How Having Kids Made Me More Productive — Here’s How I Get It All Done
I thought I was organized and productive before I had kids, but that version of me had no idea just how much I can fit into a day now.
On any given day, I play the role of doctor, chauffeur, chef, cleaning lady, and clown — and that’s just before 9 a.m. In addition to being a mother, I am also a writer, daughter, and friend. Those vocations take time too, and I relish being able to inhabit many roles.
However, being a parent has challenged me to be faster, stronger, and smarter with the 24 hours I have each day. There are only so many hats I can wear before I hit my limit, and since adding minutes to each day isn’t an option, I have no choice but to increase my productivity to get it all done.
Before I had kids, I worked full-time, took part in my town’s choir, went to the gym several times a week, and managed to find lots of time to hang out with my friends and family. I kept an old-school day planner to organize my life. Every night before bed, I’d look at everything I needed to do the next day. I would prioritize my tasks, make lists for anything I needed to pick up, and make sure my bags were packed for my busy morning.
After having kids, my life looks a lot different. I can plan all I like, but the unpredictability of life these days often derails my plans. As such, I spend more time on planning for several outcomes, rather than just making a linear schedule of my day. When I have to cart kids around to their activities, I plan to have a few different snacks in my bag. When we’re planning to meet friends at the park, I figure out a back-up in case it rains. This takes time and a lot of energy.
My organizing and efficiency skills that help us get to where I can relax.
I like to spend as much time with my kids as a family as possible. This means i power clean and tidy once the kids go to bed, run errands while they nap, and finish work late at night or in the (very) early mornings. This gives me the time to crave to be silly with our kids, playing dress-up at home or tag at the park.
If there is anything I have learned about increasing my productivity over the last few years, it’s these four key things:
1. Identify clear goals for what you want to achieve with your extra time
If I don’t know specifically what I’m working towards, I’m not really motivated to get into gear. A nebulous goal of “saving more time” or “having more me time” doesn’t really work for me. To help myself really work towards improving my productivity, I set really clear-cut goals. These three goals are really important to my personal wellbeing, so I am super motivated to work more efficiently — both at home and at my job — so that I can spend more time doing the things I love.
This year, my goals were to:
- Spend two weekdays each week with my kids (luckily, my career allows me to do this).
- Go out with friends one night a month.
- Do a monthly date night
2. Focus on your strengths — and outsource the rest
For some people, increasing productivity means improving their weaknesses. I am not one of those people. I know what I’m good at and what I am not good at. After so many years on the planet, I also know that I’m just not going to get better at certain things. Instead of wasting my time trying to shave off a few minutes on tasks that drain my soul, I choose to get even better at the things I love.
I don’t want to toot my own horn (okay, I do a little bit), but I am really good at organizing events, creating schedules and lists, my job, meal prep and cooking, and entertaining my kids. My weaknesses? Any kind of cleaning and shopping. I am not only bad at doing them, I hate them with all of my heart. But i still need to do them.
So, I focus on the things where I excel, and I outsource the rest — , to professionals, to our mothers. This allows me to get even more efficient in my areas of strength, while enjoying myself in the process.
3. Batch your tasks
There is a lot of mental labor that goes into parenting because there is just so much to do. From organizing kids’ activity schedules to making sure they have enough socks to chopping their vegetables at just the right axis — my mind is always thinking about what else I need to fit into the day.
In order to boost my productivity, I batch like tasks together. This way, I save a little bit of the mental energy needed to switch from one task to another.
- While I cook dinner, I also prepare a meal for the freezer and make lunches for the next day.
- When I do chores, I do a thorough enough job that we don’t have to think about them for the next week, and I get the kids involved (kids love “helping”).
- If I’m working on the computer, I take that time to answer unread phone messages, respond to texts, and send out RSVPs to birthday invites.
4. Don’t be shy about asking for help
I want to shout this from the rooftops: It’s okay to ask for help.
I ask the people I trust in my life for help all the time: family, my friends. From major tasks, such as looking after the kids while I work to little things, like picking a unique family activity for the weekend, I make it clear that I can’t do it all on my own. And I’m not ashamed of it.
This sets up clear expectations with those around me, who are always willing and open to helping out — because I do the same for them.
It takes a village to raise a child, as the saying goes. But it also takes a village to raise a mother. We aren’t all born with maternal instincts. We don’t always know what to do. And, we don’t always have enough time to do it all. Even if motherhood has endowed you with productivity superpowers, you don’t have to be faster, stronger, and smarter all on your own.