10 Effective Ways to Tackle Your To-Dos with a Baby
You can do anything momma, but not everything.
– A busy mom’s variation of David Allen’s quote
Yes, you've read correctly... Productivity and baby CAN be used in the same sentence!
Everyone looked at me with big eyes when silly me, pregnant with my first baby, kept going on and on about all the things I want to accomplish during my ”time off”… but the positive overachiever side of me kept telling them: no, no, I’m different, I will have plenty of free time during my maternity leave…boy, was I wrong… not only did I not have the time I thought I would have, but I felt like there was more and more stuff piling on top of my list. I wanted to start a blog, create baby leggings and other sewing projects, keep working part-time, workout, take hikes with the baby and plenty more! I had even made a list.. but those things were quickly replaced with changing diapers, consoling a crying baby, cooking, cleaning up and breastfeeding. I was exhausted, so much to do and so little available time. The more I added to my to-do list the more it felt overwhelming.
See, the thing is, I wasn’t completely wrong when telling my family and friends that I would have free time, I was just not using the right ways or mindsets in order to achieve all of it.
Here are my 10 tips to be more productive on a maternity leave… and basically, to maintain your sanity and help you feel like your life is not completely on pause for your little bundle of joy (although, between you and me, it would be worth it even if you had too).
- BE PREPARED TO NOT FOLLOW THE PLAN
- PLAN, PLAN, PLAN!
Ok, I’ll give it to you, it’s a weird one to start with… kind of counter-productive, but hear me out, because it’s still an important one. Even if you plan your whole day, your whole week, you follow every tip in the guidebook and you feel ready as you’ve ever been before to tackle that monstrous to-do list, the reality is; a baby is not always predictable and you know what… that’s ok! Don’t be too hard on yourself and cut yourself some slack!
Completely opposite of numero uno!
Planning is truly the key to success; An organized momma is a smart momma! So pick a day of the week to be your planning day. I personally like doing this on Sunday nights, but any day works.
During that planning day, you should take time to plan your whole week. From A to Z…
- Daily meals – I like to plan beforehand what we’ll be making for supper each night so I know exactly what to buy at the grocery store the next day. It also helps me budget-wise because I can plan big batches for leftovers (example: Pork Tenderloin one day, leftover pulled pork sandwich the next).
- Weekly goals – Write down the big goals of the week, what absolutely needs to be done or what you would really love to tackle this week. This will help you when planning your daily goals.
- Write down events, outings, appointments, etc. for the week. You should even note when will be the best time to go grocery shopping!
Believe me, the extra effort will be worth it and will save you time (and stress) in the end.
Instead of simply making a huge list of to-dos and running around with it like a rooster without a head, pick three simple tasks to accomplish daily and it will be much more manageable. Since you will likely be able to finish all three tasks, the feeling of satisfaction will be very rewarding and will motivate you for the days to come, trust me!
You’re done all three tasks and you still have some free time? Excellent job mamma! Kick back and relax, or get a head start on tomorrow if you feel like it!
Within your three goals, try to pick smaller reasonable tasks. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure. You want this to be a game that you will win. For example, three goals for one day could be: clean/dry clothes, prepare supper and put away clean clothes.
So instead of setting the whole laundry process as a single goal, you would split that into two manageable goals(cleaning and putting clothes away) since it will most likely be separated like that within your day.
The next day, you could have something like this: Write one blog post draft, tidy up the living room and make supper.
Of course, the tasks and goals will defer from mother to mother because we don’t have the same chores, hobbies, responsibilities, etc. But divided like that, we are all capable of being just enough productive each day to not be scared of our to-do list.
Do you sometimes feel like you clean one room, and then another, and another.. just to come back to the first room and realize its time to clean it again? Well, mom, it’s time to slack off just a bit so you don’t become insane in the never-ending cleaning circle of life with kids! You need to find a healthy balance in your life, not too messy, but not too clean either.
Even if you feel like you need to only be focusing on chores because the house is such a mess, you need to reserve some time for yourself. Have daily goals that will fulfill all of your needs during the week. So a bit of hobby, a bit of cleaning and a few other responsibilities. Prioritize which chores need to be addressed first and pick one or two per day max. If you get wrapped up only in chores you will quickly realize that your to-do list is not shrinking and you will probably feel miserable too. So do yourself a favor; maintain your sanity by treating your mind to some of your favorite activities.
- ACCEPT HELP AND DELEGATE WORK
- GET A BABY CARRIER
- HAVE PLAY STATIONS ROTATIONS
- FIND THE TOOLS THAT WORKS FOR YOU
If family or friends offer help, accept it! Or try to include the daddy and delegate work to him as well. Of course, not all dads will act the same when it comes to taking care of a baby; some will offer help, others will just do it, but chances are the majority of them just need a bit of guidance. So don’t just expect them to do what you want them to, instead ask. Some couples use a baby cheat sheet to know what to do in each scenario. For example; If baby cries – try this first. then this. etc. Or maybe use a shared app for family tasks that need to be done.
If your baby has a big brother or sister, include them in your chores! It’s crazy how they can be useful and it’s easy to make it fun for them. If the baby is older, they can play together to give you a bit of free time or if the baby is in your arms, they can help you by giving you a hand with dishes or other tasks. Another great solution is to use a responsibility chart for your kids 4 years old and up. Not only it helps you around the house, but it teaches them to be more responsible. With time, they will also take you, and what you do for them, less for granted. It’s a great life lesson!
Bottom line is you need to find what works for you and your family in order to share the responsibilities and take some weight off your shoulders. Don’t forget, you are a team!
I cannot stretch enough how this is an important point for productivity with a baby. For one, it gives you free hands! Really great for passing the vacuum, doing dishes, preparing supper, laundry, and much more I’m sure.
Your goals don’t always have to be responsibility-related, you could even give yourself a goal to workout, or hike, or anything else. A baby carrier is an awesome option to achieve these kinds of goals too!
My baby carriers were life savors for many situations and I recommend having at least one for sure. There are so many options available for all kind of budgets, styles, and comfort. If money is the issue, I’m sure you can find a second-hand one that can do the job too!
No, I’m not talking about taking out the good old PlayStation video games, even though that would be awesome if I had the time! All joking aside, I’m talking about play stations for the baby. Ok, this point here needs to be well explained so there’s no misunderstanding. Of course, you don’t want to leave your baby in what some call “babysitter” toys, but let’s face it, we do need some sort of free time and those kinds of toys are part of the solution! So with moderation, fix some sort of stations of exploration for baby and rotate between these ones to keep him or her occupied, entertained and smiling!
Here are a few example of play stations: Jolly Jumper, Exsersaucer, Tummy Time, Play Car, Baby Carrier, Sensory Play, etc.. you can vary the toys they play with on the ground to keep them interested. Use what’s around you depending on where you are in the house. For instance, the Tupperware drawer is full of baby curiosity magnets! Use your imagination, babies are sometimes intrigued by the most basic objects.
Ladies, choose your weapon! For good planning, you need good tools. Finding the right productivity tool for you will depend on whether you’re more of a pen and paper kinda gal or a tech savvy like me. There’s no wrong way to go at it, you just need to find what works best for you and your family.
Here are a few ideas if you prefer going electronically;
- GOOGLE CALENDAR – I love my Google Calendar, I note everything in it; Appointments, deadlines, events, etc. I use it to plan my meals, plan my outings, remember birthdays, etc. If your spouse uses it as well, it becomes very convenient to share a calendar so you are both spot-on when it comes to available days and appointments.
- TODOIST – OK, I’m going to seem like I’m repeating myself, but… I love my Todoist app! It’s great because it can be used on your phone as well as your computer. You can also share lists with your spouse, which is a must for me. It is a free app,
with a premium upgrade option (I use the free version and it works wonders). Since I only work with short daily task lists, I use this app mostly to keep track of everything I can think of that I might want or must do. It helps you clear your mind to actually write it down somewhere and not have to think about it for a while.
- HOME ROUTINES APP – Unfortunately, this app is only available on iPhones and costs 4.99$. It’s a good tool that I use, but if you don’t have an iPhone or you don’t want to pay, you could easily use Todoist instead to achieve this. The idea behind this app is that you divide your house into different cleaning zones. For example, Zone 1 could be the bathroom, Zone 2 would be the kitchen, etc. When every zone and tasks are set up, you can use it to focus on one zone per day when cleaning your house. If you keep it up like this, technically, your house would be well balanced in the cleaning department.
- GOOD OLD WHITEBOARD – For my three daily tasks list, I like to use the good old whiteboard. You could use anything really, whatever works for you!
It’s important to find what works for you and your baby. Some babies are more attached to the mom, some are more independent at play time. Some sleep for two hours at nap time, others only sleep 20 mins. Some sleep independently, others sleep in your arms. Some are breastfed, while others are bottle fed.
There’s no such thing as a bad baby routine, they are all good and unique. It’s up to you to try and sync your schedule with there’s and find tricks to make it work.
Example of scenarios and how you can turn it around for you:
- BREASTFEEDING or BABY NAPPING IN YOUR ARMS- This time is golden if you think about it! Not only do you get to spend some quality time with your baby, but it’s also a great time to be productive on your phone! You can reply to emails, update your to-do lists, plan 3 goals for next day, plan your weekly meals, etc. Or if one of your goals is to finish reading a chapter of your book, you can absolutely use this time to do it.
- WHILE BABY IS ASLEEP – If your baby is asleep in their own bed, it’s your time to shine mamma! This is the time to do all the chores (shh.. not too loud not to wake up baby), cooking, etc. Try to prioritize tasks that are really hard to do with a baby carrier first.
- EARLY MORNING, WHILE BABY IS STILL ASLEEP – is your baby a late sleeper? Does he or she sleep until 8, 9 or 10? If that’s the case, and if you don’t actually need to sleep yourself, wake up before everyone to take a quick shower and get ready for your day. I find on the days that I do this, I’m even more productive and energized. A shower is a great way to get ready to tackle the day!
In the end, you have to remember what truly matters. It’s easy to get wrapped up with what needs to be done around the house, what hobby you want to pursue, etc., but it’s important to stop and prioritize your baby. Sometimes, the best way is to actually include them in your activities. Hiking with a baby carrier for instance, or even snowshoeing for winter months.
There you have it, my top 10 effective ways to be productive with a baby. Do you have other tips, tricks or advice you would like to share? Don’t be shy, leave a comment!
I hope this will help you on your baby journey and who knows, maybe you will pick up good productivity habits that will follow you afterward as well! Good luck mammas!
Featured-Image: Elliott-Erwitt, New-Rochelle, NY, 1955