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.
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!