Welcome to the next installment of “The Secret Series”, where where I partner with friends and fellow bloggers from across the web to share our hidden truths on topics ranging from love, business, parenting, and more. Have a topic that you’d like to have explored in the future? Shoot me an email and I’ll be sure to address it!
Ah, motherhood. It’s one of life’s greatest blessings, no doubt. But, with all the good comes some challenges, and getting things done is at the top of that list. What types of things? Well, anything, really.
Seriously. If it involves time, effort, concentration – or the dreaded combination of all three – getting things done can be difficult while simultaneously caring for a little one. When they’re awake, babies require constant attention, and when they’re asleep, it’s a mad dash to get done whatever you can before you’re plain ‘ol exhausted. As a result, even seemingly easy tasks like texting someone back or responding to emails can take what seems like ages. (Big shout out to all my friends and loved ones who’ve been patient with me. You are the best!)
I know I’ve personally struggled with productivity, particularly in the early days of caring for Grace and returning to work after maternity leave, and I’m already preparing myself for what will no doubt be another adjustment period once the new baby arrives. Because of my personal experience with this adjustment, I have a newfound appreciation for all mothers, from those who work full time to those who are full time caregivers. I know that, while we’re all in unique situations, we’re doing our absolute best.
I’m excited to partner with one of these amazing women in today’s post, which is the next installment of “The Secret Series”. (Read the first post on “7 Secrets to A Happy Marriage” here!) You no doubt know Kelly Larkin from Kelly In The City, right? If not, let me introduce her to you.
I love Kelly for so many reasons, one of which is how down to earth she is. She’s one of those friends who you can go to with anything and know that you’ll get an open, honest perspective from, which I always appreciate. I’ve gone to her countless times for blogging, personal, and parenting advice, which yes, has included the topic of, “How do you get it all done?!” Somehow, she manages to care for Emma day in and out, all while being an entrepreneur and maintaining her blog full time, which requires her to produce so much content. Definitely not an easy feat, and I admire her ability to keep up with it all.
So, I was ecstatic to have her say “Yes” to sharing her secrets today! I hope that our posts can serve as helpful reads for you. While I personally am still figuring it all out, I’ve picked up a few productivity hacks along the way, and my secrets are below; be sure to swing by Kelly’s blog to read hers, too!
Secret #1: Seize The Windows Of Opportunity
It could be a half hour at nap time, your lunch break at work, or those few hours after your kiddo goes to bed before you follow suit. Whatever those windows are, try to check off something from your list. I usually find that, while my to-do’s seem daunting, if I accomplish even a few little things per day, all of a sudden things seem so much more manageable. (On that note: Make a list, every day! It’ll help you be more organized, and checking items off is gratifying.)
I have found that sometimes, when life gets crazy, you’ll need to create those windows for yourself. These are the times I’ll try to wake up an hour earlier, or will stay up later than normal (I usually go to bed embarrassingly early – around 9:30/10). Those added windows can be tough to prioritize, but really do make a difference! One caveat is that I’ve found it important to make those times the exception, not the norm, so you don’t wear yourself out.
Secret #2: Ask For Help
One thing that I am not shy about doing is asking for help. Naturally, this is where Doug steps in; his support is a huge reason why I’m able to do so much, and vice versa. If there’s a girl’s dinner I’d like to attend, have to work late, or even need a quick hour alone on the weekend to write a blog post, he’s always willing to help.
But, this extends beyond your spouse helping with everyday instances. For example, my parents have come in to watch Gracie countless times when we’ve needed them to, many of our friends have watched her in times where we couldn’t find a sitter, and speaking of sitters, we have a few that we trust and don’t allow ourselves to feel bad about using if we need to.
Everyone needs a little break sometimes – I’ve found that embracing this makes me a better mom overall, which allows me to be more productive, because I feel balanced in my life. Speaking of balance…
Secret #3: Make Sure There’s Balance via Time Management
Here’s the thing about productivity: No one can be “on” all the time. You’ve got to give yourself a break, and to allow time for turning off and relaxing, which will in turn make you more productive. I promise.
For me, this comes to life in a few ways.
First, when I’m at work, I’m working as hard as I can and giving it my all. But when I leave work, I leave work. Of course I am available if things pop up, but I’ve found that 99.9% of things can wait until the morning. This is very important, because when I come home to be with my family, it means I can give them my undivided attention. Cooking, eating dinner, bathtime, playtime, reading Gracie’s favorite books, singing…the list goes on. It’s our time as a family – and it’s unfortunately the minority of our day – so I prioritize it as much as possible.
Second, after Gracie goes to bed, I allow a few nights a week to do whatever. I read, watch tv, chat with Doug, catch up on Instagram, or straight up chill. These are the nights where, if plans arise with friends, I’ll say “Yes”. They’re also the nights where Doug and I have time to just relax and be together.
Third, I have scheduled work nights where I’ll get things done. This is important in the mix, because it’s the dedicated time to hammer through all that needs to be tackled. For me, this means all things blogging. I’ll usually spend about 2-3 nights a week writing, photo editing, emailing, planning content, etc. to keep up with things here and personally.
Fourth, weekends are embraced as a mixture of all the above. Of course, time with our family is the main priority. But, during those precious few days, we’ll also see friends, relax, and throw in some productivity hours, too, where Doug and I will take turns watching Grace.
It may seem counter intuitive to focus on balance in a post about productivity, but I assure you it’s not. It’s so important, not only because you will go insane without it, but because it allows for you to be fully present and productive in all areas of your life.
Admittedly, I’m still working on this area. There are some weeks when I feel like a rock star and am able to get it all done through being disciplined with time management. Others, I totally flop. Those are the times where you may notice things are more quiet around here or where days & days go by without me responding to an email (GAH. I hate that but it happens more than I’d like.)
Ultimately, I aim to be light-hearted, forgiving of myself so as not to put on too much pressure, and try again the next day or week if I fail. Really what I’ve found is that things have a tendency of working out, so you should prioritize enjoying the ride over anything else, because life is short! Above: Gracie and I (and baby #2!) rushing in the rain this past weekend. We were running late to a family event but were still all smiles!
Secret #4: First Things First
Whenever I schedule appointments such as Gracie’s wellness visits or my prenatal care, I ask for the first time slot of the day. It’s a small nuance that really helps, since I get that out of the way before the day really begins, and before things can pop up that lead to needing to cancel, reschedule, or be late.
Also, if there’s a glaring to-do that is just eating at you, get it out of the way. Chip away at it during the windows of opportunity I mentioned earlier, or call up help if you need some in order to get it done. If you keep pushing it off, more will just add to the mix, and soon you’ll be overwhelmed. Try not to let it get to that point and you’ll be much happier!
Secret #5: Embrace Your Little Helper
Let’s face it, there are times when your little one will be awake and active, and you still will need to get things done. For these instances, I’ve found that chores where I can easily interact with Grace while still being productive is the best route to go. Laundry, cooking, tidying up, and grocery shopping are all examples of this type of activity. Embracing your little one as an added value to your productivity can be a huge value add not only for the activity, but for your time together as well.
I pretty much guarantee that these tips and situations will change once baby #2 comes! While I’m a bit nervous, I do know that this is exactly where flexibility and being forgiving of myself comes into play – especially during the newborn days. That said, I’m totally bookmarking Kelly’s post, and this post, because little reminders never hurt! 😉
Whether or not you’re a mother, if you have secrets for being productive of your own to add to the mix, please share them in the comments. I love reading your inputs and always learn so much from readers who take the time to comment. In the meantime, be sure to swing by Kelly’s post to read about her secrets!