Productivity Tips Forged in the Fire of Mom-Life

Most people wish they were more productive. The idea of getting to the bottom of that gnarly to-do list has inspired concepts like “in-box zero” email management, and other equally mythical and guilt-inducing strategies.

So it’s no surprise that as a mother of 5, I often get questions about how I “get so much done” during the day. 

After hearing that question several times, I started wondering, “What is everyone else doing??” 

The reality is, I don’t always feel like the most productive person in the world, because I’m NOT doing everything, so there must be something going on that I’m not seeing… 

And that’s when I realized, my strategy for getting stuff done is different from other people’s. 

My work habits and the way I think about work were forged in a different fire than someone who had more time and fewer distractions. More specifically, I’m not being productive DESPITE being a mom. I’m being productive because I’m a mom.

So here are some useful ways to think about productivity. Hopefully, they will give you some peace.

  1. Productivity isn’t about getting lots of things done. It’s about getting the right thing done. The “right thing to do” is determined by your desired outcome… aka your goal.
  2. You need to set your own goals, or they will set you. Your goal needs to be specific and short enough that you can write it on a post-it note. Anything longer than that and your brain will forget it.
  3. Goals may change slowly over time. But priorities will juggle themselves daily or even hourly. Be flexible with your priorities, because there are often multiple ways to get to your goal.
  4. Self-care tasks count as valid priorities. Eating is a big deal. Remember to do it.
  5. Don’t pursue a goal at the expense of being able to have a life. And I mean that quite literally, beating yourself up weakens your immune system. Which makes it harder and harder for you to bounce back from stress and illness.
  6. Set up sustainable systems for yourself and the kids. Teach the systems to your kids, if the task is––or could be––shared. For example, I taught the kids the “my dish plus one more” system for keeping the kitchen sink under control. No, the sink doesn’t get sparkling clean using this system, but it does stay clean enough––and top of mind enough––that once a day, one of us will get inspired to load or unload the dishwasher. And if you’ve ever lived with teenagers, you know this is a major accomplishment.
  7. And my most important tip is to always have a “One Thing Plan.” A One Thing Plan is a single task that you feel can be reasonably accomplished in a day. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. And make sure it only has one step. For example, some days my “one thing” is to write an article, send an invoice, or attend a meeting. But other days, my one thing is as simple as “brush my teeth.” 

Remember, set your one thing according to your energy levels and your goals. Be kind to yourself and your productivity will likely improve, because beating yourself up is no way to live.