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Productivity Secrets from a Seasoned Mom

With Mother’s Day right around the cor­ner, this spe­cial hol­i­day reminded me of how over­whelm­ing moth­er­hood can be. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom tak­ing care of chil­dren, a mom run­ning a home busi­ness, or a mom who’s work­ing out­side of the home, the respon­si­bil­i­ties can feel mon­u­men­tal. No mat­ter what your sit­u­a­tion might be, you can ben­e­fit from the tips I’ve included in this post to help you get things done and be productive.

Productive Mom

I con­sider myself some­what of an author­ity on jug­gling mul­ti­ple respon­si­bil­i­ties. I can com­pletely relate to stay-at-home moms and work­ing moms alike, as I’ve been both — and now I’m the par­ent of a teenager who will soon be off to col­lege. In my sit­u­a­tion, I’ve taken on the major­ity of the par­ent­ing respon­si­bil­ity because my spouse’s career always required a great deal of travel. Con­se­quently, I’ve picked up some wis­dom over the years that I hope you will find use­ful — “things I wish I would have known when I was 20.”

A Place for Every­thing and Every­thing in its Place

The author, Charles Augus­tus Goodrich pop­u­lar­ized the phrase, “a place for every­thing and every­thing in its place.” The phrase was first pub­lished in an arti­cle called “Neat­ness” in 1827. Many years later, this phrase still stays true. Remov­ing clut­ter and hav­ing a home for every­thing can dras­ti­cally reduce stress and free your time. Essen­tially, this means that you should store sim­i­lar items together and make sure fre­quently used items are stored in an acces­si­ble place.

Accord­ing to an arti­cle from Psy­chol­ogy Today, there are many rea­sons that clut­ter causes stress, but the one that stands out the most to me is, “Clut­ter inhibits cre­ativ­ity and pro­duc­tiv­ity by invad­ing the open spaces that allow most peo­ple to think, brain storm, and prob­lem solve.” Another side effect of clut­ter is it’s dif­fi­cult to quickly find the things that you need to use. From lost keys to mis­placed bills — even your favorite jeans; it’s frus­trat­ing, time con­sum­ing, and it costs you money in late fees and buy­ing dupli­cate items. And don’t be afraid to trash or donate the things you don’t use. You won’t miss that stuff. I promise.

There are sev­eral inspi­ra­tional peo­ple and web­sites for learn­ing about orga­niz­ing and enjoy­ing a clut­ter free envi­ron­ment. You can find great ideas from the pop­u­lar de-clutter web­sites or by view­ing orga­ni­za­tion and DIY exam­ples on Pin­ter­est. You can learn great ways from the com­mu­nity about processes and ideas to find your way to that bliss­ful, orga­nized haven that you deserve.

Make Time For Yourself

A happy mom is pro­duc­tive and stress-free mom. Con­sider this research taken from the work­place. Accord­ing to “Happy Work­ers are More Pro­duc­tive” pub­lished in the Guardian, “Hap­pier work­ers, our research found, were 12% more pro­duc­tive. Unhap­pier work­ers were 10% less pro­duc­tive.” The arti­cle con­tin­ues to explain that econ­o­mists have con­tin­u­ously over­looked that human emo­tion is a key com­po­nent of pro­duc­tiv­ity, rather than skill build­ing or education.

The log­i­cal con­clu­sion is if you sched­ule the time for your­self to include the hob­bies and activ­i­ties that make you happy, you will be a bet­ter you — less stressed, more pro­duc­tive, cre­ative, and more moti­vated. If you’ve set your hob­bies aside because you’ve been rais­ing chil­dren, think about the activ­i­ties that bring you joy, whether it’s run­ning a marathon, writ­ing a novel, or knit­ting a scarf — and make some time in your sched­ule to pur­sue these activ­i­ties. And if you’re con­cerned that you don’t have time due to your par­ent­ing respon­si­bil­i­ties, exchange child­care with friends or family.

Plan Meals and Make them Simple

Our fam­ily has a weekly rit­ual of gro­cery shop­ping together every Sun­day. First, we take into account our weekly activ­i­ties, work-related din­ner com­mit­ments, and travel sched­ule and make sure every­thing is on the fam­ily cal­en­dar. With our busy lives, it’s dif­fi­cult to have a meal at home every night so we’ve learned not to be too ambi­tious and we plan when we’ll have din­ner out.

I like to keep a col­lec­tion of easy-to-make recipes that suit the entire fam­ily and rec­og­nize our food intol­er­ances and aller­gies. Mak­ing a fancy meal on a week­night is a dif­fi­cult endeavor for me because I don’t par­tic­u­larly enjoy cook­ing. Some moms swear by prepar­ing meals ahead of time dur­ing the week­ends. If this strat­egy works for you — go for it. It’s a great time man­age­ment strat­egy to group sim­i­lar tasks together. Per­son­ally, I pre­fer to pre­pare meals that take 30 min­utes or less. I use a vari­ety of meats, veg­eta­bles, beans, pasta, and rice and keep it super sim­ple every night.

Apps are a great way to keep your gro­cery list orga­nized, and you can find a vari­ety of apps that can help you cre­ate your gro­cery lists. I rec­om­mend Life­Topix or My.Agenda as your shop­ping app because they allow you to keep a data­base of shop­ping items with their sell­ers, loca­tions, and prices and you can re-use these lists and items time and time again. This takes the guess­work out of your weekly or bi-monthly shop­ping trips.

Too Much Stuff Wastes Your Time

If your fam­ily is any­thing like mine, you’re attracted to shiny objects and you’ve spent a lot of time accu­mu­lat­ing stuff. And then some­thing hap­pens. You dis­cover the costs of own­er­ship (time and money!), and you find that these objects really don’t make you happy. We learned this les­son and made delib­er­ate choices to reduce our mate­r­ial pos­ses­sions. Now, we don’t make pur­chases with­out care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion of the costs and time involved in own­ing that object.

For exam­ple, it might seem like a great idea to pur­chase that pretty new boat, but before you know it you’re spend­ing more time on the week­end car­ing for it then you are wake­board­ing or swim­ming at the lake. Believe me — I’ve been there! Sim­plify. I can’t stress this les­son learned enough.

Del­e­gate and Outsource

Del­e­gate and out­source as much as you can. The most dif­fi­cult part of del­e­gat­ing is let­ting go — espe­cially when it comes to ask­ing chil­dren to com­plete to-dos. Chil­dren of appro­pri­ate age are very capa­ble of per­form­ing chores such as emp­ty­ing the dish­washer, fold­ing laun­dry, clean­ing their rooms, dust­ing, sim­ple cook­ing, and other chores. They might not per­form the chores up to your sat­is­fac­tion, but in turn they’re learn­ing impor­tant life skills and their abil­ity to per­form the chores will improve over time. And, of course, shar­ing respon­si­bil­i­ties with your spouse and com­plet­ing projects together is imperative.

If you have the means, hir­ing help to clean your house or take care of lawn main­te­nance will free your time so you can focus on enjoy­ing fam­ily time, learn­ing new skills, prac­tic­ing your hob­bies, or reach­ing fit­ness goals. It basi­cally boils down to how valu­able you believe your time is and your budget.

Sched­ule Appoint­ments and Tasks on Your Calendar

When man­ag­ing your time, you can learn a lot from the GTD (Get­ting Things Done®) method, which is a pop­u­lar work-life man­age­ment sys­tem from David Allen. Accord­ing to the GTD method, actual appoint­ments at their assigned time and tasks that have to be done on a spe­cific day should be listed on your cal­en­dar. I can’t stress this enough.

Here’s an exam­ple. Like me, I’m sure you have many respon­si­bil­i­ties for child­care that can be as sim­ple as pick­ing up a note­book for school to a repeat­ing music les­son sched­ule. Every­thing that I need to remem­ber, which must occur at or by a des­ig­nated time, goes on my cal­en­dar or these items will sim­ply fall through the cracks. And as your chil­dren mature and have their own smart­phones, they can sched­ule tasks, appoint­ments, and reminders on a fam­ily cal­en­dar via the tool that they use. I’m find­ing this process gets my son into the habit of sched­ul­ing every­thing on his cal­en­dar, which is help­ing him to develop good time man­age­ment skills and habits. I rec­om­mend that you try using one of our apps, Life­Topix or My.Agenda, for record­ing appoint­ments or tasks. They’re amaz­ing for man­ag­ing your fam­ily calendar.

Make Action­able and Real­is­tic To-Do Lists

Did you know that there’s a spe­cific psy­chol­ogy behind why to-do lists and task lists work? Sur­pris­ingly, our uncon­scious minds are wired to con­tin­u­ously nag us about items that we’ve left undone and goals we haven’t reached. This is referred to as the Zeigar­nik Effect. Research indi­cates that once you’ve made an action­able and real­is­tic plan, these nag­ging thoughts will soon come to an end.

To-do lists are quite use­ful tools for get­ting things done, but they can be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive if done incor­rectly. Con­se­quently, to make them effec­tive, to-dos in a list should be reserved for small, action­able items that you’re def­i­nitely plan­ning to com­plete. An exam­ple of an action­able to-do is “sched­ule a per­sonal train­ing ses­sion,” rather than, “get in shape.” Tasks should be reserved for larger items that can­not be com­pleted within a few min­utes. If the dead­line is unsure, place these tasks in a Soon or Some­day hold­ing area.

Don’t Over-schedule Activities

Par­ents under­stand­ably want to give their chil­dren all of the oppor­tu­ni­ties that life has to offer by pro­vid­ing activ­i­ties such as sports, dance, edu­ca­tion, music, etc.; how­ever, find­ing a good bal­ance is a chal­lenge. When you find your­self dri­ving from activ­ity to activ­ity and eat­ing all your meals in the car; it’s time to re-evaluate the pros and cons of the activ­i­ties. Make sure you’ve allowed some free time so your kids can just be kids.

Every child is dif­fer­ent. Many are very moti­vated and love every minute of their extracur­ric­u­lar activ­i­ties, while other chil­dren loathe going from activ­ity to activ­ity and long for free time. Pay atten­tion to your chil­dren and their reac­tions and don’t be afraid to back off if the activ­i­ties are affect­ing their abil­ity to expe­ri­ence life in an unstruc­tured way. Keep in mind that stud­ies show that free play is very impor­tant for the devel­op­ment of social skills and emo­tional health.

Sched­ul­ing these activ­i­ties on your cal­en­dar helps you to visu­ally exam­ine and eval­u­ate how much time is involved. If you’re child is tak­ing music class, make sure to sched­ule prac­tice time on the cal­en­dar so you can see the entire scope of the com­mit­ment. I’m reminded of the quote by St. Fran­cis de Sales, “It is far bet­ter to do a few things well than to under­take many good works and leave them half done.”


We’d love to hear how YOU stay pro­duc­tive and if you’ve learned any tips along the way that we can share with our read­ers. And, if you’re an orga­ni­za­tion or DIY expert, please feel free to share your web­site or Pin­ter­est boards.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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