 1 A4 page shopping list for our local Pak and Save. The items are listed roughly in the order I come to them as I go around the supermarket so it allows me to whizz around the supermarket quicker than most people. The list also has a column for an estimated price so as items are put on the shopping list, an estimated price & running total is also written down. This a huge help with sticking to our budget. I print the sheets out in bulk and keep them in my recipe book. Each week I place one shopping list on the fridge and as grocery items run out the list is filled in accordingly. Then, when I plan my weekly menu I add the rest of the items that are required for the week.

    As I go around the supermarket I’ve had numerous people comment on my list and I’ve even had people ask for a copy of it, which I’ve always happily emailed to them. It doesn’t have all the items at the supermarket but it has the ones that our family uses the most. Every now and then as the family requirements change I modify the list, but I’ve only done that a few times in the past 5- 6 years. If items aren’t put on the shopping list then the family usually misses out until the next week so they’ve had to take responsibility for putting things on the list as they run out. I’ve been using this for many years now and it definitely saves time and money!

  8. Margaret Lyall says:

    Once a week, before shopping, clean out the vege bin of your frig. Anything that looks a bit limp and unappetising, put in the food processor to make vegetable soup. Make a big brew in the crock pot (add a cereal soup mix if you like). Use some right away and put the rest in meal-sized portions in the freezer. Alternatively, any glass jars with sealable lids can be used as preserving jars. Just put the soup in hot, and check that the seal clicks down as they cool. And there you are; clean fridge, less waste, and there’s always a quick and healthy meal in your freezer or pantry.

  9. Yvonne Walus says:

    Some people are neat and organised by nature (left-brainer learning style), others thrive in chaos (right-brainer learning style). Understanding your family’s learning style will help you deal with the stress of a messy room and reach a compromise, for example, your teen is allowed a messy room as long as there’s no food to attract pests and no dirty laundry… and in exchange for your respecting their style, they respect yours by keeping the family room free of their stuff.

    Your own learning style is also responsible for your optimal working conditions: the time of day, whether you want to cook while listening to the music or while reveling in the silence, whether you prefer making school lunches late at night or early in the morning.

    Finding out how you tick makes you tick more efficiently. :-)

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