5 Ways Caregivers Can Better Manage Their Time

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As a caregiver, you probably don't have much time to spare, and even when you get a moment, you're likely to feel mentally, physically, and emotionally drained. By effectively managing your time, you'll be able to handle the stress of caregiving while still leading a full life. If you've been feeling like there simply isn't enough time in the day, use these tips to give yourself some breathing room.

1. Prioritize Your To-Do List
A to-do list can keep you organized and productive, but a long list can quickly overwhelm you, especially in the fluid situation of a caregiver. Go ahead and make your to-do list, but prioritize it into several columns. Use your first column for things that must get done, your second column for tasks you would like to complete, and the final column for ancillary projects that can wait. Focus on completing your essential to do's, then work your way across the second and third columns as you have time. The tasks you don't complete then get transferred to your to-do list for the following day. Keep your list simple and flexible. Leave room for unexpected events and complete your most difficult work first, so you can accomplish it when you're at your best.

2. Declutter
By creating an organized work environment, you get more done throughout the day while reducing stress caused by clutter. Start by cleaning, throwing out clutter, and finding a place for everything. Then take 15 to 30 minutes at the end of each day to return everything to its place. This enables you to start each day fresh.

Next, take a moment to clear your mind. Turn down the lights and listen to music, take a 10-minute walk, or practice deep breathing. Don't let this fall off your radar -- it's important to actively declutter your mind, preparing yourself to handle the stress of your job.

3. Take Your Breaks and Accept Help
If your lunch break gets delayed, that doesn't mean you should skip it. There's a reason why breaks are built into daily schedules -- everyone needs a moment to step away and stop thinking about work. If you have a hard time sticking to a break schedule, set an alarm on your phone to buzz whenever it's time for your break. If something comes up and you can't take your break as originally planned, reset the alarm to go off 30 minutes later. Caregivers need to allow themselves the time to eat, take personal phone calls, and otherwise step away from the job, so start making your breaks a priority.

Most importantly, when someone else offers to prepare a hot meal or take over care responsibilities for an afternoon, don't turn the offer down. Even if it's just for 30 minutes, that's 30 minutes you can use to tackle another task or squeeze in some exercise. Either way, you'll benefit tremendously.

4. Focus on Your Own Well-Being
Your well-being is one of the first things to get lost in the shuffle when caring for someone else. Take a few moments to assess whether you've neglected your own health, then come up with a reasonable plan to take more time for yourself. Recognize that you can only be a quality caregiver if you're healthy. Treat yourself kindly -- don't skip meals; do eat a healthy diet; and if you can't afford a gym membership, start a home-based workout program. For instance, take a walk during your lunch break or spend 30 minutes doing sit-ups, push-ups, and squats to boost your energy.

5. Know Your Limitations
Be clear from the get-go about the type of help you can and can't provide. If you're unable to help your charge out of the shower each morning, don't throw your back out because you're trying to do too much. Similarly, be realistic about your time limitations and communicate them clearly. If you can't take on another project or doctor's appointment, speak up. Knowing your limitations and knowing when to say "no" benefits the one you're caring for as much it does you.

When you're spending your time caring for someone else, it's easy to allow your own dreams to get lost in the shuffle. If you're feeling a little lost, take the time to set a few personal and professional goals. Write them down and come up with a plan for how to attain them. If you want to lose 15 pounds, schedule your workout program and put together a list of quick, healthy recipes. If you want to attend a caregiver support group, find one that works with your schedule and call the leader hold you accountable to your plan. Prioritizing your own goals and dreams ultimately helps you provide better care.

Are you a caregiver? What time-management tips have worked for you?

Adam Richardson

Adam Richardson is passionate about caring for his family, managing personal finances, and prioritizing health and fitness. See full bio

about 3 years, said...

I commend you on your 5 caregiver tips to manage our time. Before I took on the role of being my brother's caregiver, afflicted with ALZ, my other positions required many of the skills that you share with us. Able to prioritize, being organized, effectively managing time, making decisions and working with minimal supervision were some of the much needed requirements of my job choices. To this day I pride myself on my work skills and ethics and find myself utilizing them now. I realize that striving for them were not in vain because they are serving me well. On this journey with ALZ I reminisce about books read and seminars attended regarding this terrible disease to possibly assist me in my new position; all were informative and interesting, certainly not a waste of time, but I now know they were tools and that every caregiver's role is different. The dynamics of brother and sister have certainly made my "new job" challenging. I believe I have made things better for my brother, the best that I can, that I have made a difference these days in the "new normal" for everyone. I still see all of his familiar and unique personality traits, the good and bad, noticing that he is still able to make the decision on who gets what and when. Being the blunt of mostly negative versus positive energy these days is not easy and it's sad when doom and gloom is rampant, yet a part of me is thankful that I still see his old self. No one is winning with ALZ, as my brother's primary caregiver I witness what this dreaded disease does, the rapid and tragic progression is not kind to anyone. I question when my when will be or the time when I will be ready to fly a white flag in defeat, yet knowing I will not abandon him or relinquish my caregiving role, I will always be his sister first. It brings on sadness to dwell on the next chapter and each moment and day is different so I try to channel any left over energy to something else these days. I know I can't always plan or predict the what ifs these days and that being flexible is the better choice right now. I have found that it's important to have a good day program and a place for respite care and it's certainly easier if there is no reluctance from anyone. Finding the perfect person(s) to assist everyone is crucial as well, the perfect fit takes time but is a must as is trust. Strive to be confident and strong and relinquish any guilt feelings of taking care of you. Don't forget to rely on your faith and prayers. God Bless All Caregivers