Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Time Management: Spouse Abroad Life Juggler and Day Planner

A big part of my job as an accompanying spouse the last 12 years was to be available to guests that visit us every year.  So far in the last three months, we've had four sets of visitors.  We are so very lucky that people make an effort to stay connected.  Please don't get me wrong.  I love, love, love guests.  But, now that I'd like to write more (i.e., the blog), my time isn't as flexible as it used to be.  Obviously, since this is my first post in (I don't know how many) weeks, I haven't quite figured out how to manage the situation.  I work at home.  People in the home.  No door on the office.   I know.  I just need to move my computer to a room with a door and make time.  Tell that to the hostess.

But it's more than just the guests.   I have realized that for the last ten years my job has been mostly reactionary: change a stinky diaper, wipe a runny nose, change wet sheets, feed hungry people, do the laundry when the hampers were full, show guests around town.  Very little about my day did I control.  For the most part it had to be that way.  There's only so much we can do to control when a child poops and pees, when they are hungry, when the floodgates open in the middle of the night, when guests can make the hellish trip overseas.  But the kids are older now.  Most of our guests have been there, done that.  There is less for me to react to.  So, of course, I've been finding stuff to react to.

I've tried to take control of my life.  I've had my share of depressing, continually growing to-do lists.  I could never finish the List.  Things would stay on the List for months; I'd become overwhelmed, then discouraged, then depressed.  Finally after decades of this, I ditched the "to-do" lists, reveling in my new found freedom.  But then I started forgetting stuff, lots of stuff.

So this spring I tried iCal.  Oh!  A time for everything!  I filled in laundry time, cooking time, prep time, transportation time, writing time, pick-my-nose time, you have it!  Looking at the filled-in calendar, I realized that I actually did work!  Imagine!

I trucked along for a few weeks, trying to adjust time frames for activities I hadn't realized sucked so much time out of my day (laundry).   But, I kept having to check the "schedule" to see if I was on track.  Most of the time I wasn't.  I still had to be reactionary.  Kids still threw up in places other than the toilet.  The garage still flooded.  I had to shift stuff.  I'd end the day totally missing stuff in the later time slots.  I started dreading opening up iCal every morning.  I began to hate iCal and it's "efficient" little time slots.  What was wrong with me that I couldn't follow a work schedule?  More guilt.  Discouragement.  Frustration.  I became distracted by a closet that needed to be purged, sick kids at home or having guests, until I felt so lost that I  
stopped. (That would be about 3 weeks ago)

The pressure dissipated, but so did my self-worth.  I was feeling just plain empty.  I needed to write.  I needed to manage our house.  I needed to be a mom and a wife.  I needed to find a solution.

So, being the wonk that I am, I went into research mode.  I scoured the web for "work-at-home mom" info and time management advice and came across some pretty useful information.   This quote from"I want to live my life on purpose, not by default,"  grabbed me by the collar and shook some sense into me.

Much to my chagrin, I found that day planners are a favorite time management tool.  Although they look suspiciously similar to iCal, I thought I'd meld a few together and give them a try.  The ones I prefer are a bit more free-formed, directing me back on track to the most important elements that I want to accomplish each day without the hour increments.  What I have to remember is that some important things are MORE important than others.  I  must begin my day with the most, most  important thing or it gets bumped.  If I do that one really, really important thing, I have succeeded. has a compilation of planners from various sites on the web.  My favorites in the compilation were,, and  Inspired by these, I made my own.  Now each evening before or that morning, I fill out a form.  Then, throughout the day, I highlight what I accomplish when I accomplish it (this makes me feel really good).  Most importantly, I forgive myself for not completing everything on the page.  It's a guide.  Life happens and superimposes itself onto my day.  The nerve of it!

Day Planner Simple     Day Planner Simple/Empty

Day Planner Color/Shapes     Day Planner Color/Shapes/Empty

Here are my beautiful, ridiculously time-consuming creations, but your free, click-of-a-button printables.  Click on the links to take you to the original site for downloads.  See how much I love you?


  1. This is a great post. You're so right. It's hard for stay-at-home moms to get out of reaction mode and live purposefully. Even harder fs spouses, since every new country seems to call for a new set of routines... I LOVE the color/shapes one. I think I could even use it!

  2. Thank you, Sarah! Yes, please use it or edit it, if you'd like. Make it your own. Have an intentional day!

  3. Thank you for your post of Time Management because it is a nice post and it is an important post.

  4. Thanks for the mention!

    And I love your planner page! My daughter, daughter-in-law and I all make our own pages. It's really the only way you can make a page that works for your life.

    I can identify with all your struggles. I've been there and done that. You just have to keep plugging away.


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