Has anyone ever had the experience of sitting down to do your financial budget only to look up crying and ask yourself, “How did this happen!? Where does it all go!?!?”
I did that, but not with money. I had this experience with my time.
To make a long story slightly less long, I’ve been stressing. And Amy Roberts over at Raising Arrows says if something is stressing you out, it needs a system. In this case, the stress was feeling like I never have enough time, and the system was a new schedule, or “time budget”.
I started by mapping out my priorities: God, Marriage (my, husband of course), Kids, Homestead.
I wanted every time commitment to filter down through those things, in that order. Does it honor God? Does it enrich my marriage? Does it detract from my children? Does it support my homestead dreams and goals? If at any point the answer was “no,” that commitment had to go. I had a pastor who referred to this process as “rock dumping.” The biggest heaviest rocks (God, marriage, family) stayed put, and all the smaller rocks got dumped based on your priority, and ability to carry them. It’s important to note that honesty is imperative in this process, otherwise, it does you no good.
Once I figured out my main priorities, I did a time inventory of how much of my time I give to each thing per week. I began with my “estimated” time spent, and found something shocking; there were literally not enough hours in a day!
There are 168 hours in a week. My first time budget had me functioning (or dysfunctioning) under the assumption that I had over 250 hours to spend. The revelation that I was over budget in my time commitment aligned with the feeling of being absolutely overwhelmed with my responsibilities. So I went through 4 steps to fix this issue.
1.) Address overspending– I saw that in my estimates, I was idealizing to a fault, allowing 18 hours a week for the homestead is just not what was happening in reality. Spending 7 hours of one on one time with my kids was definitely not what was happening. But without writing it all out and seeing the visual on paper, I was operating on assumptions. And if I wouldn’t operate that way with my money, why would I operate that way with my time, which is arguably my most valuable resource? The overspending in less important categories also revealed under-spending in the more important ones. So I first pared down the idealistic time allotments to the actual, and then I could begin a realistic “time budget.”
2.) Align time spent with priority– The things I most value, God, my marriage, and my children were the things I most needed to address. Getting to the heart of it, I would love a solid 10 hours of Bible intake in a week’s time. But the reality is that I am tempted to use that as an excuse for falling behind on chores, or for neglecting other responsibilities. And that’s not what God desires. Also, with the time we spend traveling to and from church each week, we lose opportunity to actually serve and participate in ministry because of the travel time. Ultimately, we will need to find a church closer to our home so that we can be more effective in ministry and service, but for now, until we wrap up our current commitments, we’re going to have to work with what we’ve got. Basically, the most important things demand the bulk of my time; spending more time cleaning than interacting with my husband or children is unacceptable and shows a couple issues: either I’m getting distracted, I’m doing more than is necessary, or I need a more efficient way to complete the given tasks. I’m working now on systems for all those things which steal my time (dishes, laundry, plant care, animal care) and coming up with ways to delegate responsibility in order to maximize efficiency.
3.) Delegation– clearly I cannot do it all. With the constant fatigue of RA, I need to be able to bank on getting some solid sleep at night. That said, there are only so many things I can complete in 15 hours a day. That’s when I realized, I’ve got 3 able-bodied humans, my husband, oldest son, and daughter, who can be helping to mitigate this responsibility of household management. So, I made a chore chart. Hear me ladies, this is the hardest part for me. I am a very controlling person. I like things done a certain way, and often find myself saying, “Ugh, just let me do it myself.” When in reality, all I’ve been doing is shirking my responsibility to teach the children to be responsible, and overburdening myself to the point of exhaustion.
So I assigned my son to feed Maggie, my daughter feeds the dogs, and my husband takes out trash and does laundry (and actually has been doing those things without me even asking since I had our 3rd baby.) Teaching takes time and patience. The first time my daughter fed the dogs, she spilled a third of the food, which then had to be swept up to avoid mice, and then she thought she’d just eat what she dropped, which took time to explain, “hey, you’re not a dog, don’t eat that food.” Which all could be avoided by me doing it myself, right? But then how will they ever learn to take ownership in our household and family? I decided to endure the mess and slowness for the sake of raising functional human beings, who know how to contribute.
4.) New schedule– I printed off the new family schedule. This is mostly for my own benefit, so I stop trying to finish sewing projects during free play, or get caught up blogging after 11pm. I established clear wake up and bed times, for myself and the kids. And while every day may not go as according to time, we will maintain a routine, which is basically more task oriented than time oriented. The time schedule just keeps us from getting distracted or misusing time which should be put toward other things. I’m not trying to do everything all in one day now either.
I reevaluated my daily rotation of chores, and I’m going to do my best to stick to it. I gave myself set work-times for each area of business; WHL blog, Etsy, SMH/ farmer’s market, etc. And I’ve set dedicated hours for each so that I run my business, not the other way around. I also invested in tools…
…to help me run the business more efficiently, and to help me focus on specific and achievable goals. I really had to wrestle with the fact that my primary job as a stay at home mom right now is to care for and teach my children. Everything else is a side-hustle. My time spent on enriching my marriage and investment in my husband was sadly deficient, so it’s getting some intentional investment.
I feel a lot better knowing where my time is going, and sometimes, you have to see your time on paper to understand how to best use it.