My Latest Time Management Hang-Up

My husband and I have an appointment every morning at 6:15 am. Appointment isn’t a good word. Maybe I should call it a date? I don’t know, but the point is, every morning from 6:15 until 7:00, we hang out. No TV, no phones, no computer, no iPods, no kiddos…just the two of us. It has done wonders for our marriage. I highly recommend it.

Goofy sidenote: One morning we actually recorded our morning conversation with the intention of posting it. Just for fun. Unfortunately, the video was too dark and not loud enough. Bummer. Maybe we’ll try again sometime.

underestimating time

But that’s not my point.

Oftentimes our morning time consists of me processing out loud. Brian generally asks, “So, how’s your soul?” Sometimes I even stop talking long enough to ask him how his soul is. I’m a monopolizer. (Ahem.) What can I say. He’s a man of few words and he’s very patient, wise and kind.

But anyway, that’s not my point either.

What is my point?

Oh yes…

So, I have been lamenting the fact that I just can’t. seem. to. get. my schedule to flow smoothly lately. It’s weird. You’d think I could figure this out seeing as I wrote a book about it and all. But no dice.

I feel all time-sloppy.

And then my husband reminded me of something great.

He said, “I think you generally underestimate the amount of time it takes you to do something.”


You know how I can tell? Because I feel like I live with a layer of frustration just beneath the surface. Like I’m trying to do too many things at once. It’s difficult for me to relax and just be. That frustration, unfortunately, leaks out all over the ones I love most.

I’d venture to guess this is a problem for a lot of us.

Remember Seth Godin‘s definition of stress in his interview with Michael Hyatt? It’s “what happens when you want to do two things at the same time.” That happens easily when you are constantly squeezing several things into too little time.

Time to refresh and revamp my schedule!

So. Two things I’m working on:

  1. Rethinking my activities and planning out a more realistic time block for each.
  2. Cutting back on much of what I’m doing.

#2 is hard. But it’s gotta be done. Sometimes you just gotta be brutal.

What about you? Do you underestimate the time it takes you to do something?

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  1. says

    Okay, Amy, I struggle with this because it seems like no one else think we need things like clean laundry or food until they NEED it. It seems like my stuff is forever being pushed aside. I make a list of goals and find that I seldom accomplish them each day, unless you could the ones like do laundry and cook supper! lol

    My husband and I try to take time each evening after the kids are in bed to talk and reconnect. It too does wonders for our marriage. Very sound advice! But sometimes what I really want to do it work on my blog! I know that sounds aweful but it’s true. I want to work on my goals.

    • Amy says

      I hear ya. I’m an introvert and desperately need my alone time. We have figured out that the evenings are just not a great time for me to connect with anyone (husband or kids) because all I can think about is just having some space and some quiet! The kids are home during the day so I aim to get some good interaction time in with them before I poop out in the evening. It has really helped to figure this out about myself!

  2. says

    Ahh…cutting back. Yep – that’s what I’m working on. Unsubbed from many, many email lists. And starting on Monday, two weeks off from Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus. I’m loving it so far! Thanks for linking to the Seth Godin interview – I just love him!

  3. says

    Thanks for this post…just what i needed right now. I too am struggling and I think it’s for the very same reason!

  4. says

    Yes! I underestimate the time it takes to do things, and worse, the time it takes to GO PLACES! We are always, always running late. And usually because I have terrible time management skills. I love the sound of the morning date, but I’m not sure it would work for us. I’d love that though!

  5. says

    Amy, I love this idea of a daily ‘date’. We’re getting married in September – so there are lots of things to get ready for the wedding, and in the meantime, we’re trying to get his mom moved out of the main house and into the adjoining Mother-in-Law apartment. She’s a bit (a lot bit) of a hoarder, and there are issues with that – you can about imagine! Both the apartment and the house need plenty of work to be up to my standard. Plus, my fiance and I both work full-time jobs, and my blog is a P/T job unto itself. I had to take a break from singing on the worship team, but I’m still trying to figure out time to help out with Sunday School. Some days it all just feels overwhelming, but I don’t know quite how to change it. I keep reminding myself that it will all be different in six months. We just have to get past a few milestones. I’m socking away your idea of a daily date.

  6. says

    There are a number of factors contributing to poor time management but the reality is, procrastination is just about the “grand daddy” of them all. But procrastination alone isn’t responsible in fact, there are are few things which people do that have a lot to do with the big “P” setting in.

  7. says

    I find that keeping track of what I’m spending my time doing helps me figure out where my time goes. I have a rough schedule on my Google calendar that I try and keep, but going back after the fact and writing what I actually accomplished helps me stay more on track. Because I spend a lot of time on the computer, where it is so easy to get distracted, constantly asking myself if I am doing what I’m supposed to be doing helps me get quickly back on track to actually doing it. That and the fact that I get little reminders through my hearing aides and Google calendar helps me make more productive use of my time and more accurate estimates of how long things take me. (I suppose this will work well until I get used to those alarms and start ignoring them. I’ve only had them for a week.)

  8. says

    I am finding this to be one of my biggest challenges – so many ideas and things I want to try, I forget to take each day at a time. It will all get done.

  9. says

    Yes, all the time. I also never schedule any me time. Even just 30 minutes to collect my thoughts and relax a bit. I always go from one activity to the next and I’m usually rushing because I underestimated the time it would take me to complete the activity.

  10. says

    Yes, yes! This came at a good time for me to hear. I have been stressed, and that is exactly what is happening…trying to fit in too much. Then I struggling if my to-list isn’t completed…but I Am learning there will always be a to-do list and I must take time for the important things in life (spending time with others and enjoy life) rather than always marking something else off my list. Really enjoyed your post, Amy! Thanks

  11. says

    SUCH a good point! When I first became a mom and started time blocking, I found I could get things done much quicker than I estimated. It was SO freeing to be through all of my scheduled tasks by early afternoon. And then at some point I started being more “realistic” and eventually moved to the other extreme of underestimating the time (or maybe with four little ones, everything really started taking longer? I don’t know…). And it does lead to so much frustration. I’m definitely doing better now, but I lived like that for a year before I realized the toll it was taking on me!

  12. Bethany says

    Your husband’s comment was so simple, but so profound! I’ve thinking about it all day.

  13. says

    Amen ! I ALWAYS underestimate the amount of time for projects. My headstone will read “She had the best of intentions and got most of it done.” :)

    Hubby and I have a date for 20 minutes every evening. If more people did this the divorce rate would go way down.

  14. says

    You all might be relieved to know the pressure eases when you get into your 50s, at least it did for me. I have a new perspective, often asking myself “What is the worst thing that will happen if I don’t complete this list/this task/these tasks?”

    I’ve learned to prioritize the work tasks by the ones that have the tightest deadline and the ones that will reap immediate rewards (a check in the mail).

    I’ve learned to prioritize household tasks by the most visible first.

    And just when I’ve got a routine that includes exercise and time with God in the a.m., my husband is going to retire next week! Bye-bye, mornings that used to be “mine”!

  15. says

    I have been really time sloppy too but it’s on my list of things to fix this month. I just don’t focus on one thing and then spend too much time on 5.

  16. says

    I feel like you just described my life. I REALLY need to do an inventory of my life and CUT CUT CUT CUT CUT! I just can’t do it all / be it all. When am I going to actually REALIZE that?

  17. says

    YES! All the time. Lately I’ve felt all disheveled but, for a while there, I was doing OK. What I started to do is your #1: being more realistic about the amount of time I was scheduling for certain projects every day. I am a freelance writer who once worked in the PR agency world, so I picked up on one thing that has been VERY helpful: I’ve started creating hours grids every month that break down (realistically!) the amount of billable hours I have every month, plus time for my own company’s marketing efforts, etc. Then, every time a new client project comes up, I can reference this grid and really, honestly assess whether I have the time to pick it up that month. It’s extremely helpful!

  18. says

    My husband gets so frustrated with me because I tell him things like I’m leaving work in 5 minutes and then it takes me 20 minutes to stop working. My intentions are always that I really am leaving in 5 minutes, but it just takes me longer to actually do it. Sometimes when we’re leaving the house, he will get our son in the car and they will wait for me. He says it’s like I’m in the house whittling wood before I leave!!

  19. says

    Around our house we use the quote, “Everything Takes Longer Than It Takes.” That helps remind us to plan for margins and the “thorns” in life. :)

    I hope this isn’t spammy, but I put up a template for a monthly planner on my site last week. It has helped me to Tell My Time :) a little better without having to make the same lists again and again. I need to do a better job at explaining how it works – so, hopefully I will get around to that today.

  20. says

    Thanks for being so transparent. I think I’ve known all along how long it takes me to do things. I guess I just thought I was defective bc everyone else seems to be able to get much more done in the same time. I have backed way off of a lot of things in my life and now I don’t have that horrible nagging frustration at never being able to relax. My family is benefiting big time form not having a strung out Mommy. And I love feeling like I have the time to just be now….so freeing!

  21. says

    Oh my Gosh! Yes, that is what I do. I keep thinking if I make 1 more list or organize the list differently I can get it all done. I am big on lists. But I think it is that I think I can get more done that I do. Especially Saturdays. I work full time during the week and do my blog part-time so Saturdays is my “catch-up” day. There are always a lot of things on it. Then, by mid afternoon I’m only 1/4 of the way down my list and angry at myself for not getting more done. I will try to take your advice to heart. THANK YOU.

  22. says

    Yes, I think I do have this issue. And it’s no fun to be frustrated all the time, accusing myself of laziness….when maybe I’m just unrealistic!

  23. says

    Thanks so much for the post. I love what you do — setting aside the alone time in the morning for just you and your husband. That’s a wonderful way to begin the day!

    As the mother of eleven, my time management lists used to be long and very specific. But, as you know, with children in the mix, time management often goes out the window. So, in order to keep my sanity and keep the house running smoothly, I began keeping a “Top Three Priority List” for the day. If I accomplished those three things, I knew the day was a success for me. Anything else on my list was a “bonus”, and that type of thinking helped reduce my inner stress immediately.

    I am now a working mother and grandmother, so my responsibilities have increased making time management even more important. But, I still keep my “Top Three Priority List”, and as far as I know, I still have my sanity! :)

    Thanks so much for your daily posts! I enjoy them all!


  24. says

    Oh boy…I am guilty of this too. My “to-do” list is always a page long and there isn’t enough time in the day. Then I feel like a slacker for not getting it all done. Really? I clearly think, in the morning, that I can get more done through the day than time allows…when will I learn!

  25. says

    Excellent post! You put into words what I’ve never been able to when you talked about the underlying level of frustration that you constantly feel. Kuddos to you and your hubby for putting your marriage first! It’s so easy to take our loved ones for granted when we allow ourselves to become overly busy. Color me guilty of that!

  26. says

    Thank you so much for this post! I loved your book, made myself a schedule from it, and then started wondering why I couldn’t actually stick to the routine. This month’s series by Crystal at Money Saving Mom gave me a lightbulb moment: the size of her to-do list is TINY compared to mine. She is telling people to make a to-do list for their day with five to seven items. Seriously! I will regularly have a to-do list with more than 20 items on it. Then I feel like I need to accomplish them all. That doesn’t happen and thus, stress occurs. Crystal’s posts and yours are making me realize that the problem is not how many hours I have in a day (not that I can change that!). It is also not that I am a terrible person who can’t figure out how to stick to a schedule. It is simply that I have more on my list than can be accomplished, and I don’t know how to stop doing something until it is done to my satisfaction!
    Having figured that out, I now face the hard problem of serious pruning. I love all the roles in my life and I do not know what to pare down/give up/postpone. So, it must be time to pray.

  27. says

    I always underestimate the time it’ going to take. I’m suffering with butterfly head ATM. I can’t get any of the thoughts about what to do next to stop long enough to put them into action! Hubby tells me it is my body (& mind) telling me I need a break. How do you turn your head off to have a break though?!!

    • Amy says

      I hear ya. It’s those times that I dump all the stuff that’s in my brain onto paper. Once it’s out, things tend to quiet down in there for me. :)

  28. says

    I am a big time under estimator which leads to deep frustration because I am an overachiever. It is difficult for me to let things go. BUT my number one task next is to actually create a schedule – I have tried and given up many times. However now is the time to face reality and start accomplishing things versus trying to do everything half-a**ed. I am hoping this will lead to more happiness, less frustration and eventually more productivity.

  29. says

    I definitely have trouble just being in the moment. I am trying to have a schedule but not be so tied to it that I let little moments slip by with the kids (I have 3 young ones) because I “have to finish” something.
    And were you really up and replying to comments at 4:45?! One thing that would really help my scheduling is if I got up earlier!

    • Amy says

      OK, yes, I was, but that is not normal. I couldn’t sleep so instead of lying there trying to will myself to sleep, I figured I might as well get up and try to be productive. LOL

  30. says

    I’m struggling with the exact same thing, an overachievers to do list. I have never wrote more than 3 posts in one day yet I’m always writing 6 on my list. My mental health advisor recommended that I log the time I spend writing posts and tinkering with my blog to get a realistic picture of what I can accomplish in a day.

  31. says

    Always I underestimate the time it takes me to do almost everything, Amy. Except the work I do on the tractor; I always allow several hours to just set out hay, minerals and silage. The men can do that work in 30 minutes but I’m not as comfortable going as fast as they so it takes me longer.
    Good for you and yours husband, making time for each other. Dave and I did that daily, twice a day at the bare minimum and it added quality and love to our marriage not to mention the memories that sustain me now.
    A suggestion…when you mention someone who has helped you or whom you’ve referenced on your blog, it would be a nice thing if you’d link to their blog. Perhaps not the particular article from which you obtained the information, but their blog in general. Like the mention of Seth Godin; it’s a nice thing to do and you’ll be viewed as helpful and gracious.

    • Amy says

      You are exactly right, Sandra, that was an oversight on my part for sure. I edited the post now. Thanks for pointing that out!

  32. says

    I was just thinking this week that I need to log the hours I am working on my blog. I think I have gone a bit blog crazy lately. I am like that whenever I start something new, I can’t rest till I figure it all out and get it just so.

      • says

        I was out on a run the other day though and was thinking about all the hours I spend on a blog that has not yet paid me back the $75 I invested in it. When it hit me, most people go to college for 4 year degree putting out $1000’s per year and still have no true guarantee of a job at the end of it. So how different of a risk is it for me to spend 4 years and perhaps a few $100 on a blog, and still perhaps not achieve success. Right then and there in that moment, I agreed to a 4 year plan for my blog spending just as much time on it as I would studying for and attending classes for a degree, and I am not going to feel bad about the time spent compared to the dollars returned. I am a student of bloggy land.

  33. says

    I’d love to be able to do early mornings with my hubby but here it is 5:45am and he left 15 minutes ago. He likes to get into his office early to get work done before everyone else gets in. You know too many distractions.

    That said, I work out of my home except when teaching my culinary classes. The phone rings, (kids, husband, mom, yard people, etc) the dogs need walking and by the time I deal with all that I’ve barely got a thing done. Being so wired into cell phones and computer emails don’t help either.

    It’s a battle when you’re bombarded in so many directions plus personal issues but when I put my mind to it and turn those other disturbances off I get the job done. Unfortunately that can’t routinely be done. It’s a dilemma!

  34. says

    Yes, and there are so many worthwhile things to do! I’m so tempted to get involved in everything, but I must remember that God calls me to love my hubby and kids before all else. If I don’t love and serve the Lord and my family, everything else is worthless.

    It’s hard to remember, but decluttering our to do lists is a constant process.

    It helps to set goals and know where you’re going. Like in Crystal’s MoneySaving Mom book, chapter 1.I love that!

  35. Kali says

    Yes indeedy. I feel like I often avoid facing the reality of how much time and focus each activity takes, so I continue to strive for more than is realistic. I long to work out of a place of rest…and declaring a NO to stress. I am learning! And I also find that my good mornings of quiet time help align the order of the day so much better than jumping in feet first!

  36. says

    Yes, yes, YES! Especially when it comes to running errands. I don’t like being on the road every day, so I cram too much in and never have time to stop and smell the roses. And I get home too late to really do a decent dinner, too. When I was working outside the home, I had more control over the time I spent doing my job and was able to minimize interruptions (or delegate them). Being a stay-at-home mom is the hardest job I’ve ever had!

  37. says

    I don’t underestimate, but what i do is reduce my sleeping hours. If something has to be done, its OK for sleeping about 3-4hrs. Because i believe “Saving is Earning”. If something is done in present it is beneficial for future.

    • Amy says

      Oh man, if I don’t get a good 7 hours of sleep or so, I’m afraid I’m the world’s biggest grouch!

      • says

        If I don’t get sleep, I turn into the world’s biggest crybaby – I’m like a two year old that needs a nap – super teary. I always tell myself that missing sleep to get things done will only end up in time wasted the next day by me crying about something completely unimportant. It’s pathetic, really. If you ever meet me in real life and I start tearing up about something ridiculous, just tell me to go take a nap. :)

      • says

        Me too! And FAR, FAR less productive. I just cannot focus. I can get much more done after a good night’s rest than after just a few hours.

      • says

        I use to preform 1 hours yoga and meditation to make me fresh throughout the day. I love Sudarshan Kriya, that has helped me to survive. And drinking a lot of water is must.

  38. says

    I also find that I underestimate how long it will take me to do things, plus I don’t leave myself much margin, but working full time outside the home with a commute doesn’t really allow for much margin. It’s so, so hard to cut things out!