It took me by surprise how fast my daughter’s first year of school went by. Weren’t we just here, settling her in for her first day, a month ago?
I currently have a primary schooler, a pre-schooler and a toddler. They are quite close in age, and yet their needs are still so different! While much of our time with kids in the early years seems to pass by quickly, there’s something about the school years that makes time go even faster.
I was thinking about this the other day – what made the year go so fast – and I realised that it’s because all my time is now divided into “blocks”.
The day is divided up into the morning routine, school drop off, morning tasks, toddler’s nap time, school pick up, after school routine, dinner, kids bedtime routine and then (finally) adult alone time and sleep.
The week is divided into school/work days and the weekend. And the year is divided up into school terms and holidays. When time is broken into these clearly defined blocks, it’s easy to go on ‘auto-pilot’, moving through the blocks of our day and week and year without really thinking about how much time is passing.
So how do we make the best use of our time? How do we make sure we are using these “blocks” of time effectively and intentionally? Here are some principles of time management for when you have a school kid as well as little ones at home:
- If you have any errands to run, do them in the morning right after school drop off. You are already all in the car anyway, so this means less times you have to do and undo the car seat buckles!
- If you write a list of tasks for the day or week, take a moment to divide the tasks into ones you can do with kids awake and ones that are more manageable with kids asleep. (I like to initial each task with ‘A’ for awake or ‘S’ for sleep.) This will help you to manage your time during the day and plan out when you can do each task. For example, you might be able to do the dishes while your kids play in the backyard (in view of the kitchen window) after school. However, sitting down to do the budgeting and sending emails are much easier when all the kids are in bed.
- The morning routine can be stressful when you need to be out the door by a certain time and every one still needs your help in one way or another. One day my toddler did a ‘number 3’ (the kind that requires a bath) 10 minutes before we had to leave for school drop off! Let’s just say you are now reading the words of a world record holder – for the fastest time to bathe a toddler. To allow for blow outs in your morning routine (pun intended), it is helpful to do everything you can the night before, for example, getting uniforms ready, packing lunch boxes and packing bags. I have also found it useful to embrace the need for ‘second breakfast’, so that I am not so stressed when the toddler chucks half his food on the floor instead of eating it. I just tell myself he can have second breakfast after the school drop off!
- Build margin into your day. Specifically, build in time to allow for the spontaneous teaching, exploring, cuddling, tickling, correcting, disciplining and mess-making that needs to happen throughout the day with kids (both big and small ones!). We don’t know what these moments will look like or when they will crop up, but if we allow space for them to happen, things will go much more smoothly!
While last year sped by at a rate that caught me off guard, I wouldn’t go back and change anything. I don’t mean that everything was perfect or that I was perfect, but that I am content that I did the best I could with the time I had. My time may be divided into blocks now but those blocks are all filled with good things.