As a mother of six and grandmother of 17, Robyn Pearce knows a few things about time management.
She raised her children in the upper North Island a shared custody situation, while making ends meet on a benefit.
Pearce has collated some of the lessons she’s learned in her latest book, Getting a grip on parenting time and told RNZ’s Kathryn Ryan the years when her children were young felt like a state of perpetual chaos.
She was just 22 when her first baby was born and her six children came in a 9 year period.
“It felt like there were never enough hours in a day and always too much to do.”
Pearce says she had various strategies to managing her parenting responsibilities, including hiring some afterschool help.
“I reckon she saved my life.
“She’d get off the school bus at my gate rather than hers, grab a sandwich… and then for an hour she would do whatever I wanted her to do.
“Which might be bringing in the washing… it might be bathing the kids or peeling the potatoes, or anything at all that needed doing. She was just an angel for me.”
Other valuable advice she received included not having all the kinds’ toys out at once.
“We started putting half away, and then every few months we’d change them over.”
Getting clothes, shoes and lunches ready the day before goes a long way in time management, she says.
But she admits sometimes perseverance is needed to get children into good habits.
A technique one of her sons uses with his children is called ‘computer dollars’.
“They didn’t want their children sitting around being couch potatoes, and they wanted them to get involved with the domestics, and they were also helping them with their maths as well.
“They would get a certain number of computer dollars for different family tasks, which teaches resilience and it teaches responsibility for the kids.”
Pearce says a universal stress facing parents is not having enough time with their kids.
“One thing I see is parents trying to do everything.
“They’re trying to run them to all these different events, making sure that they don’t miss out on things.”
But Pearce says children need to learn to spend entertain themselves, and she recommends spending one night a week without activities.
“Have one night where it’s computer free, television free, just together time.”
Her time management skills have been useful not just for parents but also for the business world.
Pearce has been running her own business for 25 years now and speaks to companies in New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere around the world.
“It wasn’t just the parenting, it was after the marriage had gone completely down the gurgler and some years later I ended up in Auckland selling real estate.
“Real estate was the final crunch that made me realise I was trying to fit in too much.”
She says one central theme that crops up for her is people trying to fit too much in.
“No is our most powerful time management tool.”
“Not in a career limiting or relationship limiting way, but knowing what to push back on.”