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Tips for busy moms: How to get to what matters most

Tired and frustrated mother with small toddler daughter in messy bedroom at home, resting.

This post includes a step-by-step workbook by busy moms. Get your copy by signing up at the end of this post!


Life as busy moms is chockablock with urgent matters.

Like the diaper shortage at 7 p.m. as we’re wrestling the kids to bed, the homework sheet that can’t be found in the morning rush, and the guinea pig who disappeared just before an important phone call.

And let’s not forget the incessant cacophony of electronic beeps, bings, and rings that demand our attention—now—or else!

These demands often come at a dizzying pace, and many have little, if anything, to do with what we deem most important.

In the moment, responding immediately to a crisis or email may seem like a must do. But in the long run, these demands often shove aside our priorities—like giving undivided attention to a child, calling a friend, or getting in a much-needed walk.

While we can’t control what life throws at us, we’re not powerless. We can make life easier.

In this post you’ll learn to ways to keep the urgent at bay and fit more of what’s most important into your days. 

Shall we get started?

Mom and daughter sitting on the grass overlooking the ocean. Mom has her arm wrapped around her daughter. Text overlay states: "How to get to what matters most: tips for busy moms."

Urgent versus important? An important distinction for busy moms

The daily bombardment of tasks and expectations makes it really hard to get to what’s most important.

In his pocket-sized guide, “The Tyranny of the Urgent”, Charles Hummel addresses this dilemma head-on. Despite being published over six decades ago; the book’s key idea holds true—if not more so—for today’s overstuffed harried lives.

Hummel draws attention to the battle between the urgent and the important. It’s a fight, he explains, that the urgent often (and unfortunately) wins.

At first glance you may be thinking—shouldn’t the urgent win out? Urgent, does sound well … urgent, right?

But it turns out, urgent matters often get more attention than they deserve. And this comes down to how the urgent enters our lives—rushed and unprioritized. Urgent issues bolt into our busy mom days like a bull charging into a china shop. They demand our attention—or else—shoving what’s actually important aside.

This may be fine if urgent issues crop up occasionally. However, our days as busy moms can easily become a rodeo of wrangling crisis after crisis. And before we know it, yet another day has passed without getting to what matters most.

Argh.

So, what can we do?

Little girl drinking from bottle and drawing on the living room white wall to illustrate an urgent parenting matter that busy moms face
by @Hanni 

Identify the urgent versus the important in your life

Start by taking a bird’s eye view of your life by asking yourself the following two questions:

  1. What urgent issues keep cropping up on a regular basis?
  2. What are your top priorities in this season of your life?

Write your thoughts down in the attached workbook or on a piece of paper, using the headings “urgent” and “important.”

As an example, here’s what I came up with.

Table comparing urgent and important matters in my life for other busy moms to use as an example

Reflecting on my answers, I can easily think of many instances where urgent matters have pushed aside what’s most important.  

For example, when my days are eaten up by an overstuffed email box, chauffeuring the kids, dealing with spats and spills, and tackling household duties—it’s really hard to fit in quality time with the people who matter most, get exercise, and learn about being a good steward of our lovely planet.

Sound familiar?

So, how do we shift our days as busy moms towards what’s most important?

Don’t leave what matters the most to chance—busy moms need to schedule it in

What doesn’t get scheduled typically doesn’t get done.

This is especially true for the important matters in our lives as busy moms. And it’s often the hard to quantify—but meaningful—things that fail to land on our to do lists.

For example, while I’ll almost certainly do the laundry—and quickly attend to spills—spending quality time with my kids often ends up on the back burner.

Either you run the day, or the day runs you.

Jim Rohn

So, how do we get to shift the balance towards what matters most?

We need to schedule it in, just as we would an essential doctor’s appointment. And this often requires some advance planning.

To ensure the important gets the time it deserves, set aside a time to schedule your week ahead.

Start by scheduling your week ahead

Using your important list as a guide, choose one or two items and write down a couple of related activities.

For example, if eating healthy meals is a top priority, you may write down: research recipes, buy ingredients, and prepare meals. If reaching out to a friend is a top priority, you may jot down: send an email, schedule a phone call, or meet up in person.  

We want to make life easier, not harder.

Then block one or two of these activities into your weekly schedule. Consider starting small and building on your success rather than going all in and facing frustration.

Mom life is overwhelming enough, as it is.

Spiral notebook with the word "today" and numbered items one through 4 to indicate how busy moms can schedule their week ahead with some important activities
by Suzy Hazelwood

Tips for scheduling important activities

When it comes to scheduling, try to be as detailed as possible. This includes writing down:

  1. The specific activity
  2. When you’ll do it
  3. How long the activity will take

Returning to the example of buying healthy ingredients, think about the most convenient time to get groceries and how long the task will take. Don’t forget to factor in the time it takes getting to and from the supermarket as well as putting purchased items away.

It’s also helpful to consider potential roadblocks.

For example, it’s easier to read labels and make thoughtful purchases without kids in tow. With this in mind, is there someone who can babysit while you do the grocery run? If yes, then make plans to reach out to that person, in advance.

We’re busy moms, after all. And we know what happens when we leave what’s most important up to chance.

Action step

Give this scheduling technique a try. What activity or activities from your “important” list can you pencil into your week ahead? 

Try to find a weekly time slot reserved for reviewing what’s most important and getting related activities onto your calendar.

Routines help busy moms keep the urgent at bay

Urgent matters may seem to appear out of nowhere. But with closer inspection we often find common themes—things we can do differently to keep urgent issues from taking over our lives.

A great way to start uncovering these patterns is to review your list of urgent matters. From there, brainstorm solutions to prevent—or at least reduce—these everyday disruptions.

For example, getting school items ready the night before helps minimize the morning rush. Having a designated place to put essential items like keys and phones results in fewer frantic searches.

And teaching children how to clean up spills (including keeping an ample supply of rags within easy reach of the kids—but not the puppy) allows me to be calmer and more focused during mealtimes.

Will life still get in the way sometimes?

Definitely.

But when we keep closer tabs on what commonly crops up and design preventative action plans, we go from powerless to empowered.

little girl packing her bag for school
by @Irrmago

Action step

What themes do you see crop up in your “urgent” list? Choose one frequently occurring pattern and experiment with a new system or routine to reduce its impact on your life.

You can learn to manage the urgent

We wake up with the best intentions, hopeful to focus on what really matters.

But then life happens. And all our hopes for a more meaningful day are run awry by life’s incessant demands.

Urgent matters bully what’s most important out of our lives as busy moms. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can take a stand against the urgent and reclaim our time and energy for what matters most.

What next step will you take, mama, to tame the urgent and infuse more of what’s most important into your days?

Let me know in the comments below!

Looking for more tips?

Check out these other posts, intended to make your life as busy moms, easier:

How to get kids to listen: try these top 9 tips

Wishing for more cooperative kids? Host a family meeting

How to set parenting goals that work

How to simplify life: the critical step we often miss

8 Comments

  • Avatar
    Marta
    July 14, 2022 at 7:47 pm

    Great read, thank you! Routines are SO important!

    Reply
    • Jenny Borst
      Jenny Borst
      July 14, 2022 at 7:56 pm

      So glad you enjoyed the post. Although routines can get monotonous, they definitely make home life run smoother!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Anja
    July 14, 2022 at 3:46 pm

    Overwhelm is real for busy moms and I hope that every single one gets to read posts like this that help them step back and see what’s really important.

    Reply
    • Jenny Borst
      Jenny Borst
      July 14, 2022 at 6:47 pm

      I agree, Anja, that reminders are helpful as is a community of supportive moms to help us along the way.😊

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Marissa
    July 14, 2022 at 2:39 pm

    I love the idea of scheduling some of these things in. It’s so easy to think that time with our kids/families will come naturally, but it takes work! I need to be better at scheduling not just what HAS to be done (grocery shopping, cleaning, making dinner, etc.,) but also things like quality time with people (who matter so much more!). Thanks for this!

    Reply
    • Jenny Borst
      Jenny Borst
      July 14, 2022 at 3:11 pm

      What a great point, Marissa. It can seem counterintuitive to have to schedule in what matters most. But sadly these important items are rarely on our to do lists. But writing important activities down and scheduling them in is a great place to start.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Mariana
    July 14, 2022 at 1:16 pm

    A great reminder to step back and take a breath! Too easy to get overwhelmed! Thank you!

    Reply
    • Jenny Borst
      Jenny Borst
      July 14, 2022 at 3:08 pm

      Exactly! Busy can easily creep back in – even into a simplified life – without these periodic check-ins.

      Reply

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