Monday through Friday we are on a very strict schedule. Up at 6 o'clock, my husband and I juggle showers, breakfast, coffee, and getting our almost seven month old ready for the day.
On a good day I have about eight hours of uninterrupted work time available before picking up my daughter, my husband coming home, and jumping into our evening routine. Am I a frazzled working mom? Nope, but I am an efficient one. We can all benefit from tips on how to work smarter (and a chance to gain back some sometimes lost sanity).
I know my priorities, both personal and professional, and what I want out of each day. I want to produce good work for my employer and push my career forward as well as spend quality time with my daughter, and relaxing evenings with my husband. Therefore I work smart.
This doesn't necessarily mean that I work faster. It means that I need to prioritize and schedule everything during my day and week. It means that I focus on producing high quality work and eliminate anything that's a distraction from that work. I follow three rules of thumb:
Schedule Accountability. I schedule everything! I rely heavily on Google Calendars and force myself to be accountable to the schedule that I create. Priority items get precedent and everything else fills in from there. Tasks are allocated specific windows of time - and most importantly I stick to them. I also schedule my family and personal time, including errands. It keeps me focused throughout the day and helps me to see what can, and cannot, get done.
Routine Consistency. There are only so many hours in a day and only so many workable hours. Even though we may be out the door by 8AM, I don't actually get to settle into work until almost 9AM. I have to be efficient, and rely on a predictable and consistent routine. Each night helps to prep for the next day and each morning is the same. The quicker we can get through the morning and the more efficient we are means the more workable hours I can devote to deliverables.
Revisions and Renewal. Life and work is ever changing, and so are the needs of my family and my profession. Each weekend I look back at my calendar. I comb through how I spent my time. I take a hard look at where most of my time was spent, what unexpected items came up, or where I lost time. I think about what worked, what didn't, and how it can be better. Then I make revisions as necessary, implement them during the coming week, and repeat as needed.
The most simple adjustment can have a dramatic impact. For example, dinners were creating unnecessary confusion. Dinners are important to us, especially since it's one of the few times my husband and I get to relax, connect, and checkin. After a busy day we were often lacking a culinary spark of creativity and spent too much time on dinner or simply opted for takeout. The solution: we added nightly dinners to our weekly family calendar. Before we went grocery shopping we decided on the menu for the week. Not only were we able to have more efficient, and cost effective, shopping trips, but we were also better able to enjoy our evenings together during the week no matter how busy.
Most of us are diligently trying to navigate how best to get the most out of our day. As we do this, remember to be kind to yourself. Even if the to do list doesn't always get done each day we all deserve to take a break and give ourselves the credit we deserve for what we have accomplished as working moms and dads.
Image by Ali Nassiri via Flickr