12 Simple Time Management Strategies Working Parents Swear By

These tactics helped parents manage their time better during the pandemic months. Maybe they can help you, too.

Time management was always a crucial skill for parents to develop. But once the pandemic began, it became even more so. Suddenly, work, school, and home life were fused together. Parents were forced to find ways to balance everything, to tweak their schedules, to adopt new rituals, to lean into the new way of doing things. That meant trying and eventually adopting new time management strategies and tactics. Now, months later, what worked? We asked a dozen dads to tell us some of the small time management strategies they implemented that made a big difference. From tried and true strategies like timeboxing to simple suggestions like writing down tomorrow’s priorities the night before, here’s what they shared.

1. I Do “Homework” With My Kids

Michael, father of two, Pennsylvania

“My job requires a lot of work off the clock. So, I make a point to do it at the same time my kids are doing their homework. We all sit at the kitchen table, they do their schoolwork, and Daddy does his work work. It’s been a great way to keep myself honest in terms of dedicating and managing my time with work, and it seems like it’s setting a good example for my kids. If I finish early, I stick around and help them. Then we all get to relax together. It’s a great system.”

2. I Live by the Before-Bed To-Do List

Darryl, father of three, Ohio

“Before I go to bed, I look back on the day and write down the five most important things that come to mind at that moment. I’m usually pretty sharp right before bed, so I’m able to think back and remember, ‘Oh, yeah, I forgot to email so-and-so.’ So that’ll go on the list. ‘Or, I need to order more supplies based on sales today.’ I limit it to five so it’s not too overwhelming, and then I know exactly what I need to knock out when the day starts in the morning, and before the house starts stirring with virtual classes, my wife also working from home, and just the general chaos of everyday life. Waking up with a purpose helps me manage my time.”

3. I Use a Virtual Assistant

Brian, father of three, New York

“Sort of. It’s an app called Focus Booster. At the office, I had an assistant who would remind me of meetings or, better yet, pull me out of meetings when I needed to be. Since we’ve gone virtual, it’s a little more tricky to organize a schedule so precisely. This app is basically a virtual assistant that sets timers, starts meetings, and tracks my productivity throughout the week. So, I schedule my work stuff, but also alarms for breaks, lunch, checking in with the kids, etc. It’s been really interesting — and surprising — to see how much time gets devoted to certain things, and it’s been incredibly helpful in helping me manage my time better.”

4. I Finally Learned to Silence Social Media

Jason, father of four, Connecticut

“There’s really no point for me to have social media open during my work day. At best, it’s one or two funny memes a day. At worst, it’s a rabbit hole I fall down and waste plenty of time climbing out of. I figured out how to mute it – or snooze it, or block it, or whatever – during my regular work hours, and it’s really helped me make better use of my time. That little ‘Your time limit on Instagram has expired’ is really telling, because then it asks, ‘Would you like to open it anyway?’ It’s like a speed bump made of guilt that usually keeps me on track for the day. And with four kids, I really don’t have time to waste.”

5. I Save Calls Until After 11 am

Anthony, father of one, California

“That time is just arbitrary, but I’ve realized how much I hate making and taking calls at home in the morning. There’s something that feels especially intrusive and annoying about it. So, I made a rule not to take any calls — or Zoom meetings — until after 11 am. That way, I can dedicate the first three or four hours of my day strictly to work I need to get done, and make sure the house is running smoothly before the afternoon. It’s worked much better in terms of not having to interrupt conversations by saying, ‘Sorry, my daughter can’t get on WiFi for school. BRB.’ I try to deal with all that stuff early in the morning, make sure things are as locked down as possible, then reemerge from my cocoon of solitude to deal with the rest of the day.”

6. I Stopped Following a Rigid Schedule

James, father of four, North Carolina

“The best thing I’ve been able to do to manage my time more effectively with four kids at home is learn to adapt on the fly. During the beginning of the pandemic, I tried to set each work day with a very specific schedule. And after about a month, I realized I was wasting so much time agonizing over the rigidity of my schedule rather than figuring out ways to get things done. So I’ve learned to bend, rather than break. The days are more exhausting because it seems like I’m always moving around, but they go by fast, and I’m able to manage my day with a lot less stress.”

7. Memorizing My Wife’s Schedule Has Been Key

Aaron, father of two, Illinois

“I’ve started working from home pretty recently, and it was a game changer when I finally memorized my wife’s schedule. She’s a teacher, and she’s teaching virtually now. So her schedule is basically the same every day. Knowing that she has a free period from 10:15 – 11:00 every day, for example, means I know that she’ll be available if there’s any sort of emergency with the kids. I try to schedule my plans and meetings around those breaks in her schedule so there’s always one of us ‘on watch’, which has given both of us a better idea of how to manage our days effectively as a team.”

8. I’ve Learned to Save Certain Work For the Night

Matt, father of three, Ohio

“I’ve always been a night owl. My job offers a lot of freedom in terms of deadlines. It’s a very, ‘We don’t care when you get it done, just get it done.’ attitude, which is great. I’ve found managing my time during the day includes checking in and out of work, but mostly watching the kids and making sure the house is running smoothly. Then, by the time school is over, and my wife is done with her workday, I’m able to power through everything I need to in like two or three hours. I guess it’s a matter of prioritizing. I could half-ass my way through a workday while ignoring my other responsibilities. Or, I could stay productive and helpful during the day – even if it’s not totally work-related – then finish what I need to when I’m at my best.”

9. Speech-to-Text Saves Me

Armin, father of two, California

“I’m a terrible typer. I work in visual marketing, so most of my job is design-related. But, I still have to write emails, draw up creative briefs, and do other things that require a lot of typing. I got the idea to dictate into my phone, then text the transcription to myself. There are typos and stuff, but it’s much easier – and faster – to give each document a once over and make a few corrections than it is to type everything from scratch. My kids think it’s funny that ‘Daddy talks to himself’, but it’s become a fantastic time saver.”

9. I Learned to timebox

Gregory, father of two, Virginia

“Working from home with two little kids is a lot like trying to play three positions on the baseball field. You’re constantly running from one task to another. My wife is a stay at home mom. So she’s the main player during the day but we’re both trying to cover all our bases. It felt impossible for me to focus for the first few months. I was scatterbrained and running back and forth. Multitasking is not my thing. A friend suggested timeboxing. it’s this really simple time management strategy that basically involves putting all of your tasks, big and small, into a calendar and designating certain amounts of each one. I don’t always hit my time goals, but being able to look at the items in my calendar has helped me feel a lot more productive and contained.”

10. I’ve Embraced the Hour On, Hour Off Approach

Robert, father of three, Ohio

“We have three kids, and both of our jobs are pretty flexible. So, my wife and I each take one hour ‘shifts’ where we take care of the kids while the other person is basically invisible. Unless it’s a real, true emergency whoever is ‘off’ is not to be bothered. The kids have gotten used to it, and the days run smoothly now to the point where I’m able to plan which tasks I can get done in one shift, which ones I’ll need to break up, and so on. There are still the same number of hours in the workday, but this approach really helps us manage them more firmly.”

12. I Designate “Toilet Tasks”

Jack, father of two, Michigan

“Any task I can do in three minutes I save for the toilet. It’s a pretty airtight system. For me, it takes about five or ten minutes [to do my business]. So, if there are a handful of little things I have on my list – like responding to emails, scheduling meetings, etc. – I specifically save those for when I’m on the toilet. I have to be in the bathroom at some point during the day, right? And nobody bothers me. So I figure it’s a great way to maximize my time and, essentially, multi-task from the throne.”