How to Win at Time Management When You’re a Busy Special Needs Parent
I’m having an inner chuckle while I write this post as I’m clearly not winning at time management at the moment.
I haven’t posted on the blog in over a month and this post is actually late for a scheduled Parenting Children with Special Needs link-up – oops!
While it’s not a good look to be late, particularly when I’m supposed to be sharing how you can win at time management as special needs parents, I do have some tips to share. And, while I haven’t been around here much, that just demonstrates the importance of some of the tips I’m going to share with you.
Some of you might be aware that I had to fly overseas, at very short notice, to be with my mother, who had a fall while on holidays in Bali, Indonesia. My Mum ended up having to have surgery over there and remained in hospital for 13 days, after complications set in. We are now home, although Mum still requires ongoing treatment. She is staying with me for a few weeks until she is more mobile and able to take care of herself again.
Obviously, I had to drop pretty much everything to be there for Mum and to give her the support she needs. I’m lucky my husband was able to step in and take leave so he could be there for our kids, who, understandably, were affected by my sudden and unexpected absence. My return was even tougher for them to deal with in some ways and we’ve been busy trying to find a new balance here at home in the week and a half since I returned.
Now I have dual caring commitments (to my kids and my Mum), it’s more important than ever that I look after myself and manage my time well. Which means, revisiting my existing commitments, obligations and aspirations and identifying what is most crucial. Which is why the blog and facebook page have been a little neglected of late – family life has to come before online life, don’t you agree?
Over the years, I’ve developed a few ways to win at time management. The recent upheaval in my life revealed that I do have a pretty good handle on time management as a special needs parent. Despite having to leave suddenly and travel thousands of miles away, I was able to work with my husband over the phone to prioritise appointments. Our existing schedule held up and our network of friends and family stepped up and helped fill the gaps too.
While it was a very difficult time for me (it still is, if I’m completely honest), having strategies in place to manage our time and commitments made such a difference to me.
Time Management Tips for Special Needs Parents
This is the most important place to start when it comes to time management. You need to identify the most important tasks and concentrate on them first. This will ensure you prioritise the right things and not waste time on tasks that are not all that important.
For me, medical and therapy appointments are important and need to be prioritised over other commitments (like blogging). Considering the stressful few weeks I’ve had, I also need to prioritise my own needs and practice self-care (something that seems to always fall by the wayside when I’m busy).
If you’re struggling to prioritise (e.g. everything is equally important), think about what would happen if you didn’t keep the commitment. What would the consequence be? This helps me sort through my obligations and keeps me on track.
I live by my calendar. We have a big hardcopy calendar in the kitchen, next to the phone. Whenever a new appointment or commitment comes up, I write it in the calendar straight away. This means that my husband can also see what is already in place for a particular day, preventing double bookings.
I also have a diary that I use for my own personal use, with regular appointments and work commitments included. In the past, I’ve also used Google Calendar and iCal on my phone to record appointments and set up a schedule. Online scheduling has other benefits too, like timed reminders, colour coding and categorisation.
However, I’m old school and prefer writing things down using pen and paper (despite the lack of bells and whistles!)
Once you have a rough schedule in place, setting up a routine also helps with time management. If some of your appointments and commitments are repeatable, it’s easy to build them into a routine to ensure they are not forgotten.
For instance, I try to book in therapy appointments at the same day and time to make them easier to remember and to build them into a routine. My kids have psychology at 3.30 every second Wednesday so we’ve built this into our routine. It helps manage my kids’ expectations and gives them some certainty too.
Just be careful you schedule the appointment for the right fortnight – I’ve been caught out with that before!
Having a network of families and friends to help share the load is also an important time management strategy. There may be times when you need to be in two places at once, despite your best efforts to schedule and plan your commitments. You may be called away at short notice, as I was. Or, you may just need extra support at an important meeting.
Whatever the reason, there are times when you may need to call on others to help meet your commitments. At these times, it’s crucial to have trusted family and friends to call on, to pick up your other kids from school, to collect them from an after-school activity or to just be there while you attend to other matters.
You may never need to call on their help but it makes such a difference just knowing that help is at hand should you need it. Particularly, when you’re stressed and overwhelmed.
One of THE most effective time management tools for special needs parents, is saying no. It’s okay to decline invitations. It’s okay to say no to a commitment that won’t fit into your family life. It’s okay to cancel or postpone an appointment because you can’t face it right now.
I’ve had to be firm on this in the last few weeks as my top priority is my family, particularly my Mum and my kids. I’ve had to decline a number of invitations and reschedule appointments and commitments because I just can’t face them right now. And that is more than okay.
In order for me to keep up with the important stuff, I need to clear my mind and my schedule of other things. It’s that simple. Don’t be afraid to say no. It truly is okay.
You may be interested in other posts I’ve written on supporting carers, finding balance and maintaining my mental health. These are all important areas that tie into time management and self-care for special needs parents:
What are your tips for winning at time management as a special needs parent?
This post is part of the Parenting Children with Special Needs blog hop where myself and other special needs bloggers share our thoughts on a set theme each month. This month’s theme is “time management.” I’d love for you to check out all the other posts linked up for this month!
The Busy Mom’s Guide to Juggling Multiple Appointments | The Chaos and The Clutter
How Visual Schedules Can Assist with Time Management Skills | Kori at Home
7 Tips on How to Make the Morning Routine Easier for Families with Teenagers with Autism | Learning for a Purpose
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