Can Caregivers Really Practice Time Management

David Besnette


Time, and time management are my obsession as of late. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to cross off every ‘to do’ item off the daily list.

Sometimes, I don’t even come close.

Waking up with the best of intentions every day, from minute one, time seems to be unexpectedly swallowed up here and there, in a nickel and dimey fashion like an evil Pac Man chomping up the seconds in front of my every move or intention.

My to-do list is hardly unmanageable or a stretch. I often try to have one ‘big thing’ to do, like an article or an interview, and then a handful of smaller items that can range from picking up the kids, to paying bills.

I usually get the big thing done, but the smaller items are often pushed to the next day, and the next.

Can Caregivers Practice Time Management

What happens to the time?

It’s never quite the same culprit every day, but like a chameleon changing colors, you know it’s there, and going to be there, but in what manifestation we just don’t know.

Internet service might go out, or perhaps the school nurse calls saying your kid is sick. Unexpected visitors drop by, or even simply exhaustion. We all know the feeling of having slept horribly, and not being able to produce anything the next day.

I am not a caregiver or older parents, thankfully. I only have two children, and I work from home (a good and a bad thing). My life, on paper, should be manageable, and I do try. Sometimes I taste the sweet success of accomplishment, but usually., by nightfall, I am slightly or sometimes majorly disappointed.

I often think about caregivers, especially those who are ‘sandwiched’ between raising small kids, and caring for aging and/or disabled parents. Not to mention juggling a full-time-plus job or career. How do they do it?

Is it possible at all for caregivers to practice time management, since, for the most part, life manages you every day.

Being a caregiver, I know that at any given moment there is a crisis – one that can’t be ignored. Mom or dad falls, or perhaps there is an incontinence disaster, or perhaps mom is wandering due to memory issues, or, perhaps as my friend and contributor to our site Trish deals with – caring for a brother who at any time could have a massive seizure.

Is it possible for these folks, our nation’s dedicated and growing army of unpaid caregivers, to have a to-do list?

Is it possible for them to finish the day with a sense of accomplishment?

Can a caregiver wake up in the morning and have a reasonable expectation of getting anything personal done?

I really want to know.

I’ve watched people who I admire who “get it done” with amazing efficiency and grace every single day. I’m obsessed with learning the secrets.

I do think that these people share these abilities and characteristics:

1) Most successful ‘to do list finishers’ get up really, really early – hours before ’the world needs them.’ They often stay up really late, much past the hour that the world is done needing them for a while.

I’ve always failed at this one. I need sleep, more than most people. I am not disciplined enough to get up at 4:30 or 5, and feel good for the rest of the day. Those people and caregivers who are doing it amaze me, and I envy their ability to do so.

2) Being minimalist. I truly think that to be an accomplished doer, and manager of time, you have to live a more minimalist life. “Stuff” gets in the way, and the more of it you have, the more of it you have to manage.

I work on this every day, and most weeks I make at least one solid trip to goodwill. I minimize the number of ‘accounts’ I have in my life, and also try not to over-commit myself socially. I would venture that for true survival as a caregiver, you’d need to offload a lot of the ‘fluff and filler’ in your life.

3) Being able to say “No” – a lot. I struggle with this one too. I’ve always been a bit of a people pleaser. I want my friends and family to be happy, and I don’t like to disappoint. However, out of necessity, over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at it, almost to a fault. My default answer to most ‘invitations’ begins with a “No” – only to be reversed if I feel like it can be done without stress or at the expense of other more pressing items.

If you are a Caregiver, and if you are making things happen, I would really, truly love to know what some of your tips, tricks and secrets are for managing the 86,400 seconds that each of us are given every single day.

As it’s been said, this is a daily bank account of time, that can be spent however you want. The difference is, that at the end of the day, any unused seconds can’t be rolled over.

Treat each second like it’s a dollar – one that you won’t have any more come midnight.

How’s that for perspective?

Photo by S. Lundberg

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