How Do I Figure Out What My Priorities Are?


pri·or·i·ty : a thing that is regarded as more important than another.

I talk a lot about getting your priorities straight, about making time for what's important to you. The topic of priorities is woven through almost every piece of content I create. I even have an entire coaching worksheet devoted to identifying what your priorities are.

What is the big deal? And what does this have to do with being a new mom or a working mom?

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Think about it. Before kids, you probably had a lot on your plate. We all did. You had work, family, a social life, volunteer activities, a household to maintain, deadlines, projects and more. Then you became a mom and suddenly you have even more to do each day, from nursing or feeding, changing diapers, and doing laundry to washing bottles, going to doctor's appointments (for you and baby), googling things you never thought you would google, and on and on. There is just no way to maintain everything that you used to do, AND do all of this.

So you start to let things go. You replace going out with friends with going to bed early. You replace early morning workouts with nursing sessions. You replace reading with soothing a crying baby. It's what you have to do. You have a baby who is completely dependent on you, and not just that, you want to be with your baby. And you know it's just a phase. As a first-time mom, you may not entirely believe it, but everyone tells you it goes by quickly and so you are trusting that eventually, those things you used to love will come back to your life.

Whenever that time comes, whether it's soon or whether it's months down the road, you start to get into a rhythm. You find some routines, even if they change frequently, and you feel ready to get back to 'you'. But what do you do? Where do you start? 

Is it spending more time in the kitchen cooking, or going to the gym? Is it going on a date night or attending a local meet-up group?

There are so many options. You probably feel some combination of desperation and nervousness. Longing to get back to the world of adult interaction and interests, but hesitant because of how much has changed.

Be Purposeful

This is exactly the point where I would encourage you to pause and take a little extra time to purposefully decide how you want to spend your precious time. Identify your priorities and then experiment. Test your hypothesis. Put your plans into action and confirm whether or not you were right.

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How do you do that? Well, for starters you could work through the priorities worksheet that I have created specifically to facilitate this process. Or you can work through a series of questions:

What Am I Missing?

I know you've been busy adjusting to motherhood, learning your baby, getting back to work even, but you've probably caught yourself in moments here and there thinking about things that you used to do: life before baby. What are those things you remember fondly? Do you miss seeing your friends? Do you miss creating? Do you miss breaking a sweat? List them out, as many as come to mind.

What Do I Want?

Next, take a minute or two for each of the items you listed above, close your eyes, and picture yourself doing that activity. Pay close attention to your body during this exercise. How do you feel? Do you feel excited, relaxed, anxious, nervous, stressed? The physical response that you have to an idea or a scenario, is a very telling sign about how we truly feel about that activity. It could be that too much has changed and that thing will no longer bring you joy the way it used to. It could be that the logistics are too stressful given your new schedule with a baby. Or it could be that you were only doing that activity because you felt like you should. The goal is to find the activities that provide a positive response - a smile, a sense of relief, excitement (even if nervous), a deep exhale. Those are the activities that should make the short list.

How Do I Make It Happen?

Hopefully, you've narrowed your list down to just a few. Now comes the part of putting those ideas into practice. If getting back to working out left you feeling excited, think about how you can incorporate a workout class or visit to the gym into your schedule in the next week or two. If reading sounded relaxing, start asking around for book recommendations, pick up a copy from the library and commit to just 10 pages or one chapter this week. Just start. Try the activity once or twice to remind yourself of what it actually feels like. Don't over-commit. Don't set a huge goal. Just start.

Does This Fill Up My Cup?

I work with a business coach who encourages me to take a scientist's approach. To always pay attention and make adjustments when the outcome isn't what I was expecting. It's about the experiment and what we learn from that, more than it is about the final outcome. So when you start re-introducing some of these activities and priorities back into your day-to-day, pay attention. Do you look forward to them? Do they leave you feeling more energized, more relaxed or more confident than before you started? Or do they feel like a chore, leaving you feeling more stressed? New things, changes to schedules and routines take a little time to feel comfortable, but if the results are stress, anxiety and feeling depleted, then you probably are not doing what's truly important to YOU. You're probably doing what you think you SHOULD be doing and not what you actually WANT to be doing. This is much more common than you think. If you find yourself in this camp, you are not alone. You will find it eventually. Keep experimenting.

It's Up To You

It's the reality of a working mom that we can't do it all, as much as we like to think that we can. Time is limited. Attention, focus and energy are limited. So with limited resources, we have to be extremely focused on the activities and areas of our lives that will fill us up the most. If you're going to take the time to do something for you, you want it to be something that will make you feel better. That something, that priority, is up to you to find.

This article is part of a series where I answer reader questions about working motherhood. I'm an open book and happy to answer any and all questions I receive, no matter how small. Have a question you'd like to see answered here? Send it to 

Read other Q&A articles in this series:

How Do Working Moms Find Time to Workout?


Exercise has been proven to have benefits way beyond just the physical health and maintenance of our bodies. It helps with mood, productivity, energy levels, focus and on and on. We KNOW this. And more than likely, we've experienced this.

So why, as a new mom who desperately needs things like energy, focus, and elevated mood, do we find it so hard to make exercise a priority? Maybe it's because...

If working out means going to the gym, or to a class, or anywhere outside the house, that means leaving your baby when you already think you do that too much. It means feeling guilty the whole way there, worrying about whether he is at home crying or missing you, and then racing home frantically to minimize the time away.

If working out means doing an exercise video in your living room while the baby sleeps, that means rushing through the exercises, not truly focusing because you're worried that at any second the baby will start crying and then you'll be angry because you can never get in a full workout! So why even try?

Or if working out means pushing the stroller around the block a few times, that's great and all but what about the weather? And will you ever lose the baby weight with just walking?

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I get it. I have made each and every one of these excuses to myself over the years as I've had young babies and now even with a toddler. I KNOW and have experienced the huge benefits of exercise. It is one of the best treatments for the cloud of depression that sometimes hangs over my head. And for that reason, I have forced myself and retrained my mind to look forward to and crave exercise, so that now, it would be one of the last things to go from my daily schedule. But it wasn't always this way.

My Routine

What does exercise look like for me? Well these days, and keep in mind my kids are 3 1/2 and 15 months old, it's a morning exercise video in my living room. I have sampled a variety of trainers, program styles and workout lengths to figure out what I like and what is going to keep me motivated. And right now, it's a 30-60 minute strength workout before everyone else is awake. I do that 6 days a week (Saturdays I do the workout with the kids crawling all over me) and then I take Sunday off to rest, stretch and soak in some Epsom salts.

Now, was I doing this much in those early months postpartum? Absolutely not. With baby number two, I didn't get back into a regular routine until she was almost 8 months old, and even then it was 30-minute workouts only and with no set schedule. I did them when I could, where I could. I've found that the morning works for me, and the majority of the working moms I know, who are committed to regular workouts, also get them done in the mornings whether they enjoy getting up early or not!

Creating Your Routine

But this article is all about finding time to work out and finding what works for you. So here are some things to consider when trying to make exercise a priority, and remember, I'm not a personal trainer. This is just one working mom's tips based on experience and a LOT of trial and error:

Why do you want to workout?

  • Are you serious about losing the baby weight?
  • Do you want to train for an event or hit a milestone?
  • Is it about the mental health benefits that come with exercise (and feeling better all around)?
  • Is it because you feel like you should?
  • Is it a social outlet?

When you've worked out in the past, how were you successful?

  • This really comes down to are you self-motivated or do you do better with some sort of external accountability.
  • I've worked with moms who know for a fact that they could never do at-home workouts. They are not self-motivated or focused enough to put on workout clothes, go to the living room, hit play and not be distracted by the laundry or chores waiting for them. And that's ok. Those are the moms who know they need an accountability partner or the structure of a class to be successful.
  • I like a bit of a hybrid. I work out at home but am part of a virtual accountability group. Logging my workout every day to check a box on my calendar and share with others who are doing the same workout is motivating for me.

What options do you have?

  • Are you already a member of a gym or is adding a gym membership financially feasible?
  • What classes are offered during times that could work for you or in locations that are convenient to work or home?
  • Are there any places that offer affordable on-site childcare and what ages do they take?
  • Do you have space in your home for a yoga mat, exercise ball or other workout gear that could support what you're interested in doing?
  • Do you have friends or acquaintances who are interested in exercising and if so, what do they want to do?

From here, the options are endless. Search any moms' Facebook group and you will find all kinds of suggestions - from trendy classes like Cyclebar, Pure Barre or Orange Theory, staples like yoga and Zumba, to the many on-demand workout videos - there is absolutely something for everyone.

Once you've figured out the what, the question boils down to how. How can you make it a priority? Here are some questions I asked myself when I was ready to recommit to working out:

How can you make it a priority?

  • Do you need to tell those closest to you that this is something you want to do (spouse, family, friends, coworkers)?
  • Can you take advantage of your childcare scenario to fit in exercise while your little one is being cared for?
  • If you have a partner, can you trade off throughout the week so you each get the chance to workout while the other is watching the baby?
  • How much time do you actually need each week to workout? It's ok to start small.
  • Are you willing to give up something else in order to fit in a little bit of exercise each week?

Something is Better Than Nothing

The key is starting. You need to start to be able to remind yourself what it feels like to exercise. Proving to yourself that something is better than nothing and the benefits of exercise really do exist. Because at this stage, you've probably forgotten what it feels like.

Why not start with a walk? Depending on what you used to do before baby, it may not seem like much but just move your body. Tell yourself you're going to take a walk, and then do it. Once you've kept your commitment a few times, try something else. Maybe that's a few minutes of yoga in your living room or a drop-in class somewhere with a friend. See how it goes.

You're not looking for the perfect solution, you're just looking for something that will work for now. Experiment. Figure out what you like. Have fun. And don't be surprised if you need to change things up along the way. As your baby gets bigger, your routines will change and so it's good to have an attitude of flexibility. It's good to have options that let you keep working out.

Because once you start, I'm guessing you won't want to quit. 

This article is part of a series where I answer reader questions about working motherhood. I'm an open book and happy to answer any and all questions I receive, no matter how small. Have a question you'd like to see answered here? Submit it to 

Read other Q&A articles in this series:

How Do I Find Balance?

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The first week back to work following maternity leave is...let's be honest, simply about getting from point A to point B.

It's about learning what to pack for daycare and how early you have to get up to get everyone dressed and out the door.

It's about remembering the best route to work and what the heck your network password is.

And it's about finding the motivation and resolve to stay focused at work while saving enough energy to play with and care for your baby when you get home.

Many new working moms are surprised though at how quickly they fall into new routines. Work quickly picks up right where it left off and your little one adjusts to their new childcare schedule. Days fly by in a flurry of activity. You're exhausted, yes, but you're doing it.

The Bigger Picture

Then at some point, once you've ironed out the smaller, more tactical issues, you start thinking about the bigger picture. You start thinking about your career goals again and your parenting philosophies. You think about the constant push and pull that you feel between your career and motherhood. You think about balance.

How do I commit to my work without sacrificing time with my baby? How do I find enough time to work and parent and maintain all the little details that go with raising a family and a home? 

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The truth is there is no secret formula or one-size-fits-all solution and a lot of it depends on your job, your schedule, and your support system both at home and at work. Some would argue that there is no such thing as balance. That the scales are always tipped one way or the other - work versus family - and it's a constant back and forth for which takes priority.

Having been a working mom for several years now, it's true. I've never found perfect balance for more than a week at a time. What keeps me sane is knowing that while this week it may feel like my job is taking the backseat to my kids, I know that will soon change and my job will have its turn.

Maintain Sanity and Happiness

So while balance may not be the ultimate goal or ever truly achievable, I have found several things to help me maintain a sense of sanity and happiness in both of my worlds, at work and at home:

Build Routines and Reduce Decisions

Getting into a groove those first few months back to work is all about setting up routines that eliminate decisions. Babies are always changing in that first year, so the more you can decide things in advance, the less you have to spontaneously react to. 

For me, that's things like having a very limited professional wardrobe (that fits!) so I don't spend time thinking about what to wear to work in the morning when the baby is crying and I'm pressed for time. Bonus tip - wear a robe over your clothes until you get to the door because...spit up and drool!

Transitions (home to daycare, daycare to work, etc.) are critical times where you should eliminate decisions. Think through your day and ask yourself where you can reduce your options or make a decision in advance.

Meal Prep on the Weekends 

I am always willing to sacrifice a few hours on Saturday or Sunday to gain some sanity and a little one-on-one time with my kids during the week. I do all my meal planning and prepping on the weekend so that I'm not deciding what to make for dinner when I've already had a long, full day at work. I simply assemble and heat what I've already prepped and I do that WITH my kids - toddler helping and baby on my hip or in the high chair. This easily gives me an extra half hour just to be/play rather than frantically cooking.

I'll admit that I don't LOVE spending my time on the weekend in the kitchen, but I HATE crazy weeknights more, so to me the time is well worth it.

Do Whatever It Takes to Make Life Easier

This could mean all kinds of things, but I've learned over the years that when I have high career ambitions but still want to be available and present with my kids, it's worth it to get the thing or hire the service that makes my life easier. 

For me, those are things like paying for great childcare that allows me to focus on work rather than worrying about whether my kids are happy. It's paying for a housekeeper to help with basic cleaning every other week so I don't have to scrub bathtubs. It's getting the nice pumping bag that holds all my parts and backup parts so my daily routine is more enjoyable because it's EASIER. 

These things can be big or small, and you have to do what makes sense for you, but I never regret spending a little extra on something that buys me more time and less stress!

Let go

This is a work in progress for me, but I am learning to let go of things that don't truly matter. I value relaxed time with my family, a growing professional career, my coaching work and living a healthy lifestyle. Not too much else matters to me in this stage of my life. As kids get older, I will absolutely add back in some of the things that I love, but for now, these are my focus. 

I find that giving myself permission relieves a lot of the guilt when I have to say no to things that don't fit on my priority list. And the more I do it, the easier it gets.

Remember, You Are Doing It

I live by these words. It's hard work to work full-time outside the home and keep up with everything around the house, AND be a great mom. But everyday you just do it. Remember to be proud of yourself for ALL that you do every single day. It might look like normal, routine stuff, but your every day is what makes up your whole life and it's pretty amazing when you stop and think about it.

This article is part of a series where I answer reader questions about working motherhood. I'm an open book and happy to answer any and all questions I receive, no matter how small. Have a question you'd like to see answered here? Submit it to 

Read other Q&A articles in this series:

What To Do When You're Ready to Quit


As a kid, I was practically a professional when it came to coloring. I paid close attention to every detail, never strayed outside the lines, and even finished each masterpiece with a little tissue buffing to give it that special shine.

One particular piece landed me first place in a coloring competition, and as my prize, I received a gift card to a local department store. The second they handed me that gift card, I knew exactly what I was going to get and told my parents right away. But in typical fashion for my parents, they told me I needed to wait one week, and if at the end of that week I still wanted that Turtle Tots turtle, they would take me to get it. 

One week?!?! That's a lifetime in the world of a kid. Their justification to me was that they wanted me to be sure this particular toy was what I truly wanted.

Now maybe they secretly thought this turtle was silly and hoped that I might change my mind. I've never asked them. But one thing they did know, was that the interests of a young child can change day to day, even hour to hour. So not only were they helping to ensure I would end up with a prize I really wanted, they were also teaching me patience and the concept of delayed gratification.

Missing Out

Fast forward 30-some years and I once again was in a position to practice what I had been taught. When my son was about 6 months old, I had to take a business trip that would take me away from home for 2 nights. Definitely not a long trip in the grand scheme of things, but for some reason, this particular trip felt like an eternity. Henry was in a particularly cute phase at the time and I returned from that trip to a mountain of emails at work, house projects that had fallen behind (no fault to my husband, being a single parent is hard!), and stories of all the fun the two of them had had in my absence.

I was tired just thinking about getting caught up.

I was sad that I had missed out on being with my family.

And I was angry that I was in a job that required me to travel, even occasionally.

Putting Lessons to the Test

So what did I do? I immediately jumped to thinking about quitting my job. I thought that if I didn't have to work, I wouldn't have to travel and therefore wouldn't have to feel this way again.

I thought about our budget and what it would take to live on a single income. I thought about breaking the news to my boss and to my clients. I even went so far as to say it out loud to my husband. To which he calmly responded,

"Is that what you really want?"

If it was, he said, then I should take some time to really think about it. To think about what my days would look like. To think about my career. To think about not just the short-term, but also the long-term implications. And if at the end of my thinking, I still felt as strongly about the proposition as I did right then, in that moment of pure frustration, then we would start to figure out how to make it happen. But give it some time, he said.

Time and Truth

Ok Mr. Life Coach. I felt like that kid pining for my turtle all over again. But unlike then, when I decided that in fact, I did want that turtle, I ultimately decided that I wasn't ready to quit my job and stay home. I realized that I really did like my job and working and that I was just tossing out quick solutions in the heat of the moment rather than thinking about the bigger picture.


It's so easy to do that, especially when emotions tied to our kids are so strong. Things change, feelings change when you have kids. I know plenty of new moms who were no longer interested in their careers the way they were before having kids. The end of maternity leave is such a classic example of this because it stirs up all kinds of crazy thoughts and emotions. Only you know whether leaving your job and staying home is the right decision for you.

It's Up to You

If there's one thing I am slowly and painfully learning through motherhood, it's that everything changes. Be sure that whatever you are deciding isn't decided in haste. Make sure it's something that feels right.

And then make the leap, or don't. It's up to you.


Whether it's about working or staying home, or whether it's even about your job at all, I am merely suggesting that you don't rush into it. Think it through. Sleep on it. Plan it out. Say it out loud. But most of all, give it a little time.

To this day, I don't regret staying at my job...or getting that turtle. But there are plenty of other rash choices where I wish I would have given myself more time.

Don't Set Yourself Up for Failure


Productivity is probably not the first word that comes to mind when you think of the transition into motherhood. Beautiful, overwhelming, life-changing - those are more realistic. But productive? Not so much.

Talking to new moms about productivity is kind of like talking to fish about swimming. It's just something we do naturally. Moms are productive. We feed the baby, change the diaper, wash the laundry and in general, get stuff done because another little person depends on us to do the work.

But when you add working [mom] to your title, suddenly all you think about is productivity.

Getting Shit Done

I try to squeeze as much as I can out of my days. I aim to have a plan, be efficient and take action.

There are few things I geek out about more than productivity because when I have limited time and a lot to do, I want to find a process that will allow me to not just do what I have to, but do it as quickly as possible so that I can (GASP) have a few minutes of free time!

Lately, however, I find myself procrastinating, and as a result, barely completing half of my daily to-do list. Nothing is more defeating than carrying the same task from day to day and week to week until you reach the end of the month and just give up. I guess Oma isn't going to receive that thank you note after all!

When Things Aren't Working, Try Something New

You might tease me about the amount of time I spend reading about productivity, but it has provided me with a nice and somewhat expansive tool belt of ideas from which to pull. Whenever I find that my needs have changed and what I'm doing is no longer working, back to the tool belt I go to try something new.

As a working mom, I keep lots of different lists. I manage over 50 client accounts at work, stay on top of bills, budgets and financial obligations at home and keep track of errands, supplies and appointments for the family. That doesn't take into account the coaching and writing I do here for Mother Nurture and all of the many projects I would love to tackle personally (meditation, capsule wardrobe, book club...).

All that to say, with so much to keep track of, if I don't write it down it's not getting done. But lately, even if I do write it down, that's no guarantee that I will do it. I have been procrastinating and I don't like it.

So for the next few weeks, I want to try making some tweaks to my process so I can feel like I'm actually making progress. I want to end my day feeling like I kicked ass instead of feeling like the day kicked my ass! If you want to join me, here's the plan:


In the book "Essentialism", there is a section devoted to a phenomenon called 'planning fallacy', which is people's tendency to underestimate how long a task will take, even when they have done that task before.


I am so guilty of this! For instance, I often think that meal prepping for the week only takes me an hour on a Sunday. Two and a half hours later when I am still in the kitchen cooking, I am frustrated, angry and ready t throw in the towel because everything else I wanted to do is now going to get pushed back or scrapped altogether.

On the flip side, I often put off reconciling our budget or putting away the dishes because I think it will take me forever. But setting a timer recently, I learned that I can empty our entire dishwasher in 3 minutes and I can reconcile a budget in about 10-15 minutes. That's nothing!

So I am going to start timing some of my recurring tasks and guesstimating the amount of time other tasks might realistically take me to complete. And I'm going to add in some buffer time.

Seeing 10 minutes next to a task should help me create a more realistic list and help me get started because 10 minutes is nothing!


I said before that if I don't write it down, it's not going to happen. I'm sure you can relate. The problem is my running list gets so long with all kinds of tasks and ideas, many of them not urgent or time sensitive, that it's overwhelming. When I'm doing my weekly planning and putting my priority items on each particular day's task list, I struggle to identify the most important items from the "someday" items.

So I'm going to move my running list to a separate page so that it's not so visually overwhelming. I may even take it a step further and put tasks/ideas into columns based on urgency.

Either way, while I definitely need to write things down to remember them, I think I want that place to be not quite so front and center.


I've written before about keeping your daily work list to a small number of items, like 3 to 5. If you get through those and have time for more, great! But at the very least, you should be able to get through 3 to 5 and feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.

While I still heed that advice for my work list, my household and personal lists have gotten out of control! I must think that I'm superwoman or that I have the power to stretch time because these lists have probably 6 hours worth of work on them each day. And once I take out my time at the office, time with the kids and time for just life in general (shower, dinner, kids' bedtime, etc.), I'm left with maybe 1-2 hours before I have to call it quits and go to bed or I'll be useless the next day.

I'm hoping that assigning time allotments to each task will help. But at the very least, I need to get back to prioritizing 3-5 items at home just like I do at work.

It's All About Expectations

When it comes down to it, all of these changes are really about having realistic expectations. Knowing how long something will take, knowing what the priority is, and knowing your limit is about setting yourself up for success.


When I set myself up for success, I approach my day completely differently than if I think there's no change to make a dent in what I need to do. I feel optimistic, encouraged and sure of myself instead of grumpy, overwhelmed and anxious.

Are you ready to make a few small changes to how you work and manage your daily tasks? Do you have other ideas for what you might do differently? Let me know by sending me a quick note at

Here's to taking back our days and setting realistic expectations!