So you work and have kids… and that makes you amazing! The way I see it, you have least two full time jobs—and you deserve some help. Here are my favorite 21 productive hacks for working parents. Every working parenting can find something useful out of my list, so let’s do this!
1. Meditate. I know, I know… who has time for it, right? You! I say. Meditating is often explained as a complicated and time-sucking endeavor. But it isn’t. Just try this: Breathe in for three seconds, breathe out for three seconds. Repeat if it feels good. There! You just meditated. Now keep reading.
2. List out what isn’t working in life and work. Write it now (I’ll wait).
3. List out your desires for life and work. This is the fun part.
4. Simplify at work and home. Simply ask yourself, “Where am I spinning my wheels?” One client of mine makes soup every Wednesday for dinner which becomes everyone’s lunch the next day as well. One woman I know hired a virtual assistant to create all of her complicated spreadsheets that she has to update weekly for her boss. Does that get you thinking?
5. Stop making things look easy. I’ll let you in on a secret: the reason why everyone lets you do everything is because YOU DO EVERYTHING! What would happen if you stopped covering for your colleague, while changing diapers, while cooking gourmet meals, trying for a perfectly clean house, while compensating for your spouse, while volunteering and carpooling… Catch my drift?
6. Do a brain dump for your work and home tasks. Just put everything down on paper.
7. Make a 6-item to do list daily. From the brain dump, you just created, write down three personal must-dos and three for work. After all, you are a working parent: this means you have to bring your best to both roles. Too many parents are giving their best to work and have little left over for what matters most.
8. Learn how to ask for more, be it money, freedom, a promotion, etc. Have a boss? Work for yourself? Either way, you need to ask for more. Use a script if you have to but make sure you are getting the respect, income, and opportunity that you deserve.
9. Learn how to say NO. No to invitations, volunteer obligations you were guilted into or projects that you are terrible at or just plain hate. Even say no more to your kids and BFFs if needed. You need space in your life!
10. Turn off social media. ‘Nuf said.
11. Put your phone away. Seriously. There is a ton of new research that shows frightening drops in intimacy, connection and closeness just by having your phone visible. If this is true, then take a step back and ask yourself, when your phone is present, what message are you truly sending your kids, spouse, BFF, colleagues, staff, salespeople, etc.?” Yep, OUCHAROO! Put that thing away and see how you can connect more with all the amazing people in your life and just get more done.
12. Reward yourself for each task you complete. Every day, I make a list of fun things. I list things like binge-watch Catastrophe, prep dinner, make-out with husband, walk with friend, take toddler to throw pebbles in the stream, nap, run the robot vacuum, etc. I use these as “breaks” in between my 30-minute work bursts. It breaks up my day and makes me feel accomplished and happy!
13. Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. What do you do to get your heart rate up? Walk, run, Zumba or take the stairs? You already know the many benefits fo exercise, so do it already. Try rotating it in with the suggestions in #12.
14. Play on the floor with your kids every day. As a working parent, you cannot forget to do your job as mom or dad. Prioritize your “floor time.” Play a game, horse around, draw on paper plates or start an impromptu kitchen band with pots and wooden spoons. In other words, bring your light-hearted self to your time with your kids. Don’t be like me: just this week, my son brought home an essay about his family and it said my job is, “folding laundry.” Ugh…let’s just say, I’ve been stepping up my playfulness with my boys!
15. Network with other positive parents. Are most of the parents you hang out with happy? If not, focus on widening your circle and make sure you are surrounded by women and/or men who believe they are in control of their lives, can improve their marriages, handle reality with laughter and grace—and most of all they take control of their happiness and remind you to do the same.
16. Do what you can from home/cafe/library away from distractions. Even if it’s off the clock, what can you do away from the distractions of work and home to increase productivity? Try one of mine: every Sunday, my husband takes the kids and I disappear to prep for my week. Sometimes it’s only 10 minutes, but sometimes it’s 3 hours. I get my planner, the boy’s school schedules, etc. and plot out the week–ALONE. When I get back, I coordinate our childcare needs with the hubs and prep emails to go out first thing Monday morning. I’ve been known to also prep client work “off the clock.” It’s amazing what we are willing to do when we feel good.
17. Get the help you need at home and work. You know what I’m talking about! Start with what you hate: is it dishes, cooking, cleaning or scrubbing toilets? Then see what your family is willing to take on to help. You will be amazed what your partner is willing to help with when he or she knows what is taking away from your feeling peaceful and happy. Single Mamas: set up trades with your other single Mom friends. Think: trading meals, childcare, cleaning/organizing. Also, do the math: it may not be as expensive to hire a mother’s helper/housekeeper as you might think!
18. Declutter at work and home. Pretend you are moving tomorrow. What would you sell or give away? Start with that. Give away old toys and books that your kids have outgrown to your local shelter. Or do what one of my good friends does: Give away one thing every day!
19. Do the hardest thing first for energy. Remember the last hard conversation you put off and then finally had? Remember how free and unburdened you felt after that talk? You can actually cultivate that feeling every day. Look at your list from #6 above. Circle the hardest/worst tasks. Now tackle one of these first thing each day for a week and see how this fuels your productivity, not to mention you will feel brave and strong.
20. Do chair yoga (stretch!) and mindfulness to avoid sugar and caffeine cravings. Just try it the next time you have a craving.
21. Embrace grace over perfection. Saved the best for last! When you accept that you cannot control every aspect of your life and bring trust and faith to your every task…your life will flow in ways you never knew imaginable. I know, easier said than done. And yet, it’s possible when you surround yourself with inspiring people who know what and who you really are and tease you (just a little) when you get back on your “perfection-circling-the-drain” habit.
Try some of these this week and see how your productivity is affected.