Productivity Tips for Working Moms – Part One: 7 Keys to Better Weekdays
As many moms who work outside the home know, weekdays can be crazy! And, for the morning challenged like me, the a.m.’s can be especially stressful. Now that school is back in session, and timelines are tighter than ever, we need to be especially prepared!
Here are some things that I’ve found helpful for smoother, more productive weekdays (I’ll be posting additional tips in the future as well):
1) Get Organized
This is key! I’m starting with organization because it really plays a part in all subsequent suggestions. I know if I don’t take the time and do the work to get organized before the hectic time, I’m super, extra stressed. The more organized I am, the more productive I am and the more together I feel.
Organization involves time, space and materials. If any of these are out whack, things won’t run as smoothly. Organizing time involves planning and making the most of time. Organizing space involves having a place for everything, keeping things neat and put away, and creating a workspace and a home life flow. Organizing materials also involves having places for things and keeping them in their places, and also being able to access things easily, and avoiding things like last-minute searching for items.
For me, getting organized involves the following:
Tools: lists, calendars (digital and physical), binders, files, bins, holders, charts, label makers, color coding systems, and all those things made to help us get organized
- Taking stock of everything – What do I have, what am I out of, what do I need? Keep a list of these things.
- Decluttering – cleaning out drawers, cupboards, and closets; getting rid of things we don’t need, organizing items by sorting them into bins/containers, etc.
- Sorting, classifying, labeling.
- Having a logical place for everything (and then putting everything back in its place when finished with it, and teaching kids to do the same).
- Looking ahead – What does the following day, few days, week, etc. look like? What major events are coming up? What do I need to attend, bring, do, etc.? Plot it on the calendar, put it on a list, set up some kind of reminder, etc.
- Planning and preparing (which I’ll talk about a little more shortly)
- Creating and referring to timelines
- Using those organizational tools regularly: checking the calendar, checking things off the list and adding new items
2) Use Visual Tools
It’s helpful to have a central calendar (such as on the fridge) on which you plot all important upcoming activities and events. For kids, it’s helpful to display visual schedules, chore lists, rules, timelines, and other reminders of what they need to do and when.
3) Streamline Processes
Figure out if there’s any way you can reduce tasks or cut them down. This can include the time it takes to make dinner (preparing two meals at once, prepping the Crockpot the night before and putting it the fridge ready to take out and turn on the next day, etc.), creating systems and shortcuts that work for you, cutting out unnecessary tasks, and anything that will make things easier. Find ways to make things as simplified as possible. Give everyone in the family tasks and make sure they know what their tasks are.
4) Prepare, prepare, prepare
This is taking organization a step further. Preparation involves being ready for what lies ahead, planning ahead, anticipating potential pitfalls, and having a backup plan. For me, this also involves anything I can do the night before to get ready for the next day. It really helps to have my daughter’s clothes laid out, my clothes laid out (including a backup outfit in case I decide I hate the first one, yes, this happens sometimes), lunches made, whatever I’m taking either by the door or in the car, and so on. I also braid my daughter’s hair at night so it’s much easier to brush out in the morning. Often, preparing for the next day is the last thing I want to do in the evening. But, I am always glad the next day that I did it.
5) Be as healthy as possible
I’m not going to go too into health. We’ve all heard so many times before how important it is to be healthy, that diet, exercise, drinking lots of water and getting enough sleep enhance every aspect of our lives. It does warrant a brief mention because it is so important.
For me, mornings are stressful. They just are. No matter how much I prepare, I will have some morning stress. However, I can lessen stress by making my mornings more manageable. Many of the ways I do this have already been mentioned (being organized, preparing the night before, and getting enough sleep when possible, which really means going to sleep earlier). Other ways have to do with the mornings themselves. One thing I have found to be especially helpful is to get up earlier and having some time (30 minutes) to wake up. I get up and have a cup or two of coffee, think, and make lists, before the mad dash to get myself and my daughter ready. For me this works because I can be more focused and efficient after I’ve had that time to adjust to being awake so early and for the caffeine to kick in. I spend less time searching for things because my memory is working better, and decision making is better because I can actually think. Plus, having been up earlier makes it easier to fall asleep that night.
7) Make the Most of Weekends
We all love our weekends! They are time for relaxing, being with family, and having some fun. They can also be time for catching up on chores and errands, attending our kids’ sporting events, recitals and their friends’ birthday parties. A whole lot has to be squeezed into these two fleeting days.
It’s important to decide what you want to accomplish during your weekend. What is most important? It helps to have a goal, a list of possibilities and to prioritize. I try to find a balance between fun and work. I spend a portion of my weekends writing, working on projects, and preparing for the week ahead. I spend the other portion on quality time with my family. I’m thankful that my husband takes on a lot of tasks while I’m getting my work done. We often divide and conquer for a good portion of the day and reserve the afternoons and evenings for together time.
I’ll be sharing more working mom work/life balance and productivity tips in upcoming posts. Please feel free to share your tips for better, smoother, more productive weekdays.