5 Ways to Make Every Minute of Your Day Count

Preparation is everything.  In fact, I save time, money, and excuses by being as prepared as possible every day.

I prep everything from laundry to dishes to dinner.  Everyone has their own way to prepare for what is coming their way, but I believe one of the best ways is a list.  The old-fashioned note pad and pencil kind of lists.  Tangible, where I can stick it on the fridge or leave it out on the desk so I don’t forget it.  Apps on the phone are good, but once you close it, you can forget what you made the list for in the first place. In nearly 18 years of marriage and managing the lives of two working parents and four kids–including two teenagers–lists of every kind have kept us organized, on budget, on time–and sane.  Here are the top 5 ways to prepare your lists and make every minute of your day count.

images-21.  MAKE LISTS.  What do you need to do?  Write it down.  I have a calendar. I have a menu planner.  I have a shopping list.  I have a budget tracker. I have a honey-do list (don’t freak out, hubby and I share this list). I actually keep a notepad in my desk for potential vacation dates.  (You have to have something to look forward to, right?)  By making lists, you know exactly what you need, when you need it, and it helps with mommy-brain.  It cuts down on your excuses and makes you feel more productive. (Chore lists help with the kids, too!)  The trick to so many lists is to THROW IT OUT as soon as you are done with it.  Clutter is a nightmare and if you don’t need it, out it goes. If you need help finding or planning lists, Pinterest is a great resource.

2.  PLAN YOUR MENU. Menu planning can save you money, time, and those annoying “What’s for dinners” as soon as the kids get home from school. Plan your menus based on seasonal selections.  We eat a ton of salad in the summer because almost every single vegetable is in season and it’s inexpensive. But be careful to just plan out a week in advance.  Sometimes schedules change and if you plan too far in advance, you may have just thrown away some good money at the grocery store not to mention the planning that went in to your menu for 4th of July weekend. Just to get an idea of how our week looks, we eat at home 6 nights per week.  One night is a dine-out night. And we always have at least one night a week for leftovers.  Not my kids’ favorite, but it needs to be done.

3.  SHOP FROM YOUR GROCERY LIST. I plan all of our family meals, all the way down to snacks, for the week and shop from my list. Believe it or not, I can feed our family of six on an average $100 per week of groceries. And it’s because I shop from a list. Shopping from lists also helps cut down on those “Oh crap, I forgot lettuce at the store and tonight is chicken caesar salad night,” which also result in spontaneous purchases. Believe me, I’m the queen of spontaneity, so I know it happens. You just need to stay diligent and use your shopping lists. Keep a tally on your calculator (I use the one on my phone) and be honest. Use coupons or check grocery websites for sales. If you plan your menu based on what’s on sale and in season, you will save loads of money. Then use that extra money for a splurge. I try to get in one splurge a week. It’s a challenge and sometimes not fun, but once you start figuring out how to shop and save, it gets to be more fun than challenging.

4.  USE A CALENDAR.  This isn’t a new concept for most people, but I tried to get away without using one for about a year after I went back to work.  It didn’t work very well for me. Now I use a couple of different calendars.  I keep a family calendar right next to my desk.  It is 100% just for keeping schedules straight.  I write down my work schedule, my daughter’s work schedule, family appointments, and anything I need to remember on a daily basis. I only update my desk calendar a month in advance, so it is the most current and up-to-date.  I also keep a calendar on my iPhone.  This calendar links my schedule, my husband’s schedule, kids’ schedules, and anything else that I need to  remember from the near and far future.

5.  MAKE EVERY MOMENT COUNT. More important than lists is time (it’s a big thing with our family). This is a tough one for me because I am a procrastinater at heart. I love to meander.  And the more I have to do, the longer the meandering becomes.  So, how do you snap out of it and just do it?  GET OUT THAT LIST OF STUFF TO DO–AND DO IT!  I save my luxury time for when I’m done with my to-do’s. Don’t wait to do your 3 loads of laundry until you’re 30 minutes away from picking your kids up at school. Don’t wait until the rain clouds come in to get your run in.  Do it now.  Don’t wait. Then relax and bask in the fact that your do to’s are done.

If you have any tips or ideas that work great for you, share them!  I love to hear how other mommies (and daddies) are making their time work for them.

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There are Enough Hours in the Day.

How many times have you heard or even thought, “There just aren’t enough hours in the day.” I have. Usually daily. And I’m sure most of us like to think, “Yeah, but I really do have more to do than most moms.” There goes my hand up in the air.  I don’t know what makes us think that our lives are busier than the person across the street or next to us in line at Costco. Let’s face it, as moms, or dads, we all have busy going on.

imagesSo, how do you make enough time for your kids, spouse, pets, house, work, self, etc?  Honestly, I don’t know. But I want to give you the 5 top ways that have helped me stay organized and able to tackle the chaos that comes at me daily. If I can do these, you can, too.

1. PREPARE.  I am a note taker and list maker. Sometimes to a fault. I have lists for everything from meal planning to grocery shopping, from workout plans to vacation preparation. Preparing and planning helps me stay on top of my game and helps me feel like I have some sort of control in a sometimes chaotic environment. So, what’s the best kind of list? Whatever it is that helps YOU feel like you’re in control. Personally, I like the old-fashioned clipboard, paper, and pencil method. But you can use anything. Use your notes tab on your smart phone. There are now even apps you can download to help with whatever planning you need. But use whatever best works for you. I’ll have more on menu planning, shopping, and saving money on next week’s blog.

2. STICK TO A ROUTINE.  This one is not easy for me. As much as I love routine, I thrive on spontaneity. So often I want to ditch all my housework, keep the kids home from school, jump in the Montague van and just drive to somewhere remote for a milkshake. Obviously, this isn’t daily reality, so keeping to a routine helps me feel like I have control. So, when a day does come and no one has to work or go to school, we can do something fun and spontaneous. We live by the rule “Work Hard, but Play Harder.” Keep your routines tight so that you can have even more fun on those days off.

3. EXERCISE. You had to know that was coming. Why is exercise so important? Well, for one, it keeps our bodies healthy and when we have healthy bodies, we have healthy minds, homes, and kids. Exercise also, believe it or not, gives you more energy. All it takes is an extra 30 minutes out of your day. I know 30 minutes feels like an eternity when we already have such full days. But think of it this way. You could get up just 30 minutes earlier or go to bed 30 minutes later. If you’re not exercising, you’re probably tossing and turning in bed at least that amount of time. Exercise helps you stay more rested at night and focused during the day. So, you’re not actually losing 30 minutes of sleep, but gaining 30 minutes of activity. Exercise is also where you can blow ofF steam or stress and pull yourself together when you may feel like things are falling apart.

4. MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF . Please hear me when I say how important this is. You are giving most or all of yourself to your family. But who’s giving to you? Sometimes you just need to spend an afternoon at the movies or take yourself out to lunch. Maybe you like a warm bath, a book, and a glass of wine. Sometimes a massage hits the spot. One of my favorite things is just to sit on my back patio, listen to music, and scroll through Pinterest. Whatever you enjoy doing, treat yourself weekly. It will recharge your batteries and help you realize that you are more than your kids’ mommy or daddy, more than a house cleaner, more than a paycheck.

5. SLEEP. Yes! You need to sleep! Most doctors will recommend at least 8 hours of sleep per night. Sometimes you can get by on 6 or 7, but don’t make it a habit. Set your body clocks and get in the routine of getting a full 8 hours of sleep per night. Again, this will help you get to your full potential during the day. If you’re not getting enough sleep at night, then try to power nap during the day. I’ve trained myself to shut my brain off for about 20 minutes during the day if I need a little boost of energy.

I also want to add that I have an amazing support system in my husband and kids. I certainly couldn’t do anything without them. If you don’t have a support system at home, then find one somewhere either a moms or dads group, church group, best friend, or counselor. Parenting is hard, but you also want it to be fun.

Over the next 5 weeks, I’m going to break down each topic even further, so watch out next week for what my prepping and planning looks like!  And thanks for reading!   – RM