Of the movies in my favourites list, Mary Poppins is certainly in the top ten. And, while it’s not very true to the books, the delightful Mary Poppins movie can teach us a lot about managing time. We’ve learned how to take our medicine and so much more from her – it’s time to find out how to manage time with Mary Poppins.

After all, Mary set the gold standard for efficiency long before nannies began starring in reality TV shows. She was strict, punctual and perfectly organized.

Unlike the books (in which she’s rather vain and nasty at times, more along the lines of Nanny McPhee), our movie Mary is organized, kind, and firm.

Time management tips from Mary Poppins. Take these lessons with a spoonful of sugar and see what you can learn from everyone's favourite nanny!

Mary Poppins’ Techniques to Copy

Find the best person for the job

Do you remember the beginning of the movie? The Banks’ family went through 6 nannies in 4 months before Mary Poppins arrived. Save time by focusing on work that matches your skills. If you’re good with numbers, handle the family finances while your spouse does the cooking.

In the movie, Mr. Banks worked full time and Mrs. Banks was heavily involved in political activism, so they really needed help at home.

Keep it sweet

I think most of us know A Spoonful of Sugar. Like the song suggests, a little sugar makes it easier to swallow your medicine. Focus on the fun aspects of any task. You’ll enjoy strategizing when you turn a job into a game. Motivate yourself with a reward.

And as a funny note, as I watched this just now with my children, my boys want me to tell all of you that Mary definitely never sings in the books.

Sing and dance

Speaking of fun, music makes time fly, even when you’re doing something tedious. What songs make you really want to pick up the pace and move? Put together a playlist of your favourite songs for when you’re cleaning out the bathroom.

Start out strong

Mary likes to say, “Well begun is half done”. It’s a quote from Aristotle so wise people have been saying it for a long time.

We’ve all started a job with a lackluster attitude and found that dwindled off into nothing. Instead, do what you can to start strong. Create early momentum with small victories that drive you to keep trying.

Clean your room

How can you polish off your to-do list if you’re tripping over toys on the nursery floor? Neat surroundings encourage productivity. Clear the papers off your desk and organize your kitchen cabinets.

Of course most of us don’t have the benefit of magic to make everything put itself away, so we have to actually do the work ourselves.

Resist hurrying


Mary wins a horse race by riding her merry-go-round steed at a steady pace, and politely asking the other jockeys to let her pass. Rushing causes stress and errors.

Take a break and slow down when pressure is building up.

Go to bed

You’ll function better during your waking hours when you consistently enjoy a full night’s sleep. Stick to the same bedtime, even on weekends and holidays. As difficult as it can be, turn off electronic devices and relax before bedtime.

After my car was struck in September and my shoulder and neck were injured, I started sleeping on a Mediflow water pillow. The difference in my comfort and sleep quality is incredible.

Be flexible

Although she and the children set out to buy fish, Mary adjusts her plans immediately when she finds out that a fit of laughter has trapped her uncle on the ceiling.

Although it is generally wise to be consistent and reliable, don’t be too rigid about it. Be prepared to change your schedule when your loved ones need you.

Walk briskly

Mary covers more ground in less time thanks to her confident stride. Straighten your back, swing your arms, and hold your head up.

Good posture will keep you alert and energized.

Move on

As much as Mary loves the Banks family, she knows that her mission is to train them to get along on their own. Mary never promises to stay forever.

In fact, she’s clear that she will move on “when the wind changes” – and she does.

There have been quite a few times in my life when I’ve known that I needed to move on, and most people have probably had the same feeling. When I’ve ignored that feeling, bad things happened.

Keep an eye out for when the wind changes and it’s time to move on.

 

Mary Poppins’ Techniques to Avoid

Practice humility

In the movies, when Mary measures the children and finds them lacking, she also measures herself. As most of us know, Mary Poppins is “practically perfect in every way”. The movie version is actually incredibly humble compared to the vain character in the books!

Since most of us are definitely not perfect, we need to use our strengths and resources where they will have the most effect. Don’t pretend to skills and abilities that you don’t have.

Bring the appropriate tools

When Mary needs a floor lamp or even a folding cot to sleep on, she reaches into her bottomless carpet bag.

You probably don’t have one of those, though!

In the real world, it pays to think ahead so you’ll have all the equipment handy for tackling any job.

Climb the stairs

Mary reaches her destinations quickly by sliding up and down banisters. It’s a handy skill, especially since she has the ability to slide along horizontal banisters!

You’ll be better off without resorting to risky shortcuts, though. When there’s a shortcut – and you don’t have the benefit of Mary Poppins’ magic – consider the pros and cons of taking it. Sometimes it’s a lot better to just do things properly, even if it takes longer.

Share your reasoning

With all her special talents, Mary sails through life refusing to give references or explanations.

And believe it or not, she’s even worse in the books! When the children ask her about outlandish adventures that they’ve had with her, she outright lies to them and makes them doubt their own memories. In real life, folks, that’s an abusive behaviour we call gaslighting and it’s really not something you should do to those you love!

You’re likely to enlist more cooperation when you discuss information with your colleagues, friends, and family.

And you thought Mary Poppins was just a fun movie!

Just Plain Living