I am very proud to announce that today’s guest blogger is a friend of mine. We met a few years at the gym because we both teach classes. Kori is a true inspiration. She’s also a mama of three children under the age of three. I heard Kori’s voice in my head last night as I stayed up until 11:30 watching the Elizabeth Smart story. Continue to read and find out what I am talking about…prepare to be inspired!

Hello Be The Difference readers! I am honored that Maria asked me to share some of my thoughts on managing my time as a busy mom, full-time professional engineer, wife to an amazing firefighter, and IronMan triathlete. I’m hoping that together we can work our way to creating a better sense of accomplishment at the end of your day! First, a little background on my typical day….

My alarm clock goes off at 4:40AM. I roll over, prepared to hit the snooze button, but then I remind myself that if I don’t get up within the next 5 minutes, I won’t have enough time to finish my run before waking up the kids and starting the downhill slide that begins at 6:30AM and lasts approximately the next 14 hours until I collapse in a heap on the couch and look around at the destruction that has been left in the wake of the tornado that is my 2 and a half year old toddler daughter and 13 month old boy-girl twins. Phew.

Sound familiar? I bet it does. Whether you’re a full-time working mom, like me, or a stay-at-home mom, or some flavor in between the two, you most likely do what we all do, and that’s fill every empty moment of your day with something. The problem with these somethings we fill our days with is that they often leave us exhausted….yet feeling like we haven˜t accomplished anything. Ever have that feeling of running up the down escalator?

We all think that the way to get more done is to work harder “ to run up that escalator even faster until we reach the top. What if, instead of working harder, we chose to work smarter? Get off the escalator. There is a better way. Play along with me for awhile….

This isn’t another self-help exercise where I’m going to tell you how to lose 20 pounds, devise a path to financial freedom, or become an enlightened student of the cosmos. Our goal here is simple: (1) to create more available time, (2) to fill our available time with things that are important to us, and (3) to make that time count. Yes, it really is that simple.

Part One: Where can you create time? Take a moment to sit down and really think about your day. How do you spend your mornings, daytimes, evenings? What time do you get up? What time do you go to bed? When I did this years ago, I learned a great deal about my day. First, nothing worthwhile gets done after 9PM for me. I’m not spending time with my kids, I’m not getting anymore household chores done (who wants to do that at 9PM??), I’m not solving world peace. Time to stand down. All I’m doing otherwise is making myself tired for the next day by watching TV. There’s a reason DVR was invented, and I’m convinced it’s so moms can go to bed on time and still not miss Law & Order. Second, if I start sleeping at 9:30 or 10PM, I have enough energy to get up and train in the morning before work. No one can take that time away from me. My kids, my husband, my boss “ even my dogs! – are all still sleeping. Here’s my opportunity to take care of myself. Try to find those times during your day where you aren’t really adding any value. Here’s a hint: it may involve Facebook!

Part Two: What matters to you? If you look back at the past year or so of your life, what did you spend time on? What do you feel like you wasted time on, and what do you wish you would’ve focused on more? The key to this is to really think about what you find important. We are always told that we should wear the latest fashions, have manicured nails, attend every social function, display fresh flowers on our perfectly clean countertops, and basically out-do our neighbors…..but I’m here to tell you that it’s time to let that go. Do I routinely sacrifice pink-pedicured toenails for an extra hour of time with my kids? All the time. Do I do laundry every day? Nope. I would rather do it once every four days and spend an extra 30 minutes outside running in the morning. So, sit down and decide. What is important to you and what can you let go?

Part Three: Make your time (created in Part One) doing what you decided matters (chosen in Part Two) actually count. Be present in what you’re doing. So you hauled yourself out of bed and to the gym to exercise before work, and here you are, on your spin bike, and all you can think about is how you need to get to Target after work, forgot to scoop the cat litter, can’t remember when your niece’s birthday is but know it’s soon, and, and, and…… So, at the end of this hour, you don’t feel energized, refreshed, and ready to take on the day. You feel tired, stressed, and have made yet another to-do list on the back of your hand. You just lost that hour of your day. Decide ahead of time how you are spending this moment of your day, commit to it, and do only that. Period. Full stop. Multi-tasking can be a huge help if you’re talking about catching up with your sister on the phone while you’re grocery shopping, but sometimes it can actually defeat the purpose and leave you with less accomplished. Stay focused.

These few simple steps aren’t going to eliminate all of the things that you can’t avoid doing (like packing lunches for the kids or mowing your lawn), but they can help get you off of the hamster wheel of craziness and leave you feeling satisfied with how you chose to spend your time.

Lastly, give yourself a pat on the back and remember to treat yourself kindly and gently. The world isn’t an easy place for busy moms these days. We all feel that sense of needing to keep up with our peers, but please remember that it is OK if you don’t come up with the best craft projects for your kids, always look pulled-together, or never miss a workout. Sometimes doing the best that you can do is enough! Start finding your sense of self-acceptance from within and let go of the things that don’t add to that. You’re already amazing!!!