Getting things done in a timely fashion is vital to your work, whether you work independently, own a small business, or are a key team member at your organization.
Women have plenty of challenges in the working world, and when you’re a working mother, sometimes those challenges seem exponential. Keeping a few tips in mind can help build your productivity and help keep your professional life running smoothly.
1. Keep your kids occupied in a healthy way.
If you’re able to work from home so you can stay with your kids while working, you’re likely an expert at multitasking. Mothers are the best at juggling multiple priorities at once, but when your kids fight for your attention, keeping them occupied while you’re trying to concentrate on work can be difficult.
Toys designed for learning and cognitive development are a great, guilt-free way to keep your kids distracted. If you have a very young child or baby at home with you, invest in learning objects such as toys based on the Montessori approach. These types of toys will help your children develop their minds while keeping them well-focused and occupied for a while.
2. Ask for help when you need it.
One idea is to trade tasks with other working mothers, whether it’s babysitting each other’s kids or taking turns cooking meals for the week – it doesn’t take much time to make extra of a recipe and freeze it, after all. Look into hiring a housekeeper to come in once a week, which will not only take those cleaning tasks off your plate, but an orderly house will help keep your mind fresh, too.
Ask your partner or older kids to take on extra chores, errands, or tasks.
You’re all in this together, and delegating can give you some extra time on a project or allow you to plan your week in peace, giving you a jumpstart on your schedule.
Outsourcing some professional tasks also can help take the pressure off.
There are plenty of solopreneurs who would love to take on your social media, marketing, website design, or financial planning, and much of such work for example.
3. Get away from it all.
If you do work at home on a regular basis, invest in child care one day a week and head to the coffee shop or the library, if only a few hours. Your kids aren’t your only distraction – the demands of pets, piling laundry, meal preparation, household projects, and other “to-do” items can take a psychological and professional toll. Mothers working at a cubicle all week also can benefit from taking their laptop elsewhere when the focus is required – coworkers and subordinates will always need something, and it’s surprising how well people can fend for themselves when required to.
4. Tap into the power of prioritization.
Putting the word “no” to work is key when you’re a parent, and getting comfortable using the word when it comes to your work relationships will increase your productivity.
There are always meetings, coffee dates, appointments, and after-work activities, and you should feel obligated to take on only the ones of most interest or relevance to your work.
Prioritizing increases efficiency sets boundaries and allows you to make the most of a limited number of hours in the day. Communicating with your team what you’ll be focusing on when you’ll get to their requests, and what you plan to delegate can go a long way in avoiding misunderstandings, and can create a sense of clarity about how you tackle tasks. Prioritizing social engagement is necessary as well – and for your own personal well-being, you should schedule in some time with your favorite people, whether that means a family outing or a wine date with your besties.
5. Put your calendar to work.
It might seem obvious, but a calendar is a great way to improve your productivity, and there are many cool apps and tools out there to help you keep better track of tasks and projects.
Google calendar allows you to share your schedule with team members, send reminders to your email and phone, and can integrate with other productivity tools you might like to use.
Tools such as Meetingbird can help you set up meetings with other busy professionals by coordinating with everyone’s Google or Outlook calendars, and also can integrate with video conferencing sites.
Apps and electronic calendars are great because they give you little nudges and reminders when an activity is going to start. But if an old-school paper calendar works best for you, go for it.
6. Self-care pays off.
Scheduling time for yourself is just as important as meeting the next project deadline or getting the kids’ lunches ready – no, really.
While taking care of yourself is usually the first thing that gets shoved aside when you’ve got a full schedule, you’ll be both a better worker and mother if you are making sure you prioritize your health. That might mean scheduling extra time to prepare healthy lunches to take to work, planning for a later childcare pickup so you can get that yoga class in, finding a weekend babysitter so you can run that 5K race, or making time for a date with your partner, or dinner with a favorite group of friends.
You will be more clear-headed in the long run if your body and mind are at their healthiest.
7. Regularly reassess your life.
If you feel like your productivity is slipping, it’s possible that it’s because you’re not doing what you love – sometimes a necessary evil, because we all need to take care of our families.
But are you consistently working toward your life goals and gaining the experience that will lead you to a position that fulfills you? It starts with asking questions.
The first big one is, are you happy at work? If the answer is no, ask yourself, what would it take to make you happy? Is there a chance to move up or laterally into a position that suits you better?
If not, what could you be working toward next? Is there a company that provides a better work-life balance or stronger benefits? Is it possible to work for yourself?
These are the questions that may cause a bit of chaos and upheaval in your day to day life but that could lead to change for the better. After all, you’ll be far more productive in a career or field that makes you feel most fulfilled as a working mother while taking care of everything.