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Scheduling and Time Management
Molly Gold, Founder of GO MOM !NC, is the creator of The GO MOM!® Planner, the ultimate catch-all day planner for everything that is family. Molly is recognized as an expert on scheduling issues unique to moms.

Learning to Prioritize

Question: I have a hard time saying no. Whenever I'm asked to lead the carpool I say yes, I take on more projects than I can handle at work, etc. Which means my schedule is always overbooked and I have a hard time dealing with work and family responsibilities. Do you have any suggestions for prioritizing?
- Lauren

Answer: Some may think this controversial, but I personally believe that as a woman and mother, you cannot have it all, at least not all at one time! As multitasking mavens, working mothers are constantly reorganizing the schedules of multiple family members, all the while maintaining a serene and can do approach to the mayhem ahead. The balancing act of our ever growing responsibilities is a staggering effort to sustain all on its own. Try these steps to help you regain control of your schedule.

Step 1: FOCUS on your family. This is the one principle you must grasp before you can move forward. You have the ability to control the pace of your life and frankly, its a wise choice for any responsible leader, which busy mothers are! Take out a piece of paper and list your family activities. Don't know what they are? Then create a list by column for each family member and have each person list their activities. Then go back through each column together to select the most important items. You may find everyone dancing around one person's schedule and simply adjusting assigned times will ease the pain. Or, you might find yourself surprised to learn that the soccer your son loved last year, he may not care for at all and thus can be eliminated all together. Create a list titled "Less Important" and proceed to step 2.

Step 2: SAY "Not at this time, but thanks for asking!" For those who rest squarely in the "Can't say no!" camp, there is a huge risk of overcommitment and stress. If for every child and spouse you overcommit just once and your family totals 5, you've got at least 5 things per week you'll resent and regret in your personal life. Inevitably, the stress of being an everywoman will push not only you but your family to the edge as well. A happy mom yields a happy family, so the opposite truth can apply to frustration. Take your family list of "less important" activities and commitments and start dialing the phone. Simply state to the individuals involved that although you support and appreciate the activity, your personal family responsibilities demand that you simplify your schedule. Therefore, you are not able to coordinate or volunteer on behalf of the group at this time. Take it full circle and ask how soon and to whom you can forward your information or materials.

Step 3: And now we turn to work. People who overcommit at work often find themselves taken for granted. Why? Because the office collectively knows that in a pinch, you'll stand up the test. While grace under pressure and a drive to succeed are excellent qualities, a team approach to project management often yields a more productive and dynamic effort. Therein lies the beauty of teamwork. Just as you did for your family life, draw up a thorough list of your commitments and work load. Then sort it into "My direct responsibility" and "Indirect workload." If you are in a position to delegate, get going and toss off the indirect workload to the eager beavers that abound. If you are simply overloaded, meet with your boss and suggest a plan for spreading the wealth for a more efficient work process. Offering a solution for your problem that will benefit your employer is a favorable angle any day.

I expect you'll be surprised at the understanding you'll receive from others...afterall, we are in the same boat! And lets talk about all the time you've just found by releasing yourself, and your loved ones, from commitments that were not important to you or them. Now you can all relax and enjoy the rhythm of your days, knowing that each of you can pursue your true responsibilities and passions with a clarity of purpose and that precious down time is not an elusive goal, but a result of your focus and success. Good luck and remember, just say "Not at this time!"

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