School hours. The time that moms everywhere rejoice and turn into productivity powerhouses. Right? Not so fast.
If you’re anything like most moms, you may drop your kids off at school and check a couple of things off of your to-do list before you pick them up again. You find yourself thinking, “Where did all the time go?” You aren’t doing it wrong, but you could do it better. Check out these productivity tips to help you make the most of your kid-free time.
Productivity Tips for Busy Moms
1. Make a Plan
The key to a successful week is to have a plan. On Sundays, sit down with a calendar and plan out the tasks you need to accomplish and any events or appointments coming up.
Break this plan down day-to-day so you know what needs to get done. If you work while your kids are in school, be sure to include any deadlines or client meetings on this list.
2. Stick to a Morning Routine
Your morning routine should help you set the tone for the day and get focused. Whether you perform your routine before the kids are in school or after you drop them off, the key is consistency. Do your best to keep your routine the same each day.
During this time, you should look at your weekly calendar and to-do list for the day so you know how you will be spending your time.
3. Prioritize Your Tasks
Prioritizing your tasks is a good practice to get in the habit of. Look at what you need to do and put your tasks in order of importance. This way if your day doesn’t go as planned, you will at least get the critical things on your list taken care of.
Anytime you feel like your day has shifted, take a quick minute to look at your list and see if it still reflects your true goals.
4. Manage Your Time
There are so many time management techniques available that you could easily spend a day or more studying them all. Keep it simple.
Set up your day by blocking it out. Account for every hour. This may be annoying at first, but after you get the hang of it, you can just block out your kid-free hours. If you combine this with The Pomodoro Technique, you will be able to keep your entire day focused and productive.
5. Keep Yourself on Task
If you have trouble focusing, you need to cut out your distractions. If you work from home and need to be on the computer, install an app to block certain websites so you won’t be tempted. This is a great tool against social media that can easily suck hours out of your day.
Be mindful of how long it takes you to work each task. This will be easier with The Pomodoro technique – simply measure how many blocks it took to complete the task. Did it take longer than you expected? If so, reflect on that before moving to the next task. Was it because you were distracted or off task?
6. Be a Careful Multitasker
While you may think you are amazing at multitasking, it’s actually stealing your time and impacting your work. Don’t try to do multiple things at a time because you will either reduce the quality of the completed tasks or find that a simple task ends up taking you even longer to do.
There are some things you can combine so you are getting all the benefits of multitasking without all the drawbacks. For example, you might listen to an audiobook on your way to and from dropping your kids off at school, or you might enjoy that new entrepreneur podcast while you are folding laundry.
Know when multitasking works and when it doesn’t. You wouldn’t want to combine having an important conversation while trying to type up a report for your boss or work on the new chapter of your book.
7. Remember to Take Breaks
Taking breaks is essential, especially if you are spending your time at the computer. The Pomodoro Technique mentioned above is designed to use breaks to make you more effective.
Basically, you will work for 25 minutes and then take a three- to five-minute break and get back to work. After you have worked for 100 minutes, you take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes, get back to work and start again.
Sounds complicated? It’s really not, but you can simplify it all and put it on auto-pilot with the help of an app if you just want to hit a button and forget it.
Speaking of breaks, plan some fun and relaxation time for yourself each week. Even if you only block out an hour per week, it’s important. You can’t be all work and no play all of the time.
8. Revisit Your Plan
After you’ve completed a task, look back at your list for the day and see what’s next. If something has changed since you wrote the list, you may need to reprioritize some items or have to add in a new task. Don’t sweat it. Just make necessary adjustments and get back to your day.
9. Put Down the Phone
Your phone is probably your top distractor. If you work from home or have something that really needs your focus, ditch the phone.
With your kids out of the house, this may make you nervous, but if you are taking breaks like you should, you will be able to check your phone during those times and shouldn’t miss any emergencies.
As added insurance, if you have an iPhone, you can adjust the Do Not Disturb settings so if someone calls back-to-back, your phone lets it ring.
10. Guard Your Time
Minimize all distractions and do your best to stay on task. Consider the following scenario: Your friend wants to have lunch, but you work from home and have a deadline to meet the next morning. You rationalize that you can have your cake and eat it too – go with your friend and then squeeze in work later.
You enjoy your lunch date with your friend, get the kids from school and try to work after dinner. It’s a failure. From helping with homework to televisions blaring to kids fighting, you’ve gotten nowhere. You’re going to miss an important deadline and there is nothing you can do about it now.
This wouldn’t have happened if you would have guarded your time. When you work from home, you must set work hours and stick to them. Invite your friend over for dinner and a glass of wine to catch up and use your work hours for work.
11. Prepare the Night Before
One of the best ways to prepare for the next day is to look at your weekly plan each night and what you accomplished that day. Go ahead and start tomorrow’s list with this information. That way, in the morning, all you need to do is revisit that list and make sure it’s correct for the day ahead.
12. Reflect on Your Day
After you’ve settled in for the night, spend a few minutes and think about your day. Look at what you wanted to accomplish and what actually got done. Was it a productive day? Why or why not?
This is a great time to consider any distractions or time-wasters you may have fallen victim to so you can be more mindful from now on. Celebrate your wins and don’t be too hard on yourself if things didn’t work out as planned.
With these 12 tips, you could increase your productivity each day so when it’s time to pick up the kids from school, you’re feeling like a rock star. What’s even better is that you will get everything done while your kids are away so you can focus on spending time with them when school is over.
This is a guest post by Jennifer Landis of Mindfulness Mama. Head on over to her blog to read more on finding inner peace even if you can’t find your keys. (Her words, not mine! :D)