Lately I’ve been struggling, I’ll be honest. Having to abandon your to-do list because the kids are being impossible is frustrating as Hell, isn’t it? You want so badly to just get things done and stay on top of everything, it should be easy! But no, somehow you always end the day with several things not ticked off, feeling like you’re back where you started.
I thought about some of the other posts I’ve written about productivity and decided; I can over come this. Well, I’ve put together a handy list that should help, at least. I found these little tips and tricks by sheer luck, mostly. They are tried and tested by yours truly; on my better days they work wonders but hey, I’m only human, I don’t get it right all the time!
I’ve noticed lately I seem to have certain posts that fall into a ‘family’ of sorts, so I’ve decided to make it official! This post is a part of my Productivity series! See also ‘how to train yourself to be productive’ and ‘how to be productive even when you’re feeling like death’.
I think this was my favourite to write so far, simply because some days at the moment trying to be productive in my house is an almost laughable expectation. Goodness knows I can’t be the only one dealing with this!
Gods help me when I go back to work. Even part time, I’m pretty sure the house will devolve into some sort of wartime/jungle/apocalypse type scenario, at least for the first few weeks.
It already looks like this most days.
As long as I follow my own advice and use this list, I should make it through with minimal casualties.
Get up before the kids and eat that frog!
I mentioned in my other productivity post about doing the biggest/hardest/worst thing first in your day, so that you get it out of the way and no matter what, you get something important done. I also mentioned getting up before the kids if you can, well, there is one more part to this.
Yes, get up first, Yes, eat that frog, but! Under no circumstances should you touch any electronic device in this time, unless your frog is specifically related to/requires one.
I get up at six am every day to write. The baby usually wakes anywhere between three-five for about an hour, then goes back to sleep if I’m lucky, until at least seven-half past seven. Even if he decides to wake at half past six, he will play quite happily for at least an hour before he gets hungry for breakfast. Gray also knows that if he gets up before seven am, he has to play quietly in his room or go back to bed until it’s time to get up for real.
This works well for us, allowing me to get something productive out of the way, putting me in a better mood for the day and less likely to be distracted so that I can focus on the boys.
However, if I make the mistake of looking at Social Media, my morning is usually doomed and my productivity ruined.
This is because as a new blogger I always have something I could do on social media. Be it promoting, re-pinning or just checking emails and stats. The days I have made the mistake of investigating my notifications instead of just opening Word and ignoring everything else, you can bet I get no writing done.
I find before I know it it’s seven am, the boys are wide awake and I’ve spent the last hour with what feels like nothing to show for it.
Even if you don’t have anything particularly big to do on your list, I still recommend trying to get up before the kids, even to just do your morning routine for the day and have some quiet time to yourself, it’s amazing the mood lift it can give you.
2. Plan your day, Write it down!
Some days my to-do list consists of a few miss-typed words in a memo on my phone, others I have a colour coordinated A4 page with diagrams!
The point is, as I have also mentioned before, writing it down makes it far more likely to get done as you have a constant visual reminder.
The reason this is necessary for me when I’m alone with the boys all day is because I tend to get sidetracked. We all do, right? The kids want your attention 24/7, if you’re not playing or crafting they want to be fed, or at least in my house that’s usually the case.
So, if I write down my to-do list this makes it far easier to plan my day around the chores I need to get done. For example, I need to go to the shops to grab something I’m missing for dinner, but Gray won’t stop begging me to play with him and I’m feeling Mummy guilt.
Right, then we’re going to go to the park for a quick play, followed by the shops then home in time for lunch. Win-win!
Or perhaps I need to get some laundry put away, It’s piled so high I had to put it on the list! Again Gray wants attention; I might try the methods I use in this post, or I might give Gray a Very Important Task to help me with, such as organising all the socks into piles by owner. Works like a charm!
The point is, writing it down allows you to look ahead at your day and figure out the best way around these things, keeping the kids happy while you accomplish what you need to do.
3.Don’t be afraid to designate TV time
This one was a difficult one for me. I felt that any TV time we just kinda fell into was okay, we had all obviously needed a moment to chill and maybe cuddle, awesome!
But I used to feel so guilty if I tried to used the TV as a babysitter to get dinner ready or washing up done, especially as it doesn’t always work. (Note: we don’t really like silence in our house, the TV or radio is on low pretty much constantly in the background.)
Now though, I’ve come to realise that it really is necessary some days for me to be able to have a productive, calm and happy day. That sounds awful, right? Well hear me out, you might be surprised by how well this works for you if you try it:
A friend of mine mentioned that in her house lunchtime is Mummy time. After they’ve all had lunch, she then has the TV to herself for an hour to sit quietly, drink a cuppa and revive herself for the rest of the day.
During this time her girls play quietly or go play in their room. They respect her time as it’s such an embedded routine for them now and she swears by it, to keep herself from getting frustrated or exhausted before bedtime. (Unless it’s one of those days, of course.)
I decided I needed to try something similar on days Husband is at work, especially if we don’t have plans or Nursery to break up the day.
So here’s what I do.
At lunchtime I let Gray pick a film, we put it on. (At the moment he is obsessed with all things Peter Pan, so it’s usually one of those.) I feed Rhyd a puree, or I give him a selection of finger foods to try feeding himself. If he’s getting worked up he gets fed first; if he’s happy to play he gets fed last. I make Grays lunch (usually sandwich, fruit, cut up veggies, you get the idea) and my own (usually similar).
For the length of the film, Gray is required to have quiet time. He usually quietly munches his way through his lunch on the sofa while Rhyd makes a mess of his (Please note: NEVER leave the room while the baby is eating) and I take this opportunity to eat at the table where my laptop is.
I usually use this time to catch up on social media, check emails, join linkys, re-pin on Pinterest or organise the photos I will need for my upcoming posts.
Since I’ve started doing this I’ve noticed our days are going so much better.
I was more often than not getting grumpy by bedtime. I’d start snapping or disappear into the bedroom as soon as Daddy got home because I was frustrated and felt I had so much to do. (I talk about the anxiety side of this here.)
Since setting a mid-day quiet time routine, this has reduced drastically. Now those days are the exception, not the rule and we’re all happier for it.
4.Do expect your partner to help
One thing that drives me nuts is hearing about partners who won’t help. Seriously! Parenting is a two-person job. You helped make them, you help raise them!
I understand all families are different, and some people work better together by focusing on different tasks but, really?
Just because my husband works out of the house five days a week doesn’t mean he is entitled to a maid service when he is home.
Raising kids is a hard job, it is a full time job in itself with no breaks, no holidays and no pay. (It is rewarding and wonderful and worth it, but we’re talking about the nitty gritty here.)
My husband works 35+ hours over 5 days a week. When he gets home in the afternoons he plays with Gray, feeds and/or changes Rhyd, washes up or changes the bins, just whatever happens to need doing at the time that I might need help with.
He doesn’t have a set list of chores he has to do every day on top of work; usually he will just pitch in wherever I need help. I still take care of dinner, laundry, shopping, night feeds and general cleaning etc. Also if he’s had a hard day I will absolutely do what I can to cut him a break, he does the same for me, it’s only fair.
But the fact is you are a partnership.
This isn’t the 1950s, even as a stay at home Mum you should not feel like you’re expected to do absolutely everything. It hurts my heart to think that asking your partner to play with their own children should be met with ‘do I have to?’ and if it does, it might be time to have a chat about expectations.
If I didn’t have Husband to distract the boys while I cook dinner there would be a whole lot more fish fingers consumed in this house, let me tell you.
5.Do things in the evening to make the morning easier
This is one piece of advice I see consistently popping up on just about every list of useful productivity tips I’ve ever read. You know what? There is a reason for that.
If you take nothing else from this list, this tip is the one.
I know it’s hard when you reach the end of the day, especially if the kids haven’t been little angels. You have finally got some peace, maybe just wolfed down some cold dinner, picked up all the mess (or just kicked it to the side of the room, as I have been known to do on my worse days) and now you just want to sit down.
Wait! Just take a moment and think about tomorrow. Yes, you will have to get up and do this all over again. But how much harder will your day be if you’re dealing with yesterday’s washing up? How much more stressful will leaving the house be if the changing bag is a half-empty mess you need to re-fill before you go? Will you give up entirely on making a nice healthy dinner if you forget to defrost your chicken? (I may have done this in the past…)
These days, even if I’m so tired my eyes are burning there are very few things I’ll leave for the next day if I can get them done in the evening. Simple things like sterilising bottles, putting the clean dishes in the cupboards, sweeping the kitchen floor etc. I just feel so much better in the morning if I wake up to find these things are not a worry.
Thank you, past me!
This way you have more time to devote to playing with the kids, and far less stress when trying to organise your to-do list getting done around their activities and needs!
For example: my favourite thing about my washing machine is the ‘delay start’ setting. If I’ve got laundry to do and know the next day will be nice and sunny, I can load the washing into the machine the night before, add the liquid tab, set it to the ‘eco-friendly’ mode (which takes longer but is better for the environment,) then set it to start however many hours from then I need.
I can set it to finish at six am if I want, so the first thing I can do is get the lights on the line, add the darks, set it the speed setting (opposite of eco-friendly, but takes less time, so it evens out) and have two loads of laundry washed and hanging on the line by eight am. Win.
6. Designate play and cuddle time as well
One important thing I can’t stress enough, don’t let the quest for productivity override time with the kids.
I talk a lot about working around them, getting things done despite them etc, but it is so important not to fall into the trap of seeing your to-do list as the priority.
One thing that always goes on my list is a designated play time. It is usually fairly fluid, nothing particular set in stone or even a time of day.
But it absolutely must be crossed off at the end of the day.
Even if you just sit and read books together, your kids will thank you for it. They need our attention and affection like oxygen.
It can be hard sometimes when they are constantly harassing you but you have other things to do. That is why giving them at least an hour a day of your undivided attention is necessary. You will be giving them what they need, avoiding Mummy guilt and making them more likely to be calm and happy while you get on with other things later.
Not to mention, it can be dismaying just how easily we forget to stop and just enjoy our babies.
The little ramblings, affectionate gestures and wide, loving gaze is so easy to miss when you’re rushing around focused on other things. These moments are so precious; they are only small for such a short time. Use this method to make sure you aren’t missing it!
7. Don’t forget a little me time
As I mentioned when I discussed designated quiet time, there is a necessity somewhere between running a household, raising a family, going to work and enjoying your kids, to take care of yourself.
Also: your relationship!
I spend most evenings writing or doing other blog-related things. Husband likes to spend his evenings mostly playing Xbox One or online gaming with his friends.
But some evenings we agree on a film to watch and we just spend time in each other’s presence, without a screen (or child) between us.
Every now and then we will also ask the in-laws to babysit and go watch a movie or grab lunch, just the two of us, just because we can. We’re lucky this is an option, really. It can be so easy to lose sight of your relationship as Husband and Wife once you become Mum and Dad.
Even if it’s just one night a week, I can’t stress enough how much it helps keep our relationship strong and happy just being together, no distractions.
Even if you feel you will need to add it to the list in order to remember to follow through, do it. It’s better to have planned rather than spontaneous quality time, rather than no quality time at all.
Which leads me to my final point; this also applies to you as an individual!
You may be Mum (or Dad), but you are still You.
You need to keep up with old hobbies or relaxation activities you know make you happy.
Put it on the list if you must, just find a time for you.
As I mentioned, I very often use the evening to get things in order for the next day. However, I never spend the entire evening until bedtime running around.
Once I reach a point I know I will want to be in bed in about an hour or so, I stop.
I stop blog research, I stop cleaning, I stop prepping. I finish what I’m doing, put things away or switch off the laptop. Usually I grab myself a snack then I sit down and either watch some TV or read a book. Some days I’ll have a nice hot bath.
Either way, you have to give yourself a break. You are doing great!
The more you get into using these habits, the easier they become. The point is, you need to give yourself time to revive. You simply can’t be the best parent you could be if you’re running on empty.
Refuel, refresh and go be an awesome parent to your beautiful kids, they deserve it.