Time Management

pacing yourself

 Pacing Yourself

As you start Caregiving, it’s important to learn time management by pacing yourself. One way to do that is to implement time management strategies from day one.

Anything you can do to save time, reduce stress, or eliminate a task is something you want to consider doing for yourself. If you start now setting realistic expectations for what you can accomplish, then you will not be as likely to become overwhelmed or feel guilty if you can’t “get it all done.”

Knowing “How” Doesn’t Mean You “Can.”

First, recognize that knowing how to do something and having the desire to accomplish it does not magically give you the ability to get it done. Knowledge and ability still require time and opportunity before accomplishing a task. It’s important to learn early in your caregiving career not to over-schedule your day. I recommend trying some of the following suggestions to help you stay on track with that in mind.

Accept Help

Accept a helping hand when it's offered helps you with your time management.

In the beginning, people often offer to assist you. Your pride may tempt you to turn down those offers.  DON’T!  Accepting offers of help is not shameful and does not make you weak, a loser, or any other negative phrase. It’s a legitimate way to manage time.

People genuinely want to help. When you don’t accept their offers of assistance, you deny them the opportunity to feel that sense of joy that comes from loving others and giving. The actions bless them and, in turn, bless you. It’s not charity; it’s love.  You can return the favor when you can do so.

Let Go

Time management also has to do with prioritization. You don’t have to do everything on your list in one day. Sort it out and prioritize. Determine what can wait and let it.

Can someone else do something?

Yes, it may take extra time at first to show them what to do, but it’s worth it if they can take it over.

Check local churches or service organizations.

Sometimes, youth groups or other service groups are looking for projects to help those burdened with caregiving responsibilities.  Ask around to see if anyone knows of a group.

Handymen or After-School jobs

Teenagers often look for gas money, and adults may look for little odd jobs to bring in a little cash. If you can afford to pay someone, put an ad in the local paper for help or as neighbors for references.


Get some exercise so that the work you do doesn't hurt you physically.

Many of us say we don’t have time to exercise, but there are ways to get exercise informally provide time management options. Short walks, dancing around the room to a song on the radio, anything for just ten minutes two-three times a day helps to work off the stress. Stretching helps a lot with flexibility too! Going into a quiet room and dropping to the floor to stretch out the back, hips, and leg joints provide a time of great relaxation for me. Often you can get ideas from Youtube or one of the Caregiver Publications like AARP or Caregivers Action Network.

Time Management May Allow Emotional Release

Having someone with whom you can share your feelings is a positive way of releasing pent-up emotions. When you keep them bottled up inside, you begin to feel trapped, and the negative emotions fester into depression. If you have a friend you trust to share your concerns, you can empty your bucket of emotions and clean out that negative energy.

Your Bucket Runs Over

I like to explain it like this:  Think of emotions, both good and bad, as rainwater and your stress level as a bucket. You get a compliment; it sprinkles. You’re late to work; it rains. You get off after a hard day of work; it’s been drizzling all day, and the bucket is 1/2 full already. Traffic is terrible, more rain.  You’re late getting home, and the day caregiver reminds you that she has obligations, and if you can’t get home on time, she will have to resign; a downpour begins. You start dinner and have the food on the stove when your family member calls for assistance.  He’s soiled himself. The entire bed must be changed; dinner overcooks, you feel weak from hunger and fatigue. You have a load of clothes to wash before the next day. It’s pouring rain into your bucket to the point that your bucket is overflowing.  At 1:00 a.m., you’re finally ready for bed.  Your alarm is set for 6:00 a.m. to start your day. The sad thing is, today was a normal day for you.

Caregivers Understand

If your friend is another caregiver, chances are they have a similar life, and all you will need to say is, “X had an accident last night, and I was up till 1.” They intuitively know the full impact of what that means. People who have not lived the life may sympathize, but they don’t get it. A caregiver friend knows how to encourage you and to make realistic suggestions about what you need. I encourage you to seek out other caregivers and make connections with them through church or support groups.

Keep Medical Appointments

Monitor your health. Often, caregivers cancel their medical appointments and wind up getting a severe medical problem due to overlooking a symptom. Pay attention, and don’t cancel the doctor’s appointment. 72% of caregivers report not going to the doctor when they need to go resulting in 23% saying their health is worse due to neglecting their health.

I Should Take My Own Advice

I am bad about this myself.  We go to the doctor so much for my husband’s appointments that I don’t want to go for myself. I want to avoid going back because I’m tired of being in that environment.  However, my husband pushes me to go, which is the right thing for him to do, and I take his advice. I also admit I’m in that 23%.  My health has been negatively affected by being a caregiver because I have neglected it by developing bad health habits—primarily not getting sufficient sleep. Therefore, while I tell you what you should do, I’m also realistic enough to know that it’s tough not to fall into self-preservation traps to get the job done and move on by continuing the bad habits.

Pamper Yourself

Find something you enjoy doing as a diversion. I listen to audiobooks as I work.  You might like television or radio. Find something as an escape, though, to brighten your day. A perfect choice would be something to make you laugh. Laughter is excellent healing medicine!

Work on maintaining personal relationships. Make time for your family and your “besties.” Keep in touch with them and make it a point not to let them get away from you.  Human connection is vital to life, and you will deeply regret it if you lose your relationship with them.

Doctor explaining how to handle a medical situation once they get home.

See a Counselor or Therapist if Feeling Down

If you are feeling significantly depressed, see a therapist. Don’t play around with this. Many caregivers commit suicide. Please don’t be one of them.



Useful Time-Management Tips

Caregivers Never Have Enough Time

One thing a family caregiver never has in abundance is time. Listed below are a few of the time-management tips I use to make life run smoother around the Steigleder house.  If you have tricks you use, please send them to me to share with others at becomingafamilycaregiver@gmail.com.

Advance Food Preparation

collage of food preparation pictures showing time saving process for food

I cook in bulk to save time. I prepare multiple meals in advance and freeze them. Each morning I pull the meal from the freezer,  set it in the refrigerator to thaw for the day, and it’s ready to reheat and serve.

I set aside 1-2 cooking days per month to do most of the cooking on those days and fill up my freezer.  I slightly undercook the food so that when I reheat it, it’s not overcooked.

I’m fortunate that my spouse doesn’t mind eating the same meals frequently because I cook as many as 12-16 trays of the same main course at a time. I use plastic containers that are light-weight and re-usable. Preparation time is quick and easy.

Preparing Trays of bacon in advance for multiple breakfast plated as time management practice.  Another time management suggestion: People are always asking what they can do for you:  Here’s an idea.  Ask them to cook bulk meals for you that you can freeze. At one time, I had someone preparing the meals for me and bringing over food trays once a month.  Talk about a time saver!

Supply closet holds extra cache of supplies to prevent going without. Saves time to have an inventory established and a way of tracking when levels get low.

Preparing Medications for the Week

Each week I assemble all the pill bottles for the coming week and put together a tray of pills for the following week. I bought one of those plastic sectioned pillboxes that have the days of the week and four sections for the times of the day.  I bought one with six parts to give me more options because he has so many pills to take.

I sort out the pills into each section based on when they are due for the time of day.  This process helps me know if he has taken his pills (I can get distracted and forgot to give them).  I keep two of these filled–the one we’re currently using and the one for the upcoming week.

Indwelling Urinary Catheter Supplies come in a kit. We use these if we travel so we have everything we need.

Maintaining Adequate Inventory

I always try to keep spare supplies in our extra bedroom, including dressings, tapes, catheters, tubes, etc. There is nothing worse than running out of something you need when you’re in the middle of doing a procedure. Therefore, when I pull the last item off the shelf to stock supplies in my bedroom where our immediate use supplies are maintained, I reorder the general supply cache that day.