As any parent of young kids knows, nap time is super valuable, and one of the best (only?) times to get things done. I actually find myself wondering how parents get anything done when their kids no longer nap, but I try not to think about that too much.
When I first had James, especially when his naps were often short and unpredictable, I found myself a little frantic during naps. I wanted to get so much done, but my brain was too foggy to remember it all and I wasn’t sure where to begin. Plus I also wanted to just lay down and relax sometimes, but if I did that, I just kept thinking about all of the things I should be doing.
Well I finally have a nap time strategy that works well for me, so I thought I’d share.
1. Make a plan – and write it down
This seems fairly obvious, but it took me a while to actually start doing this. I would come up with a plan in my mind, but I would often forget what it was and I still found myself questioning the best use of the time the whole time he was sleeping.
Now I take a few minutes on Sunday and schedule what I plan to do during each nap time throughout the week. I enter it all in my Google calendar. Jame’s naps aren’t always at the exact same time, but he always takes two right now and they’re roughly at 9 and 1:30, so I just use those times on my calendar.
Obviously things change throughout the week, so each night I look at what I’ve planned for the next day and adjust as needed.
2. Don’t save everything for nap time
Sometimes I’ve planned to get something done during nap time, but then I look around and the house is chaos and I decide to spend *just a few minutes* straightening up. It’s never just a few minutes. Even if it is, that’s still time I could have used toward whatever I planned.
So I really try to do that straightening up when James is awake. It is a more efficient use of my time and I also think it’s beneficial to show even very young children that cleaning up is a part of playing and a part of life. Sometimes it’s comical trying to put things away with my little sidekick following me around “fixing” everything, but I just remind myself that I have all the time I need. I also do things like folding laundry while James is playing next to me. Some chores, like sweeping and mopping, are pretty impossible with a baby nearby, but I am often surprised by how much I can get done while he’s happily playing in the living room or kitchen.
3. Divide the time
I’ve pretty much come to terms with the fact that I will never again be fully caught up on everything, at least not for eighteen years or so. Housework is pretty quickly undone around here, and that’s okay, it’s just part of this (mostly really fun) stage. Still, I don’t want to spend every minute of James’s nap time cleaning, that’s just no fun and it would leave no time for things I love (like writing this blog!)
So I roughly divide what I work on by his two naps. I generally use his morning nap for computer projects, like the blog, freelance writing, working on his baby book, planning trips, emails, etc. I then use his afternoon nap for cleaning and prepping dinner. This helps the house not get too out of control, but also ensures I have time to work on other things.
This also works for me because I’m a big time morning person, so it makes sense to do the things that require thought / creativity in the morning. I think it helps to figure out what time of day you do your best work.
Obviously he won’t always take two naps. When he moves down to one nap, I’ll probably either divide the time in half, or alternate days, depending on how long his nap winds up being.
4. Commit to relaxation
While it’s tempting to use every second of every nap trying to catch up, that would make me crazy. Everyone needs some time to just chill (and we’ve already established we’re never catching up anyway, so might as well take a break).
I usually use at least one Friday nap and read a book. This is one of my favorite times of the week. It feels luxurious to sit with a book in the middle of the morning and it’s something nice to look forward to at the end of the week. Because I’ve planned it ahead of time, I have an easier time just relaxing instead of thinking about everything I should be doing instead.
5. Be flexible
This is definitely the hardest for me. While I do think it really helps to have a plan, obviously baby isn’t in on this plan and he may only sleep for thirty minutes, regardless of what you need to get done.
One thing that helps me with this is setting a minimum nap time.
I didn’t do this when he was younger, and would often wake up crying, but now I pretty much always make nap time at least an hour, even if he wakes up sooner. He stays in his bed until it has been an hour (this isn’t a hard and fast rule, I would certainly go check on him if he was really upset). He usually just talks to himself in his bed when this happens, and sometimes even falls back to sleep!
How do you maximize your time, any tricks?
Are you a morning or night person?