How do you get to work, work out, and work on your kid’s homework, all in one day? Trust us, it’s nearly impossible. We fight the same battle every day. Trying to figure out how to fit it all in is a daily struggle. And trying to fit it all in with a smile on your face and some positivity is even harder! While we don’t really have any magic bullet and, unfortunately, have not found a way to add extra hours to the clock (we’ve tried), we have figured out a way to be as efficient as possible—walking and talking, running and listening, watching and writing. Here are a few tips from two busy moms to get as much done as possible in those waking hours.
Start the day early. As much as a five AM wakeup call seems ungodly, it is a great way to get things going (that and a shot of espresso!). The early-morning wakeup call offers you some quiet time before your brood beckons you to their bedside (say that five times fast!). The “Mom” calls come early, but if you can beat them to the punch, you might be able to squeeze some you time in. While we use this time to sweat and burn some calories, it is also a way to let loose and set the cadence for the rest of our day. Exercise does way more than just burn calories; the release of endorphins improves your mental state and focuses you for the rest of the day.
Whether it’s a cycling class, a run, or a Pilates session, whatever gets your blood going will likely get your brain going as well. While we get it’s hard to get out of bed when it’s dark and cold, it may just provide you with more motivation than a Starbucks trenti (did you know they had something bigger than a venti?)! On the days that your kids are up early and you can’t go before they cock-a-doodle-doo, take them with you. Maybe invest in a jogging stroller. The car is a great place to nap, so why wouldn’t the jogging stroller do the same trick? Even if you can’t fit it in but you need your fix, play tag, lift them in the air, and clean up their toys. Although unconventional, if your kids are anything like ours you will be sweating in no time! And don’t underplay getting to and from work. Walk or run (did we really say run?) to and from the office. This is a great way to save money (and the environment) and get your blood going. Keep a mini shoe collection under your desk, an extra pair of underwear/bras, some deodorant, and even a dress (trust us, it will get some good use). You may even consider splurging on a hair dryer. It will “dry” away all the evidence!
Listen to music as much as possible—you don’t need to jam out for hours, but some good tunes on your way to and from work will reset your head and help focus you. We have found this is also a good trick when writing, studying, and even completing tasks. We all need a zone-out/Zen-out session from time to time. It gives you time to decompress and recollect your thoughts. Music has a way of doing this that is unlike any other medium. While we too love a good Bravo reality TV show, it can be a bit more distracting. Definitely get your fix of Real Housewives, but maybe not every day. Reading is also an excellent way to let your mind go; a good novel can literally transport you to another century. Book clubs with friends and even your kids are a great way to get conversations going.
Set aside email/work time. Whether you work in or out of the house, the emails are constant. They are literally non-stop. Trying to stay on top of them can be exhausting. It can also detract from your time at home, time with your kids, and time with your partner. Pick two to three times a day where you return emails, respond to text messages, and return phone calls. The worst thing we can do is be a slave to our phones (and we are culprits of this in the highest order)—it distracts us from our family, detracts from the flow of our day, and can be downright depressing. We all have to work, and we all have to take care of business. But if we are more efficient with our time, we can accomplish a whole lot more.
Make meals matter. Whether it be with your family, your friends, or with your co-workers, put your phone down, and turn the TV off. Meals can be a great time to communicate. You don’t have to make the food (we get it), but you do have to eat. Use your mealtime to make the most of your day. Go on a date with your partner. While it doesn’t have to be a big to do, it can do big things for your relationship. Kids bring with them a whole new world. The nonstop “Mommy, I need you” can wear you down. Remember that time alone with your partner is important. And while you may not make it to Bali or the Bahamas for a week’s kid-free vacation, you can make it to your local bar for a beer! Put time aside for you and your partner. It may be the necessary ingredient for a long and healthy relationship.
Write as much down as possible. As much as you think, “Yeah, I’ll remember that,” you will forget it. So become tight with your calendar. It will make sure you don’t miss a beat (or an important event)! Be it Google, Microsoft Outlook, or an old-school refrigerator door with a magnet, write things down. Whether it be your kids’ school activities, your shopping list, or when your bills are due, this will help you remember who needs to be where when and what needs to be done when. Being aware of what’s coming up will alleviate anxiety because it will allow you to plan. It will also allow you to see when you need extra help.
Don’t be a martyr. Ask for help, and let others help you. While you are almost superwoman, you still can’t fly! As women, we hate asking others for anything. We take one more, add another thing to our plate, and say yes to another task. Know your limits, and don’t be afraid to set them. Spreading yourself thin will lead to exhaustion, exasperation, and a less than ideal outcome.
Try to plan for what’s to come (and not necessarily the next five and ten years; that’s just not possible). Plan for the immediate foreseeable events. For example, lay out your clothes for both you and your kids the night before. Mornings can be stressful, and this can alleviate the “oh no, where are those shoes?” moments. Keep a good weather app on your phone; it can save you from wearing your favorite suede boots in the pouring rain! While you won’t be able to plan away every problem, conquering a few things will help alleviate some of the stress and anxieties that we all feel.
While we certainly don’t have all of the answers and most definitely lay awake at night thinking of all the things we didn’t do that day rather than all that we did do, we try to use the hours we are awake in the best way possible. Plan, plot, proceed, and prepare. But don’t forget to play; unfortunately, once we are out of school, the last “p” is often forgotten. Put it back in your day; it makes a difference in your mood and can often make you more productive. And remember that, no matter how much you accomplish, it will never feel like enough. We all feel this way. It’s a part of being a mom. Welcome to the club!