Inside: Top list of 25 ways to create work-life balance and avoid burnout as a busy, working Mom; whether you run your own business, work from home or have a job outside the house – these productivity hacks will work for you!
I’m asked a lot about how I manage it all. In fact, a lot of people seem to be suspicious that I do it all. Let’s be clear. I am a mother and a business owner and I also work part-time in a digital ad agency running their content department. Yes, I’m a busy woman with a lot of things on the go – but to say I do it all is a lie. I have just gotten really good at productivity hacking my way to balance and to figuring out how to prioritize.
Today, I figured I’d address the giant elephant in the room which is balance, blogging, business building and well… being a human who sleeps and eats and wants to have a life. It’s possible. It’s not necessarily always possible at once, but it’s definitely possible to ditch the overwhelm and find a productive balance that will let you flourish at home and professionally.
Create a Success List – Daily and Weekly
Oh you thought I was going to say write a to-do list? Nope. I find to do lists are too intimidating for the overwhelmed Mamma. I always like to frame my tasks in terms of success. So when you write your daily list or your weekly list, write it as if you’re answering ‘success will look like this….a) b) c)…” and so on. Then it never feels like you’re playing catch-up.
Time Block and avoid Context Shifting
Do you know how much time and productivity we lose when we shift context? A LOT. Like a LOT A LOT A LOT. There is research that shows each time the brain has to shift from doing one task to thinking about another, we lose about 20% of our brain’s power just in the shift. Meaning, it takes an additional 20% of our energy to refocus. The best way to conserve energy, therefore, is to time block and focus on one thing at a time. I am a HUGE proponent of this and if you see my Google Calendar you’ll realize that I time block in 90 minute chunks. I find that amount of time is enough for my brain to sink into a task. I don’t always finish it, but it’s a natural time frame for me.
Use Emotions to your Advantage when Goal Setting
Another favorite productivity hack that doesn’t seem like it will work, but it does. Instead of focusing on an outcome like “I can’t wait until this presentation is over!” I focus on the emotion I want to feel more of in my life, so “It’s going to feel like bottled sunshine when I nail that presentation!” Focusing the goal on the emotion rather than the action makes it more attainable and real and less daunting and overwhelming. It also helps the brain to recognize that we are manifesting emotions and not physical realities.
Avoid Making Decisions based on Assumptions
Well, I’m baking 100 cupcakes because I assume the daycare wants a cupcake for every kid and their parents!
Do you know that is true? Hmmmm… Ya, I never base my decisions on assumptions. It has saved my butt quite a few times. If you are about to launch headfirst into a giant, time consuming thing – ask all the questions you can to make sure you aren’t overusing your energy.
Protect your Downtime
Just like context shifting, once you are in downtime, you are in downtime. I admit, I fail at this quite often. But once the clock hits about 9pm, I power down and put my phone in another room. I resist the urge to double-dip and watch Netflix while scrolling Instagram. I resist the urge to check my LinkedIn inbox while also watching Youtube. I protect my downtime just like it’s a meeting with a client. It’s important and it has to happen.
Rely on Technology
You love it and hate it, but I use technology all the time to hack productivity. I have a slew of apps I use on my phone and a bunch of ways I’ve used tech to help me go paperless in my business accounting. Just do it. It’s worth it.
Check out my post on how to use Smart Gadgets to Save Time. It’s full of info about how wireless tech is transforming the way we work at home!
Make Time for Learning
I have a rule. I spend 30% of my week learning. What does that mean? It’s not as bad as you think. It means, I read a book, an article online (that isn’t gossip or drivel), I have coffee with a friend and talk about big ideas (and not our kids), I do a webinar or watch a documentary about something that is going to expand my mind. I also use my 40 minute commute, three times a week to catch up on all my favorite podcasts.
Embrace the Chaos
Yep. Just breathe. When it feels overwhelming, see it for what it is and know nothing is permanent.
Find an Audible Cue to Set the Tone
This is a big one for me. When I need to actually sit down and get -ish done, I use an audio cue. People are like Pavlov’s dogs – kinda. Find a jam that works for you and put it on with headphones. I use a Youtube Channel called Lo-fi Hip Hop Beats. There are a bunch of different live streams and it’s just cheesy, mellow, lo-tempo music that is kinda like white noise. In fact, I’m listening to it now as I write.
Learn to Recognize Fatigue and Overwhelm
Remember when I said to embrace the chaos? The next step is to recognize when you’ve taken on too much and in the moment, breathe and give yourself a literal break. As soon as you recognize you’re fatigued, you are beyond the point of being productive and it’s time to stop.
Learn to Ask for Help
This one is like a broken record. But ya. If you are a working mom? You need to learn to ask for help. Full stop.
Make Bedtime a Priority
Don’t. Just don’t stay up to watch Netflix beyond what is reasonable. The average person (let alone overwhelmed Mom) needs about 8 hours of sleep a night. Work backwards from that assumption and stick to it. You’ll find time to binge watch TV in your life. Trust me, if I can, you can.
Make Early Wake ups a Priority
This is a contentious one, but I swear by it. Something crazy like 90% of the world’s top CEOs wake up early and put in an hour of self-care time before starting the day. I started doing this while on my maternity leave and haven’t stopped. I’m up each day around 5:30am and I use that morning time to assess my day, set my intentions and figure out how I want the day to feel. Yes, it’s hard to get up. But it’s time well spent and I’m always more productive when I do it.
Have at least one weekly ‘adult’ routine
If Friday night pizza is your thing, make it your thing and work towards it. Don’t let it slide. Don’t give it up. Use it as a beacon in your week to celebrate all your success.
Pay your Bills on one Day, Send invoices on another
In other words, if you want to feel financially productive, do output all at once and feel good that you have the means to pay the bills. Then ask for money on another day at another time and feel empowered that you are doing that. This is about emotional productivity and establishing a solid relationship with money.
Manage Notifications and Screen Time
I turned off all Facebook notifications, Instagram and email. I know. It was huge. But I did it. And now I only check emails three times a day. And I tend to only check Facebook on a desktop now! It’s amazing.
Find the Time Suckers and Automate them
You know what was sucking time for us? Grocery shopping. So now, we automate the process using an express grocery online check out every week. We also discovered that it was taking too much of my time to run the household finances and my business finances. So we split those up and now I do one and Dan does the other. Oh and as far as running my business? I was spending way too much time on Pinterest, so I hired out. And now, that’s the best and biggest, fastest growing platform I have.
Work from a Different Perspective Now and Again
Juice your brain! If you are feeling tapped out, work from another room. Even just flip your chair in another direction. You’ll reenergize your creative synapses. It seems silly, but a change of context can help your brain to generate new content and ideas. Try it! It’s fun!
Quit when you’re feeling GOOD
End the work day before you feel like butt. It will help you run your after work tasks like making supper, doing laundry and finishing work after the kids go to bed that much better. If you wait to leave work and you’re exhausted, that sensation will follow you for the rest of the day.
Schedule Vacations when you’re feeling GOOD
This is a grander scale of the above concept. If you schedule a vacation only when you’re burned out, you are defeating the purpose.
Hey Google – set a timer. Enough said. I love my Google Home Mini.
Use Meal Prep Services or Model one of your own
Oh Hello Fresh! Please deliver me fresh meals that I don’t have to think about and that I know my family will love. (This is not an ad. I just think this kind of thing is worth the stress relief if you can afford it).
Use the Pomodoro Technique
I don’t really do this… but I kinda do. This technique is where you work for 40 minutes and take a 5 minute break and then once you’ve done that four times in a row, you take a 20 minute break. I guess it helps to reset your brain. Might be worth trying if you have trouble focusing.
Use the Two-Minute Rule
If you think you can get something done in two minutes, shift context, do it, finish it, celebrate that it’s done, add it to your mental or actual success list and move on.
Give yourself a break
Oh. None of the above will ever happen perfectly. You will cry, you will probably wail at times. You will wonder what you’ve done to your life and how awful you are for wanting to be a good mother and a working professional at the same time. But the best practice when that happens? Cut yourself some slack. You’re doing amazing.