Motherhood is very much like running your own business. While fiscally minded businesses judge success by the amount of revenue collected in a year, the business of mothering is measured in the joy and comfort of her customers. A mom strives to earn the illustrious plaque, ‘Manager of the Month,’ each and every day. If you’re here you’re considering the likelihood that time management and productivity are the best vehicles with which to earn that lofty badge and to get everything done. Here are what I have found to be the top 3 beginning steps to getting you well on the way to managing your time and productivity levels most effectively.
1. Creating a Pantry List of To-Do’s
The to-do list is a major component of productivity planning. Unless you have a perfect memory, you need to make a list of things you’d like to get done in any given amount of time. It’s best to start broad with either a larger monthly, or a smaller weekly to-do list. Most people find the weekly list a more manageable time frame so we’ll work with that.
At the start of each week—or at the end of the previous—create a list of tasks you need to and would like to accomplish. Beside each item jot down how long you think each task will take you to do. This is, as I like to call it, your Pantry of To-Do’s. This is where you will shop for tasks that fit nicely into certain blocks of time that you have in your week. You don’t need to fit every single item on your Pantry List into your week right away, or at all if it doesn’t work out. It’s a list of possible ingredients you could use to make a delicious meal of efficiency.
Now, when you look at a day, after you’ve got all your appointments and commitments laid out, you’ll begin to see where you have certain spaces of time—be they large or small—here and there to get some to-do’s done. See that 15 minute span there in between Kindergarten pickup and a phone meeting with your boss? You could get something done there! So head over to your Pantry List of To-Do’s and find something that will fit nicely there and plug it in.
What if Kindergarten pickup takes longer than you thought and that 15 minutes chips away with each tick on the dashboard clock? It’s ok. Simply move that item back to the Pantry by striking a line through it where you have it written today and rewrite it somewhere else in your week where it fits.
Maybe your hairdresser cancels on you and suddenly you have an hour or two of free time. Sometimes a Mom can be so shocked by sudden free time that she blanks out on what to do with herself and can end up Instagramming for an hour before she even knows she’s on the couch. Instead, consult your Pantry and see if there’s something there that you can do with your sudden blank space of time.
Here’s the big trick to success in the Pantry To-Do method: be flexible. Stay loose in those To-Do’s. There is only one surety to a Mother’s day and that is that she can never be sure what will happen and can rarely plan for exactly what may catch fire—figuratively speaking of course, we hope. So keep those knees bent, and legs loose, and roll with whatever comes. You’ll find yourself content with the productivity that follows. Some weeks and days will seem more effective than others. That is life, it’s to be expected, and if you expect it, it won’t knock you over.
2. The First and the Last
Looking at your daily plan should be one of the very first things you do in the morning and one of the very last things you do in the evening. This is the most powerful key to being Manager of the Year in your growing business of productivity.
P.M. planning has the benefit of looking subjectively at the day itself, as it hasn’t even begun yet. Your mood of the day cannot sway your attention from designing a smoothly run 12 hours of task completion, or self care, or child play, or whatever may be. This certainly doesn’t rule out the probability that very little will go exactly according to your plan but you have at least a general guide to your unpredictability, which can ease your mind and focus your thoughts.
If you go to sleep knowing you have a plan for the day to follow, you will rest easier in the night and rise in the morning with purpose and a glow of impending accomplishment. Glancing in your planner during your morning routine to remind yourself of the plan for the day will refresh your memory and remind you that there is a plan in place for you to attain your goals today. There is something to be said for a person who rises from bed knowing exactly what needs to be done and then systematically gets it done.
Remember however, your task list needs to remain flexible and loose. It’s absolutely ok to not get everything on your list done. That’s what forwarding arrows are for, just design one of those on your check box and finish that task another time. Planning ahead can give you a nice cushion so when life surprises you, you don’t need to stress. You planned ahead for that deadline, so when all of your kids get sick at the same time you’ll find that you have some wiggle room later on to get that deadline met.
3. Own It, It’s Yours
Your time is just that. It’s yours. You choose how to spend it. You don’t get to choose how fast it goes but you do get to decide what you will do with what you’ve got. If you want to spend 3 hours on a gourmet meal for yourself or your family, spend it and relish the flavor. If you feel the need to disregard the last 2 items on your to-do list and build the most amazing fort known to this generation with your kids and their friends, you disregard those items and you build it and marvel at the of fun it.
Getting things done is important, but sometimes so is not getting things done. Remember that sometimes your productivity has nothing to do with check marks and Pantry items. Sometimes the most productive time you’ll spend in a day is chatting with your spouse on a lunch break when you could be getting extra emails out, or spending an hour on the swings with your 4-year old instead of doing laundry. It’s your time. You get to decide what to do with it so don’t waste it with disorganized forgetfulness or feelings of guilt that you chose to do something that comes with no check mark for your joy. Make your decisions and be content!
One day soon you’ll realize that the plaque on the wall with your picture on it reading “Manager of the Year” is actually just your family’s portrait, with you in there raising some wonderful human beings just as best as you can with as much love as you have.