Parenting Lifestyle

11 Time Management Tips for Parents

woman on laptop in bed with kid tatiana syrikova pexels

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels

Note: I’d originally wrote this post in 2019 to be published on the “Chronicles of a Father With Cents” blog. Sadly, the blog recently went offline, so I asked Kris (aka Father With Cents) if it’d be okay to republish the post here. He kindly agreed, so I’ve republished the post below. 🙂 

Time management tips for parents

As parents, most of us know what it’s like to have a to-do list that never ends. With all the demands on our time, how can we get to all the things we need and want to do? In the busy, connected world we live in, it often seems impossible! 

As a mom of two, I was there too. And I say was because, at this point in my life, I’ve learned how to manage my time well… and rarely feel overwhelmed. I went from feeling constantly behind and exhausted to fully in-control and deeply satisfied with my personal productivity.

I’m no expert, but I am a self-improvement junkie! I’ve read/listened to dozens of books, websites, and podcasts on time management. Through my learning, I’ve seen dramatic improvements in my stress levels and happiness—and you can too! 

11 ways to take back your time 

If you’re having a hard time juggling the important things in your life, this post will help. The 11 tips I’ll share below are simple, easy, and free to implement. You can decrease your stress and win back more of your time—starting today!

1. Smart scheduling

When you use smart scheduling, you plan to do high-concentration tasks during kid-free time and low-demand tasks when your kids are with you.

In other words, don’t squander quiet, uninterrupted time on household chores. Instead, focus on high-concentration tasks like work assignments, emails, and money management. 

When your kids are around, take on chores like cleaning, dishes, and laundry. These tasks are less mentally demanding, so you can do them while still being present with your kids. (As a bonus, you can also teach your kids responsibility by getting them to help out!)

Smart scheduling has freed me to do my focused tasks guilt-free and makes me a better, more present mom when my kids are around.

Related: Financial Literacy for Kids: 10 Effective Ways To Build Good Money Habits

2. Batching 

Batching saves time because you’re dealing with your tasks in bulk. That means you only need to get set up and focused on the tasks one, instead of multiple times. Here are some simple ways to batch everyday tasks:

  • Instead of dealing with every email as it comes in, let them collect in your inbox. Then set aside 1–3 chunks of time each day to deal with them en masse.
  • Make a list of the phone calls you need to make and reserve a block of time to get to them all at once.
  • Leave the dishes from breakfast, lunch, and afterschool snacks to collect, then wash them all in one go.
  • Do two large loads of laundry every two weeks instead of a medium-sized load every few days.
  • Instead of making separate trips just for errands, plan to do them on the way to or from appointments and work.

3. Track your time

Believe it or not, we all have more time than we think! When you track your time, you’ll likely be shocked at how much time you waste on things that aren’t important. (My downfall is idle internet surfing.) 

There are dozens of time-tracking apps and printed templates out there. Pick one and use it for a couple of weeks to discover where your time leaks are occuring. (I used and liked the Smarter Time app, which I discovered through Laura Vanderkam’s review.)

Most of us can free up one to two hours a day by stopping unimportant time wasters. That adds up to 7–14 hours per week, or 28–56 hours per month! When you see it added up like that, it’s pretty hard to say you don’t have enough time for [fill in the blank]!

Yes, I know it takes time to track your time. But that’s the paradox of time management. You first need to spend time to learn about time management before it can give you back your time

4. Avoid decision fatigue 

Energy and mental space are finite; we only have so much at our disposal. When we need to make decisions, each decision—even small ones—use up some of that energy. 

Most of us spend too much time making too many little decisions during the day or week. This depletes our resources and fatigues our brains. When bigger or more important decisions need to be made, we don’t have the resources to make the best decision.

Here are some ways to avoid decision fatigue:

  • Automate as much as possible through routines and auto-scheduling. (Routines are also helpful for kids—especially for mornings and bedtimes.)
  • Minimize decision-making by wearing the same outfit everyday (Ă  la Steve Jobs), eating the same breakfast, buying the same grocery staples, etc.
  • Make things like investing as mechanical as possible. Write out a solid plan, then simply carry it out when the time comes.

5. Free, Focus, and Buffer days

It’s not totally clear who invented Free, Focus, and Buffer days, but when I first heard about them, they were credited to a man named Dan Sullivan. The idea is simple—divide your week into these three types of days:

  1. Free: these are your fun days to relax and do the things you enjoy.
  2. Focus: these are the days where you focus and do your important deep work.
  3. Buffer: these are the days to get to those annoying but necessary tasks.

When you neglect to allow time for each type of day, you become less productive and happy. All three types of days are necessary and important in their own ways:

  • Free days energize and rejuvenate you and maintain your connections to family and friends.
  • Focus days are fulfilling and allow you to do your best work.
  • Buffer days keep your life running by giving you time to prepare, plan, and get to non-urgent but important tasks.

Discovering Free, Focus, and Buffer days was so freeing for me. I used to berate myself if I wasn’t constantly productive. Free time with my family brought on guilt and anxiety about not getting things done. And Buffer days, full of chores and planning, made me resentful and impatient. 

I’ve learned to enjoy and take on each type of day for what it is, and am happier and more productive for it.

6. Outsource your brain

It may not be a popular opinion, but I happily own up to the fact that my smartphone is my second brain! I use it all day everyday to offload tasks and keep me organized. This frees up my time and brain to do other, more important things. 

Here are some of the ways I use my phone to outsource my brain:

  • Reminders: Smartphone apps are great for setting reminders for tasks I’d otherwise forget. This is useful not only for day-to-day stuff like returning a phone call, but also for long-term stuff like getting an annual oil change.
  • Alarms: We all know how easy it is to go into auto-pilot with daily routines. That’s why when I break from routine, I give myself a cue to ensure I don’t forget non-routine tasks. (Like remembering the occasional early school dismissal.)
  • Notes: Another way I free up my brain is by making notes in Evernote for just about everything. This includes things like: lists of gifts to buy, instructions to complete a new or infrequent task, or where I stashed something for long-term storage. By recording these notes in one app, I never have to worry that I’ll forget or lose a note.
  • Brain dumps: If I’m feeling overwhelmed, I find it helpful to dump everything from my brain into an Evernote or to-do list on my phone. This frees me to then focus on how to deal with each idea or task. 
  • Automations: Automations are helpful for performing manual tasks automatically. As an example, I use If This Then That to email me the latest articles from bloggers who don’t send new post notifications. This frees me from having to remember to check their blogs manually.

7. Use a to-do list app

To-do list apps are amazing! My favorite, TickTick, has helped me to do away with misplaced paper lists and forgotten tasks. And by getting my tasks organized, I’ve freed myself to be more productive than ever.

But it’s not enough to just throw all my tasks into an app. I also need to manage my to-do lists mindfully so that I don’t overwhelm and disappoint myself. 

I used to cram my daily lists full and gave little thought to whether my lists were realistic or not. As a result, I’d end most days feeling like Sisyphus, endlessly rolling his boulder up the hill. It was defeating and frustrating. 

I eventually learned to be more realistic about my output and shortened my daily to-do lists. This allowed me to complete all or most of my tasks each day, which left me feeling in-control and motivated. 

This positive energy helped me stay focused and work more efficiently. By taking on less, I actually got more done! Here are other ways I’ve learned to better manage my to-dos:

  • Set TickTick to only show the to-dos for today. This keeps me focused and prevents overwhelm.
  • Every night, sit down to make tomorrow’s to-do list. This clears my brain so I can sleep well and lets me hit the ground running in the morning. 
  • Schedule no more than one or two major tasks and two to three minor tasks each day. 
  • If I complete all my tasks for the day, I can sit back and relax or take on a task scheduled for another day. 
  • If I don’t make it through all my tasks by the end of the day, there’s no guilt. I simply reschedule what’s left on my list for another day.
  • By going through these steps, I’ve either completed or rescheduled all my tasks. That means my to-do list is always empty by the end of each day. 

Related: Top Time Management Techniques from Bella Wanana

8. Get more sleep

When we give ourselves more time to sleep, we actually get more done. That’s because, when we’re rested, our brains and bodies can function at full capacity, allowing us to work harder and faster. Think of sleep like investing—put in the time to do it, and it’ll pay itself back in dividends.

As an added bonus, sleep’s great for more than just productivity. If there was a magic bullet for most of life’s problems, getting more sleep is as close as it gets! More sleep keeps my anxiety and depression at bay, helps me maintain my weight, improves my mood, and makes me a better, less cranky mom and wife. It’s a free and easy way to solve all kinds of issues.

But even though I know all this, I still have a hard time getting to bed at a decent hour! There’s just so much I want to do after the kids go to bed. (It’s the only time of day I can fully relax.) Still, I know how important it is to get at least 7 hours of sleep, so this is where my phone comes to the rescue again. 

I use it to set a nightly 10 pm reminder to get to bed on time. This ensures I don’t lose track of time and can get myself wound down and ready to sleep before it gets too late. 

9. Meditate

Meditation is another free, easy way to clear your brain and become more productive. I do mini meditations throughout the day to refocus and clear my mind. At night, meditating can be helpful if I’m having a hard time falling asleep.

Regular meditation has also helped to train my brain not to dwell on negative or stressful thoughts. With more than ten years of meditation under my belt, I’ve become adept at spotting and stopping negative thought spirals early on. 

Before I learned how to do this, these negative spirals would take me down and leave me with no energy or motivation. Nowadays, I find it relatively easy to let go of unhelpful thoughts and get back to the task at hand. 

I’m also more resilient to stress and rarely feel overwhelmed. Like getting more sleep, regular meditation can improve your life in so many ways. I encourage you to download a free app like Insight Timer and try out some of the guided meditations. 

You might just find it changes your life!

10. Be mindful

When you practice mindfulness, you try to remain focused on what’s happening right now, without judgement. When your mind drifts to the past or future, or worries or complaints, you gently redirect yourself to the present and let those other thoughts drift away.

Mindfulness is a form of meditation, and has been proven to relieve stress and decrease anxiety and depression. By doing this, you free your mind to focus on what’s right in front of you—which leads to increased focus and productivity.

Mindfulness goes hand-in-hand with the Free, Focus, and Buffer days I mentioned in tip #5. When we’re mindful, we stay in the moment with each day. For example, when we’re having a Free day, we don’t let our minds wander to what we’re going to do on our Focus day. That way, we can fully experience and enjoy our Free days and get the full benefits.

I didn’t realize this when I first discovered Free, Focus, and Buffer days. That’s why I often felt guilty on my Free days. I wasn’t being mindful, and was lost in my thoughts about how I should’ve been working on something from my to-do list. 

Once I changed my thought patterns and learned to be more mindful, each of my days became more fulfilling. My stress levels decreased and I found it easier to get more done in less time.

11. Say no

I saved the toughest for last. Saying no is really hard for most of us. We want to be helpful, and we hate disappointing others. So we grit our teeth and keep saying yes.

But doing this too often leaves us overwhelmed and burnt out. This is not good! We need to stop believing that protecting our time is selfish. Saying no is in fact a necessity that allows us to continue giving to others.

I had an especially hard time with this when my kids started school. Being a stay-at-home mom, I felt obliged to give my time to our school. For many years, I took on way more than I could realistically handle.

I finally realized I needed to change when I was up past midnight for the umpteenth time, designing another poster for the twice-yearly school play. I sacrificed sleep to get those posters done, and always ended up anxious and cranky for days. It was impacting my mental health, and I knew it was time to let that commitment go.

It was hard telling our beloved music teacher that I could no longer help with the posters. But guess what? She wasn’t upset with me, and another parent immediately stepped up to take my place.

I realized it was possible to say no and keep my relationships intact—and that life kept moving along even after I pulled away.

I slowly scaled back even more with my volunteer commitments, and am now at a sustainable level. I still find it hard to say no to new requests. But the time freedom and mental health improvements are worth the discomfort. 

If you feel there’s too much on your plate, that’s probably because there is! Take a hard look at your commitments and decide which ones are most important. Start saying no to what’s not important and use the time to take care of yourself and your family. 

You’ll lower your stress and free yourself to give with true generosity (instead of guilty obligation).


As much as we’d like to, we can’t do it all. In order to function at our best and be present for our families, we need to find ways to manage our time more effectively. Fortunately, there are many easy, simple things we can do to take back more of our time. Try out some of these tips and see what positive changes you can make in your life today.

What about you?

I’m always open to learning more about time management—do you have any helpful tips to share? Or do you already use some of the tips I’ve listed above? Comment below so we can all learn from each other!

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  • Reply
    June 26, 2019 at 2:43 am

    Thanks again Chrissy for doing a guest post on my blog. And like you said it’s a busy time for me and my family right now with our 2nd baby arriving a few weeks ago so it was great of you to do this. A timely post too as we are trying the best ways to manage our time with a newborn demanding a lot of our attention on top of our 3-year-old. It is really important on how to balance out our time with the responsibilities we all have.
    Hey, I think you mentioned in my one of my posts that you’re a Gen-Xer!! I’m a Gen-Xer too so that’s another thing we have in common. With all the millennials blogging in the PF community it’s nice to find someone else that is in the generation 🙂

    • Reply
      July 1, 2019 at 3:13 pm

      Hey, you’re right! I forgot that we’re both Gen Xers. There’s definitely fewer of us in the PF community. I’ll have to edit the post to include that. Thanks for reminding me!

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