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Time Mom-agement

May 21, 2013

Written by Marykate O”Malley, mother to three wonderful children, Gladwyne PA



When I was a child I had a life altering paradigm shift when I read Cheaper by the Dozen. It wasn’t the part about the large family. Being the second oldest of 10 I knew all about that. It wasn’t the story line or how it was biographical in nature. What stuck me was Mr. Gilbreth’s job – he was an efficiency expert. A light bulb went off in my young mind. And as strange as it sounds I have been thinking about efficiency since.

Case in point – unloading the dishwasher. In the evening, while unloading the dishwasher I leave out the dishes I will use in the morning on the counter. Why put them away to take them out a short time later. Time saved, maybe 15 seconds but 15 seconds over a lifetime equates to a lot of time. I leave piles on my stairs at the base and top of items going up and down. Why make an extra trip when you are going to be going upstairs at some point anyway and can take it then. Another example –  snacks. I prepare baggies of goldfish or animal crackers or whatever it is I am bagging, all at once for multiple days. I am saving the time to take out the items, and the bags, and it put it back. It is the assembly line concept. Yes, I equate packing my children’s lunches to the McDonald’s idea and assembly lines. Welcome to my strange and organized world.


Here are some of my favorite mom time management tips and tricks for saving time:

  • Group like tasks together. This is borrowed from David Allen. I was lucky enough to go to one of his training sessions early in my career and I still use a lot of his concepts. The idea behind this is keep your to do list segregated by grouping your like tasks together. For example, when you create your to do list, group you calls together, then errands, computer work to do etc. It is much easier to go from phone call to phone call, then from phone call to email to something else. By the way, women are better at multi tasking so if you are like me you may make a phone call and while on hold type an email – notice the efficient time saving technique demonstrated here. Pretty fancy!


  • Keep your errands geographically grouped. For example, I will do all errands in one area and then tackle some in another area. This will save you time and gas instead of zipping all over town. I will usually choose my supermarket based on this – so if I want to go to the bagel place it is Giant or Whole Foods depending on what I need. If I want to go to the Farmers Market, I will work in Trader Joe’s.


  • There is no time like the present. I have many things I have to do immediately or they will never get done. As in, will never get done.  This works with quick tasks that I know will only take a few minutes. An example, any time I am discussing dates, I need to put them in my phone immediately. I can only remember so much. I wish I could buy more memory and cloud space for my brain but I am working with a chock full schedule and three busy kids. My phone and calendar are my friend. My very good, organized friend who keeps me together.


  • Have a command station – for me it is the side of my fridge (fancy girl) and my dry erase board and calendar (very fancy). This is where I keep upcoming events, the school cafe menu for when they buy, days off, all of that and much much more. The dry erase calendar has the current month and I use the board for reminders and events the following month. My kids all know to check the calendar and the school schedule that is posted for library, PE and show and tell. Having this all in one place keeps me together, and them as well.


  • Find synergies in your children’s schedules. Managing sports, birthday parties and activities can make the most organized person unhinged. My crew is all taking tennis lessons and piano lessons together. The tennis lessons are back to back which cuts down on trips back and forth across town. Piano is back to back and at home which is most wonderful. I also try to schedule play dates and sleepovers so they are on the same day – sometimes it is easier when everyone has a friend.


  • Do in advance what you know in advance. I apply this to almost everything. For example, I know that come June I will have birthday parties almost every weekend. And I would be running to Target and Lucky Duck Toys every Saturday for tea sets and Lego kits. I have learned to keep a stash of birthday gifts, gift bags and wrapping paper on hand. When the kids have party I go to my trusty treasure trove, select the gift and off we go! I also replicate gifts to keep the decision making and shopping to a minimum. For example, at Christmas, everyone may be getting monogrammed tea towels, or throws. I take a good idea and replicate it. For the teachers gifts – same idea.


  • On line shopping is your friend. I use for things most people probably don’t use amazon. Out of sun screen? Reward for filling the marble jar? Shin guards from last season too small? Free shipping and arrives at my front door? I am in. It is so great to order on line and know it will arrive a short while later. I find it so frustrating to go somewhere and find they are out of what I need. I have learned if it is uncertain to call ahead and check. Or –! Otherwise, kids clothes – shopping on line! I love Mini Boden and Lands End. I even use for Old Navy and Gap which are five minutes from me. I used Peapod when my children were younger and groceries being delivered was essential to eating. These days I use when on vacation. So if I know I am arriving home Saturday evening, I will schedule a peapod delivery for early Sunday morning. It is a luxury after a trip and travel to not have to leave to restock the house. I have not used Fresh Direct but my sister has and loves it. She is now a convert from Peapod to Fresh Direct. I want to find out what all the fuss is about!


Who else has some mom time saving ideas to share? I love this stuff!


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  1. Anne Schenendorf

      on June 4, 2013 7:36 am

    MaryKate, it cracks me up that I finally found time to finish reading this article wedged next to two toddlers in bed with Thomas on. I use your piles at the bottom and top of the stairs. This got me thinking and I put a basket on the stairs because Greg and I both do this and then you can carry more things. 😉 This does save a lot of time. Leaving plates cups ect out in the last week has def saved me some time. Seconds saved as a busy Mom is beyond valuable to get back to those little cuties. I love that it saves me morning minutes. these are mu most valuable minutes. I also find my mornings are my most productive. if I need to do things, this is when I am most affective and focused. Amazon is the best! I get dust buster vaccum filters on there, books, toys, gifts and even mascara. I have a friend that pays money to be an amazon prime member where you get everything in two days free shipping. I can’t justify this because I do free shipper savings a d get things a day or two after that. If you ever forget a bday gift and need it fast, or are running out of diaper, organic kid snack, or meant to pick at cute new sneakers for the kiddies, is the best. It is free 2 day shipping on orders over $50. The have great organic sunscreens for good prices. I loooove FreahDirect. They have a better selection of homemade delicious items(think farmers market) and people even rate them which is the best. The downside is the site is not user friendly. You have to resave things to your basket or they disappear. Very annoying. I’ve talked to people there and they don’t seem to get it. Also, they don’t have many selections of things you need like Olay face lotion and light bulbs. With little time I am sadly back to peapod. Their site is suuuuper easy. They don’t have good delivery times though so Fresh Direct is better in this way. You can tell people think I am crazy that I rarely make it to the supermarket but all I can say is I have two toddlers and we would rather be at the playground… 😉


  2. Anne Schenendorf

      on June 4, 2013 7:43 am

    I forgot to mention my favorite thing about Fresh Direct- they have wine!!!! It is e
    very cheap and people rate these too!!!!! Amaaaaazing!


  3. Marykate

      on June 4, 2013 6:48 pm

    Anne love the basket idea! It probably looks cuter than a pile too :) and I hear you so much more fun to be at the playground! I agree about the morning – I can get so much done in the hour or 2 before the kids wake. I am a total morning bird. At night, not so much. I am envious of their bed times!


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