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.
KEEP IT SHORT
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 Katelyn@themothernurture.com.
Here's to taking back our days and setting realistic expectations!