If you find yourself wondering how to feel more successful in your day-to-day time and energy management, you are not alone.
Women, especially mothers, are expert multi-taskers. With many hats to wear, it sometimes feels like the best or only way to operate. But research shows that is not necessarily the case. Multitasking seems like a great way to get a lot done at once, but research has shown that our brains are not nearly as good at handling multiple tasks as opposed to one. In fact, some researchers suggest that multitasking can actually reduce productivity by as much as 40%.
Regardless of the age of their children, all moms carry a significant mental load. Navigating all the things you are responsible for can really weigh you down. It makes life challenging, overwhelming, and straight-up exhausting at times. So, how do we as women with many responsibilities feel more successful in our day-to-day time and energy management?
I preach and believe in one phrase wholeheartedly. And it goes like this:
You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.
This applies to a lot of things, from your career to how you run your household to the activities your children participate in. You can do anything but not everything, and not at the same time. And thinking you can is a recipe for disaster.
Over the years, I’ve learned a couple of strategies that are worth sharing when it comes to managing the day-to-day. I’m not perfect at this by any means, but it is something I am conscious of because I strive for a certain level of productivity by the end of the day.
I’m a list maker by nature. I also love a good calendaring tool! But here are my top 5 strategies for maximizing your productivity in a way that feels good.
Hack 1: Check Your Mindset
Shift your mindset towards the focused and intentional. Give yourself permission to prioritize the most important things in a given day and let the rest go. Believing you don’t actually have to do it all gives yourself a different perspective. It takes the pressure off from the start, so rather than trying to fit a long list of tasks into one 24-hour day, you are open to flexibility and making adjustments to attack your time differently.
Shifting your mindset isn’t measurable but it’s still an important thing to consider first. I personally prefer to take time on Sundays to reset for the week ahead. I do that by reviewing calendars and making lists to get everything out of my head. This helps me start the week with a plan of action and clear intentions.
Hack 2: The Big Three
Next, try a method of prioritizing called the big three. It works for the big picture, like annually or quarterly, or on a smaller scale, like a daily big three. This is a simple method where you narrow your focus down to the three most important priorities for the time period. And you do nothing else until the work on those three is complete. This doesn’t mean you might not have other things on your to-do list or action plan, but you commit to writing down your top three things and making progress towards those things first.
In your mom life, your big three might include a load of laundry, a trip to the grocery store, and getting a child to practice on time. Have a goal to complete each by the end of the day. Getting those things done equals success.
Hack 3: Time Blocks
Time blocking is a method to divide your day in order to focus on specific tasks for a set period of time. It’s a fancy way to remind yourself to plan for the time you need to complete a task, so you can focus and get it done.
If you are like me and live and die by a calendar, this method works really well. I can go into my Google Calendar for home or Outlook Calendar for work and set aside time for the specific items on my list for the day. When the reminder pops up, it’s time to shift focus and get that item handled.
One thing to consider when it comes to time blocking is Parkinson’s Law. It’s the adage that any task expands to take up the time you give it. For example, if you block two hours in your afternoon to work on a task, like your work project or folding loads of laundry, you will find yourself using up all that time to complete the task.
The downside is that folding laundry or your work project might only take you 30 minutes; but since you gave yourself two hours, you might put it off or let yourself get distracted along the way. To time block effectively, you have to be intentional and diligent in making it work for you.
Hack 4: Batch Working
Batch working is one of my favorite hacks! I’ve actually been able to stick with it, along with mindset change, as a regular productivity strategy. It’s a calendaring or prioritizing system, but instead of setting aside time for one task per day, it’s all the tasks of the same kind in one sitting. When there are recurring items on my list, this works really well because it helps me minimize something I am a little too good at—and that is multitasking. Batch working forces you to focus on the same task, either for a set period of time, or until it is done.
Batch working is a good way to take care of things like house chores. Set aside one day a week to get all the laundry done for the family, start to finish. Just get it done and check it off until the same time next week. For example, I write a lot of ad copy in my day job. I have time set aside on Mondays where I will minimize all my other tabs so I can focus on updating all the ad and social copy for the week in one sitting.
This is essentially a system to create a regular and more efficient schedule.
Hack 5: Outsource
My final productivity hack is outsourcing. Use your resources to get someone else to do things for you. Now, before you tell me all the reasons you can’t do that, let me name a few brands that have been created for this very thing:
- Molly Maids
- Hello Fresh
- Daily Harvest
- Stitch Fix
- Amazon Prime
These brands were built for and exist because they make life easier for people across the globe.
While outsourcing does require you to give up some control over the task itself, what it provides in exchange is usually so much better. It’s about opportunity cost. If you love to cook, but grocery shopping takes a significant amount of time, subscribe to a meal prep service like Hello Fresh or Blue Apron. Spend that extra time with your family or on another task from your list.
Ditch the Multitasking
I’m an avid multi-tasker, so focusing on ways to improve my time management and efficiency both at work and home really makes a big difference. If I set my intentions by prioritizing my to-do list first and then minimize all of the jumping from task to task, I feel more productive at the end of the day.
And remember, you don’t have to recreate the wheel. If you find something you think could work for you, steal it. If not, keep working at it until you discover what works best for you and your needs.