When we first started hockey it took me far longer than I want to admit to adjust. My previous time management method of time blocking took a massive hit because it relied on very specific routines or at least a predictable day. For the most part, that worked fine the first year when both Boy #1 and Boy #2 were in Initiation and the schedule was pretty much set at the start of the year and rarely changed. But then we hit Novice and all hell broke loose. I couldn’t count on having a full afternoon free on Saturday to set the house to rights. And there wasn’t any guarantee that Sunday morning would be free for meal prep. We flew by the seat of our pants that entire season.
Vowing to do better the following year, I tried to force the same routines into the times I had available. Quick learner, I am not. This obviously failed in spectacular fashion. It took me another two years before I figured out that when it came to time management, I needed something more flexible than my trusted time blocking methods of the past.
Now I don’t have a name for this but it comes down to this: Mind the Gap. I also like to call it Chaotic Time Management.
If I have learned anything in the last six years it’s this: When it comes to hectic scheduling, the best approach is to mind the gap. One look at my calendar will overwhelm most people. It’s not for the faint of heart, I know. There are three kids, all of which are in hockey (in case you’re new here and this is the very first post you read). Two are in Scouts. HockeyDad is a volunteer firefighter. And I like to pretend I’m a good friend from time to time. This means I need to actually see my people face to face.
As an example of the scheduling madness we experience each month, I recently posted our family calendar to my Facebook page and based on feedback, might have broken people’s brains.
It never fails to raise the question of how. How do you do this? How do you fit in anything else?
Want to know the secret? It looks worse than it is. A great deal of the chaos can be chalked up to having three kids. Sure, if they werent in hockey, the schedule would be less chaotic, but there would still be more than enough to keep track of.
As it stands, they are in hockey. And Scouts. They have friends and school things and homework and it all needs to be tracked so that it gets done. Yes, there are absolutely weekends that nothing gets done other than driving between different hockey arenas. But I can see those weekends coming (thanks to the previously mentioned family calendar) and prepare accordingly. Sometimes that means having lunch options available that travel well. Other times it’s knowing that we’ll be eating lunch courtesy of the drive thru window.
Here’s the key: Map out your month. My cousin happens to be a little further down the parenting path than I am. She was the one that introduced me to this time management strategy. Each month, however it works best for you, get the social obligations, the sports events, the dinners etc out of your brain on onto paper (or an electronic calendar). For my cousin and I, this means we sit down the weekend before the start of the new month and write down every single game, practice and competition. From there, we add in the school responsibilities and notes and any other social thing that needs a note. In both of our houses, this calendar is up somewhere in the house that every occupant can refer to it.
The House of Hockey lives by the family calendar. If it’s not on there, it doesn’t happen.
Once the brain download for the month is complete, I can take a look at each day and see where I have gaps. This is where I get all my other to-dos done. A crucial point here is to factor in commuting time. If Boy #1 has a game at 2:00, I know he needs to be there at 1:30 which means I have to leave around 1:00 (depending on the arena the game is at). If Boy #3’s game was done at 11, I’m home by 11:30 so I know there is 90 minutes in there to use. You have to work backwards based on the scheduled time, plus any commute time that you need in order to arrive at your allotted gap time. This is the only math I ever do well.
In a small gap, under an hour or so I can get laundry moving, or plan out what I’m wearing the next day. I can read for a few minutes or lose myself in a mindless game on my phone. Whatever I need to do, I can make a start on in a short gap.
In the longer gaps I can bake cookies for the boys for their lunches. Or do some meal prep so that my meals for the week become grab and go. I can watch a TV show that has been sitting on our PVR or fold laundry. Maybe both at the same time. At least twice a month, I have a larger gap somewhere in my day. If I know it’s coming (which I usually do thanks to the calendar), I can plan for how to best use that time.
Some time the best use of my time is a bath, a book and a drink close by. Doesn’t matter if it’s two in the afternoon, if I have time and that’s what best works for me for that gap, you can bet that’s what I will do.
So if it has to be on the calendar to happen, it’s in the gaps where everything that needs to be done to keep the calendar working. Food. Rest. Cleaning. It all happens in the gaps.
The major time management takeaway here is to have a plan for your gaps. Know what you have on the schedule and what time will be available to you.
Use it accordingly.
See you at the rink,