After 15 minutes of on-and-off noise from the baby monitor, I dragged myself out of bed.
As I stumbled down the hall to my kids’ rooms, I noticed toys strewn across the floor of the living room, hampers overflowing with dirty clothes, and a kitchen with a full sink and dishes covering every square inch of the countertop.
Before I can get my kids to that messy kitchen, I’m already snapping at them, feeling my anxiety rise from the abruptness of getting out of bed to immediately meet everyone’s needs, except my own.
At some point, I got tired of living in a spiral of messes and having zero quiet time to myself. As moms, time management is always a challenge. Luckily, with a few small tweaks and tricks, I was able to manage my time more effectively, get to the things that I wanted to, and enjoy all of those little moments with my kids, even if they were in a demanding mood.
Time Management for Moms: Conquer The To-Dos + Gain Time
Step 1: Determine Where You Want to Go
To start, think about your goals. Maybe you want to have a cleaner house, spend time in prayer or studying your Bible, or maybe you want to read a thousand books this year so you can feel smarter.
Focus on and prioritize your goals so you don’t waste time. You can have a few, but try to cap it at 3 (for now).
My three goals:
- Spiritual Health
- Physical Fitness (C-Section recovery*)
- Keeping my house clean
Step 2: Reclaim Your Mornings
Remember the baby monitor alarm clock? It was not a fun way to start my mornings. I finally made the decision to wake up before my kids. Even though it was difficult at first, I’ve begun to enjoy the time to myself.
But, whether you wake up with your kids or before them, create a morning routine with 3-5 tasks. Remember your goals and start your day by doing something that aligns with all three of them.
Note: These should be new habits–not things you already do every morning.
Here’s my List:
- Bible study
- Make the bed
- Put in 1 load of laundry
- Unload the dishwasher
This hits all 3 of my goals (spiritual, physical health, & keeping my house clean), but it’s not so much that it’s overwhelming.
Also Note: I don’t complete all of these tasks while my kids are sleeping. Who wants to wake up early to clean? 👎🏻 I also work in the afternoons, so I don’t shower or get ready in the morning, which gives me some extra time.
Step 3: Conquer Your Evenings
One of the things that will make your mornings a success is evening prep.
Ask yourself, what can I do in the evening to help my morning go more smoothly? Again, no more than 5 things–-so you don’t get overwhelmed (more on that in a bit).
Here are my 5 things:
- Wash my face
- Lay out my workout clothes
- Clean up the kitchen & run the dishwasher
- Fold 1 load of laundry
Again, you’re focusing on new habits, not ones that you’ve already established.
For example, I always read right before bed. I bust out my Kindle Paperwhite* (which I love because it’s backlit–but not with blue light), turn off all the lights, and read until I’m falling asleep. I don’t need to put this on my list because that habit is already established.
The Rules–Not Really Rules
The items on this list should either set up your morning routine, finish off routines you started earlier in the day, or establish a new habit that hits one of your goals from above.
Choose habits for the evening that focus on:
- Short tasks
- Self Care
- Tomorrow’s Prep
This whole routine should take no more than 1 hour.
- Establish a dishes in the dishwasher rule–when someone uses a dish, they rinse it and put it in the dishwasher
- Use Cascade Platinum (or similar) in your dishwasher so you don’t have to hand wash your dishes
- Enlist the help of your husband or older children for household tasks–have them help fold laundry or load the dishwasher.
- Habit stack–if you have an established habit, use that as a trigger to remind you to complete your new evening habits.
Step 4: Keep Your House Clean in Just 30 Minutes a Day
Notice the cleaning tasks in my routines are basic tasks–dishes and laundry. “But what about the cleaning?!” You may be thinking. Find an established habit during the day to habit stack one chore a day.
Here are a few ideas:
- After I finish lunch, I’ll complete one 30-minute chore.
- Before I make lunch, I’ll complete one 30-minute chore.
- After I put my child down for a nap, I’ll complete one 30-minute chore.
- After I get ready for the day, I’ll complete one 30-minute chore.
Set a timer and complete your chore in 30 minutes. It’s easy to get carried away and clean the whole house. Complete one chore to the best of your ability in 30 minutes and move on.
Don’t Let Decision-Making Paralyze You
Establish a rotation so you know what to do each day. Don’t waste your 30 minutes trying to figure out which chore to do.
This is how I break my chores up:
Change things up until you find a schedule that works for you.
How I Clean Each Space
I start my week with the kitchen. I focus on wiping down the countertops, and kitchen table, and cleaning the sink. If there’s still time, I wipe down appliances, the backsplash, and fingerprints and food from other bizarre places.
Get yourself a caddy and put all your bathroom cleaning supplies in it. Then grab it and go. I focus on cleaning toilets, countertops, and sinks. If I have time or they’re dirty, I do the mirrors too.
Note: I don’t clean the showers or tubs during this time.
I get a big trash bag and go around. I empty trash cans, change trash bags, and restock items like toilet paper or soap while throwing away empties.
With a toddler and a baby (and two other kids part-time), we’re vacuuming all the time. We have a Roomba upstairs and downstairs and I run the downstairs one at least once a day. I vacuum up extra crumbs throughout the day with our Dyson cordless vacuum. 😪
On floor days, I program each Roomba to run early in the morning. That way the floors are vacuumed and I can quickly mop during my 30 minutes.
How to do this with kids
When my baby takes his first nap, I let my 2-year-old watch TV for the 30 minutes that I clean. We do very little screen time with our kids (baby gets 0 screen time ever), so this is the only time he ever gets to watch TV.
If your child is older, assign him/her a cleaning task alongside you. If your kids nap simultaneously, carve out 30 minutes of their nap time to clean.
And the Looming Chores…
Doing these tasks weekly should keep your house pretty clean. And it only took 30 minutes each day!
But what about the things I missed? Like cleaning out the microwave, mopping the bathrooms, and tackling the horrible task of cleaning 4 showers and a bathtub.
We hire someone to clean once a month to tackle those tasks. This is one time management tip for moms that I stand firm on. Give yourself and break and hire someone to clean once a month. It’ll give you some time to enjoy life.
I know spending extra money on cleaning isn’t always an option. If you can’t hire someone, set aside one day a month to tackle the monthly chores. Have someone take your kids out of the house so you can knock them out in a few hours. Once your kids are older, assign them some of those chores so you don’t have to do it all yourself.
Step 5: Get Creative with Your Schedule
An hour-by-hour schedule can be difficult with kids. Flexibility is important. Strictly paying attention to the time or even a to-do list, it can get in the way of your goals. Schedule in blocks of time rather than being fastidious scheduling. (See Jordan Paige’s Block Scheduling post for more on block scheduling.)
This is how my mornings look with block scheduling:
How to Fend Off Burnout
After a few weeks of following this schedule, I had it down. I was waking up every day and feeling great about all that I was accomplishing. So I started to think, I can do more. Maybe I should wake up at 5:30 on Fridays too. And 6:15 on the weekends.
A week later…I couldn’t drag myself out of bed Monday morning. My feet hurt, my back hurt, and my left eye was bright red and giving me a major headache.
I burned myself out. I needed those days to relax, get some extra sleep, and give myself the grace to let the dishes and laundry pile up to the ceiling.
So don’t overwork yourself. It’s better to accomplish what you have planned imperfectly than to hold yourself to an impossible standard and burn out.
I work four days a week, which is why my schedule is for Monday-Thursday. If you work five days a week, you can try all five days or just stick to four. But if you feel like it’s too much at any point, cut down your days or cut down your tasks from 5 to 3.
The Bottom Line: You deserve rest too. Don’t push yourself so hard that you burn out.
The New Mom Dilemma
We’ve all spent plenty of time sitting, holding a new baby, and fixating on a speck of dirt on the floor.
As new moms, we are desperate for any time management tips that will help us get a handle on the sudden messes that come with caring for a new baby.
If you are a new mom (whether it’s your first or 5th baby), realize that what was previously true for you and your house, isn’t anymore. You will not be capable of the same level of care for yourself or your house as you were before your baby was born.
So what can you do?
Start with 3 things in the morning and in the evening that you can do. Try to make at least one of those three for yourself (like showering, having a cup of coffee while you pray for 5 minutes, or just sitting in a room by yourself with a pillow over your head). Focus on simple things that don’t take long.
You can start habit-stacking as things get easier and your baby gets older.
The Bottom Line: It’s hard being a new mom and adjusting to extra demands. Start from zero and add in new tasks slowly.
If you’re one of those moms (like me) who’s been struggling with time management, try these steps to build habits that keep your goals front and center. Grab my free printables to help put these steps into action. Check out the FAQs below if you still have questions.
What if? How to Make Things Work for You
What if I can’t get out of bed?
Here are a few tricks that I’ve learned:
1. Wake up to do things that you enjoy doing. (No one wants to wake up to scrub toilets.)
2. Get to bed at a reasonable time. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep.
3. As soon as your alarm goes off, do something. Create a habit for that moment right after you turn off your alarm.
For example, I take my temperature every day when I wake up (you can read about why I do that here). So when my alarm goes off, instead of turning it off and accidentally falling back to sleep, I grab my thermometer before I can even have a thought about not wanting to get up. It wakes me up enough to move to the next task.
Find something automatic that you can do immediately when your alarm goes off–besides turning it off and going back to sleep. This can be as simple as grabbing your phone and checking your email (just be careful not to get stuck in this step).
4. Turn the lights on.
After that immediate thing, get out of the room. Get somewhere where you can turn the lights on. Once the lights are on, you’re up and you’ve won the battle.
What if my baby still wakes up through the night?
I have a rule for myself, if I have to get up in the middle of the night, I don’t wake up early in the morning. Moms work hard so time management is important, but so is sleep. If I’m up with one of my sick kids all through the night, I’m not waking up early. If my baby still wakes up through the night to breastfeed, I’m not waking up early.
After all, these routines are to help us find some time for ourselves and to bring some sanity into our lives. If you’re exhausted, that isn’t helping with any of that.
Kids under 1 year old can also have unpredictable wake times. There were many times that I set the goal of waking up just 15-30 minutes before my kids only to have my baby wake up at 5 AM that morning. 😩
Do what you can and don’t beat yourself up about it. Maybe you move the tasks that you can’t do with your kids to their nap time and you make the mornings with your kids as manageable as possible.
My kids know we aren’t going outside or doing anything else until Mom finishes her coffee. Set the boundaries that you need to get a little time to yourself, even if it is amongst kids playing.
What if something unexpected comes up?
This is life and things come up. Say you need to take your kids to the doctor on Tuesday during your cleaning time. The chore will get done next week. None of this has to be perfect.
Get creative, but don’t hold yourself to an impossible standard.
Try having a block of time when you schedule appointments or run errands. That way an appointment doesn’t overhaul my whole schedule.
But say a weekly activity comes up that you really want your family to participate in, but it’s during chore time. 😞 It’s going to throw off your whole cleaning schedule & this whole time management for moms thing is going to blow up.
This happened to me recently. We started a Bible Study on Wednesdays during chore time. I was able to merge trash with bathrooms and cut the chore on Wednesdays. In the end, spiritual health for me and my family is more important than having a meticulous home, so that’s what I chose.
Pay attention to your goals and make adjustments to fit the tasks that are important to you.