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 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 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 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, blog, 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… 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 to Help with Homestead Time Management
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. Use a Paper Planner to Organize Your Homestead
One tool that has been a lifesaver when it comes to homestead time management is my paper planner, I truly would be lost without it. You can organize your entire life within the pages of a good planner if you know how to use it. Learn How to Organize Your Homestead with a Planner so that you will be able to manage your time more efficiently.
My planner is where I keep track of everyday life things like doctor’s appointments and soccer practice to homesteading things like breeding dates and garden planting. Let’s not forget about making time for work stuff and also time for myself.
A paper planner has been my go-to homesteading time management tool for years, but I never could find just one that fit my lifestyle needs. So… I decided to create my own; The Old-Fashioned on Purpose Planner was designed for busy people like us, looking for a way to simplify life and find time.
5. No Swirling Allowed in Homestead Time Management
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.
6. Getting Up a Little Earlier will Help with Time Management
If you’re already getting up at 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.
7. Know Your Busy Homestead Seasons
As the seasons change so do a homesteader’s list of projects and things to do. Managing what you are accomplishing throughout the year based on the seasons is a huge homestead time management help. For example, spring and fall tend to be very busy times of the year. these are not the best times to undergo big projects that can be done in the summer or winter.
Plan around garden planting and harvesting. Plan around calves being born, and chicken butchering days. Try and anticipate when each seasonal chore will need to be done and what you can plan around them.
8. Prioritize Your Tasks for Better Homestead Time Management
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).
9. Limit Your Distractions for Better Time Management
We live in an age where technology plays a huge role in our daily lives; cell phones, computers, and tablets can be found in almost every home. These things can be helpful necessary tools, but they can also distract us from what needs to be done.
It is ok to surf the web or scan through social media but don’t let it monopolize your time. Set aside a specific amount of time for these things, once your time is up move on to your daily must-dos. One thing that I have found useful when it comes to my phone, is to set it to do not disturb and keep it out of reach. This is kind of like the out-of-sight-out-of-mind saying at work when I am busy working I can’t hear it and I can’t see it so the job gets my total focus.
Don’t be afraid to unplug to create better homestead time management skills. It can be a challenge, but wait till you see the results!
10. Comparing is Bad For Homestead Time Management
We all do it, and 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 worrying about how many chickens the Joneses’ have. Then obsessing over, 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.
11. Embrace A Full Life When Homesteading
I’ve come to accept that my life will always be full. Do 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.
12. Homestead Time Management Requires Flexibility
It is no secret that Homesteading is time-consuming and having a plan can really help prioritize want needs to be done. There is nothing better when a plan comes together and everything gets exactly right.
I am here to tell you that is not always the case. Homesteading is full of unexpected surprises and even the best plans will need room for some flexibility. Chickens get in the garden, milk cows have tantrums when it’s time to milk, kids get sick, a freak snowstorm comes early…you see where I am going with this?
Unexpected things are going to happen there is no way around it, you can’t control the things that happen but what you can do is control how you react to them. Allow yourself some flexibility, and don’t stress about the things that you can’t control. A good way to improve your time management is to set aside some time (30 minutes to an hour) throughout the week for things that might not get done due to unforeseen circumstances.
13. 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 an assistant who helps me with behind-the-scenes website stuff, and a fabulous babysitter that watches my kids two mornings each week. 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 that 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 us who grew up in town. If you are new to homesteading life, then figuring out How to Cultivate Community While Homesteading can be a bit tricky. Finding “your people” is a great way to start.
14. Giving Yourself a Break, Helps with Homestead Time Management
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. The best part, I always come back on Monday with fresh inspiration, ready to dive into the week.
Are You Ready for Homestead Time Management?
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. 🙂
More About Building a Homestead:
- How to Start a Homestead From Scratch
- Homesteading With Kids: How We Do It
- Top 6 Money Principles for Homesteaders
- Practical Ways We Save Time On Our Homestead