August 10, 2020

For family caregivers, time management is one of the most important skills to have in your arsenal. After all, there are only so many hours in the day — and so much of your attention and focus to give. As the legendary writer J.R.R. Tolkein once said: 

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Of course, for sandwich generation caregivers juggling work, family, and caregiving, deciding what to do with your time is more easily said than done. 

Looking for more effective ways to manage your time as a caregiver? Here are a few time management strategies that can help you minimize stress, protect your health, and tackle your biggest goals: 

1.) Make Time for Yourself

You can’t drive on an empty tank. As caregivers, we love to devote all of ourselves to others — but it’s also important to make time to fill ourselves up in turn. In fact, making time for yourself is not only essential for protecting your own health and well-being, but for allowing you to be the best possible caregiver to your loved one. 

Make sure you build in regular break times throughout your day, and stick to them. If you ever work through a break, try to reschedule that time off for later in the day. Even a few minutes of rest can help restore your energy and boost your mood. Looking at the bigger picture, make sure to prioritize self-care, and focus on eating nutritious meals, getting plenty of rest, and exercising on a regular basis. Make time to “unplug” and focus on restorative activities that you enjoy, whether that means yoga, reading, or dining out with your spouse. 

Looking for an opportunity to take back time for yourself? Respite care is an affordable, flexible option that can give you back the time you need — while making sure that your senior loved one gets the personalized one-on-one support they deserve. 

2.) “Touch It Once”

Amy Goyer, a writer and caregiving expert for the AARP, recommends this simple philosophy. As she explains it: 

“When I get a receipt for a doctor’s copay or supplies for Dad, I avoid setting them down on the kitchen counter and forgetting about them. Instead I go right to the filing cabinet or my 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.”

Don’t procrastinate, and keep things moving as much as you can to prevent issues or tasks from piling up. Taking a few extra minutes to do something the right way may save you a few extra hours down the line. 

3.) Use a List or Organizer

While it may seem simple, carving out time and space to write down your “to-dos” can make a world of difference. In fact, studies have found that people who write down or describe their goals are significantly more likely to achieve them, compared to those who don’t. 

Writing down your goals allows you to visualize your day, and make future challenges seem a whole lot more manageable. The more you plan ahead, the more organized you’ll be — and the better equipped you’ll be to tackle any sudden changes or adjustments as they come up. 

There are lots of tools and methods you can use to start writing down your caregiving plan, including a bullet journal, a day planner, or an online resource like Workflowy, Asana, Trello, or Scribbless.  

4.) Set Priorities; Be Flexible

As a caregiver, it’s important to know your limits and set boundaries. One key step to successfully maximizing your time is to think about your “to-do” list in terms of priorities. This can make a long list feel a lot less daunting, and make it easier for you to break bigger tasks into more manageable “chunks.” 

Find a system that works for you! For example, you could arrange your daily list into three columns by order of importance: things that you “have” to do each day, things that you “want” to do, and things that it would “be nice” to accomplish. Some people prefer to get the highest priority items done first thing; others prefer to knock off a few smaller tasks and work their way up to their biggest chores of the day. 

As you set priorities, think about what you need to focus on directly, and which activities you may be able to handle through multitasking. Be ready to take detours and adjust as new things come up. Be flexible and adaptive, and give yourself some leeway if you ever let something minor slip through the cracks. If you set a daily schedule, try adding in “padding time” to account for these little additions and hiccups that are bound to come up. 

5.) Don’t Be Afraid to Delegate

As a family caregiver, it’s natural to want to take on everything by yourself. But remember that you won’t get far burning the candle at both ends — and that there are lots of resources that can help you share the load! 

Be accepting and ready to listen when friends, family, and neighbors offer help. Find tasks that they can accomplish on their own, set up a communication system, and establish clear roles and responsibilities for each member of your caregiving network. At the same time, look into local services that can help streamline things, like meal delivery or at-home banking. 

Finally, consider looking into companion care services in your area. In-home care is an affordable and flexible option for helping seniors remain safe and active while aging in place in the comfort and safety of home. With these services in place, you can rest assured that your loved one is getting help with activities of daily living, driving services, and basic housekeeping, all on a reliable schedule that works for your family.

6.) Find Your Calm

As the Institute on Aging puts it: 

“Successful time management is connected to your mental state — it’s difficult to make smart choices when you’re feeling stressed.”

In order to make the most of your time, look for ways to cultivate calm throughout the day, such as practicing breathing and grounding exercises when you’re feeling stressed or anxious. Look for moments of joy in caregiving, and think about the big picture. In caregiving, it’s often easy to miss the forest for the trees, and forget why what you’re doing is so important and meaningful.

At the same time, remember to give yourself the same empathy and compassion you extend to others. Manage your expectations, respect your limits, and set boundaries that allow you to balance being productive with being healthy, happy, and fully present. 

7.) Create a Space That Works for You

Studies show that our environment impacts us mentally and physically. For example, one prominent study suggests that workers are far more productive in an organized environment. Another survey suggests that people make healthier lifestyle choices when they spend more time in tidy, well-kept environments. 

Invest time in keeping your space organized, clean, safe, and free of clutter. Adopt a “less is more” mentality, and look into storage solutions that work for you and your loved one. Making this time commitment now can pay big dividends down the road.

Looking for Help? Companions for Seniors Is Here

At Companions for Seniors, we know the vital importance of time management for caregivers. As a loving family caregiver, you deserve the opportunity to take care of your own health and well-being. We’re here to help make maximizing your time and energy feel a whole lot easier. 

If you have any further questions about taking care of yourself as a family caregiver, or want to learn more about the amazing benefits of respite care for seniors and their loved ones, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Companions for Seniors. 

We’re here and happy to be your sounding board as you and your loved ones prepare to transition into a new phase of your journey together.

We are locally owned in Chicago, with clients in the city and suburbs. All of our companions are trained and bonded, and can assist your loved one with a variety of services. While helping seniors maintain a higher quality of life, we also hope to provide greater peace of mind for family caregivers who may need some support of their own. 

From one hour to 24 hours a day, we can be there for you and your loved one. We understand that every situation is different, so we provide a personalized care plan that’s modified to meet each client’s specific needs. As a client’s situation changes, so can our plan of care.

Have any more questions? Ready to get in touch? We’d love to keep the conversation going. To get started, click here to fill out our convenient online form or give us a call at 866-910-9020 today.