I’ve always considered myself to be an organized and productive person and it’s something I pride myself on. I usually wade through a large pile of work with no issue and the thought of missing deadlines, in work or life, makes me panic.
But, after I became a mom, I was wondering if this part of me – the part that was so on top of everything – would still be realistic. I worried about how to keep everything organized, especially when adding a baby to the equation. I was worried that my work would slip and people would notice. In the beginning, when I first came back from maternity leave, I thought it was really difficult – being a new mom is not easy and there are things (literally) flying at you from all directions.
A few years later, I now find that being a mom actually helps me to be more productive at work because of one big skill I’ve developed as a mother: the ability to prioritize. As any mom knows, there’s only so many minutes in the day – prioritizing becomes somewhat of a mom superpower. Because I have a better perspective on what’s truly important at work and at home, I can address what needs to be done first and what even needs to be done at all. Extraneous tasks have to go. There’s just no time for them.
Conversely, being a working mom has helped to make me more productive at home. Like with my job, I have a very limited time to get my tasks done. I can’t waste weekends anymore because the weekday evenings are full of after-school activities and appointments. Weekends need to be used efficiently to ensure that the house and everyone is all ready for the week ahead.
I work in project management and a lot of tactics I use at work to get a whole team to finish a project on schedule totally work to herd my crazy family too. Here are the 4 work skills I use to manage my work and home.
Be clear about action items
Before kids, I could procrastinate for most of the morning and if I didn’t get my work done by the afternoon, I could stick around the office until it was done. I could volunteer for any committee or side project – even if it wasn’t important to me or necessary for work – because I had the extra time for more work.
Now I physically can’t do those things due to our daycare pickup schedule and activities in the afternoon, and if I could, I certainly wouldn’t want to cut into the evening with my family unless it was absolutely necessary. Instead, I work on the most important of my to-do items and then cascade down my list based on importance and deadlines. I only pick up side projects only if they are finding innovative ways to move the workplace forward.
I have a terrible tendency to try to take everything on by myself. I’m getting better about learning to effectively ask for help and delegate tasks. However, I’ve learned that it’s not actually helpful to delegate the task if I’m not clear enough about what it is.
If I ask my husband for help with something I usually do, but I’m not that clear about what exactly needs to be done, it’s partially my fault when I’m undoubtedly irritated that it didn’t get done the way I wanted.
Now, when I delegate, I’m trying to be clearer on the when, why, and how.
Create a universal calendar
We recently set up a “command center” by the back door with a dry erase calendar, notepad for a shopping list, and bulletin board to tack invites, important pieces of mail, and other family news. Now that everything is in a centralized location, my husband and I can keep up with what’s going on and what needs to be done without constantly asking each other their plans or forgetting what the other has going on.
Having one master calendar with all of our activities written in, placed in a spot that everyone can see, has been life-changing. Whether it’s a shared digital calendar or a physical calendar in the house, set up whatever works best for your family.
Looking ahead to usual problem areas and coming up with solutions ahead of time is huge in both work and life. For example, if getting out the door in the morning is always a problem, prepping as much as you can the night before can really help. If bedtime is always rough, try setting up a system for positive reinforcement. If you spend a lot of time in the morning deciding what to do, make sure you create a “big three” list for the next day.
Initiating systems and routines protect against a constant stream of mishaps that cause you to run late, forget things, or come unprepared. As moms, we don’t have time for any of those things.
How have you found ways to be more productive at work and at home?