Essential working Mom time management hacks
Being a working mom presents a unique set of challenges. The balance of work, family, relationships, managing a household, and trying to squeeze in a little bit of time for yourself is difficult – to say the least! In my experience, the balance is always shifting, but there are things you can do to make your life easier. For me its been all about organizing and planning upfront, which also includes my children to learn and do the same. Here are some of my time management tips for working Moms:
1. Set limits & block time
As a working mom, my biggest challenge is not having enough time. We can’t make there be more of it and it slips away so quickly. So how can we make the most of what we have? That’s why it’s absolutely crucial that I set limits on that time.
Establish working hours and stick to them. Don’t apologize for leaving at your scheduled time to spend time with your family. Or, if you are working at home take on another appointment out of your usual working hours. I know, from time to time you may have to work outside of your normal working hours, but make that the exception, rather than the rule.
Similarly, set limits on your social engagements and activities. This is really not easy for me: I don’t want to tell my kids they can’t do something because of our work schedules. So we have the rule, that if they want to have a playdate, I need to know one day in advance, in order to plan my logistics around. However, the reality is that none of us are happy if we are trying to squeeze more into our schedules than time and mental sanity allows.
Focused time is significantly more productive than “multitasking getting distracted by all the things” time. If you’re looking at a thousand and one things to do, tackling your list by chunking out time for each activity can make it more fun and more efficient. Make a list, what needs to be done. Set a specific timer for the activity you need to do (folding laundry or cleaning the bathroom) and stick to it. No distraction from phone or anything else. So little by little you get the list finished in that week.
And yes, time blocking works also for your personal selfcare.
2. Family Calendar and to do List
We have a whiteboard on our fridge with our monthly schedule and weekly meal plan. My personal to-do list is in my paper planner, because I’m one of those people who likes to physically check off completed tasks.
Establish a system that works for you, and make sure it’s a system that facilitates coordination and communication with the rest of your family. There are also digital possibilities to keep it all together: e.g. Cozi to keep a shared calendar, running shopping lists, and to-do lists.
3. Easy mornings
Getting everyone out the door on time each morning can be a struggle. Do as much as possible the night before: lay out outfits for the kids and for you. To avoid discussions in the morning about clothing, I prefer to do that together with my kids. And pack the bags for sport and school. Also set the breakfast table already and consider, what to pack for lunch or prepare it already. There is a good chance that something is going to throw your schedule off in the morning, so the less you have to do, the better!
4. Plan meals
Having to think about so many things at the same time, I found it most helpful to have a meal plan for the week. According to that, I shop the food. Before kids, we had the luxury of time, and could swing by the grocery store on the way home from work. That’s no longer an option. The meal plan I prepared Sunday nights is tailored to our schedule for the week, and must be realistic and flexible. Otherwise, we won’t follow through with it and will end up wasting food and money. I also feel I avoid discussions with the kids on what they wish to eat as I can always point to the meal plan. I just make sure there is at least one meal per week, which is “a favourite meal” so the kids are already looking forward to that.
Can we talk about outsourcing for a second? And the fact that there is absolutely no shame in getting by with a little help from outside. Engage the supermarket service, who will buy your groceries to your door. We also have somebody come in to clean our house bi-weekly, and I would cut many other things from our budget before I would give that up. If you can find room in the budget, outsourcing certain tasks can save you a lot of time. Cleaning is the obvious one, but you can also outsource bringing kids to their sports- e.g. cooperating with other parents or hiring a babysitter-, and so on.
And: I don’t need to convince you to get Amazon Prime, but this list wouldn’t be complete without a shout-out to two day delivery. Especially in and after this Pandemic, Amazon became my best friend.
I prime almost everything. Very rarely does my family find itself in a physical store nowadays. Which is great for my wallet and for more time together enjoying the great outdoors and nature on the weekends.
And I do prime abonnements for recurring shoppings: cat food, diapers and toilet paper. Boxes arrive at my doorstep every other week without me having to remember anything. So really this is two working mom hacks in one!
Of course, there is many other than prime. For me it works well. I safe money and time.
6. Making Time for the Non-Negotiables
Every working mother should have this: the Non-Negotiables.
The Non-Negotiable(s) are the one thing or things that you are going to do for you as a working mom that day/week barring any massive unforeseen circumstances. This doesn’t need to be something monumental, but it should be yours. Mine is running in the early morning three times a week which gives me energy, balance and a space to breathe. What is yours?
Your Non-Negotiable could taking a walk every day at lunch. Or cycle to work. If you’re in a desk job especially, stretching those legs and getting some fresh air may be exactly what you need to clean your head and give your body a little exercise.
7. Connect with like-minded Moms
It’s important it is to have people in your life who understand the challenges you are facing and can offer support, ideas, and a good laugh. At the office, there might be people you know you could turn to if you need to have a mini break down about daycare. I also have groups of social media friends who make me laugh, support my work. On the home front, I have working mom friends I can text to say “can you believe, it just 9:00am and I feel like going to bed”.
In my life, these people never lived next door. But if you find people who can relate to your life in that moment, makes it a lot more fun and less lonely.
8. Sunday night planning
As a busy working mom, you have a lot to tackle in the week ahead. But taking some time on Sunday night to write down what actually needs to get done and your specific goals for the week can help you make it all happen. Break everything down into priorities and mini-goals and suddenly the impossible seems possible. Meal plan for the weak. Have in mind the upcoming unusual events in the week ahead to take care of (kids birthday parties and invitations, school expeditions, teachers talk and parents’ evenings). Grocery shopping online to be delivered for the week after. Look at the weather forecast to be prepared for the kids clothes, so there is no suprise (rain jacket needed? Bike rain gear etc).
9. Household Divide
How do I personally “do it all” as a working mom?
I don’t. WE do. Not always perfectly, but we grow in there.
If you are a working mom with a partner, this is less of a working mom hack and more of a gentle suggestion. The suggestion being making the care/feeding/cleaning part of your lives a split. Moms often carry more of the load of the household but it doesn’t have to be that way. And to be honest, I don’t have the 50/50 split either, but it helps to know, who takes responsibility for what and to raise the concerns and also: plan.
I am no longer responsible for the lunch boxes of the kids, but for dinner cooking. I am no longer alone responsible for my sons football training and games logistic- we share by week.
10. Prioritize your sleep:
As busy moms, we often are so tied up with taking care of our business and our babies, that we neglect to get a good night’s rest – which is essential to our health and high functioning lifestyle. A simple tip: Using the sleep stories by CALM App before going to bed helps me turn my brain off and get a full night of shut-eye (versus tossing and turning, or staying up too late worrying about the next day.) They also have them for kids so they can go to bed easier, too!
I also experienced, that I sleep better if I don’t just watch a movie or work, but read in bed before sleeping. I tend to set a timer to make sure, that I catch at least 7 hours of sleep, knowing that I will just have much more patience with my kids, if I am not so tired.
And last but not least:
If you feel you are drowning in overwhelm and exhaustion as a working Mom, consider to go to a Working Mom Coach or Mentor.
Finding a Working Mom mentor or Coach means that she may be just one step ahead and can help you navigate through the work-life challenges. I also enjoy gaining insight from other Working Moms because it gives us that sense of a village. And as a working Mom, it’s all too easy to feel like you don’t have a support system.