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Effective Time Management Tips for Busy Moms

Does it ever feel like 24 hours in a day just aren’t enough? Those deadlines, meetings, and endless chores can leave you time for little else. Add kids to the mix, and it’s a whole different ball game.

You’re always on your children’s time. Their sleep schedule, school runs, sports and other after-school activities, bath time, homework… it never ends. As working moms especially, we can feel like we’re constantly playing catch-up. If only we had more time, we could do it all!

Unfortunately, I can’t give you more hours in the day, but I can share with you effective tips to better manage your valuable time. We can all use more ways to stay organized and find those hidden pockets of time in our day—believe me, they do exist!

How Much Time Do You Really Have?

It’s easy to get so busy that hours can rush by in what feels like minutes.

Let’s say you have 4 hours from the time you get home until you go to sleep. It may seem like plenty of time to get things done, but in reality, that time gets used up quickly. Between cooking dinner, helping the kids with their homework, bath time, and chores, you’ll be lucky if you get an hour to yourself.

Be realistic about gauging how much time you actually have to accomplish tasks so that you don’t get overwhelmed and try to accomplish too much in the time allotted. Follow these time management tips to get a better handle on your valuable time!

Prioritize and Eliminate

Do you ever feel like you’ve been busy all day, but haven’t gotten anything done—running to put one fire out after another? I get it! There are days when the unexpected just keeps pushing you off track.

Try to avoid unexpected delays by planning ahead as much as possible. On Sunday night, write down your tasks for the week and prioritize them. Don’t try and do it all—you don’t need to! Make appointments with yourself to finish the important tasks first. Be specific about when each task will start and end, and complete it within that time frame.

Also take a moment to identify the time-wasters throughout your day. A 5-minute break to check your Facebook page can easily turn into 30 minutes or more if you’re not careful. Save these things for the end of your day, when the priority tasks on your list are done.

Learn to Say “No”

I’ve said it before: it’s okay to say “no”! It’s wonderful to volunteer, but you don’t have to participate in every school fundraiser or take on additional projects at work.

If you find it difficult to say “no”—or feel guilty when you do—try to put it in perspective by looking at the big picture. Saying “no” will free up time that could be better spent having fun with your family or accomplishing a project on your to-do list that’s been bothering you for months. Just be polite about it—there’s no need to feel bad! A simple, “No thanks, I can’t make it” will suffice.

Interruptions: The Reality of Mom Life

No matter how perfectly planned your day is, there is always something that interrupts your plans. Such is mom life.

Schedule time for these interruptions. If you have 4 hours to accomplish your tasks for the day, factor in a at least one hour for unexpected interruptions. That way, when you are interrupted, it won’t derail your entire day. If—by some miracle—there are no interruptions in your day, then you may even be able to get additional things done or enjoy some rare “me time”.

Remember, interruptions can occur at any time and you may have to rearrange your schedule around them, so it’s important to stay flexible and not panic if things don’t go as planned.

Get Good Quality Sleep

Your kids shouldn’t be the only ones with bed times—you should too! Even if you can’t plan out your day as much as you’d like, make sure to get some sleep by scheduling and sticking to a time for going to bed.

If your kids are young, this may not be uninterrupted sleep (from 1am feedings to snuggles after nightmares, it’s always something!), but make it a priority for yourself. Between 6 to 8 hours (ha!) of good quality sleep will help you function your best. When you’re well rested, dealing with both the planned and unplanned events of the day is a lot easier.

So many moms, myself included, run ourselves ragged staying up hours after the kids’ bedtime to get some of our endless tasks done. But you won’t be much good to your kids or yourself if you’re not well rested.

Do yourself a favor and invest in a good bed. The last thing you need is aches and pains nagging you throughout your busy day!

Stay on Track: Be Judicious With Your Time

There are only 24 hours in a day. If you want to clear your to-do list, your time is the one thing you shouldn’t waste. Don’t add things to your plate that you don’t have to. Prioritize what means the most to you and your family, and practice saying no without guilt. And when you do have some extra time, make sure to spend some of it on yourself—you deserve it!

Household

The (Surprising) Reality of Your Household Products

How old are your personal care and household cleaning products?

I’ll admit that until I had children, I wasn’t all that concerned with what personal care and household products I was using or where they came from. I mean, I should have been. After all, I worked in Supply Chain, specifically consumer packaged goods, and had access to more ingredient knowledge than the average consumer.

Naturally, when I had children the importance of better understanding and focusing on the ingredients of those products changed; what is in my toothpaste and all of those bottles of cleaning products under my kitchen sink…where are they made…and how long ago? I only wanted the very best for my babies!

With many well-known U.S. manufacturers closing their corporate headquarters and manufacturing facilities and moving them to Asia, have you thought about how and where your products are manufactured? How do they get to the store shelves? As I dug into it myself, I was shocked at what I discovered. Let me paint that picture for you…

The Consumer Product Journey: How The Supply Chain Works

Huge manufacturers are running multiple production lines all throughout Asia, manufacturing to what we refer to in the industry as a “Sail Date.” The Sail Date is the date a cargo ship leaves port to begin its long journey to the U.S., hence the term “boat-load from China.”

Manufacturers don’t want to miss their selected cargo ship, so products are usually complete one to two weeks prior to the Sail Date. Once the products are loaded onto the cargo ship, their transport can take from two weeks to one month. Upon arrival, all products must then be cleared through customs, which can take another three days to three weeks. Products are then typically loaded on to trucks or rail cars for transport to multiple warehouses throughout the U.S.

The length of time products spend in a warehouse can be one of the biggest variables; I have seen anything from one month to two years (yes, YEARS!), and sometimes products never even make it to a store but instead are delivered straight to Grocery liquidators. From a warehouse, products will usually go to a distribution center for specific retailers and then finally, they make it to the shelves in your local store.

Best case scenario – products manufactured overseas are usually 4 months old, but realistically, they’re more like 12-18 months old before you they make it to the store for you to purchase them.

photo credit: slate.com

photo credit: slate.com

Reduced Cost, Reduced Reliability

Let’s think about toothpaste—some of you may be surprised to know that toothpaste does have a shelf life. The ADA now requires any toothpaste containing fluoride to carry an expiration date. Typically, that date is two to three years after the manufacture date.  Now, while using expired toothpaste may not be as bad as, say, drinking expired milk, it is probably best not to use it past the expiration date, and here’s why:

The fluoride in the toothpaste becomes less effective, as it doesn’t bind well to tooth enamel and thus, loses its ability to repel the bacteria in the mouth that causes cavities. Further, the ingredients start to separate (such as the flavoring), so toothpaste becomes quite unpleasant to your taste buds. And sometimes, toothpaste just becomes too dried out and hard to squeeze through the tube.

Here is one of the biggest shockers for you – Laundry Soap! Shelf life of liquid laundry soap should be 6 months to 1 year, but because of the supply-chain process many manufacturers are forced to use now, it’s nearly impossible to get in a consumers household before its effectiveness has already started to diminish.

Although laundry soap doesn’t technically expire, beyond 12 months, it definitely begins to lose its effectiveness in cleaning clothes. Some liquid laundry detergents have a “best used by” date on the bottle. After this date, the manufacturer cannot ensure that the formula won’t begin to break down and the ingredients separate. This separation is often caused by drastic changes in temperature – excessive heat or if the laundry detergent is allowed to freeze. While you can still use the product (i.e. it’s not harmful), you may find that your clothes aren’t as clean or fresh as they should be.

Aside from the overseas shipping timeframe resulting in diminished effectiveness of many products, there have been so many reports of defective and dangerous products coming from China – ranging from food products, cleaners and even toothpaste. As an example, in June 2007, U.S. consumers were advised to discard all toothpaste made in China after federal health officials discovered several products containing diethylene glycol (“DEG”), described as “a sweet, syrupy poison.” The FDA identified a brand called ShiR Fresh Mint Fluoride Paste and several other toothpaste brands containing dangerous amounts of the poisonous chemical. (source)

That occurrences such as this happen on a fairly regular basis shouldn’t surprise us. As intelligent consumers, we know that the main reason large U.S. corporations have moved their manufacturing operations overseas to places like China is to reduce costs. What we may not often think about is that those lower costs result not only from cheaper labor, but also from less regulation. And naturally, less regulation often results in toxic ingredients making their way into products we consume every day, assuming that those products from a U.S. company must be safe. Even for those consumers who’ve made a conscious effort to “buy American” and avoid products manufactured in places like China, removing those suspect products entirely from one’s home can be extremely difficult (because sometimes it seems like everything is “made in China!”). We just need to be conscientious about checking the labels on foods and merchandise to see where it came from to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

Jennifer Becker
About the author: Jennifer is a mother of two and a former supply chain director. Constantly working and thinking about work which meant valuable time away from her two daughters, she realized her job no longer provided the lifestyle she envisioned. She made a change and joined Moms Making Six Figures. "I now have the flexibility of putting my family first, I still work hard but on my terms, all while earning a significant income."