There is one fact that applies to every person: there are only 24 hours in a day. How we differentiate ourselves as caregivers, managing not only our own schedule but someone else’s, is how we manage that time. And there will always be more priority tasks than we can accomplish within that time limit.

Here are 10 tips for managing day-to-day time as a caregiver.

  1. Schedule “me” time first. When juggling life, work and caregiving, life can be ignored. But we don’t expect our cars to run on empty, and we can’t expect ourselves to. In order to have the energy to care for others, we have to fill our own tanks first. It’s not selfish; it’s practical. No one is productive when physically, mentally or emotionally depleted. You can find a reasonable amount of time to care for yourself if you schedule it, whether this is just 20 minutes of quiet time over coffee each morning or a  yoga class at night, whatever fills you up. (And don’t feel guilty!)
  2. Plan ahead. Whenever you take even five minutes to plan ahead, you’ll save time in the long run. When we don’t do this, we invariably wind up with lots of last-minute stress and wasted time. As much as possible, plan for the bigger picture and needs whether for a loved one or a client’s care.
  3. Define roles and responsibilities. Duplication of tasks is one of the biggest time wasters, so make sure all members of the caregiving team are clear about their duties. Likewise, if no one thinks a task is theirs, it doesn’t get done and eventually requires even more time. This requires communication with care coordinators, family members, and anyone else involved with caring for your client.
  4. Make a list and prioritize it — repeatedly. A list is a visual reminder to keep on track, help focus, and a tool for prioritization. Categorize tasks as a) need to do/know, b) may need to do/know, c) want to do/know. Sometimes the big things take precedence while other times, ticking off several smaller items can give a sense of accomplishment. Prioritize your priorities and also schedule them especially if they are time sensitive like medication or appointments.
  5. Don’t procrastinate. More often than not, a task just gets more complicated with time. Do it now.
  6. Manage expectations. Adjust your expectations about what is possible and the degree of “perfection” that is required and achievable. You can do anything but you can’t do everything.
  7. Be mindful. When are with your clients, focus fully on them. When you are at home, focus on home. When you are having your time, fully focus on yourself. You will more fully experience everything and be a better caregiver.
  8. Touch it once. Before you set an item down, take an extra minute to put it where it belongs so it doesn’t become another entry on your to-do list later. This applies to receipts, kitchen utensils, work supplies, etc.
  9. Declutter and get organized. Environmental chaos wears our energy down and makes it much harder to implement the previous tips.
  10. Expect detours. Invariably, crises will come and our plans will be thrown off course. Learn to expect these curveballs rather than dread them and they will become much easier to manage. Resiliency is a skill that all great caregivers have.