Home caregivers value their time, and many have learned to take shortcuts, balance demands and focus on priorities when caring for aging parents. Time management skills for family caregivers is vital to keeping caregiver stress at bay.
Here are seven tips that can make a difference.
- Take time to see where you can improve. How many times do home caregivers say to themselves, “Where did the time go?!” It can be really beneficial to take the time to examine your schedule. Make a commitment to spend one solid week carrying around a notebook (paper or electronic) and keep careful track of everything you do. That not only includes your tasks (doing laundry, driving Gran to the doctor, making dinner, etc.), but everything else you can possibly fit in: talking to Aunt Liz on the phone, responding to emails, searching online for a new sweater, and so forth. Be sure to note how long each activity takes. At the end of one week, you’ll have a pretty good idea exactly how your time is divided and may see some areas where you can make changes.
- Review and plan ahead. Every day before finally climbing into bed, review – either mentally, on paper, or on a computer – the day’s activities and see whether there are things that you might have done differently to save time. Think about what lies ahead for tomorrow and see whether you can spot any changes that you can make to get things done more efficiently.
- Say no to the phone, email, and other distractions. We live in an age of potentially endless communication – but that does not mean that we have to be slaves to that communication. Just because the phone rings does not mean that we must answer it. Finding out that you’ve got mail does not mean that you must reply to it at that exact moment. If you are in the middle of an activity, you have every right to ignore distractions until you are prepared to address them. Answer phones when YOU want to.
- Face the biggies first. Very often when a person really dreads doing something, he or she puts it off for as long as possible; however, that can be counterproductive. If there’s something a person doesn’t want to do, he or she may spend time worrying about it, or may be in a bad mood that in turn affects how effective that person is. Try to tackle difficult projects as early in the day as possible and get them over with.
- Plan the good kind of breakdown. When there’s a complicated task that you must complete, find a way to break it down into smaller, more manageable tasks. You’ll feel better and work more quickly if you’re patting yourself on the back for accomplishing each little part of a big job rather than if you’re worrying about when you’ll finish the whole thing.
- Use down time. Most home caregivers may be laughing and saying, “What is this down time thing?” Nevertheless, there sometimes is actual down time: for instance, when you are waiting to get in to see the doctor. If you need that down time to rest and recuperate, by all means do that; but if you find yourself twiddling your thumbs, plan ahead and bring work that you can accomplish while you are waiting.
- Give yourself props. When you get things accomplished on time or even early (and yes, that does happen), take a moment to congratulate yourself on a job well done. You