As a working mom I am always trying to be better at time management. I look for ways to find more space in my life to fit in all of the things that I want to do plus all of the things that I have to do. And there's no way I'd be able to balance working full time plus running a successful YouTube channel and blog without working at improving my time management skills. Having spent nearly my entire adult life as both a mom and a working mom, I can say that the search for balance is never ending.
Life is not static. The demands of our jobs can vary from day to day or week to week. The needs of our children evolve as they grow which brings new parenting dilemmas with them. We have to manage our own growth as we work towards reaching our personal goals. And through it all we also have to nurture and maintain our relationship with our spouse.
With all of these balls in the air, it’s not a wonder that we can start to feel out of balance. Here are some of the strategies that I use to help me thrive as a working mom.
TIP 1: RECOGNIZE THAT YOU CAN’T GET IT ALL DONE
Seriously if you only get one takeaway from this whole article, let it be this: you can’t get it all done and that is okay. No one person can do everything for multiple people and do it all to perfection. You cannot work full time, bake bread every night, DIY your decor, get a daily work out in, maintain an immaculate home, plus build your business on the side, and sleep. It. Can’t. Happen.
Somehow we’ve developed this idea that having it all means having to do it all. Or that it means having it all at once. It doesn’t mean either one of those things! And believing that we have to have it all at once or do it all equally well is just setting ourselves up for epic failure. At any given moment my bathroom vanity is messy, I have a number of unfinished projects around the house, and I still need to get in my 30 minutes of daily exercise. Over time I have learned to be okay with things getting done in their own time. So many of the deadlines and ultimatums we face as working moms are self-imposed. One of the best gifts that we can give ourselves is room to breathe and space to just not get things done.
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TIP 2: DON’T TRY TO DO IT ALL YOURSELF
Confession time: I can be a bit of a perfectionist. And a control freak. It’s a work in progress. Over time I have come to realize that me trying to do it all does no one any favors. It deprives my kids of the ability to learn a sense of responsibility and independence. And it leaves me too fatigued and resentful to enjoy the end result of my work. That’s no fun for anyone in the family.
It can be tough to let go of the reigns and let everyone learn to manage their tasks in their own way. By learning how to let go we give our children and partners an opportunity to grow and develop the ability to get stuff done that we’ve already gotten the hang of. Meanwhile, we get to use some of that newfound free time to practice some much-needed self-care.
Another option that is often overlooked but completely worth mentioning is to hire help. If there is space in your budget, hiring a sitter or mommy’s helper a few nights a week might be just the ticket to helping you check off everything on your to-do list. When I was traveling a lot for work, we actually had two nannies, one during the day and one in evening and it was pretty darned awesome having the extra help.
TIP 3: SCHEDULE LIFE FIRST
I came across this tip a while back and it is so simple yet so brilliant. The idea is that you schedule in time for the things that truly matter to you in life and then fit the other things around them. Spontaneity is great, but for a busy working mom it might mean that that thing never happens. So schedule in time to take your kids to the playground or the library. Block out thirty minutes at night to read that story or just have a snuggle with your hubby.
Of course, the more that we can simplify our lives and create routines, the easier this all becomes to manage.
It’s really easy for our lives to get bogged down with all of the things that we think we are supposed to do. Things that are optional start to feel like we have to do them and they take up more space in our lives than they should. Be ruthless about purging these things down to the essential. When I’m feeling like I need a reminder of the importance of the disciplined pursuit of less, I refer back to one of my favorite books: Essentialism by Greg McKeown.
TIP 4: FIND AN EMPLOYER THAT OFFERS FLEXIBILITY
It’s impossible to find balance if you have a demanding job that keeps you away from your family most days out of the week. Square peg meet round hole. Now that doesn’t mean that you can’t take your demanding job if you love the work and can’t imagine it any other way. But just be realistic about what it means for the time you have available to fit everything in outside of work.
When I was contemplating going to a big law firm, I counted it as a plus if attorneys headed home at 6pm to have dinner with their families only to log on later that night after their kids were asleep. In the end the compromises offered by BigLaw just weren’t enough for me, so I opted for jobs that, yes, were less lucrative but that gave me the flexibility and balance that I craved.
Now, I work a 40 hour week, work from home two days a week, and still make a six-figure income. Plus I have challenging work and a great boss and co-workers. These unicorn employers do exist. And the more people that insist on having that balance, the more employers will start offering these options.
TIP 5: MULTITASK FOR OPTIMAL TIME MANAGEMENT
There are plenty of ways to hit two birds with one stone, saving a whole bunch of time in the process. The easiest example of this is working out while getting in a Netflix binge. I recently had to come to terms with the fact that I disliked our local gym so much it was killing my motivation to work out. Luckily we have some basic equipment at home that allowed me to put together an effective home workout. Now I just head down to the basement, flip on the TV and get my workout on.
The key is to mix tasks that don’t require much mental energy with fun tasks that you might not otherwise find time for. Like listening to audiobooks while doing chores. If it wasn’t for audiobooks, it might take me a whole year to get through a single book. I use a combination of a monthly Audible membership, borrowing free audio books from the Library, and taking advantage of Kindle Unlimited books with audio sync.
TIP 6: TAKE TIME FOR SELF CARE
When you are busy, it’s just not always easy finding the time to take care of yourself. Basic things like getting enough sleep at night and drinking enough water throughout the day can get pushed to the side. The problem is that if we don’t take the time to take care of ourselves on daily basis the wear and tear will take its toll over time.
If we want to be our best for our families and our jobs, we have to take the time to take care of ourselves. It could be something as small as taking 15 minutes a day to practice meditation. Or it could be indulging in a biweekly massage to help relieve that omnipresent tension in your shoulders.
Maintaining balance in my life is a constant work in progress. Focusing on these tips helps me work through managing my time as a working mom.