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Productivity Tips for Moms

One of my goals this year is to become streamlined, efficient, and productive in every aspect of my life.

Trust me when I say that is a BIG goal. Being a full-time mom while running a business keeps my calendar FULL. Add in ministry opportunities that come with being a pastor’s wife and there isn’t much down time.

But my packed schedule is really no different that yours, right? You’re juggling just as many balls – if not more – than I am!

Over the past 4 months, I’ve been reading productivity books like crazy. If you’re part of our Spring Cleaning 365 community, then you already know this.

 Of course, reading and doing are two different things!

To make sure that I actually implement the ideas suggested in these books, I compiled a cheat sheet to use as I schedule my day. Using this guide has helped me be more productive in business and as a mom!

I should mention that all of the books I’ve read, and even the summary sheet, seem to have a business slant at first glance. However, the principles really do apply to every aspect of life; including being a mom!

Let me walk you though the Productivity Cheat Sheet and give examples of how you can put these productivity tips to work as a mom. 

Productivity Cheat Sheet

Productivity Summary Sheet Details:

Life goal. 

Every productivity book I’ve ever read starts out talking about your life goal. I don’t know about you, but when I’m in the throws of chaos and I just want someone to help me organize my life, goal setting is the last thing I want to read about. My goal is simply to survive! 

But once I’m past survival mode, goal setting is more realistic.

End goals are the driving force of your daily activities. They help you determine how to fill your day. They also help you determine what to stop doing, either permanently or temporarily. 

Thinking through the lens of mom…

What is your ultimate goal?

  • To prepare your children to be productive adults?
  • To make memories as a family and talk about them often?
  • To give them resources to be athletic superstars?
  • To mold them into leaders?

I’m not saying any of the above examples are right or wrong. I’m just giving examples to get you thinking!

Action step: Take a few minutes right now to think through your ultimate goal as a mom.

12 week goal. 

When I first stumbled upon The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months, I thought I hit the jackpot! Could I really just work 12 weeks and take the rest of the year off?

Not really.

But what I did realize is that I constantly try to tackle way more than I can reasonably handle at one time. What can I say? I’m an IDEA person! My tendency is to try to implement all of my ideas at once. 

However, the better option is to tackle one project at a time.

The books describes exactly how to FOCUS on one goal for 12 Weeks. Start with the end goal and work backwards, breaking down the task into week-long tasks. If you skip a week, you’ve lost major traction because it’s 1/12 of your timeframe. A 12 week timeframe gives a sense of urgency that makes you keep going. You know you have to make progress every single week.

After you finish your 12 week goal, celebrate…and then set another goal. Within 24 weeks you could cross two major projects off your list.

The author suggests thinking in terms of a 12 Week Year is better than having a year-long goal because of that urgency. 

For example, if you set a goal to lose 24 pounds by the end of the year, it’s not really a big deal when you slip up one week because you still have 51 weeks left. The end of the year is a long way off. However, if you set a goal to loose 24 pounds in 12 weeks, you know you have to loose 2 pounds a week. Slipping up one week puts a major dent in your plans. 

Thinking through the lens of mom…

Instead of trying to tackle 10 projects at once (isn’t that what a multi-tasking mom usually tries to do?), what could you intently focus on for 12 weeks that will get you one step closer to your life goal?

  • If your ultimate goal is to teach your children to be productive adults: could you spend 12 weeks intently teaching them how to do age appropriate chores?
  • If your ultimate goal is to make memories as a family and talk about them often: could you create a list of 12 fun, crazy, wild, adventurous activities to tackle this summer?
  • If your ultimate goal is to give them resources to be athletic superstars: could you spend one hour a week helping them practice a particular skill? 
  • If your ultimate goal is to mold them into leaders: could you read 12 leadership books together and discuss how they can be implemented in the real world?

Again, these are just examples to get you thinking!

Action step: Take a few minutes right now to think through the steps that will get you closer to your ultimate goal as a mom.

80/20. 

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Pareto Principle (the 80/20 rule). It states that 20% of your output generates 80% of your results.  4/5 of our output is pretty much irrelevant. That will get your thinking about how much of your day is wasted?

However, the author breaks this down even further; into a way that’s never been explained to me. If you take your 20% output and break it down into another 80/20, you can narrow your focus even more. Then you can do it again. And again. And again. Until you find the most important thing you should be working on.

For example:

  • Say 80% of people travel on 20% of the roads.
  • 80% of those people travel on 20% of the first 20% of roads.
  • Then 80% of those people travel on 20% of the 20% of the first 20% of roads.

Confusing, I know. Basically, the majority of people travel on very few roads. Knowing which roads the most people travel helps determine which roads to repair first in a budget crisis, to salt first before a snow storm, or to choose a billboard on when advertising a business.

Of course we can apply the same principal to our lives as moms. 

Evaluating the clothes in our closets:

  • We wear 20% of clothing 80% of the time.
  • But out of that small sample size, we wear 20% of those most often.
  • Even still, we wear 20% of the 20% of the 20% all the time. Think about your favorite pair of jeans!

Evaluating kid toys:

  • Our kids play with 20% of their toys 80% of the time.
  • But they have favorites out of that 20%.
  • Then of course they have an absolute favorite toy; you know, the one they couldn’t live without!

Evaluating the time spent with our kids:

Using the “make memories as a family and talk about them often” example from above…

Let’s say 20% of the things we do with our kids will provide 80% of their lasting memories. 

I’m guessing they won’t be going down memory lane as an adult and talk about how much we cooked, cleaned, and worried for them. But they will remember the times we played on the floor, taught them how to ride a bike, celebrated their report cards, took them hiking, helped them pick out their wedding dress, etc.  All of those things combined probably make up 20% of what we will actually do with our kids over the course of their lifetime. That 20% is the most important thing to us according to our ultimate goal.

Action step: Take a few minutes right now to determine how we can spend more time focusing on that 20%.

What can/should I stop doing today? 

If you really think through through that last question, you’ll quickly realize that there are some things you need to QUIT doing. That’s the only way you’ll have more time for the most important 20%.

Realizing a particular task isn’t in your top 20% (even your top 50%) makes it easier to quit.  

Thinking through the lens of mom…

  • If your ultimate goal is to teach your children to be productive adults, it might be wise to teach them limits (video games, sweets, whatever).
  • If your ultimate goal is to make memories as a family and talk about them often, you might want to quit the individual hobbies that keep you from spending time together as a family.
  • If your ultimate goal is to give them resources to be athletic superstars, you might want to think about quitting those music lessons they complain about.
  • If your ultimate goal is to mold them into leaders, they might need to spend less time watching TV and more time reading (you know, the whole “leaders are readers” quote?).

These aren’t exact answers. I’m just listing examples to get you thinking!

Action step: Take a few minutes right now to think about what you can stop doing. It will feel good to quit!

What is the one thing I can do today that will make everything else easier or unnecessary in the future?

This question is found in The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Thing Behind Extraordinary Results and it completely revolutionized how I think about goals and to do lists. 

Truly being productive isn’t about making a list and checking it off. Not at all. It’s about eliminating the things that don’t matter, thinking though the steps to get you to your ultimate goal, and then systematically taking the next step to bring you closer to your goal. 

Asking myself this question has been huge as I work on my business. But it’s been equally effective for my job as mom.

Thinking through the lens of mom…

Instead of answering the questions above in this section, I want to focus on one of the big struggles moms face – getting children to happily complete their chores.  

  • What if kids understood that making up their bed each day trained them to implement morning routines to make their day productive?
  • What if children understood that immediately putting clothes in the basket, instead of on the floor, actually saves them time on laundry day and when cleaning their room? That means more play time! 
  • What if they learned about the time value of money from investing a percentage of their allowance at a very young age?

Kids like to know why they are doing something. If they know that certain actions actually make the next step easier, there’s a chance that they’ll actually do their chores…and with a good attitude!

Of course, training kids early is beneficial to parents as well:

  • If children make their bed, parents don’t have to.
  • If they put their clothes away, parents won’t have to reprimand the kids about a messy room.
  • If kids learn to save and invest money at a young age, there’s a good chance they won’t be moving back in with their parents as adults.

Training kids to do certain tasks for themselves make those same actions unnecessary in the future for parents.

Action step: Take a few minutes right now to think about what you are currently doing for your kids that you could teach them to do. 

Daily schedules.

If you didn’t know, I’m a fan of schedules (i.e. cleaning schedules). Apparently productivity experts are fans as well!

They say it’s counterproductive to check email first thing in the morning. Based on my own experience, I tend to agree. One email leads to the next. The rabbit chasing begins and before I know it, two hours have passed. 

Same with social media. It’s easy to scroll through the newsfeed and get so wrapped up in it that the kids are on their ninth “mom!” before they get a response.

To be fully productive as a mom, you might want to try scheduling the time your home just like you do for work – with a detailed calendar. At first this might seem silly, but like I said, just give it a test run and see if you’re more productive at home.

Scheduling your time at home doesn’t mean you skip out on having fun with your kids. It also doesn’t mean rigid. Quite the contrary! I’ve found that when I actually schedule the entire day on my calendar, I’m able to have MORE FUN with the kids.

You can schedule any and everything, but here are a few ideas:

  • Getting dressed. If you’re a part-time or full-time SAHM, then you probably get this. Unless there’s somewhere to go, it’s extremely easy to stay in your pj’s all day. You know that pj’s don’t usually lead to productivity. But getting dressed does. If something as simple as getting dressed is on your calendar, then you’re more likely to do it!
  • Play vs. work. Do you ever catch yourself thinking about all the work you should be doing while you’re playing with the kids? Then the same day you find yourself thinking you should be hanging with the kids intstead of working. It doesn’t matter if “work” means going to the office, cooking dinner, or doing laundry, being preoccupied happens to all of us. When everything is scheduled, you can focus on the task at hand because you know a new one is coming up soon!
  • Delayed projects. How many times have you wanted to create a photobook? Or organized that closet? Or sell some items on ebay and craigslist? If it’s on your calendar, there’s less chance you’ll postpone it. 
  • Cleaning and organizing. We all know that homes with kids in them get messy in a hurry! But toys all over the floor won’t bother you as much when you know a 5 minute pick-up is schedule 45 minutes from now. 

18 Minutes.

Instead of keeping your schedule in your head, or just trying to get through a to do list, try using an actual calendar. I love how 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done maps it out. It’s geared towards a traditional work day but we all know that a mom’s schedule is 24/7! Feel free to apply this method to your 21 waking hours ;)

Here’s a summary of 18 Minutes.

Take 5 minutes at the beginning of the day to:

  • review the priorities of your life, job, mission.
  • review the tasks you put on your calendar from the night before

Take 1 minute every hour of your 8 hour work day to:

  • review the past hour of work. Did you accomplish the action items scheduled on your calendar?
  • review your tasks for the next hour of work.

Take 5 minutes at the end of each day to:

  • review the priorities of your life, job, mission.
  • add specific tasks that you need to accomplish on your calendar. Determine which hour of the day you will do them.

Scheduling everything (fun, work, the “one thing” that will get you closer to your ultimate goal) can be just as beneficial to your life as mom as it can be in the workplace. Of course it goes without saying that moms need to be flexible with a capital F. Something seems to always come up where we’re needed. But that’s okay. I’ve come to realize that being flexible with your planned out schedule is much better than aimlessly attempting this motherhood gig.

Of course I have to mention that there are seasons in life where scheduling is completely unnecessary. Sleepless nights with a newborn (or 6 month old…or 1 year old…I never mastered sleep training!) is certainly a season where it’s helpful to cut yourself some slack. Don’t try to conquer the world! Just love that baby, sleep when you can, and try to get in a shower every once in a while :) 

For the rest of you, I hope you can implement a few – or all – of the productivity tips I’ve read about this year. They have made a huge difference in what and how much I accomplish.

Of course I’m always learning so I’d love to hear your best productivity tips! Just leave a note in the comment section!

Here’s to making life as mom a bit more productive! 

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