Work smarter, not harder. This is a common piece of advice given to those wanting to be more productive in life. Just how do you go about “working smarter” as a mom? The harder part seems to be part of the nature of the job as “mom.” Can we be smarter? Yes indeed we can!
And we have good reason to. It is easy to say “dishes can wait,” but at some point, they really can’t! You have to do certain chores at some point. We also don’t want to let our children’s lives pass us by with us having not participated in them. If we can work smarter, we can play some. Here are eight ideas to get you going.
1. Put the Lord First
I promise, promise, promise that if you put the Lord first in your day, your day will be more productive. Make it a priority to read your scriptures and pray. You will see a difference. I do this in the morning each day. I notice a significant negative difference when I either forget or decide I am too busy in the morning and wait until later in the day to read my scriptures (especially because that usually means it doesn’t happen since it is out of my normal routine). See my post on Time With God and How I Do It: Scripture Study for more.
2. Set Goals
If you don’t have goals for yourself to accomplish, you will pretty much aimlessly wander throughout each day. You will be like a dog running along to fetch a ball who gets distracted by a squirrel. You will jump from task to task as it captures your attention. You might get some things done, but you will likely realize you spent times on things that weren’t necessarily the priority at the time. Set some long-term and short-term goals you want to accomplish and then break those down into ways you can work on those daily. For help with goals, see Goal Tips and Making and Achieving Goals. See also:
3. Have a Plan
Once you know what you are trying to accomplish, you can make a plan to get there. Each night, I look through my to do list for the next day to see what I need to get done. I make a list and prioritize it. I know what must get done and what is just “nice” if I have the time. I find it can help if I even just visualize myself going through my day with the plan I have. It sounds corny, but doing that helps me recognize flaws in my plan so I can readjust the plan. Keep a list wherever it works best for you. I like mine on my phone. You might carry a piece of paper folded up on your pocket or write it on a huge white board in your home. You might even be lucky enough to still be able to track things in your head. So long as you can keep that list, it doesn’t matter where it is. But experiment. I definitely have preferences on where and how my list is kept.
4. Relieve Your Brain
This is referred to in number three, but have things written down. You won’t be as efficient if you are having to worry about remembering the next five things you need to get done. As a mom, you also likely have too many things to keep track of to be able to do so all in your head. Write things down so you can focus on the task at hand and give it the attention it needs. I have read a great recommendation to spend 15 minutes just writing down everything that is in your head–everything on your mind. You then take all the items and group them by priority and length of time to get done. Do the things you can get done in two minutes or less (it is amazing how many “small” things we carry around on our lists. If we do them, we can relieve them from our brains!). Then make a plan with the rest.
5. Schedule Things Out
In your planning, schedule things out in a way that works for you. How will you be most productive in your cleaning tasks? Will you do better having specific tasks you must accomplish no matter how long it takes? Or will you do better with a time limit you spend cleaning no matter what gets done? Maybe a joining of both methods–have a specific task you do and then finish up with a fifteen minute speed clean? There is no one right way for all people to do it, but there will be a best way for you to do it. For more on organizing yourself, see my post on how I do it.
6. Do Dreaded Tasks First
I just find I am more productive if I do my dreaded tasks first thing. I have my tasks that have to be done because of time constraints on them (for example, my kids have to be ready for school by a certain time). Then I do my cleaning tasks of the day. I have found if I let the cleaning go until afternoon, I often find myself at the end of the day having not done it yet. I work best just getting it done and over with. I also find I need to not let my computer time start until the afternoon if possible. I can easily let the many possibilities of the computer turn into a time suck. I try to do everything I need to away from the computer before I sit down at something that sucks my time.
7. Don’t Overschedule Yourself (and don’t underschedule either)
I am still trying to figure out the fine balance between stretching and challenging yourself and not overextending yourself. If you have too much to do, you will never be productive (see my post We Don’t Need to Live at a Frantic Pace). But I also find if I don’t have enough to do, I easily waste time and get nothing done. Why move to the list when there isn’t much to do? Candy Crush awaits! I try to find the perfect balance of having things to do to keep me moving and working and not having so much to do I can’t do anything well.
8. Be Preventative
Slow and steady work. Do your work consistently to prevent having to put out fires later. Consistently taking a few minutes to do the dishes makes it easier for you to manage that task than ignoring them for a couple of days (or for some of you even just a day or 12 hours) and having to play major catch up.
These are some ideas to help you be as productive as you can be. This will enable you to find greater balance in getting things done you need to and still have time to spend having fun with your family.