It's pretty ironic, if I'm being honest. I thought getting off Active Duty Army status would give me more time to focus on this business and myself. That I'd finally be able to put all of my energy into my family and The Ever Co. I thought being a stay at home mama meant watching Netflix and Hulu all day while drinking coffee and sitting on the couch.
Honestly, I feel more busy now than I ever did before! Ha! I can hardly ever remember what day of the week it is. When I was working, you better believe I ALWAYS remembered how many days were left until Friday. ha! But...
Much of it is the season of life we're in.
Battling grief with the loss of my daddy .
Learning the ropes of entrepreneurship and starting our business.
Receiving Everly's autism diagnosis and endless therapies.
Cuddling my littlest who's in the heat of separation anxiety and has health scares of her own.
Loving my hubby who is very busy with Army life.
Going from two steady paychecks to one.
And all the in between.
But one thing I've learned since being home: TIME IS PRECIOUS! If we manage our time wisely, we don't have to feel as overwhelmed with ALL THE THINGS.
So let me start with this: it started in December of 2009.
I was depressed. To make a long story short, I was living in a little apartment in Auburn, Alabama and went a few days without throwing away any trash or doing any dishes because I was in a rock bottom moment in life.
Someone finally came over to help me clean up (which by the way is crazy, because I am a neat freak - but that’s what depression does to ya). When they came over to help, I had maggots in my sink.
my life has never been the same.
That was the first moment in my life that I realized, no matter what season you’re going through-there are expectations that must be met and responsibilities that must be tended to because we are adults! I had nobody to pick up after me or check on me. And it was that moment that I knew I needed to figure out how to manage life and manage responsibilities all in one.
Truth be told, I’m actually a closet lazy person. haha! But there’s something about becoming a wife and mother that’s made my closet laziness be put to rest. I’ve realized that so many daunting tasks stink, but when they’re actually done I feel so much better about life and have so much more time! And I even feel more capable of doing these things because I have these little eyes watching everything I do. They see how I use my time every day. And I want them to emulate me. I want them to look up to me. That’s the good kinda pressure.
So, I'd love to share some of my favorite time saving hacks. Things we've either always done or I've implemented since being at home full time. If there's anything you do that's not listed below, please feel free to share in the comments below or comment on my latest IG post over @amylouhawthorne!
So here goes.
TIME MANAGEMENT HACKS 101:
1. Become a morning person, if you aren't already one.
The premise of this is to 'do what matters most, first, when there are little to no distractions.' If that seems completely unrealistic, and you are a night person through and through, then simply maximize the time that you work best and have the least distractions. For me, that means getting up at 5 a.m. every morning (no matter what). Setting an alarm, not hitting snooze and making it a routine. When I get up early, before anyone else is awake, I am truly at the most peace I feel all day. Because for the rest of the day, I feel like I'm in a blender in the midst of chaos! Ha! So why not sit in peace and quiet and focus on things that MUST get done when there are no other distractions. For me that looks like this.
set alarm for 5 a.m. GET UP. ll go downstairs (quietly) and make a warm cup of coffee. ll have face wash in the downstairs bathroom and wash my face. for me, having a clean face is critical to feel refreshed! ll sit down with my Bible and share quiet time with the Lord. it's my fuel for the rest of the day. ll tackle the most important task you have for the day. whether that's responding to emails, booking a flight, prepping dinner in the crockpot, making the kid's lunches. whatever MUST get done, do that when there are no other distractions. ll if and when there's time, I try to get my workout in first thing in the morning so I don't have that hanging over my head!
2. Maximize your sleep.
In order to do number 1. you MUST get enough sleep. that means backwards planning. (something we practice often as helicopter pilots in the army). Backwards planning means setting a goal for a set time or date. i.e. I want to go to bed at 10pm every night and wake up at 5am. That will give me seven hours of sleep. In order to go to bed at 10pm, I need to have dinner ready by 6pm when Blake gets home, have the kids in bed by 8pm, relax with Blake from 8-930, do my bedtime routine and wind down from 930-1000. Then Boom. Sleep.
3. Get the kiddos on an early bedtime routine.
This is an art. We all know kiddos are different. My oldest has a hard time winding down. Our youngest goes to sleep quickly. That requires us to REALLY focus on routine with them. This also really helps with traveling. The more the kiddos are on a routine, the easier it will be for bedtime. There's so much out there on bedtime routines, but for us, we typically watch a show as a family about an hour before bedtime and after dinner. We then limit any screen time within 30 minutes of bedtime so it doesn't affect them going to sleep. We give them one final snack then brush their teeth and just prior to laying them down we sing Amazing Grace, say our prayers and lights out. Whatever your routine is, stick with it so you know they'll be down at that same time every night. This is CRITICAL for setting the stage for the rest of your night and the next morning!
4. Use naps wisely.
Nap time can be the BEST time all day to GET STUFF DONE. BUT, it can also be the one time you have a minute to relax. So this one is a toss up. Cause guess what? Right now, the girls are down for a nap and this post is being written. If there's something that MUST get done, use nap time for that. I really wanted to stop putting this blog post off, and I wanted to write it while the ideas are fresh, so that's what nap time looks like today. But honestly? some days I just need a recharge. I need another cup of coffee, I need to binge watch Lost in Space, and I just need to chill. Whatever you MUST get done (work or chill) use nap time for that.
5. Change up the scenery for the kids to maximize distraction.
This is one I'm learning a lot lately since I've been home! While my girls are ALL about routine, they also get bored quickly. While I'm an introvert at heart and love cuddling on the couch watching movies, my whole family LOVES the outdoors. So every week we plan outdoor time. Whether that means going to the park after therapy sessions or simply playing in our backyard, the girls LOVE getting outside. And right now, the weather is perfect for that! The good thing about getting outside is not only does it ALWAYS present something new (new friends to meet, new bugs to see, new things to learn) but it also tires them out! We try to plan outdoor time right before nap time so it makes them go to sleep easily! To go along with this, we also try to plan our "errand days" out. This means, Monday and Wednesday are our busy get stuff done days. Because the girls aren't in school yet, I really don't like leaving the house every day. Instead, we pack everything we need to do outside the house on Mondays and Wednesdays when we go to therapy. With Everly's autism diagnosis, this may change soon with MANY more therapies being added, BUT for now, this works. We go to the park, library, post office, grocery store etc. on those days and that way I'm not wasting tons of time on other days. This works wonders for us.
6. Don't let things pile up.
This means dishes, laundry, mail, toys on the floor, etc. etc. etc. I think almost everyone has that one thing that they just don't like doing. For me, it's dishes. I've definitely gotten better at it, but they're not my best friend. And while I'm really good at throwing laundry in...I'm really bad at putting laundry away. My closet typically looks like a tornado with so much clean clothes on the ground because hanging clothes up is death to me. Ha! Since I'm married to a clean freak (yay!) I've learned that these little things don't have to be so bad if I tackle them little by little throughout the day versus after a week (or couple weeks) of letting them pile up! If the kids are playing with toys and they move on to coloring, I pick up their toys while they're coloring. When the girls are done eating, I immediately either wash their plates or throw them in the dishwasher. When a load of laundry is done, I put it away immediately, or at the very least separate the clothes to put away at a later time. Again, I am NOT perfect at this, but I've learned that doing those daunting tasks little by little saves so MUCH time in the long run! Little piles are easier than big ones, that's for sure! We also clean up the kitchen and living room every night before we go to bed. For us, there's just nothing as sweet as waking up to a clean house!
7. Don't let your stairs or car play you, play your stairs and car.
Gahhhh, does anyone else have catch all stairs? You know, like that catch all drawer in your kitchen, living room or bathroom? We've really tried to work on keeping our stairs clear. Not only for safety reasons, but so the stairs don't play us! When we go upstairs, we take something upstairs. When we come downstairs, we take something downstairs. You don't have to do it all at once, but little by little take something up and down each time you go up or down the stairs. It truly saves so MUCH time!
Alsoooo, anyone else feel like it's such a pain to bring stuff in from the car? Why is that? haha! I am the same way, but since I've been staying home and taking the girls with me everywhere now, I realize how much easier it is for the car to get dirty with two little toddlers. Every time I come in from the car, I always bring everything in with me now! That includes shopping trip bags, diaper bags, trash, starbucks cups, everything. It is so so nice stepping into a clean car!
8. Do one minute tasks. Period.
I learned this from my sweet friend Nancy Ray. I think she may have read it in a book somewhere, but regardless, it has been LIFE CHANGING for me!!! If there is something that needs to get done that will only take a minute, DO IT!!! Why is it so hard for us to do those itty bitty tasks?! It is for me anyways. Now every time I say the words "oh, I'll do that later" I just DO IT. For example, when the girls get up I make them a bowl of cereal, and for whatever reason leave the box of cereal on the counter cause the pantry is just sooooo far away (aka, 5 feet). But now, I put it away because it just takes a second! And man, it feels so good to get those little things done. It only takes a minute, so just do it. Cause if you let 10x 1-minute tasks pile up, then 10 minutes is a lot harder to tackle.
9. Prioritize your daily tasks list with achievable goals.
Phew, this is probably the hardest thing for me to do. I am a lister through and through. I make lists in my head for EVERYTHING. I mean this blog post is even in a list lol! So for me, making an achievable list is super hard. What I've learned is that just like in making a budget, there's things you want and there's things you need. When you're planning tasks for the day, we have to separate what we want to do vs. what we need to do. For me, I make my full list i.e. 10 things that I'd like to get done. Next to 3 of the items, I make a star. Those are the things that MUST get done that day. That way, if I don't get all 10 things done I still feel accomplished because I was able to do the 3 most important things. This also means that we have to plan out our days, weeks and months in advance. If there's a week that looks way too busy, having lists written down will help you move things around to better balance your life. Making monthly achievable goals is also critical in this step.
(you can read my "balancing" life blog post here with more on prioritizing)
10. Automate where you can.
Someone once told me TIME IS MONEY. It's so true. We are now more willing to pay others to do things we don't want to do, simply to have more time with our family! There's no shame in that! So, I've been so excited to share how we've automated some aspects of our life!
We just recently started doing grocery pickup which has been AMAZING!!!!! We use Walmart's service and it's been wonderful. On the days that we're out of the house, we plan a grocery pickup on our way home and just scoop up the groceries then! It saves so much time!
We also automate our diaper deliveries with Honest Company! In 3.5 years, we have never ever once ran out of diapers or baby wipes. It is SO nice to have diapers and wipes delivered straight to our door!
We also do an automatic pest control service! Locally we use Home Team Pest Defense which charges us automatically about $85 a quarter! If you live in an area where there's bugs galore, DO IT! We never have to worry about bugs, and it saves Blake so much time! They send us a text when they're coming out to let us know they'll be in the area, but other than that, they come and go as they please and charge us automatically. (This could be used for a lawn care service too if that's something that your family doesn't enjoy doing!)
Lastly, if you're an entrepreneur, automate where able. We're learning this right now, and honestly in the trenches of it. But, it's so important to free up time!
11. Work out "sitter trade days" with neighbors or friends!
Man oh man oh man has this been an AMAZING thing we've started doing! We are trying to save money where able, given that I am not on active duty anymore, so we've worked out with a few neighbors to do "sitter trade days!" We are all busy in our own ways, and we all need days to just get stuff done without kids! Most times I just go to the coffee shop and work work work while the kiddos are at home with a sitter, and then I in return watch their kids when needed! We try to do three sitter trade days a month! This also allows for the kids to be around other adults as we start to transition to daycare and school over the next couple years!
12. Find a play place that allows you to work.
If you can find a play place locally that allows the kids to play and allows you to work, YOU HAVE HIT A JACKPOT! We have a local play gym called "Bravery Kids" and it does just this! I can sit and watch the kids while working on my laptop and it is amazing! I hope your local area has this!
13. Get a YMCA gym membership.
Are you wanting to get back in shape but just do NOT have the time to workout at home or at a gym with littles? Well, do you "Y"?! Haha, how corny am I?! Most cities have a YMCA and the memberships are around $30-$60 a month. Roughly. This membership allows you to use all of the amenities. Most have a swimming pool, sauna, workout equipment and much more and they offer childcare for you! If there's no YMCA, there are many gyms (mostly crossfit) that offer childcare while you workout. There are also SO MANY mom groups that offer workouts with kiddos! If you google "workout mom groups in my area" you can hopefully find some! It's a way to get back in shape with the kiddos! Lastly, if all you can do is get outside and go for a walk with those kiddos, then do just that. Most kiddos love walks, and it's just a beautifully healthy thing to do.
14. Get ready early.
I always feel like I can get more done when I feel refreshed. This doesn't mean you have to get glammed up. This means you can just put on gym clothes and throw your hair up. But whatever you do, just try to wash your face, brush your teeth and change clothes when you get up.
15. Plan meals ahead of time.
Another one I'm still working on, but I've learned that having a chalkboard in our kitchen hallway that has the meals for the week saves me SO MUCH TIME! I can reference it for the grocery shopping list to make sure I'm not forgetting anything and won't have to make a last minute run for a meal. But it also let's me slowly start prepping stuff on the day of the meal!
16. Get down with them and get work done.
With your littles that is. For whatever reason, my kids LOVE when I'm around. haha! jk jk. I know I know. They love their mama! But with that, it can truly be exhausting. I mean really. Hadley is really really in the heat of separation anxiety at 17 months. It's been hard for her to be away from me for even a minute. But when I get down with her, she's so much calmer. So I've been working on being more present on the ground at her level, but also getting stuff done. If that means sending a few emails, responding to a few texts or just getting in the quality time that those kiddos need from you, be at their level and watch their spirit change!
17. Make their breakfast before you go get them.
Before I go get the girls in the morning, I set out diapers, prep their breakfast and have it all ready. I've learned that things are just harder to do when the kiddos are around. So being able to do these things by myself allows me to have both hands free (with little screaming) hehe!
18. Clean at wakeup.
I have LOVED this one so much since I've been home! In our home, our bedrooms get neglected the most. For me, it's an out of sight out of mind kinda thing. Everyone sees the kitchen and living room, so they get done most! But our bedroom and the girls'? Not so much. So...in the morning, when I go get each of the girls from their room, I stay in there with them for a little and clean their room from the day prior. I don't even touch it throughout the day, we just clean up together the next morning! They've loved doing this too and it teaches them to help!
19. Clean the bathroom while giving baths.
Keep in mind, this one is for kiddos that are a little more independent in the tub, but the way our bathroom is setup, I can have perfect sight of the girls (without being too far from them), while they're taking a bath! Our bathroom tends to get neglected too, so it's allowed me to get the girls bathed while also getting the bathroom cleaned! The hubby's LOVED this one. :)
20. Pack diaper bags and the car the night before.
If you are going somewhere early the next day, or at any time during the day, it is SUCH a time saver to pack bags and the car the night before! I am terrible at forgetting something that the girl's need or that I need to return. If it's something that must go, as soon as you remember it, pack it! You can essentially have everything packed except perishable items and into the car the night before! Anyone with kids knows that it takes an extra 57 hours to leave the house, so anything you can do early is the perfect way to save time...and sanity. :)
21. Don’t start a next big task until you finish your previous big task.
Example: I *NEED* to watch the next episode of This is Us as soon as the girls go to bed! I’m gonna pour a glass of wine and sit on the couch and relax. BUT, the kitchen needs to be clean because I must wake up to a clean kitchen every single day. So, I don’t get to treat myself to the show until I finish cleaning the kitchen! Same goes for something as simple as coming in to make dinner after grocery shopping with the kids. I won’t start dinner until I go clean out the car with all of their stuff. It’s almost a game I play with myself and allows me to tackle big projects one at a time. We are QUEENS of multitasking, but when they’re major things that need to get done that take time, it’s best to just do them one by one! Another one I do is if I wake up and didn’t clean the kitchen the night prior (which is rare) I tell myself I can’t make coffee until I clean the kitchen. PHEW, you better believe I turn into Nanny Mcphee right that moment! ha!
Something else I love about this one is that it is a PERFECT tool to teach our children! It serves them so well when they get to school, because they learn that they must clean up what they are doing before they can start something else! It’s a very good habit to start young.
22. Clean your kitchen and all of the toys EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT.
I have started doing this this year, and MAN OH MAN, this is my saving grace! There is truly nothing better to me than waking up to a clean home, and to me the kitchen and the girls toys are always the two messiest things! So after the girls go to bed, Blake and I will clean the kitchen (this includes wiping down counters, doing all dishes, loading or unloading dishwasher and running it if need be, setting out new dishtowels for the next day, and picking up all of the toys around the house). Once you start doing this and making it a routine, then it becomes second nature and it kills you when you wake up to a dirty home! (and then treat yourself to netflix on the couch *reference 21 above).
p.s. the secret to toy cleanup? BASKETS! You can see a lot of our baskets in the #ourhawthornehomeNC hashtag on instagram, and I use them everywhere! I keep toys separated and organized this way and it’s such a good way to teach the girls how to organize items. All their dolls go in one basket, kitchen play food in another, blankets in another and so forth. PLUS they’re so aesthetically pleasing!
23. Get yourself a cordless vacuum.
This one is so important it needed it’s own bullet. Ha!
But you GUYS, seriously…this vacuum that you can find here at my “favorites” blog post is LIFE CHANGING! The fact that I can go grab it at any time to clean up a mess QUICKLY is critical for time saving! I don’t have to worry about cords or bulky vacuums, it’s just the perfect mini life saver. ha! I also loveeee having a bottle of thieves household cleaner on our kitchen counter. I switch out the rag with it every 1-2 days depending on how much it was used. I have this handy to always be able to clean counters, high chairs, tables and what not if there’s a spill and never have to go digging for cleaners. Such a time saver.
24. Clean while you cook.
I am horrible at this. Really. But Blake and I have this agreement that if I cook he cleans the dishes and vice versa. So while I’m cooking, he is taking care of the kiddos and cleaning the dishes that I’m putting in the sink. However, if he’s away for training, I have to do it by myself, so one thing I am really working on is as I finish a pot or mixing bowl or appliance, I clean it right away instead of letting all of the items pile up. Cause then after you make dinner, that full sink of dirty dishes is SO daunting! AMIRIGHT?!
25. Have a weekly and monthly cleaning calendar.
For us, we vacuum all of the carpet floors once a week. We sweep and vacuum our hardwood floors at least every other day. We wipe down all of the counters, door handles, bathroom, sink every day. We do dishwasher runs every day. We run a load of laundry every night. We wash all of our mini kitchen, bathroom and doormats once a week. We wash our family room blankets and pillow covers every 2 weeks. We wash our sheets once a week. We mow our yard and do outdoor work once a week.
Having a calendar that highlights these tasks that MUST get done is game changing. It allows you to get in a routine and routines make habits. When things like this become habitual, you save so much time in the long run.
BONUS TIP: Remember every day is brand new. You set the tone. Joy comes in the morning.
I don't share all these tips and tricks for you to think I have it all together. Honestly, it's quite the opposite. Hence why I'm writing this. For me, writing things down puts them into practice. It's my way of meditating on truth. So now, let's implement these together and use our time wisely.
But hey, if the days goes awry quickly and nothing goes as planned...remember...ALWAYS remember, joy comes in the morning. Each day presents you with a fresh start. A new beginning. Darkness can't stay dark forever. The sun will always come out again.
xx, Amy + The Ever Co