Permission slips. Soccer practice. The science fair project your child just remembered to tell you about. Whether you are a new parent or have spent years vacuuming animal cracker crumbs out of your minivan, having kids can force your attention in a million different directions, to say the least.
All of the tasks competing for your attention can make it hard to stay on top of work. You might lose focus on a project, forget to send a thank you note for a referral or struggle to find time to update your accounting books. “Letting any of those things fall through the cracks won’t end your business, but it will make it difficult for it to grow,” says Di Ter Avest, a professional home and lifestyle organizer. Through her business, Di Is Organized, she has done virtual and in-person makeovers for moms in addition to forming brand collaborations with IKEA, and leading workshops for Williams-Sonoma and West Elm.
According to Ter Avest, parents have more time on our hands than we realize. But we tend to waste it thanks to so many of the distractions around us. “Being productive is about making better use of the time you already have,” says Ter Avest, who is a married mom of two. “One simple change can make your life exponentially easier.” Luckily, Ter Avest shared three changes that help her do just that. Follow this advice to avoid time-draining mistakes and get more done.
Mistake #1: Failing To Maintain Your Command Center
Have you ever thought about how much time you waste looking for a piece of paper you need to sign for the kids’ school or the dentist appointment reminder card? A command center, a single place where you keep your family’s appointments, important papers, and more, is an essential part of any organized home. But it only partially solves the problem.
“Before coming to me, many of my clients find that command centers don’t work for them,” says Ter Avest. “But this is because they never maintain them. They have a basket for collecting permission slips, for example, but they never go through it.” To ensure you don’t let anything fall through the cracks, implement an admin day once a week where you spend 15 to 30 minutes and update your command center, says Ter Avest. “I have my clients set up an alert on their phones to remind them to do this every Sunday afternoon so they don’t forget.”
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Mistake #2: Keeping Everything In Your Head
Your brain can get overwhelmed when you try to keep too much information (appointments, goals, that amazing jacket you saw on sale) all in your mind. Bottom line: you’ll forget something, maybe something important. To get your head straight, you’ll need to do what Ter Avest calls a “brain dump.”
“Every night, spend five to ten minutes before bed writing down all the tasks that are on your mind,” says Ter Avest. “You can use a diary, sketchbook, virtual planner, app or whatever works for you.” She suggests including everything from the home projects you need to start to the things you need to do for work to what your kid’s can forget to take to school tomorrow.
“Once you do this, your brain will be free to focus on one important thing at a time—as opposed to bouncing from project to project trying to remember all the things,” says Ter Avest. “Spend another five or ten minutes looking at your list and deciding a few next steps.” That moment of focus will help you be more productive, less stressed and get a good night’s sleep knowing everything will be under control.
Mistake #3: Taking On All The Responsibilities
You don’t have to do it all. There are plenty of household chores that you can outsource to people in your family. Ter Avest suggests making a list of home chores (like loading the dishwasher, taking out trash, pre-packing lunches) and then calling a family meeting. “Explain to your partner and kids that you need their help, show them the list and ask them to volunteer for responsibilities,” says Ter Avest, who notes that even small kids can pick out outfits or make a PB&J. “Providing them the opportunity to use their voices, make a choice and feel involved in the process will contribute to the feeling of ownership. Knowing that they helped you to solve problems will keep them motivated to get things done.”
To make this work, though, you need a schedule. “Remember, that a successful day begins the night before,” says Ter Avest. “Establish a time where everyone will get their chores done in the evening. For my kids, that time is in between dinner and electronics time. They need to get their to-do list completed before having some fun before bedtime.”
“Having someone else pre-pack sandwiches for the kids tomorrow could be all the time you need to get that thank you card out for work or to actually get to take a bath. These changes may seem daunting, but I have seen them work in the life of my clients and in my own life,” says Ter Avest. “I can guarantee they’ll help you create a better, healthier, and more organized future.”