Let’s face it…
Homesteading can be tough sometimes.
Last week I asked the crew over on The Prairie Homestead Facebook page about the biggest obstacles preventing them from homesteading. Naturally, I got a diverse set of answers, but one kept popping up over and over again: lack of time.
I totally get it.
Since starting this homesteading gig six years ago, time has been my biggest nemesis. When I worked full-time at my job in town, it was a challenge to find enough hours in the weekend to chip away at our over-zealous project list. Once Prairie Girl came along, I had to figure out how to balance a newborn baby, naptimes, and feedings with planting the garden, milking the goats, and cooking semi-edible food. Now my cheese-making and canning efforts directly compete with my ability to run this blog and keep up with my essential oil team.
For a while, I kept waiting for that season when “life would get easier.”
At least not when you’re a homesteader.
I’ve flopped. I’ve failed. I’ve thrown temper-tantrums because of my chaotic days. I’ve wished for extra arms. I’ve grumbled. And I’ve envied folks who didn’t seem to be trying to cram a super-human amount of tasks into a single 24-hour period.
And then, somewhere in the midst of it all, I came to peace with it.
I’m not sure exactly when it happened. There wasn’t a flash of light, singing angels, or a voice from heaven.
But I guess I sort of figured it out. Well, at least as much as one can figure out this messy thing we call homestead life. Even though my to-do list is as long as ever, my days feel less stressful, my kids seem more content, and my husband has even noticed I’m more at ease. I’m definitely not claiming mastery over the topic of time management, but things feel more balanced, and less crazy.
When I get emails from folks asking how I “do it all,” my initial reaction is to yell out “Oh… but I don’t… I really, really don’t!” And that’s the truth.
However, I’ve seem to come to a happy place where managing a family, homestead, and two online businesses no longer makes me feel as though I’m drowning. Unfortunately, like most things in life, there isn’t one particular magical tip to make everything instantly better. Rather, I’ve learned to employ a rag-tag collection of life lessons, mindset changes and miscellaneous strategies to make it “work.” And here they are >>>
My Top 10 Homestead Time Management Tips
1. Being able to “do it all” is a myth. And a dumb one at that.
No one can “do it all.” Really, what does that even mean? I mean, yes, I do homestead, and blog, and raise my kids, and cook from scratch. But no, I don’t sew, or have a perfectly clean house, or throw Pinterest-perfect parties, or go to tons of playdates in town. Be realistic with the expectations you place on yourself. Striving for excellence in the most important areas of your life is great. Striving to be everywhere and do everything is impossible. The dried watermelon juice that’s been on my floor for two weeks is evidence of that.
2. There will never be the perfect time to homestead. But do it anyway.
There will always be something preventing you from the perfect homestead scenario: jobs, kids, finances, space, lack of land, naysayers, and the list goes on…
When we started homesteading, we were both working full-time jobs in town, had just purchased a tumble-down property covered in trash and broken fencelines, were short on cash (because we had just bought aforementioned property), and absolutely no clue what we were doing.
Sounds like a recipe for disaster, huh?
But it wasn’t.
Yes, we made mistakes, but that was just a part of the process. (Yes, even the fencelines we ended up moving three times *wince*)
I’m glad we jumped into this lifestyle when we did–if we had waited for the “perfect” time to get started, we’d still be waiting…
3. Make a plan… Yes, with a pencil and paper.
Those of you who’ve read Your Custom Homestead know how fanatic I am about making plans and writing things down. Get painfully specific with your plans and goals for your homestead–both short-term and long-term ones. Write down what needs to be done today. Write down what needs to be done this month. Write down what needs to be done in the next five years (and everything in between). Map it, scribble it, edit it, and hash it out. Your goals and plans will always be evolving (which is a good thing) but having at least a semi-clear direction as to where you want to go is priceless. And it makes my brain very happy.
4. Get up just a leeeetle bit earlier.
If you’re already getting up a 4am, feel free to skip this one, but I’ve discovered time and time again, the entire day goes SO much smoother if I set my alarm and get up just a wee bit earlier. That way, I get my chores done before the kids wake-up (BIG bonus…) and feel more focused and organized as I start my day. Sometimes just 30 minutes is enough to make a marked change in the course of my day.
5. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize
I used to be so bad at this… I’d be waist-deep in canning and gardening, yet I would let myself stress out about the barn renovations that needed to be done. Or I’d decide to repaint the living room while the garden was in full-swing. Um, hello? Those things can wait! Train your brain to focus on the most-important tasks at hand (aka canning the overripe tomatoes sitting on the counter) and ignore the things that can wait until later (aka cleaning out the cupboards).
6. No swirling allowed
Not to be confused with a “swirly,” swirling is the term I’ve come up with to describe the phenomenon that occurs when you have a big fat to-do list spinning around and around in your head until you feel like you can no longer put together a coherent sentence and you want to scream, “Make it stop!”
The best remedy for swirling? Write it down. I know, it sounds too easy, but writing down the crazy, spinning to-do list gets it out of my head and lets me focus on other stuff. And the added bonus? You get to cross the things off after you complete them. Best thing EVAH.
7. Quit comparing!
We all do it, but we all need to stop. Comparing ourselves/lives/experiences with others is a surefire way to make yourself miserable. Comparison will smash your productivity, ruin your motivation, and leave you in a sniveling heap while you worry about how many chickens the Joneses’ have, and if you should drive to town to get more. I only know this because I’ve been there. Focus on watering the grass on your side of the fence, and pretty soon you’ll no longer care about the grass on the other side.
8. Embrace the fullness.
I’ve come to accept that my life will always be full. You know why? Because I like it like that. Yep, I’ll admit it: I like having a full schedule.
Not a crazy-out-of-breath-I’m-going-to-throw-a-fit schedule, but I am most comfortable having a pleasantly-full to-do list that I can work on throughout my day.
As a homesteader, you’re always going to have a never-ending to-do list. It’s the nature of this lifestyle. Embrace it– it’s not a bad thing, as long as you manage it correctly and don’t allow it to control your life.
9. Ask for help… Even if it hurts.
This was sooooooo hard for me. I’m stubborn and for the longest time, I just knew no one could do what I do as well as I can.
Hiring help has been one of the best choices I’ve ever made. I currently have a virtual assistant who helps me with behind-the-scenes website stuff, and I also have a fabulous babysitter who watches my kids two mornings each week so I can work on blog stuff. They are both worth their weight in gold, and have allowed me to focus my energies on the most-vital parts of my business, so I can be fully present with my kids (or in my kitchen/garden/barn) during the rest of the week.
If you don’t have a business, and just need help with your homesteading efforts, it’s still OK to ask for help with big projects. Have a bunch of chickens to butcher? Toss a tasty lunch in the crockpot, then invite the neighbors over to help. Really need an afternoon to wrap-up the last of the canning? Find a friend who you can kid-swap with. (You watch her kids one day, and she watches yours on a different day.)
Neighbors helping neighbors is a beautiful part of rural-living and a lost skill for many of use who grew up in town.
10. Gimme a break!
I used to fight it like crazy.
“Time off” was a foreign concept to me and seemed incredibly unappealing. I mean, good grief! How can you just “waste” a day when there is so much to do??
(Can you see a pattern here?)
This year I finally learned how to take a purposeful day off, for the first time ever. (I’m a slow learner…) And a miraculous thing happened: the homestead didn’t blow up, the blog kept running, and the earth stayed on its axis.
Who would have thought?
I now devote at least one full day (Sundays) to complete rest and relaxation. That means, I pretty much do whatever I want, and eliminate all requirements that I place on myself during the week. Sometimes I read. Sometimes I nap. Sometimes I go ride my horse. It’s less about the actual activity and more than I’m giving my brain a break. And the best part? I always come back on Monday with fresh inspiration, ready to dive into the week.
The moral of the story?
There isn’t one magical formula to effective time management, it’s more about figuring out what works for you and then sticking with it. I’m still on my journey, and some days are better than others, but life is definitely feeling a little smoother than it used to. Homesteading is a crazy, messy lifestyle, and as long as we can embrace that, rather than resent it, I think we’ll be just fine. 🙂