My friends and family always ask me,
“How do you stay so organised, be productive and manage your time as a homeschooler, a Masters degree law student, a mom, a wife, a study skills specialist and a blogger?”
I’ll be the first to admit that it isn’t easy. However, by applying these 7 super stressless strategies to improve time management, organisation & productivity, I’m able to get more done in less time… so can you.
I know that even under normal circumstances, studying alone can be a stressful ordeal. Add to that the challenges and strange circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the daily struggles and juggles of being a mom and life as a distance learning or homeschooling mom can be a nightmare.
Throughout my time being a student and a homeschooler, I’ve picked up a few techniques and strategies that have helped me be more organised, productive, and manage my time better. This has improved my ability to cope with being a busy student, homeschooler, mom, wife, content creator and blogger.
Based on my experiences as a busy distance learning and homeschooling mom, here are 7 super stressless strategies to improve time management, organisation & productivity so you get more done in less time.
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1. Keep your kids busy while you study/lesson plan.
There are several ways to keep the little ones occupied so you can get some peace and quiet while you slay your studies. My most effective and favourite ways include:
- Ask for some study time: Get your other half to look after the kids while you focus on your studies. This was a real blessing when I was studying as I knew they were safe and happy, so I could concentrate without distractions or my mind imagining that they were burning the house down or choking the life out of each other.
- Use modern technology: Although I don’t suggest using screens all day every day to keep the keep entertained, using Whats App, Facetime or Skype has its advantages. Have your parents, in-laws, friends, or other close family members help out by entertaining the kids while you get some time to study. They can sing together, dance together, team up to write a play or a story together, read books, help kids figure out puzzles or engage with other interesting games.
- Puzzles, play-doh, painting, colouring books: These are a great way to nurture their creativity and improve their fine motor skills. Keep kids of all ages occupied while you focus on your work. You can even have them close while you study to ensure that they are safe and happy as they quietly play. Even babies can play with soft, safe, puzzle pieces. Older children enjoy puzzles or colouring books that are age-appropriate and based on a subject that interests them. For example, my oldest loves animals, so he plays with animal puzzles. My second enjoys all things, Mario, so he has a Mario colouring book. Meanwhile, my little girl loves unicorns and rainbows and would spend hours coming up with the most creative and innovative colour combinations.
- Educational/activity DVS’s: These teach children new and interesting topics and gives them ideas to enhance their imagination and creativity. Children soon learn to apply their new knowledge to other things in everyday life and make wonderful and intelligent connections.
- Good as new toys: Sometimes I hide some of my kids’ toys so that they’re not able to play with them for weeks/months. When they least expect it, I give it back to them to play with. This makes them more appreciate of the toy and they treat it like it’s new again. It also helps them be more creative/imaginative with it and learn to share it because they never know when it will be gone again.
- Independent/imaginative play: This may work better for some kids than for others. You determine what level your child is at. If the child wants you with them at the start of play, stick around for a few minutes to get them into the groove, then slowly step away as they take the lead and their confidence and enjoyment grows.
NB: Remember to make sure that the environment is safe for the child(ren) before leaving them alone to enjoy their playtime/activity.
2. Study/lesson plan when you’ve got the most time, energy & focus to learn.
As a busy mom, I know that you hardly have a moment during the day for yourself. You’re constantly in demand, so scheduling time to study when you won’t be distracted, have high energy levels, and can focus, may be a challenge. However, it’s really rewarding if you can conquer that challenge and make that time.
I found that if I tried to study when I was constantly distracted, or had to dash off to do an errand/activity, or was so exhausted that I was falling asleep, then my study sessions were pointless. I had to seriously consider when was the time I was most likely to get an hour or two to myself without distractions and when did I have enough energy to make my study sessions count.
For me, it was first thing in the morning and last thing at night after the kids when to bed. I used to wake at 5am to study before the babies were up and about. These early starts helped eliminate distractions and gave me a good 2 hours to study when my energy was at its peak because I had just woken up. The day hadn’t started yet, so I wasn’t worn out from constant complaints, arguments, errands, chores, and whatever else was on my to-do-list that day.
If I was able to, I’d also put in 2 more hours at the end of the day between 8-10pm after the kids went to bed. Sometimes I had the energy and time, other times I was simply too shattered/exhausted, or someone was sick and I couldn’t invest the time. So, I was flexible and tried not to be too hard on myself when I couldn’t squeeze in a study session at the end of the day.
It’s vital that you remember to be kind to yourself and not succumb to mom guilt if unexpected/unavoidable circumstances occur that interrupt your routine. Deal with the disruption and move on. Don’t dwell on it and procrastinate indefinitely.
Working when you’ve got the most time and energy enables you to focus better and be more productive. It may mean waking a bit earlier than usual or staying up a bit later. However, when you see you/your child’s grades and confidence improve, you’ll see that the effort you made was worth it.
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3. Follow a daily routine.
Routines help keep you focussed and enhance your mental and physical skills and capabilities. Although it may be difficult to stick to your routine at first, it’s important that you give it a good go before you decide if it really isn’t working and you need to take another approach/change it up.
Below is a sample of a study routine that I used from Monday to Friday as a busy distance learner and homeschooler. It has lots of white space in each time slot to make notes in case I needed to adjust things to accommodate unexpected situations. On the weekends I was more flexible and adjusted to accommodate deadlines for assignments, exams, etc.
NOTE: Your routine may look similar, or it may be completely different. It all depends on your personal circumstances. Feel free to adjust it to your unique situation.
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BONUS READ: 7 Secrets of Phenomenally Successful Students That Will Skyrocket Your Grades
4. Take a break during your study sessions/lesson planning.
Don’t underestimate the importance of taking breaks. Breaks are significant because they ensure that you stay energised, increase your productivity, and reduce the risk of you suffering from burnout.
Being a mom on its own is challenging enough. Add to the mix the mental and physical toll of studying or homeschooling and it’s so much more stressful and strenuous.
Every break counts, despite how big or small. Breaks don’t have to be long. I’ve found that even a 5-15 minutes break to walk around, grab a glass of water or your favourite beverage, or do some quick star jumps/jumping jacks, is advantageous.
I wouldn’t advise you to go scrolling on your phone or surfing the internet during your study breaks. The temptation to drag out your break longer than you planned may be too great to resist if you’re on a device.
It also helps if you take a break from studying/lesson planning in general when your body and mind indicate that a break is necessary. After all, all work and no play increase the risk of burnout.
Suffering from burnout will set you back and make you feel even more guilty for not being able to be productive. So, listen to your body and take a break.
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5. Use time-saving tips & techniques.
As a busy mom who didn’t have the luxury of ONLY studying/homeschooling, it really helped when I used time-saving tips and techniques. Things like laundry, cooking, shopping, etc., are priorities that couldn’t be ignored just because I had an assignment due or an exam to study for in less than a week.
Some of my favourite and most effective time-saving tips and techniques as a busy distance learning & homeschooling mom included:
- Grouping chores/multitask. For example, while you’re doing the laundry, you can also do the dishes. This is possible even if you don’t have a dishwasher. If you do have a dishwasher, then while the laundry and dishes are washing, check and answer important emails, book appointments & reservations, arrange activities.
- Decide on the best place to study/lesson plan. Don’t be afraid to switch it up if you find that your chosen study area becomes boring or doesn’t motivate you as much as it used to. Remember, variety’s the spice of life. Your study area/lesson planning area should be organised, conducive to learning, and distraction-free. This saves an abundance of time and enhances productivity when you use it.
- Stick to your routine. It may be difficult at first, but as with everything else, it will get easier the more you do it.
- Get as much sleep as you can/as your babies will allow you to 😉. A well-rested mind and body is more productive and retains more information than an exhausted one.
- Focus when you study/lesson plan & avoid distractions. The internet and iPhones are amazing inventions/ However, they can also be the root of all procrastination. Don’t become addicted to these time-sucking vultures.
- Get a distractions journal. Despite getting rid of physical distractions, you don’t want to be mentally distracted by random thoughts while you study/lesson plan. As a busy mom, your mind is constantly on the go making a million decisions a day from what to cook for dinner, to when will you find time to do the growing pile of laundry. It helps to use a distractions journal to get all these random thoughts out of your head and clear your mind, so you can focus and be most productive. Use your journal to note all mental distractions and free up space to secure vital information for your exams/assignments, lesson planning, etc. Believe me, once you get them out of your head, you’ll have more time to really focus on your studies and be most productive. Perhaps, you can use these notes as a to-do-list that you can tackle later when you have time away from your studies. Win win!
- Get as much exercise as you can. If you can’t escape to exercise on your own, then turn on some music or watch a dance video on You Tube and you and the kids have a dance party
- Eat healthily. We’ve all heard the saying, “you are what you eat.” The more nutritious foods you eat, the healthier you’ll be. Having a healthy body and brain is not only an asset to you, it also sets a great example for your kids. Remember, if you don’t eat well, you’re more likely to get sick and suffer from burnout.
6. Learn to say “NO!”
I used to really struggle with trying to please everyone all the time. I soon discovered that it’s impossible to do this. After suffering from severe burnout, I realised that when I overcommitted and catered to everyone else, little was left for me. Something had to change.
I took some time to consider the people/things in my life that I needed to say Yes to, and also those people/things that I could and should say No to.
Unexpectedly, I learned a lesson from my toddler. She showed me the benefits of being decisive and having strong will power. When she didn’t want to eat something or do an activity, she had absolutely no problem or hesitation saying “NO!”
I soon wondered why as adults we often feel the need to say Yes, even when we’re uncomfortable with a commitment? I decided to take a leaf out of my baby’s book and made a list of the things I needed to say yes to, and those things I’d start saying No to.
This really brought things into focus and helped me concentrate on what’s important and what’s irrelevant.
Give it a go! Make a list of the people/things in your life you need to say Yes to and those people/things you should & could say No to. If you stick to your decisions, you’ll find you gain a ton of time to do the things you enjoy doing, with those your love.
Your studies/lesson planning will also benefit because you could use your new-found time to be more organised and productive before, during and after your study/lesson planning sessions.
BONUS READ: How To Prioritise As A Busy Student, Even When You Think You Can’t
7. Your attitude determines your altitude.
My dad used to tell me this when I was younger. In other words, a positive attitude leads to increased productivity and success, and less procrastination. I’ve found that whenever I approach anything with a positive attitude, I get much more done than when I doubt myself or dwell on the struggles and challenges of life. Does this resonate with you?
I know life can be difficult. However, I’ve found that having a positive attitude and using productivity and organisation resources like this Planner & Calendar Package to help you manage your time helps make life a whole lot easier.
A positive attitude along with using effective study resources helps you get more studying done with less time-wasting. It also helps for you to have positive vibes around you to remind you to stay focussed on the positive. Ditch the naysayers, delete the haters, block the bullies, and get some positive posters to constantly have a visual reminder to stay positive.
In case you still need more motivation to be positive, here are some things I do to boost my positive vibes & keep me productive, motivated and help me be successful.
- Pray. Simple, yet extremely effective. Prayer is a powerful thing that works wonders. Use a prayer journal and a prayer planner to help you stay focussed on your faith and to help you get the most from your moments of prayers.
- Reach out to someone who you haven’t spoken to in a while & really listen to them. They may be more grateful to hear from you than you can imagine.
- De-clutter your study/lesson planning area. If it’s already spic & span, organise/clean somewhere in your house that desperately needs some attention.
- Exercise/meditate. It doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise that exhausts you to the point where you need a doctor. Even gentle exercise like dancing, walking or meditation can improve your mood and make you feel better. My husband and I walk next to a beautiful lake with swans and cygnets. It really lifts our mood and brightens our day. We’ve found that just being out in fresh air is also a magnificent mood booster.
- Be a kid again. Play with your kids and act the fool like no one’s watching.
- Dress up and look fabulous, darling! I love looking fabulous. The better I look, the better I feel. If you’re feeling down, they dressing up, putting on makeup and looking fabulous is an instant mood booster.
- Have an attitude of gratitude. It’s amazing how many blessings you’ll find you have if you just take a moment to think about them. If you need inspiration or to jog your memory, here are 35 things to be thankful for right now. Be grateful for simple things like having internet to study remotely, being able to read & write, not having to worry about where your next meal is coming from, or the fact that you’re a mom.
There you have it. 7 Super Stressless Strategies to Improve Your Time Management, Organisation & Productivity, So You Get More Done In Less Time.
Which one is your favourite? Let me know in the comments below.
Don’t forget to download your free checklist and learn how to Slay Your Studies.