The Problem: I am a chronic double-booker.
I don’t do it on purpose, mind you–my brain simply seems to have a block when it comes to lining up dates and events. For example, you could tell me your birthday is January 31. Then you could tell me that today is January 31. But I often still will not make the connection that those two January 31s are the same thing and that in fact, today is your birthday.
The same thing goes for those dentists’ appointments I arrange at the same a time when the sitter would be out of town, or making a date to go to the movies with a friend the same night as the school play.
After too many embarrassing, apologetic “I have to bow-out” phone calls, I realized that when I double-book, one of three things (or all three things at once!) is going on:
- I don’t pay close enough attention to what was being asked.
- I respond to requests too quickly, not taking enough time to think them through first.
- I try to keep track of too many details and dates in my head.
- Understand the commitment. Like most moms, I have a constant little marching hymn of tasks inside my brain that I need to attend to, such as: sign the report card, pack the snacks, don’t forget the milk, etc. When a new piece of information is introduced, it doesn’t always “take” right away. So I make sure I get it, even if it means I ask my friends and family to repeat themselves two dozen times: “So, I know you just told me this a minute ago, but when exactly do you need to leave?” And then follow up with a text message. Just to make sure. Sorry if it drives you crazy: it’s better than being stood up, though, right?
- Say “Let me get back to you.” Whenever anyone would ask if I could do something, I used to say “yes” immediately. Girls’ night out? Sure! Lunch meeting? Absolutely! November 10th deadline for a feature article? Of course! Only later would I realize that the girls’ night was planned during a family wedding, the lunch meeting was on the day that I’d agreed to read to my first-grader’s class, and that feature article due November 10th — my son’s birthday. So now, I don’t commit unless I’m check first that I’m free.
- Simplify your calendar system. I used to have a heavy day-planner where I could write a calendar item in eight different places. But I’d always forget where I wrote them down. Heck, even getting past the zipper closure was a deterrent to using the planner; and it didn’t help that it took up my whole purse, either.
Now I use a month-at-a-glance calendar (which I then duplicate on Google Calendar every few days for my husband, who refuses to deal with antiquated “analog” systems), paired with a daily paper to-do list and a large dry-erase board where I keep a master list of tasks. It’s not fancy, but it works for me.
For more on organizing your time, pre-order my book, The Happiest Mom. Chapter Eight, “Have a Plan,” will help you work through your own tendencies and weak spots to come up with a simple and doable approach to managing your time, staying organized and getting things done.
Tell us: What are your time management secrets?
As a mom of five and blogger, author and writer, Meagan Francis spends the bulk of her time trying to balance kissing boo-boos with meeting deadlines (sometimes doing both simultaneously). But while life with kids is often chaotic and frustrating, Meagan believes a mother’s life can be rewarding and fun—and that all moms deserve a little more happiness. Her book The Happiest Mom: Ten Secrets To Enjoying Motherhood, will be published in partnership with Parenting magazine in April of 2011.