Five Tips to Keep Your Family from Being Lost in Time

Can I confess a shameful secret that only my family, good friends, and bosses have ever known about me?

I am time challenged.

How on earth I’ve managed to get through to this point in my life, with this disability, is still a complete mystery to me. Looking back through the years, I’ve been this way my entire life. I have raced against the clock for decades. I’m 38; it’s been decades! Well, probably 2-2.5 but that is still plural. I haven’t mastered a way to beat it yet.


And guess what?

My oldest daughter has inherited this same disease. Yes, she too has no clue when to leave the house, how much time she really has to get ready to get somewhere on time and how long it should take her to study for an exam. Unbeknownst to me, and I am sure due to my many parenting failures….she suffers gravely from Time Management Disorder (TMD). For today’s purposes, this is a real disorder. Taken seriously.

Because of this obstacle, over the years, I have taken on the task of working hard to accumulate a toolbox of options and resources to help her and I both hit deadlines and arrive on time. It’s not perfect. It’s not science. But, it may save your child’s life from being tossed in a dark alley…to be raised by feral cats. Yes, I said feral, because that’s just how serious this is.

But seriously..

The reality is, it’s a struggle for those of us that get lost in time trying to do one more thing before we head out of the house to start our day. And for the busy single mom who…. just can’t do it all, I would like to share my time management struggles while offering you a few ideas. Many that I have failed at, and some that have helped me during the busiest seasons of my life.

Make Being “On Time” a Hot Topic

Honestly? I hate this. I hate this because I’m not any good at. Adulting is hard. Adulting my time and teaching it to my child is harder. But someone has to be the adult in the room, so sit the little minions down and let them know that big circle with hands on it runs the universe (I’m exaggerating a little here, but you get the point). It sets the sun and brings in the harvest. It brings in another day and starts the next. The clock will be there best friend in helping them make important appointments and timely deadlines.

Offer Choices

Let them be involved in the process and let their natural clock work for them. If your child is a morning person, then they can get a few extra things done in the a.m. If your child is an evening person then maybe chores can be done in the afternoon and homework in the evening.  Having choices will allow room for them to take ownership. When my daughter starts complaining about tasks (and she usually does), I will remind her ‘we’ decided on this together. After a few weeks, you can always revisit the agreement and make changes.

Discuss Expectations

After everyone has an idea of what is expected of them during the day, before and after school, map out the day in regards to time. For instance, what time are they expected to be up and dressed, have had breakfast and out the door for the day? Do you expect them to do their chores in the morning or the afternoon? Kids that don’t have a built-in internal clock NEED you to lay this out. They don’t just get it. I know, it may seem odd, especially if you are a highly organized person, but they don’t get it. For some kids this is easy. They can get organized and stay organized on their own, but for others and MOST, this concept is as difficult as learning Chinese (or something hard like that!). For those super time challenged children you may have to implement more than just the conversation. You may need specific tools.
Bust Out the Tools

A favorite tool I love to use and it works consistently is the timer.  It helps in transitioning from one task to another. A list is another great tool. A list for the morning routine and afternoon routine. However you choose to create the list, let it be custom to your child’s needs. In elementary school I had my daughter create a list out of construction paper. She colored it all pretty and put it on the fridge. Ever day she looked at that list, with the time she was expected to be done next to EACH item. This was VERY helpful to her! And, saved her from the feral cats and the dark alley.

Create a List of Priorities

Creating a list of priorities is a great option for the older kids who have a lot on their plate. My daughter is juggling an intense school load, high school soccer, community soccer, household responsibilities and social pressures. On top of all this, she is nearly 16 without having started her driver’s ed and could benefit from a job to help with extra spending money and savings for a car. She is overwhelmed, to say the least. She loves her downtime, immensely, and finds she has none, especially when she doesn’t prioritize her schedule. I had her create a list of priorities. Her being the first. This list is separate from her school planner. This is a list of what comes first in her day/week. This list allows an opportunity to visually break things down and see each task on paper and for what it is. I’m not sure how much it worked. But again, it’s an option. And at times of desperation, we need plenty of these!!!!
Eliminate Road Blocks

Because we are attempting to teach something that doesn’t come natural, I’ve found that it helps to eliminate road blocks. This section is absolutely a challenge for me, especially when it comes to having a teen and expecting her to be able to eliminate road blocks herself * insert angry face*. A number one road block: electronic devices. So grab those little suckers, each and every one of them and toss ’em in the garbage! Forever. Whatever. But make sure they are put away until homework and chores are completed. Putting the devices away will add much leverage for you. You have what they want. And they need to do what you want to have what they want. Make sense?  So, tv, iPad, Netflix, cell phones, game boys, mind craft, video games, staying after school late, going to a friends house or having friends over a few times a week are all roadblocks and get in the way of accomplishing tasks on time.


These are just a few ideas to help get the ball rolling in your home.

And here’s the deal, I fail at A LOT of these. I try and then get off track. Being a single mom takes this list of options to a whole different level with all the responsibilities. I recommend, if you are like me and your family struggles in this area, be patient and flexible and find support. I am a firm believer that kids will fall in line with the guidelines we set and follow through with them. One way and somehow. The ones that don’t don’t, but it doesn’t negate our responsibility as the parent to set expectations and provide them with the tools to be successful out there.

I would love to hear what is working in your home. What am I forgetting? What are you trying? What is working as well as not working?
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