How to prioritise and schedule

It’s back to work for me this week and by day 1 reality hit me, there’s more to do than available time. The potential is there to overload already. As promised here are some ideas on how to prioritise and schedule following on from             3 steps to organise your year as a single parent family

rose and hand-maja-petric unspalsh

How to work out your priorities

As a single parent you will experience overwork with the demands of running your family; working, keeping house, other commitments and maybe having some ‘you’ time. You need to find a way to prioritise all the demands you experience and manage your time.  One of the acts to achieve balance is to work out what your priorities are and give your available time and energy to the highest ones. Your priorities may not be the same as your boss, your pastor/minister if you go to church or your mothers!

There are many different techniques around.

My favourite is the ‘to do’ list. Sometimes I even write things on the list I have already done for the satisfaction of crossing it off!  Some issues with a ‘to do ‘list include:

  • Not finishing it can also make you feel bad about yourself
  • Using a list is task driven – people can be something you ‘do’ rather than ‘be’ with.
  • The desire to delete an item on the list can push you to keep working until the task is finished so you ignore breaks, people and don’t notice that the quality of your work slips and your frustration increases – or is that just me!.

Blocks of time schedule

Due to the negatives of a ‘to do’ list, I have switched to using a blocks of time schedule. In this method you allocate a set time to an activity and it doesn’t matter if you complete it, you stop and move onto the next block of time. You allocate breaks and rest time. Stephen Covey designed a method of scheduling a week by working out your role, followed by a goal for each role, then allocating a time blocks to work towards the goal.

So what mistakes did I make in my schedule for this week? I blew it before half the day was gone. I forgot to add time for breaks …oops… and didn’t add margins. Margins are gaps between the blocks that give you wriggle room if you need a bit longer on a task, or give you a chance to return phone calls, even sneak a longer rest. Allow a block of time for answering emails and checking social media, as letting these interrupt other block of time limits your ability to concentrate.

It’s important to add time in your schedule to spend with people – not as a task but as a refresher and encouragement to you and them. Andy Stanley says we show people how much we love them by our schedule1.

I got caught by this too this week when one of my big kids asked me to do something with them and I continued on with trying to finish my tasks because I hadn’t allowed time in my schedule just to be with them. The argument that ensured fleshed out that they felt my work and writing blogs were more important than they are to me. My time reflected my priorities. Point noted so the schedule needs flexibility to be with the kids when their needs dictate it.

Make sure you include time for self-care.

Using a weekly planner

In the resource section is a downloadable weekly planner 2 available under creative commons and based on the Stephen Covey method that you can use to try a schedule. In the first column you list your roles and in the second column list the goal you are seeking to achieve in that role. You can add any priorities across the top. Then block in your time for the week allowing for:

  • Margins
  • Time for relationships
  • Time for self-care.

The ‘sharpen the saw’ in the bottom corner refers to ‘preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have – you’ 2

Don’t forget to be flexible to allow for needs as they arise.

Putting legs on it

Evaluate how you prioritise and schedule?

Is it working for you and your family? Do you have time to self-care? Do you have time to make your children feel valued?

Try the schedule if you want to and let me know how it goes (allow yourself some grace for not getting it right the first time – just look at me).


Template for Covey based weekly planner distributed under creative commons from:**ALL**&filter1=23

Hyatt, M (2011) Is that task important or merely urgent, Blog March 2011,

Example of Time Management Matrix available under creative commons:


  1. Stanley, A. (2011) When work & family collide, Multnomah Books, U.S.A,.p44
  2. Stephen Covey: Sharpen the saw accessed 7/1/17

Photo creditz; Maja Petric

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