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7 Time Management Tips for Working Parents

Photo by Daxiao Productions / Stocksy United / 1255990
Photo by Daxiao Productions/Stocksy United

Let’s face it, all parents (new and seasoned) feel overwhelmed with the busyness of it all. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a planner-toting list maker or a throw-your-hair-in-a-ponytail-and-go type. Modern hardworking families (especially those with new babies) are trying to juggle it all, all the time. And being able to manage that time, is, well, the key to making it all work.

When it comes to time management tips for working parents, there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy. That’s because lifestyles (and subsequently organizational styles) can run the gamut. And while the below list seems deceptively simple, these are the tried-and-true habits of those who have managed to find better work-life balance.

Don’t try to do them all. Make like Tip #1 from this list: Pick just one time-management tip, and see if it makes things a wee bit easier.

Balance Work and Life by Letting Go of the Small Stuff

1. Pick one daily priority—just one

Year after year, Denmark tops the list of happiest countries on earth. Yes, they have a strong social safety net and embrace the concept of “hygge” (enjoying life’s simple pleasures), but Danes are also masters of setting reasonable expectations. In other words, their expectations are usually met—a formula for life happiness!  

This is the philosophy that keeps Sarah Weick, mother of two and assistant studio manager for a wedding dressmaker in Portland, Oregon, sane. “Only put one housework thing on your list a day, like grocery shopping or tossing out old toys,” Weick says.  “Make it something you can reasonably accomplish, so at the end of the day you feel good for completing your to-do list.”

2. Pare down clothes or rotate seasonally

As anyone who’s ever bought a copy of the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and then promptly threw it on a dusty pile of unread books knows that getting rid of stuff can be hard and time-consuming. And while your New Year’s list might include aggressive de-cluttering, it may be more realistic to go the lazy person’s route and store things that are highly prone to creating clutter—like clothes, for example. This will cut your wardrobe in half, and give you the opportunity to “go shopping in your closet” once the next season arrives.

You can apply this principle to knick-knacks, shoes, office supplies, and even paintings or artwork. Because, let’s be honest, it’s hard to make decisions about what to get rid of, but if you have some extra storage space, you can pack things away for another day. And the less you have, the less time you have to spend organizing it.

Quick Cleaning Tips for Working Parents

3. Commence the ten-minutes-only cleanup

Colby Lawn-Ferber is a busy globetrotting product manager for Adidas and mother of two. She covets her downtime at home, but can only really relax if her house is clean. Her favorite low-impact tip? The daily 10-minute cleanup. She goes so far as to call this one her secret weapon: As soon as you walk in the door from work, set a timer for ten minutes and tidy up for only that amount of time. “Ten minutes a day can go a really long way in making your house feel calmer,” she says. You can even have your child pitch in with age-appropriate tasks!

Photo by Nasos Zovoilis / Stocksy / 930615
Photo by Nasos Zovoilis / Stocksy

4. Make cleaning a game

If Tip #3 doesn’t seem plausible, you could try turning small tasks into a game. This two-for-one idea comes from Philippa Hill, a school librarian and parent of an exuberant five-year-old. “Ever since he was a baby, I’ve turned cleaning into a game, like playing peekaboo with just-cleaned rags while folding laundry, or a game of chase with the vacuum cleaner,” Hills says. “He still thinks I’m playing with him, but really I’m vacuuming up crumbs from breakfast.”

5. Buy some baskets

Baskets have seen a resurgence in popularity in the last couple of years, and thank goodness for that! They make perfect clutter collectors—and look so good doing it, too. How does this save time, you ask? They make clutter-y things like toys, clothes, and mail magically disappear. Into the basket they go. Cleaning up has never been so easy (or so fast).

Make Ahead and Be Prepared (Yes, You Can!)

Photo by Ali Lanenga / Stocksy / 1357836
Photo by Ali Lanenga / Stocksy

6. Make meals ahead of time

This all-star organizational tip makes nearly every time management list out there for a reason: It works. Making breakfast and/or lunches the night before (or on Sundays) does wonders for getting families out the door in the morning. If you’re rolling your eyes at this tip, we get it. (Seriously, who wants to assemble food at 8 p.m.?)

Start slow. Give things like three-minute overnight oats a try, and keep your pantry stocked with items that can be used in all sorts of meals. You can build up to small tasks like cutting carrots and storing them in water in the fridge for a quick healthy snack. Who knows? Maybe after a couple of weeks or a month, you’ll devote half of your Sunday to weekly meal-planning. One can always dream. And hey, go ahead and get your kids in on the culinary fun

7. Have snacks at the ready

Breastfeeding moms are (hopefully) counseled by their doctors to eat healthy snacks throughout the day. This keeps energy up while providing sustenance for little babes. Getting used to having lots of snacks around for yourself will prepare you for the rest of parenthood: No matter what age, kids need snacks nearly all the time. Fishing around for them in the cupboard, or making constant stops at the store (or Starbucks), can really eat up your time. Buy them in bulk and keep them stashed in your bag or your car.

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