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Time Management

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  • Time Management

    Schedule warriors, help me! I don't even have kids but am feeling strapped for time. I have 2 horses I keep at home, 2 dogs, work full time, and am taking 6 upper-level credits this semester... I feel like I should be able to handle this and more.

    What ways do you streamline? make most efficient use of your precious time?

    I feel like my biggest challenges are I need 8 hours of sleep ( I wish I was one of those people who thrived on 6 but I just dont). And finding the time to shop/prepare healthy meals. I would like to workout too but lately I have been calling barn chores/riding my exercise.

    Some people seem to fit it all in, tell me your secret

  • #2
    One of the things I do is master the 15 minute ride and don't worry so much about perfectly grooming my horses during the week. I fit in longer rides when I can, but realize that there are times when I have an hour in the barn and in order to ride both of mine I need to work quickly. On weekends when I have more time I give them longer rides, more grooming attention, and bigger and better snuggles. This is also the same time I organize the barn, clean tack, do horse laundry, etc.

    I also streamline chores by feeding whole bales in haynets (so I feed hay every other day) and have gravel drylots and matted shelters that get picked instead of stalls to clean. One horse eats grain while the other is being ridden, etc.

    My dogs are able to be off leash on our farm and are trained to shock collars. This makes it so they are romping around while I work with the horses, and I can use the "tone" setting to call them back if they wander.

    We also do meal prep by making a protein and sides once per week that serves as both lunches for work and the occasional "no time" dinner meal. My hubby and I also make Sunbasket meals, which are nutritious and easy to make while also not requiring shopping.

    I will say I am lucky that my hubby does the majority of our food shopping on his way home from work and shares equally (or more than equally) in household chores, which really alleviates my schedule. He also drags the arena while I am finishing up putting the horses away which makes the end of night horse chores a bit faster.

    I also do not watch TV and use reading in bed or audiobooks during cooking/chores to quiet after the day instead of internet browsing, so I don't get suckered into lounging for hours on end.


    • #3
      Yeah that's a lot!
      1. Outsource what you can - for example have groceries delivered and/or use one of those Blue Apron/HomeChef etc type services, have a cleaner come.
      2. Multi-task: I used to read some of my studies while doing cardio; have a friend come walk the dogs with you so you can still socialize (or ride if you know someone capable).


      • #4
        Yup to the outsourcing of meals - I like hungryroot since the meals are designed to take less than 10 minutes to make. I've also given up on complicated meals and will typically do something quick like avocado toast or rice and a fried egg. lunches are usually a salad kit from aldi or trader joe's. My one dog has free run of the place but other doesn't, so I run with him - exercise for me and tiring out the teenage boy hound!

        During the week, horses get brushed enough to put on a saddle pad and bridle, feet picked, and a once over, tack and horses get deep cleanings over the weekend. I'm lucky in that I don't have super gross horses - no poop stirrers or bucket dunkers/ poopers, so I can get away with a day or two of not scrubbing buckets. turnout also has auto waterers so that saves time. I also pick straight into the spreader and use the arena drag to poop bust out in the fields rather than pick. I also tend to pile sawdust in the corner of the stall so I can pull it down as needed, rather than running to the sawdust pile.

        It's also a huge help that my work is flexible - I tend to eat at my desk and step away for an hour to run errands and grocery shop.


        • #5
          Put everything on a calendar. EVERYTHING. If it isn't on the calendar it doesn't happen.

          Check it twice a day. In the morning for what you have to do today. In the evening for whatever you have to do tomorrow and get ready for tomorrow, putting out clothes, thing you need to take, etc.

          The side effect of this will be whenever anyone asks. "What day is it?" You will be able to answer with day and date without even thinking about it.
          It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.


          • #6
            OP it would also be helpful to know your current horse-keeping practices (stall, paddock, or pasture; in work or retired; automatic water; are you also maintaining an arena; feeding schedule etc.) so we might be able to offer more specific suggestions there.


            • #7
              Originally posted by ClassyJumper View Post
              Schedule warriors, help me! I don't even have kids but am feeling strapped for time. I have 2 horses I keep at home, 2 dogs, work full time, and am taking 6 upper-level credits this semester... I feel like I should be able to handle this and more.
              Why do you think this?

              Seriously, that's your problem right there. (Yes it is worse with kids.)

              So the first question is, what are your resources? Do you have people that can help you with some of these tasks? Do you have money that can buy you some tasks done?

              What are your priorities and your goals? Do the horses have to be ridden? Which of these things is the top priority to do right now? Be ruthless with things that are not important, or maybe agree with yourself that they will become important at some future time when other goals are completed.

              Yes, you need sleep. Don't cheat yourself there. It's probably more important than eating "well."

              There are a lot of options for fast meals and it kind of depends on your resources, and also what kind of variety is important to you. A crockpot or instant pot can be good. Takeout/delivery can be good. Friends who like to cook can be good. A cache of frozen dinners (storebought or homemade) can be good.

              I use shopping online a lot for nonperishables. If you live in an urban area you can shop online for real grocery items and have them delivered. Could be a timesaver.

              For shopping, especially for one, if you have a Trader Joe's in your area and a good sized freezer, you can buzz through that store really fast once you know it and have some great healthy options that are quick to heat.
              If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


              • #8
                OP, I can totally relate to your struggle, and I don't even have dogs or a 6 credit schedule! I find myself barely having time to work, ride, and do normal household chores. My horse is boarded at what I would consider partial care - she is fed 2x a day by barn staff, but I clean her pen and make her supplements which are fed at every meal. Normally it takes me 10min to do her pen, and I do the supplements on a weekend (normally another 20min or so). The barn is only 15min from home, and it takes me 30mins to get from my front door to my desk, so I'm not spending countless hours driving everywhere - at most, an hour a day. All the same, I tend to get home around 8:30pm each night, sometimes later if I'm slow in the morning and get to work later. Which leaves me with no time to do anything but eat sometime like ramen for dinner and head straight to bed.

                I don't know how people have time to have horses, work full time, prepare healthy meals, AND keep up with a workout plan, not to mention dealing with children!

                (BTW - I was so stressed at one point I ended up going to a therapist, who gently told me that expecting myself to take one 3 credit master's class while working fulltime and having a horse was not exactly realistic, and that I needed to cut myself some slack. I suspect you need to do the same and if you figure out how to, let me know because I sure haven't! haha )


                • #9
                  Can't put 5 pounds of sand into a 2 pound bag. I recommend seeing how long it takes you to complete your various activities (on average) to determine if there is actually enough time in the day to do it all. Don't forget to include drive time and prep. Sometimes, things need to give. Just make sure you have realistic expectations before running yourself ragged.

                  Working full time, is it an honest 40 hour week or are you regularly working overtime?
                  Do you work from home or do you have a commute?
                  How long does it take for you to complete your barn chores currently (stalls, aisles, meal prep, etc)?
                  How long do you ride for (include catching your horse, grooming, tacking, blanketing, turning back out)?
                  How much time are you spending in the classroom? Homework/studying? Is it an online course or are you commuting for this as well?
                  Do the same for your commitments for your kids, dogs, etc.

                  I realize I'm asking more questions than providing answers, but it will help shed light on where your time is being spent.

                  1. Make sure your feed room is organized in a logical manner. Think about if you're walking back and forth to different sides of the space and if things can be rearranged to cut down on those extra steps. Think about moving down a buffet line as you prep feed buckets. Ideally everything is within arms reach. I meal prep my horse's grain feedings each week since he gets a mix of grain, hay pellets, and supplements. This way, I'm not opening containers each day. I just grab a bag and dump it in a bucket.

                  2. Have the right tools to do the job. If you have a pitch fork with a broken tine, that will slow you down cleaning. If you have a small wheelbarrow you may be making extra trips to the manure pile. Broom vs. leaf blower to clean aisles. All of this adds up.


                  • #10
                    Don't sell yourself short, you are doing a lot! I moved my horses home right before my last semester of law school when I was also working full-time. It was a pretty stressful semester. I hired out afternoon chores a few days a week when I had to go straight from work to class. Is that something you could afford to do? I prioritized riding because I suspected it would be my aging Grand Prix dressage horse's last year at that level. I made time to ride at least 5 days a week and managed to compete successfully that fall. I also need 8 hours of sleep so I sympathize on that count too.

                    I agree that you need to think about your priorities rather than feeling like you "should" be able to do it all. That's just not realistic. Then at the beginning of each week think about what you can realistically accomplish each day. I tend to set aside bigger chores like mowing or dragging the arena for weekends or days when my horse is due for a day off. Weekdays I pretty much just work, ride, and do the bare minimum of barn chores. Sometimes I can fit more in but I never expect it. I don't have an indoor so weather dictates my riding schedule, and in turn affects when I can get other things done.

                    I think one of the biggest time-savers in barn chores is to keep your horses on 24/7 turnout, even if part of that time is in a dry lot. Before I built my dry lot I was stalling my horses during the day in the summer or overnight in winter, and my daily chore time (and frustration) was MUCH greater than it is now that they can be outside a lot.

                    Hay feeding can also be weirdly time-consuming so think about whether you could do that better. If you use a roundbale, great. If you are moving small square bales around on a daily basis, find a way to store them as close to where you need to feed as possible, like by building a small shed near the paddocks. I find hay nets kind of a time sink personally, though other people seem to disagree and have some hacks that can help (like making up a week's worth of nets ahead of time or using a clean muck tub to help fill them easily).

                    As far as exercise, if you decide to prioritize that try starting with just a 20-minute workout a few days a week. It doesn't sound like much but it's better than nothing. I like the Success in the Saddle DVDs because each workout only takes 20 minutes so it's easy to fit in between riding/afternoon barn chores and shower/dinner. If I have more time or energy I'll add some interval training on a stationary bike for cardio, but the DVDs do get your heart rate up too and offer some riding-specific strength training.
                    Building and Managing the Small Horse Farm:


                    • #11
                      Jumping on the sympathy bang wagon- two horses at home (retired), one boarded (competition jumper), two dogs, chickens and ducks (because I thought that would be cute?! Spoiler: It is), full time job in the city that I commute to.... let me tell you its a lot. I’m lucky to have a husband to do my night feeding so I can ride at my boarding barn and we don’t have kids yet and I struggle to think how we’ll fit that in, power to the moms out there.

                      Here’s how I manage- I work out first thing In the morning so its over with and off my list. Next comes barn chores. Like mentioned above, I’ve done everything I can to make my barn as accessible and seamless as possible. My two retired guys aren’t getting groomed every day, I run my hands over them and visually check them daily - but chores are bare bones. Feed, hay, stall cleaning (they have 24.7 access to stall and dry lot/pasture), water and I’m out. I come back on the weekends to sweep the aisle, tidy up, do repairs (that can wait). I do prep hay bags because I don’t have a good spot for a round bale etc. but highly recommend streamlining your hay as much as possible. If you’re a big supplement giver, I went to Target and got small 1 gallon containers in the plastic bin section and ‘meal prep’ the horses grain for the week when I’m going to be out of town so I know everyone is getting what they need. I clearly mark them- I’ve done it for myself too and wow is it easier. That could be a great Sunday prep to make your week easier.

                      Like many commenters above, we also do a meal kit (Hello Fresh) for their great vegetarian options. Remember, even if you’re not able to work out like you want- eating well and drinking tons of water will make you feel much better than slogging in the gym and eating poorly every could.

                      I use commuting time to listen to reports for my job or read while pedaling on my indoor bike- even just that plus a commitment to take the stairs and park farther in the parking lot makes a huge difference.

                      As for your situation- if your horses are still in riding condition what about trading a HS student riding time for barn chores? Getting evening chores off your list even 3 days a week could make a huge difference. I know its hard to juggle everything- but hopefully it is a temporary situation. Remind yourself that its okay to be overwhelmed and if people are offering to help, take them up on it. If you need to scale back- well, late drop exists for a reason. Good luck OP!!


                      • Original Poster

                        Thanks everyone, I figured I wasn't the only one! Sad thing is I feel like I am already doing most of these things.

                        Horses have 24/7 in/out to their stalls/pasture. Use water troughs. Pasture management I guess has been stressing me out... when I just had one I would pick the fields. When I got two I started just harrowing. With winter, and them not moving around much to graze things are starting to look messy, add some rain and yuck!

                        I have a 5y/o who I work with and 19 y/o that has been backburnered which I think I have some guilt about... maybe thats a different thread. Basically he has navicular and was a lot "sounder" when I kept him in work. Hes been out of work for over 6 months and its hard to see him losing muscle/less sound.

                        Biggest thing I probably realized out of this thread is I need to leverage my weekends better. During the week I have a pretty set schedule that *mostly* works but if I can use my time wiser on weekends to meal prep/chores etc I think I will feel better. DH can be kind of a non planner which threw off my schedule last weekend which I probably why I felt kind of overwhelmed this week.


                        • #13
                          It's pretty normal in our culture that in male-female relationships that women do more of the unpaid home labor. Not to add stress to your life to have this discussion now, but if there is a DH he's likely physically capable of doing meal prep and shopping. In our household, I do meals, but my DH does all the cleaning. That works too. While you are taking your class, consider using that as a lever to get him to step up on something that he can do to ease your load. If it means instead of cooking he brings home takeout every night I honestly consider that acceptable as well, if the budget allows. Simply not having to be the person who decides what the meal will be can lighten the load.

                          Good luck in finding a balance that works for you!
                          If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


                          • #14
                            With your older guy, what if you threw him on the lunge line 2-3x a week and did some cavaletti work for 5-10 minutes. Then give him more attention on the weekends? You would be amazed at how much difference that can make in a horse's fitness.

                            Definitely work with DH and share what you are feeling. I did that and my hubby had no idea how many things were really weighing down on me. As soon as he did he really stepped up, especially with things that were fun for him but tedious for me (feeding hay and dragging both use the tractor or quad, so he thinks they are fun). He passes a grocery store and Costco on the way home from work so he gets groceries. We also hired a house cleaner every other week and it is seriously the best money spent if you can afford it. I am no longer embarrassed by the cleanliness of the house, it forces us to make sure everything is picked up and put away biweekly, and I feel like I am not always playing catch-up.

                            Plus remember that this is the most hideous time of the year for pastures. In three months they will be gorgeous and green and you will have forgotten how sad they look.


                            • #15
                              Part of coping is being able to let go, too. So your pastures are crap right now; that’s okay. You don’t have time to make it nice, you can’t afford a grounds crew, you can’t control the weather, and you can’t afford to be stressed about it, so just -breathe- let it go.


                              • #16
                                Lol women around the world can relate! Like yes I know you had a long day at work and are tired and just want to sit in front of the tv - so do I! But things don't get done around here unless someone does it, and why is that someone always me!?! With mine, if I ask him to do something very specifically he generally does it, but just telling him I "need more help" doesn't do anything.
                                Can you pony one horse off the other? Is DH at all interested/able to go on an occasional ride with you?


                                • #17
                                  Just reading your post was exhausting! I have a full time job, a long commute (average 45 minutes each way), 3 horses and a pony at home (plus a dog) and a husband who helps out (some). If I tried to fit in graduate school something would have to give.

                                  What works for me is:

                                  1). I changed my office hours to 7 am to 4 pm in the winter and 9 am to 6 pm in the summer to shorten my commute time somewhat (less traffic) and maximize my riding time as I don't have outdoor lights and it's hotter than hell in Texas in the summer.
                                  2). Hired a PT groom (worth his weight in gold) who comes once a day to clean stalls, fill water buckets and water troughs and can bring horses in or turn horses out in a pinch.
                                  3). Assigned DH at least one night a week in which he is in charge of dinner. I don't care if he cooks or buys take-out, bottom line is he is responsible for dinner. I stick to my guns on this one. His choice is primarily those meal kits that he picks up at the grocery store.
                                  4). Crockpots are your friend.
                                  5). Negotiated with my manager to work from home 2x weekly. Originally it was 1x weekly (company norm) but negotiated to 2 days per week. I can ride over lunch if weather is decent and I save an hour and a half commute time.
                                  5). Let go of the small stuff.. in this case, frequently my house isn't as clean as I would ideally like it.
                                  7). I do laundry on my work from home day(s). Easy to run a load of wash while working on my computer.

                                  This is a great thread, would love to hear ideas from other busy women who try to manage a FT job, horses at home and other commitments.


                                  • #18
                                    Yes, a small amount of paid help can be priceless. Having someone reliable to feed dogs and my at home retired horses 2 or 3 weeknights allows me to get from work to boarding barn and/or gym without going home first and without feeling guilty. This time of year especially that extra 75 minutes is really valuable. Thankfully I have a pretty flexible work schedule. Means some early mornings but also some days mid week I get time before dark to regroup with barn chores (pick paddock, etc) or maybe even walk the dogs.

                                    As others have said, by brutally realistic about how much time things really take. I am fortunate to be 15 min to work and 25 min to barn. But, going from work to home and to the barn is never 40 minutes 😉


                                    • #19
                                      First of all hugs to you, I have half as much stuff as you do going on and still struggle with time management. The poster above who said to give yourself a break was spot on.
                                      A few things that have helped me:
                                      1) A daily to do list - this keeps me super focused on the things that have to be done and helps prioritize what needs to be done and what can wait.
                                      2) A calendar- I am in the if it’s not on my calendar it doesn’t exist camp.
                                      3) meal plan and shopping list saves me from being a lost puppy in the store.
                                      4) I try to do all my shopping/ cooking/ major cleaning in one day and try really hard to set a day aside to do it. I find this makes spot cleaning during the rest of the week easier.
                                      ~\"Think today so you will be here to think tomorrow\" Burma Shave~


                                      • #20
                                        Just chiming in to say that I would be overwhelmed and not keeping up with that schedule! Assuming that the school thing is temporary, I would basically just muddle through until my schedule freed up. Quesadillas or omelets for dinner (and if my DH wanted something else he would be free to shop for it and cook it). Housecleaning and barn cleaning only to prevent completely unsanitary conditions (or hire a service, it’s awesome). Knock the mud off the saddle pad area and go for 15 minutes. I personally would just forget about getting to the gym while things are crazy but I know that’s not ideal. Sleep, doing well in class, working the horses, and spending quality time with my DH would be my priorities, and everything else can slide.