Nine years ago this month, my fourth baby, Jonathan, was born. My oldest had just turned 6, and I had a 4-year-old, a 2-year-old, and a brand-new baby. My life was thrown into chaos! Most of my friends had said that having baby number three was the hardest transition, but number four was the one that really threw me for a loop.

It wasn’t that Jonathan was a hard baby. He was actually really good. He slept and ate well and was pretty mellow while he was awake. The hardest part for me was that my other kids were at really hard and busy stages. Kaitlyn was still not much more than a baby herself. In fact, I used to carry both her and Jonathan around, one on each hip, and I would tell them that I had two babies, so that Kaitlyn would feel that her baby “status” hadn’t been taken away. It really was one of the most challenging times of my life. I never thought my life could get busier…

I look at my life today, and it hasn’t gotten any less busy. Fewer sleepless nights and physically exhausting days, maybe. But my to-do list is definitely much longer. Since Jonathan was born, we’ve added (Kaitlyn’s) type 1 diabetes to the mix and increased our number by one more child (for a total of five). And as they grow into older children and teenagers, life is busier than ever, and it doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon.

As we all know, there’s only so much time in a day and so much energy we have to get things done. How is it possible to make time for everything? Usually, I think that I just have to work faster, longer, harder, or more efficiently, but this only works to a point. Eventually, I’ll need to start removing things from the list.

As I was complaining about this to one of my best friends, she taught me a great way to prioritize and challenged me to try it for two weeks. The strategy is to make three lists: essential things, necessary things, and nice-to-do things, and then do those items in that order as you go about your day. The first two lists—essential and necessary—might seem a little redundant. But the idea is to put the most important overarching things, the big-picture stuff, on your essential list.

For me, these are spending quality time with my husband and kids, and finding time to have personal introspection and spiritual connection. The things on my necessary list are still very important, but they have to do with more of the day-to-day chores like cleaning the house, doing exercise, managing diabetes, cooking meals, and helping the kids to get homework done. The nice-to-do list might include reading books for fun, having time out with friends, or spending time on other hobbies or social media. I’d like to point out that putting things into the different lists is a personal choice. For example, exercise is on my necessary list, but it could be on someone else’s essential list if that’s what makes them grounded and ready to tackle the day.

As I made my lists and remade my lists and then practiced keeping my priorities where I wanted them, it really was amazing what happened. When I focused on essential things first, I was able to be more efficient with the necessary things, and then I almost always had time to do the nice-to-do things as well. I learned that sometimes even the necessary things (like cleaning the house) have to take a backseat too.

More often than not, I think you’ll find that things that are cluttering up your life fall to the bottom of your list, and you’ll feel so much more accomplished and productive. That is such a good feeling! I challenge you, my fellow busy D-moms, to try it out for a couple weeks. I bet you’ll feel the same way!

Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.

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