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.
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?