20 Ways to Be a More Productive Mommy

January 24, 2013

20130124-155735.jpg ┬áLet’s be honest, there is always room for improvement in the balance between the raising babies you and the successful businessperson you. At least, I know there always is for me.

That being said, I’ve found several small things that make a huge difference in me feeling okay about the quality time I’m spending with my daughter and the productivity I’m able to achieve with my work.

As many of you know, I work from home. I worked from home even before Babygirl arrived, building my Vemma business, writing, and helping manage our rental properties. After she was born, I spent a month or so under the covers, getting used to the way the phrase “I’m a Mom” sounded as it rang newly in my ears. But around the 4th of July, I started feeling the itch to get working again. The pull to be productive. The self judgement to get something done (besides raising my child, of course). Since then, I’ve gotten better and better at doing just that.

Assumed disclaimer – I am no expert, and I’m not a seasoned Mommy, but this is what has helped me over the past eight and a half months, and maybe it can help you too. Please share any tips you have!

1. Close the laptop lid Seriously, if I leave it up, I am ten times more likely to glance at it, see an email, check a blog, run through the list of the people I’m supposed to call and before I know it I’ve missed the cute smile she makes after knocking over her blocks.

2. Teux Deux iPhone app Can I marry an iPhone app? Because if I could, I’d totally marry this one. Those lists that run through your head at all hours of the day? That you worry about forgetting? Record them in 3 seconds in your app and fuhgettaboutit.

3. Teux Duex iPhone app, part 2 Yeah, pick it back up the moment your feet hit the main floor after you lay the kiddo down for naptime, and you’re immediately launching into a productive task. No longer will fluffy tasks like opening the mail or picking up random dog toys eat into your perfectly quiet 90 minutes.

4. Jump into the day My daughter is blissfully happy first thing in the morning. Within five minutes of waking she’s sitting in the living room watching cartoons with a couple toys, totally entertaining herself. Even though I’m foggyheaded and would much rather lay on the floor with her and slowly wake up, I try to force myself into action. If I do it right, I can scan and clear out almost all of my email, empty the dishwasher, throw in a load of laundry, and review my to do list before I have even been awake for half an hour. And then I lay down on the floor with her.

5. Editorial calendar The Teux Deux app is for the small stuff. The calendar is for the big projects. Before, I would get sucked into the little day-to-day items I had to get done. Now, when she’s sleeping and I have 20 minutes left after accomplishing daily tasks on my list, I can efficiently make progress on a bigger project because I know exactly which one I should be working on. For me, I schedule my writing assignments, penciling them in on the day they’re due, but the system could work for anything.

6. Check off the big projects I check off a writing project on the calendar when it’s complete. I am motivated so much by that stupid checkmark, to the point that I will push to get one more word written during the minute that she’s waking up from her nap, or force myself to work twenty productive minutes before sitting down with Hubz when she goes to bed. And I’m a visual person, so this calendar is one of those large-squared, paper bohemeth’s that hangs on the wall in my office.

7. Keep social media in check TMI warning: I allow myself to cruise Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram while I’m in the bathroom. That’s it.

8. Take advantage of meal times I save most dishes and dinner prep for when she’s in her highchair, happily pawing away at a few Super Puffs. Why tinker around in the kitchen during the times she is awake and wants to play? It’s rare that I can’t get everything I want to get done in the kitchen before she’s done eating.

9. When worse comes to worse, take her with you When she was little and I had a longer than usual to do list, I’d strap her into the Bjorn and take her with me. We would talk while folding laundry and read emails out loud. Beats leaving her to play by herself in the living room every time.

10. Exercise Not counting the 22 trips up and down the stairs, the only exercise I get on an average day is a couple-mile walk around our neighborhood. But I need that walk. It makes me happier, calmer, and better focused. On my work and my daughter.

11. Turn off the tv I know I know, this is what everybody says. But I still watch tv! Only it’s intentional tv. If punkin goes to bed at 7pm, I can get a solid hour of work done, spend two hours with Hubz watching a couple shows, and still be in bed at the lovely hour of 10pm. Score. If I leave it on for a couple hours in the morning, or flip it on during that mid-afternoon slump, I waste way more time than I realize. Plus, then my daughter ends up with way more screen time than I’m comfortable with.

12. Make time to read It’s a must for me. If I don’t make time – even 10 to 15 minutes a day – to read, it’s similar to exercise; I’m not as relaxed nor happy. You can’t be productive when you’re not happy. (Audio books while in the car help with this! But a physical book and a hot cup of coffee, even for just a few minutes, has ten times the relaxation power.)

13. Smile a lot You’d be surprised how a sigh and a big smile – especially when directed towards your child – can make you feel like your to do list is managable, and provide you the confidence to jump right in and prove it. And you know what? It won’t kill you to smile more. I promise.

14. Organize When the blankets and the rattles and the stuffed animals all have a specific home, when the bank statements and journals and even emails have their own spots to settle in, time isn’t wasted wallowing in indecision over where to put them, or frustration over your messy spaces.

15. A helpful, loving spouse Goes without saying, but I said it anyway. Work together. It’s necessary.

16. Know where you’re going Goals. Set them. Otherwise your work will be aimless, and there’s no better way to get lost and feel unproductive and unworthy than to not have an idea of the point or purpose for your work. Also, there’s no other way to feel guiltier about working when you could/should be spending time with your child, than if you don’t know why you’re really doing it.

17. Don’t sweat the small stuff They named a book after that phrase because it’s true. If I let the minor meltdowns or the blown-out diaper or the attention-demanding dog or the sore back get me down, that’s not going to be good for anyone, and can only result in wasted time.

18. Get on the floor The times I’m happiest with my daughter? When I feel like we’re connecting the most? When I’m laying on her blanket or sitting next to her, right at her level. Even if I just have five minutes, it makes those 300 short seconds seem incredibly worthwhile.

19. Keep the cell phone on the main floor One of my personal rules. Your home may vary, obviously. I’m not perfect at following this rule, but I never regret ignoring the pull to take it upstairs with me, as what follows, whether it’s playing or nursing or reading or folding her laundry, is something we do together, no distractions.

20. Be both flexible and scheduled We wake up around the same time, play around the same time, nap around the same time, run errands around the same time. This helps tremendously with the wallowing, as I usually know what I’m going to do next. But that doesn’t mean I won’t push to make three extra phone calls during the 30 minute nap extension she seems to be enjoying this afternoon or keep the car running in the driveway to respond to a couple emails when she unexpectedly falls asleep on the way home from the grocery store. Scheduled…yet flexible!

This list could go on forever, and applies to my situation as a mommy of a youngin who works flexibly from home. Would love to hear your additions to the list!


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