Have you ever heard of a Time Map? I hadn’t until a few years ago when a planner I purchased included time maps. I had no idea what they were or how to use them, but now I can’t live without them!
A time map allows you to see where you are spending your time. You can use one to plan your time or you can fill it in as you move through the day and see where your time really goes. You don’t have to have a fancy one. A piece of paper will do. To make one, jot down on one side of the paper the time from when you get up in the morning until you go to bed, or from when you start school until dinner time. Use what chunk of time you are trying to plan. Across the top make spaces for each day of the week, such as Monday thru Friday or Sunday through Saturday, however you work your week.
Now the fun begins. On your map block out the hours you plan on schooling. Then block out each of the afternoon activities you or your children are doing each day. Next, block out times for things like cleaning, making meals, eating those meals, etc. Add anything that to the map that requires your time. Now sit back and look at your schedule. Do you have time for everything you have committed too? Can you see you will have to clone yourself in order to take kids to two different places at the same time? Can you see the reason your family never has a sit down dinner on Tuesday nights? Or Wednesday? Or Thursday?
In the picture you can see a time map I borrowed from one of my children. Hers is prettier than mine so we will use this one. My daughter color codes hers so she can see how all her activities fit together. She has goals that say she wants to commit five hours a week to piano practicing. By color coding she can see how she will accomplish that goal. She can also see if she is spending too much time with things that are not in keeping with her goals. She can then decide to either change the goal or change some things so she can spend more time pursing it. In other words, a time map can give you permission to say no!
I love my time maps. I work a part time job and I also have other large time commitments. My job is flexible and I work from home. I can use my time map to fit the job into those times when my kids don’t need me. Since homeschooling is my primary focus, I can make sure that those hours are available for my children and not for something that is urgent, but not important. I like to have my week planned before I head to church. It is usually at church that I say yes to things that mess up my schedule. Yes, I can go visiting teaching on Thursday afternoon, and help with scouts on Tuesday and watch Sister Jones’ children on Monday morning so she can…… well, you get the idea. Each of these things is important, but if I haven’t planned my week I won’t remember we have dentist appointments Thursday afternoon, so I can’t go visiting teaching. A better time would be Friday. Knowing where and to whom you are always saying yes to, and making sure you know your time schedule, will save you a lot of hassle and as I said, let you say no with grace. Or say yes with enthusiasm!
This leads us to the next two principles. They are called the 80/20 principles. The first one states that 20 percent of your efforts accomplish 80 percent of your goal. In other words, 20 percent of your time and efforts get 80 percent of the job done. The question then becomes, is the project worth the other 80 percent of your time. Sometimes it is, mostly it isn’t. Many times we moms think we have to give everything 100 percent effort in order for it to count. If we don’t we feel guilty. In reality, some things we do really don’t require that extra 80%. An example would be if you were asked to bring cookies to a scouting event. Plain chocolate chip cookies will be wolfed down by the scouts as quickly as hand decorated sugar cookies with each boys name on them. Which one will take less effort and still accomplish the goal of having cookies at the scout event?
Now, if those cookies were to recognize each of the boys for having achieved an award, then your 80% more effort would be worth your time. Can you see the difference? Our inability to tell that difference has helped perpetuate the snickers about RS table decorations and elaborate lesson handouts. The 80/20 principle helps us know where to draw that line.
The second 80/20 principle has to do with your time. Never schedule more than 80% of your time. Leave 20% percent blank. Why? Because disasters happen. Such as your two year old deciding to decorate the dog with five pounds of honey (this happened to me!). You can’t wait until later to take care of it! And it’s going to take awhile! If you have things and places happening 24/7, when something like this happens you blow the rest of the day because there is no cushion of time for calamity, and as we all know children and calamity go hand in hand! When each activity leads to the next you can’t make adjustments. Stuff happens! Make sure you plan for it.
This 80/20 principle applies in another respect. One of the reasons we want to be home with our children is to build relationships with them. You can’t do that when you are over-scheduled! When your child wants to snuggle on the couch with you and read a book that’s what you do. When they find an exciting activity for school, you run with it. They grow up so fast and there will come a day when they won’t want to do those things anymore. Don’t schedule so many activities that these special moments can’t happen.
And finally we all need down time! The 80/20 principle helps is with this as well. We can’t run from activity to activity without taking time to rest and recover! This I believe is one of the leading causes of homeschool burnout. We try to do it all and make sure we do it all today! In by gone days, families spent each evening together, eating dinner, reading together, sitting on the porch watching the kids play. Maybe we need to start adding these activities to our schedules!
Time maps and the 80/20 principles can really help you see where you spend your time and efforts. Maybe you are great at balancing things. If so, pat yourself on the back. If you struggle with over planning, time maps can help you learn to say no to those things that take away from what you really want to do. Go make a time map today and see!