I often get asked how I manage to do everything that I do. On weekly and daily basis I run Daily Mom, attempt to write in this blog, receive and respond to somewhere on the order of 100-150 emails per day (often behind on them), currently working on two new businesses (I just announced one of them on my personal IG @everyavenuegirl : www.melodylane.com), each one is a large project in itself. All that’s just a part of my working day aside from being a mom to Lexi, playing volleyball 12 hours a week, working out every other day when I can, cooking, and doing whatever meager cleaning that I can (mostly just organizational). All the usual duties of a mom plus the work aspect of at least 4 different businesses/projects. With a possibility of two more on the horizon.
The answer to the earlier question is barely.
However my personality absolutely demands organization. I seriously go crazy and get down when I am not fully and completely organized either in my head or my to do list when it comes to all the things that I need or want to do.This combined with an overwhelming amount of things that I’ve put on myself has forced me to completely redefine my days and figure out how to make them even more organized, more efficient and more useful to me. At The same time allowing me to enjoy my daughter, pay attention to her, do activities with her and enjoy my time.
But over the years I have developed a set of techniques that all together help me be as efficient as I can. They are not magic. And they don’t create hours in a day or make my work go away. But they do what they can in keeping me sane, organized and productive.
Here are 12 tips that I find most helpful in my every day life.
Please note: these are NOT tips I found somewhere, or posting just to post something useful. They are truly things I do on daily basis and devised on my own in my struggles for more time and better efficiency. Some are obvious, others might be new and/or surprising.
1. Get rid of non-essentials.
Whether it’s your social media addiction or getting your hair curled every morning or watching a show, lose what you don’t have to have. There is nothing wrong with having some down time, so keep one guilty pleasure that you can occasional partake in, but if you continue spending time checking your Instagram, Facebook, catching up on reality shows, curling every strand at a time, then you will continue being overwhelmed with everything else. It doesn’t have to be permanent, but removing that distraction can help you get stuff done and then you can get back to it, once things settle down, if they ever do.
How: Make a list of everything you do that is considered non-essential, and then cross off what items you could technically lose. Then do it. Leave FB, cancel your IG account, etc etc. Do what you need to do to not be temped to waste time.
Personal Experience: I have been making these “cuts” in steps for the last year. First went Vine a while ago, then I cancelled IG, just completely cut it off, so that I wasn’t even tempted to go post. The IG cut was freeing. Not only did it give me more time, but it helped me lose the addiction of post/check cycle. Surprisingly that was taking more of my time than I had realized. Finally, I had to remove comments from my blog. That decision wasn’t the easiest, but it certainly freed a lot of time for me to focus on other things. I had removed TV shows a while ago. Facebook posting went naturally.
In the end it’s really freeing. Yes, some of my friends and some followers were sad about those cuts, but I feel I had a better control over my life and time spent. I still check Facebook. I don’t post often, but I do keep up with my friends’ daily life which is what I hoped to keep.
As I got a better grasp on things and priorities changed, I brought a few business essential things back. I brought back my blog Instagram, added the comments back. I added a few things, because I am working on a couple projects. But the periodic cleanse is almost necessary. What it does is lets you reset and assess the things that you truly miss or those that were a time waste. I was almost addicted to Instagram, I felt. Now it is more controlled sharing of things I feel compelled to share, but very much removed from my emotional side that i can really get into it.
I also don’t do make up or hair unless I am going somewhere, but that’s simply out of real lack of time in the day. We have a cleaning lady to help us with the barrage of dishes we seem to produce daily from cooking. Cleaning is certainly not something I can waste my time on with so many other things in the works. We have come to terms with having a generally messy house because we steal every second to work ( since we both work from home) and every second we are not working, we are spending time with Lexi. So while it bugs me to not have a spotless house (EVER), it’s more important for me to build the projects I am building and to spend time with my daughter.
2. Have a detailed tiered to do list, not just a list.
I use Wunderlist and SWEAR by it. Like seriously, don’t even bother with any other type of to do list. Especially paper one ( though if it makes you feel good, you could always repeat daily lists on paper).
I have extensive organization when it comes to TO DO lists. Every time a thought pops into my head that requires me to do something that I cannot do at the moment, I put it down. That way I don’t stress myself and my brain out, trying to keep all these things I need to do in my head. And there is a lot believe me. It helps me organize several aspects of life. Everything is in Wunderlist. At this point I have about 368 items on all to-do lists together and about 30-40 to do lists organized by themes.
I have to do lists for: home, finances, taxes, every website I run or plan on launching, every business, my daily routine, Lexi stuff, posts I want to write, posts I need to write, photos I need to edit, everyyyyyything! I have to do lists with items I need to delegate. Items I need to sell. Things I need to buy! Everything is organized and out of my head, especially work. Then every evening, before bed, I go over all my to do lists and mark certain items for the next day, “star” others to not forget and sometimes even plan out my list for a week, which is easy with the scheduling feature and auto TODAY and THIS WEEK to do lists Wunderlist generates.
Since my work to do list is absolutely ridiculous and my blog to do list is ridiculous and my personal to do list is ridiculous, I have devised an even better system to keep control of that and not get overwhelmed and hyperventilated.
3. Top to DO
This is a total brain child of mine (which I am sure I am not the first one to come up with) and I love it. After months of sitting down to work and being completely overwhelmed by xxx items on my work to do list, I created a system that keeps me focused on what’s important. TOP TO DO LISTS.
So let’s say I have 2 to do lists for Daily Mom (posts to write, things to do) with 86 items all together and 4 to do lists for my blog ( posts to write, reviews to publish, photos to take, things to do) with 140 items all together. That is just way too much. Considering I have a whole life and other projects I am working on besides these two. All of which are urgent AND important. Trying to figure out what to start with was virtually impossible.
So what I did is created 2 additional to do lists (ha!) named TOP 5 DM and TOP 5 TAOMAB. Those lists is where I put no more and no less than the top 5 most important and urgent items off the other lists. That is all I focus on and all I see when I go to make my list for the next day. I don’t see 140 items and get depressed over how much I need/want to do. All I see is 5 per website. 5 per aspect of my life. Manageable!
As I check them off, others move into their spot to complete the five. This has completely revolutionized the way I work and the amount of pressure I feel. So while this might not apply to people who have simpler, more relaxed lives, certainly anyone with a business (and lots of ideas and desires), especially home based business and a family, could really use it.
4. take breaks and time for yourself
That’s easy to say and not so easy to do. For the first 3 years of Lexi’s life, that was not even an option. I did what I had to do and what I had to do was be there for my daughter when she needed me. That need started fading around 2.5 and at 3, I felt like I was once again a person, not just a mom. I could go somewhere with Lexi being emotionally distressed about not being with me. That is when I got into volleyball. I play four times a week. That is a lot. But to me it is crucial.
Volleyball is my thing now, and I don’t really think it is possible to properly explain how important it is to have “your thing“, not just work, but a passion. I will definitely write more on this in a separate post.
So the point is I know we all feel like the dad works hard during the day and in the evening, he is tired and doesn’t want to take the kids… But tough shit, moms need their sanity and if your kids are ok without you ( I am not talking about cases where children are still so attached to mom that she can’t leave. That situation just needs to be waited out), take girls’ nights, or movie nights, or bath and ice cream nights and then find a passion and make it consistent. The best thing to do, in my personal opinion, is exercise. Whatever form it takes. Get passionate about running, sports, rollerblading, gym, crossfit, whatever you want and do it alone or with friends. Not only will you get in shape, create endorphins in your body, get some kid-free time, but you’ll be healthier and an amazing example to your daughter. It’s like killing 3 birds with one stone. If you like reading books, download audiobooks and listen while you work out. But after getting back into an amazing shape, I cannot imagine not having an active hobby.
5. Use your technology to help you
There is so much that can be done on our phones, while we are in traffic or waiting in line, or doing something similarly boring. I have a lot of apps on my Iphone ( post about that coming soon) that truly help me throughout the day. From prioritizing to choice making to cleaning apps, timer apps (more on that below), fitness apps, business apps, toddler activity apps. Find what works for you and use it.
6. make a plan for the day the night before
I mentioned this above but this is very important. In order to sleep well and fall asleep fast, as well as not waste time being overwhelmed in the moment, plan out all your to-do’s the night before. I do it every night on my phone in bed. It is so satisfying to go to sleep knowing that you’re ready for the day ahead and absolutely amazing to wake up and go straight to what you need to get done. This can be done with SAHMs too. All the daily house work and activities with children could be planned out the night before.
7. Don’t multitask
This is hard for me to say because I am a serial multitasker. Guilty guilty guilty.
For years, I would do several things at the same time, otherwise I didn’t feel productive. I still do this a lot, but I do it differently. Normally, as I would be writing a post, I would also switch over to edit photos, answer emails and maybe do a few other things. Studies have definitely shown that you are actually less productive multitasking, but it wasn’t until I read a book about how our brain works, did I realize why. Our brain cannot multitask, it can only do ONE thing at a time. When we multitask, we simple switch from action to action as far as our brain is concerned but not actually doing two things at a time. All that switching hogs a lot more resources than if we were to focus on one task at a time. It’s sort of like a computer starting to run slowly when you’re constantly jumping from program to program. So the way I modified it was having two activities in the pipeline but focusing on only one until there is something I have to wait for ( a page to load or a program to open). In the end though, focus on one task till you get it to completion.
I freaking love this concept! And if you’ve been reading my blog, I wrote about it in detail here: How to get things done!
But for those unfamiliar, in short: you have a special timer set for 25 minutes during which you work and then you take a five minute break. That constitutes a Pomodoro. After 3 of those, you get a 15 minute break. That break can be used for things that are productive but not what you were doing before. So you could take 5 minutes to clean, or cook or take a shower, or answer texts, or emails. It works great in keeping you focused on the task without burning out. Check out this app: Pomodoro
8. define priorities
Divide your items into 4 categories: important and urgent, important not urgent, not important urgent and not important not urgent. This will help you easily figure out the items to focus on. Another great way of figuring out your priorities is using ChoiceMap app. It allows you to input your choices, rate them on different aspects of importance and gives out the result of what you should be going after.
This one is very important but one of the hardest to do. To delegate, you need people. Specifically people who know what they are doing. Sometimes it’s easier to do it yourself. Find people around you though, who you could delegate certain tasks to. Don’t take on everything. If it can be done by someone else, delegate. That’s one of the reasons cleaning is something I don’t ever want to do: anyone can do it. Organizing on the other hand, no one would be able to do it, not even my husband. Only I know the right place for every piece of junk in our house. Hire a housekeeper, go on Fancy Hands and get a one time virtual assistant for small dumb tasks like calling a utility company or scheduling appointments.
10. create a weekly priorities list for each day separating tasks
This I’ve had trouble with, but i think it’s a great idea theoretically. I created a day for each one of the projects that I have: be it one of my websites, or one of the businesses I am working on launching, or housework- it has a day in the week. I try to follow that and give all my attention to that particular aspect of my life on that day, but to be honest, I am currently so behind, I tend to fall back on the “definite priorities” tip above and work on the “important and urgent”. However, it’s a good system for busy but not overwhelmed.
11. Use home routines app
Most SAHMs probably know about this, especially if you’ve struggled to keep up with the mess and looked for help. If you don’t, you might really get a kick out of it. It’s an app and a system ( there is a website) that allows you to assign zones to the house and prompts you to clean a certain amount of time each day in that zone. I assign 15 minutes to it, because I cannot justify any more, but it could be any period of time you have. Check it out, it’s really cool. The app is called Home Routines, just follow the link if you’re on mobile.
12. Have set working hours
If you are a WAHM, you have to have set working hours, otherwise you’re always on “baby duty”. Get out of the house or make sure your husband/kid leave to go do something fun. Otherwise, it’s going to be “mommy mommy mommy” all the time. At this point, Lexi is used to me having working hours, but I still need to be “out of sight”, i.e. upstairs in the office, working somewhere she is not being reminded of me. Another reason to leave the house and go to starbucks is not to be tempted to do housework. Which is something I always gravitate towards, since I feel our house is always messy and there is always laundry to be done or dishes to be cleaned.
If I am home alone, I try to use my 5 pomodoro break minutes to throw in a load of laundry or speed clean the ledges upstairs, after I have done all the other important “break activities”, like working out, brushing teeth, showering and moisturizing my dry from sand skin (yes, that has to be on my to do list, otherwise I never get to do it)
Obviously, I have come up with all these tips in my struggle to manage my time as a mom and someone who has responsibilities outside of being a parent. I just started reading a book about getting things done and surprisingly a lot of what they recommend are things I discovered naturally through trial and error. I am sure you have the same discoveries in your routines. If you do, share what works for you!