First, it's important to be honest: It's rarely smooth or easy being a mom to two young kids as well as managing a startup. If I ever manage to make it look easy to do both, it's because:
- I love my work and my kids so much.
- I've managed to build a good façade.
- I'm a big proponent of shortcuts that make everything easier.
Though I'm not an authority on productivity, I have had a lot of practice at being productive under some pretty stressful and intense circumstances. And, if you are here reading this, it is likely because you have found yourself in some seriously stressful situations, yourself, and you want to learn a thing or two about managing that stress and holding onto any semblance of a work-life balance.
So here are a few of the things that I do that personally allow me to maximize my time so my startup can be as successful as possible, while I am still able to continue being the mom I want to be for my children.
No one ever said working parenthood would be easy — especially for mothers who face a lot of discrimination in the workplace for having a life they need to balance. But there are ways to manage that life, and here is how I do it.
What are 10 tips for juggling working motherhood?
1. Write everything down, especially your to-do list
It's possible that I never fully recovered from "pregnancy brain," so I write everything down. Evernote is my savior. Every time I create a new note, I drop in lots of keywords so that later, when I'm searching for the note, I can find it.
Writing everything down helps me to keep track of what I need to get done for the day, week or even the month. I am able to refer to my notes whenever I am feeling scatterbrained, and I don't have to worry about ever forgetting anything, so long as it gets written down in those notes. I can also prioritize my to-do list so that I know what really needs to get done first, and I can tackle my list in that order.
2. Make a schedule, and stick to it.
Four words: color-coded Google Calendar.
I schedule everything. Time with my kids. Time for yoga. Time to work. I even build out my calendar with specific work tasks — so I know what my hours are meant to accomplish.
Scheduling helps me to understand where I'm supposed to be, when and for how long. This way I can make the time to do everything I want (and need) to do and, when it feels like there's not enough hours in the day, I am able to schedule in different things throughout the week. For example, if I can't make it to yoga on Monday because I want to go to something with my children or because I have to stay late at work, and I know that in advance, I'll be sure to make the time for a yoga class on Tuesday when I have a little bit of an easier day.
3. Do NOT clean your house.
If you don't have the time to do it, or if you simply don't want to do it, you don't have to clean your own house. Yes, it's 2019, and there are apps for that. Check out apps like Handy or TaskRabbit for help around the house. I also love TaskRabbit for small tasks that I don't have time for, such as taking things to be repaired, assembling furniture, etc.
Similarly, I do all my shopping online. It's fast and easy, and you can do it at midnight if you need to.It's just not a high-value use of your precious time. Find someone else to clean.
Especially if you're working long hours at a desk, it's really essential to keep your body moving. I'm increasingly convinced that exercise is great for your mind, as well—to say nothing of the long-term health benefits.
I find that exercise helps me to keep calm and carry on, even when I have the most stressful work week and really don't feel like there's enough time to squeeze it in. When work and family get busy, it's easy for exercise to be one of the first things to go. But don't let it. You have to take care of yourself. And, even if you just do a few minutes every day or week, it's better than nothing.
I wasn't always this way, but I have become a big believer in the importance of sleep. Without getting good sleep, I can't be a good mother or good at my job. It's primary.
So I try to make sure I get to bed at a reasonable time every night. And I love weekend naps. If I can squeeze one in while my daughter is also napping, it feels like Christmas.
A wealth of scientific research supports this. Sleep is necessary to keep your body and your brain moving optimally. Without it, you're not going to be the best version of yourself, and it's going to take a toll on your family life, as well as your career.
6. Get a haircut on company time.
In my corporate days, we used to joke about how you could tell when someone got a haircut on company time. But now I think it's one of the smartest thing you can do—especially if you're a woman with high-maintenance (read: graying) hair like me.
I've made my salon time some of my most productive by bringing my laptop and working away. I'm pretty sure that my hairdresser thinks I'm the most antisocial person on the planet, but we've come to an understanding. You can do the same, or just schedule in some time to take off and treat yourself to a little self-care practice like this.
7. Sorry, but work for two hours on Sunday.
I wish it weren't the case, but I feel like I have to set aside time on the weekend to catch up, organize and plan for the week ahead. It helps me a lot to do this, so that come Monday, I am not totally overwhelmed.
I take care of small tasks that I've pushed aside during the week, or projects that require less distraction.
I try to make the work as unobtrusive to our family as possible—I do it while the kids are watching a movie or at a birthday party or with my mom. But I feel like these two hours are somehow worth 10 in terms of efficiency during the week.
8. Stay connected to your friends.
When you're constantly busy—and scheduled—it can be difficult to squeeze in time to see or talk to friends.
But texting and social media make it so easy. It takes two seconds to shoot a text over to your friends. It will brighten their day, and their response will brighten yours.
And make a plan to see them—even if it's in three weeks! They'll make fun of you a little, but they won't mind. You can do this by adding it to your schedule (see no. 2). Just tell yourself that this is as necessary as getting your dry cleaning done, and you'll make the time for it..
9. Have fun.
Make what you're doing fun. If it's not, figure out something else fun to do. Life is too short. And it's within your control—you can make the fun.
This doesn't necessarily mean quitting your job if you don't have fun all the time. It may mean incorporating things you love into your daily life, like going to your favorite lunch spot on your lunch hour or making friends with colleagues and going out for happy hour with them every once in a while. It may also mean quitting your job, however, and getting a new one that makes you a whole lot happier.
10. Forgive yourself.
I love that quote that says "perfection is the enemy of good." Your expectations for yourself are the highest, so give yourself a break.
Don't forget what really matters, which is probably your family above all. And make sure you're keeping your eye on the ball to take care of that. Everything else is just gravy.
So don't be so tough on yourself when you inevitably make little mistakes, make poor decisions or even totally screw up. You're only human. Just continue doing the best you can with what you have where you are, as that's all you can humanly do.