Back-to-school time feels like hitting the reset button. Our kids return to a routine, and it’s also a chance for parents to create a workable and healthy balance for ourselves.

But the key to any successful schedule is sticking to it and finding ways to make it work for you. A large part of maintaining a schedule is being able to manage the limited time that you have and that takes planning and discipline.

Here’s an example. You know that you will have 20 minutes each afternoon to sit in the pickup line at your child’s school. You can either mindlessly surf the Internet, watch a show on your phone, or catch up with a friend. There is nothing wrong with any of those choices. However, you could try to make use of that time. You can make important phone calls, write and send emails for work, or create a schedule for the upcoming week. Heck, with all the apps on our smartphones and tablets, you could do your banking, pay bills, and order all the items for your child’s upcoming birthday party. The bottom line is - it’s all about using your time to your advantage.

Here are some ways to better manage your time.

1. Make Lists

Each day you should map out a to-do list. It can be a to-do list of things to get accomplished, a list of items to purchase at the grocery store, or a list of people or agencies you need to contact for an upcoming project. You can go a step further and give yourself a time allotment for each task or priority rank. When completed, cross the item off of your list. That will give you a feeling of pride and accomplishment.

2. Plan Ahead

This might require a change in your thinking. If you are used to only being able to keep up with your chores and demands in the moment, you will need to take a step back and figure out how to think ahead. The short answer is to try and get caught up with your day-to-day activities and then focus on what comes next.

3. Make Goals

The next step is to set clear and attainable goals. If you can establish what you want to accomplish, that will make it much easier to determine how to reach those goals. Once you establish the pathways to success, you can work to make those goals a reality and make the best possible use of your time.

4. Keep a Daily and Future Calendar

It might be helpful to have two calendars – one that focuses on your day-to-day tasks and goals and another that keeps track of your future tasks and goals. If you can remain organized and constantly update those calendars, they will become your guide and enable you to make the most of your limited time.

5. Get Your Work Done First

Most of us can probably remember our parents warning us about procrastinating. If we waited until the last minute to complete a homework assignment or study for a test, the scolding would begin. It really is true, though. If you try and get your work done early or ahead of schedule, it will free up much more time to spend accomplishing other important tasks or even to relax a little bit. The knowledge that your work is no longer hanging over your head can be liberating.

6. Start and Finish

Many of us get sidetracked after we start a project – and it’s terribly easy for that to happen when you’re chasing kids around all day. One of the ways to help manage your time is to start a job and finish it before starting another project. Not only will this keep you focused on the task at hand but it will give you the opportunity to cross one task off of your to-do list before starting another.

7. Make Your Tasks Doable

One of the ways to ensure that you can complete a job before moving on to another is to make your job doable. If you decide you want to knock out a major kitchen remodel one weekend, you might be biting off more than you can chew. Save those jobs for when you have a little more time.

8. Use Downtime Wisely

Earlier I mentioned the example of using some downtime while waiting to pick up your child from school to get some tasks accomplished. I’d bet that if you looked at your daily schedule, you would discover lots of time during the day that you could make better use of. For instance: while you’re waiting for your child’s activities to be finished or while you’re riding the subway to work. You might also have valuable time during a daily break at your job or while the kids are doing their homework. You need to build in time to take a mental and physical break from the stresses of your life. But you can also devote some of that downtime to crossing items off your endless to-do list.

9. Get Into a Routine

Sure, we’re all creatures of habit in one way or another. We like to eat at certain restaurants or go to bed at a specific time. If we can take those habits and transition them to other aspects of our lives, we will save ourselves time and avoid the headache of constantly trying to remember what we need to get done. For instance, set aside a specific time each month to pay your bills. Also, set aside a specific time each week to do the yard work or grocery shopping. By creating a routine, you will be able to get your chores done more quickly and with less stress, freeing up more time to get other stuff done.

10. Know Where Your Stuff Is

This tip might wind up saving you lots of time overall. If you are constantly misplacing your keys, wallet, glasses, or purse, think of the unnecessary time and anxiety you waste searching for them. If you stay organized and create a specific, routine place for your must-have items, you can avoid those frantic moments searching for them and save that time for other, more important pursuits.

How do you best manage your time?