Time Management for Caregivers
As a caregiver, it is in your nature to put others first; however, it is important to budget your time. There are only 24 hours in a day, and there will always be more priority tasks than I can accomplish within that limit. In other words, there are so many “top” priorities, there is no way you can do everything you “need” to do. So it is important to learn time management skills to get the biggest return on your investment of time.
Here are some tips for managing day-to-day time as a caregiver.
- Schedule “me” time first. When juggling life, work and being a caregiver, life is usually the one that gets neglected. You can find a reasonable amount of time to care for yourself if you schedule it. It is important to do this so you can provide the best care possible to your loved one. Arrange for backup or respite care, then schedule family activities, an exercise class, a massage, time with friends, a round of golf or whatever fills you up.
- Plan ahead. Whenever you take even five minutes to plan ahead, you’ll save time in the long run. This makes it much less likely to have gaps in coverage.
- Define roles and responsibilities. Duplication of tasks is one of the biggest time wasters, so make sure all members of the caregiving team are clear about their duties.
- Make a list and prioritize it repeatedly. A list is both a visual reminder to keep you on track and help you focus, and a tool for prioritization. Categorize tasks as a) need to do/know, b) may need to do/know, c) want to do/know.
- Don’t procrastinate. More often than not, a task just gets more complicated with time. Our molehills become mountains. Do it now.
- Manage expectations. As your caregiver responsibilities grow, it is necessary to adjust your expectations about what you can get done. Sometimes good enough really is good enough.
- Be mindful. Rather than multitasking, try to focus fully on the task you are currently doing. It will help alleviate stress and make each task more productive. The bonus? You will more fully experience everything, including time spent with those you love.
- Touch it once. When you get a receipt for a copay or supplies for your loved one, avoid setting them down on the kitchen counter and forgetting about them. Instead go right to the filing cabinet or your phone to file it, scan it or shred it. The same goes for putting away kitchen utensils, caregiving supplies, clothes, etc. Before you set that item down, take an extra minute to put it where it belongs so it doesn’t become another entry on your to-do list later.
- Declutter and get organized. Environmental chaos wears our energy down and makes it much harder to implement the previous tips. We waste time searching for things. Internal chaos works the same way.
- Expect detours. Invariably, crises will come and our plans will be thrown off course. Learn to expect this rather than dread it, so you don’t feel like a failure when it happens.