Time Management Tips for New Parents

By Scott Carroll, MD December 30, 2016
I’m a child psychiatrist and relatively new parent with a three-year-old daughter, and my wife also has a full-time career in healthcare, so I feel like I can give some great tips for new parents.
  1. Your schedule is your friend, and it’s especially important to get your child to bed early enough that you can get enough sleep and then have a little time to yourself in the morning.
  2. Sleep is your first priority. Otherwise, everything you do ends up being wrong or has so many careless mistakes that you’ll end up doing it over again. Sometimes, you just have to take a nap if you're too tired instead of cooking or trying to clean up. If you have a partner, alternate nights where you get up with the baby. (If you are not on baby duty, sleep in another room or wear really good ear plugs.)
  3. Obviously, a night nanny would be the bomb, but most people can't afford one, including me. A close second is having a baby sitter (or family member) that your child sees frequently, so that your baby is comfortable spending the night with them, at either your place or their place. Then, you can have an evening alone. This was how my wife and I were able to have a date night and spend a little time together. We tried to do it once a month or so, which seemed to be the right balance between frequency and expense. Granted, some of our dates were just an early dinner and straight to bed, but it kept us sane.
  4. Splurge on a housekeeper, if you can afford it. They can do the heavy cleaning while you focus on constantly picking up toys and putting them away. You'll still do plenty of cleaning, but it’ll be just cleaning messes rather than general cleaning.
  5. Don't wait for big chunks of time where you can get things done, because they can be few and far between, or you’ll use that time to nap. Instead, try to do little things as you go. If you are going to another part of the house, take the item sitting out that needs to go to that part of the house, instead of waiting for lots of free time to move everything at once. Being able to complete tasks within five chunks of time is key, especially things like laundry and washing dishes. You may get interrupted several times, but you'll still get the washing machine loaded and started over the course of an hour.
  6. Try not to set yourself up for more work. Put things away in the correct place as soon as possible so it doesn't get lost. That way, you can then find it when you need it and won't waste time searching. Keep your diaper bag packed with an extra of everything, so if you are running late, you can grab it and go instead of spending time going through it.
  7. Divide and conquer! Some tasks are just more efficient when you don't have the baby. Grocery shopping takes almost twice as long with the baby than without, and there’s far less stress. So try to schedule those kinds of tasks with one of you watching the baby while the other does the shopping or runs the errands. This also the key to getting exercise and a little bit of personal time—even 20 minutes can do wonders for your stress level.
Scott Carroll, MD, is a psychiatrist and teacher who is the author of Don't Settle: How to Marry the Man You Were Meant For.