Jun 26 / Priya Santhanam

Five Productivity Hacks for Working Moms

TIME

The most generous gift we can give ourselves and those around us.
The single most valuable commodity in the world we live in today.
The most undervalued and abused factor in our day-to-day.
…and this is exacerbated 100x for dual career parents!

We hear so many people around us say “I don’t have time for abc…”! Can you imagine the possibilities if we turned the conversation around to “I am not prioritizing abc this week/month/year”? It instantly elevates the listener’s opinion about you, and it helps you walk away from the nagging feeling of not “keeping up” with life. How do we do that though? By mindfully managing our day and actively bringing in hacks that make our days more productive.

This article will focus on the latter and share the top 5 productivity hacks specifically focused on working mothers who are building successful careers while raising young children. They are listed in priority order – it starts with the quick wins and low-hanging fruits and goes down to tips that require more effort and are a higher value add!

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Top Five Productivity Hacks for Busy Working Moms

1. Police your social media presence diligently

A scroll here, a ‘like’ there, and before you know it, you’ve wasted a significant amount of time on social media platforms! According to statista.com, an average user spent 2.417 hours on social media platforms in the year 2020. Think about that number – you could have run a 5k, prepared meals for 2 days, and answered 10 e-mails in that time!

Of course, it is essential to stay connected with the world, and your social media presence is important if it makes you happy. But remember to police yourself. Apps like Instagram now allow a reminder when you’ve spent a certain amount of time on the mobile device. Set up these alarms for yourself right now and honor them. Ideally, you would stick to your commitment when the application reminds you that you have spent 15 minutes on it today! A less ideal but nonetheless useful scenario would be the awareness these alerts will bring you. You can also track your usage on the social media apps over a certain period of time, and that data can be a powerful reminder of how you have invested your time as well. Use this to calibrate how much time you can truly afford to contribute on social media vs. another activity in your day!


2. For the morning rush with kids - choose your battles wisely!

You know those 7:45 AM meltdowns that happen with young kids just as you are ready to get out the door for a meeting at 8:30 AM? Yes…those! We tend to use various strategies in those moments, from talking to cajoling all the way to “because I said so”. Sometimes nothing works, and sometimes everything works – every day is unique! 

Make a mental checklist for yourself, prioritizing the things that work for your child’s unique temperament. Execute in that order in those difficult moments instead of struggling to find an appropriate approach. More importantly, choose your battles wisely. Young kids are discovering their individuality and love pushing the boundaries to see how far things can go and what the repercussions would be. If silence helps get through a meltdown and gets you to that meeting on time, do it. If it is listening to that one song they like, play it. If it is eating that one snack they like, hand it to them and get on the road. Do whatever it takes to get out that door and in time for your meeting! You can analyze and dissect the situation to capture learnings later when you are calmer and past the morning rush.

Pro tip: When you plan your mornings, whatever time you think it takes to get out that door, add 15 minutes of realistic contingency to it. It will bring you much more calmness and clarity!


“The very fact that you worry about being a good mom means that you already are one.” – Jodi Picoultme

3. Prioritize for the day, week, and month

Prioritizing and making strategic choices with home tasks is a core essential…just the way you make choices at work on what will and will not get done!

A macroscopic view goes a long way in keeping calm and reducing stress. As an example, making a clear choice that you will workout 3 times in this week and tracking that goal will help reduce the mental burden (vs. a generic goal “I am going to workout this week” OR a too prescriptive goal “I am going to work out every single day”). This way, when you look back you will see that you may not have hit every single task or goal every single day, but overall, things balance out over the course of a week.


4. Simplification

Simplify your life. Outsource to the extent your situation allows. You’ll be surprised at the ROI* a small, outsourced activity can bring.

As an example, say you engage a grocery delivery service that charges you $70 per year. What do you gain from that? Let’s do the math - 1 grocery store trip per week lasting 2 hours each = 104 hours/year in savings. Even if we assume your time is worth $1 per hour (which I am sure you’ll agree is a ridiculous underrepresentation of the value of your time), the $70 service is well worth the cost!


Take time to reflect on your day and week. What are the activities that you can have someone else complete? While these activities may not take much time individually, and outsourcing may seem expensive, the result of outsourcing is greater than the actual number of hours you save. Assess the savings in light of the value that time brings you and where you can apply your energies more productively. You’ll see that the decision-making process will become easier and help streamline your life.


*ROI = Return on Investment


“Do what you do best and outsource the rest” – Peter Drucker

5. Standardization

Standardize your life to the maximum extent possible! For example, make 4-6 weekly menus for the home, print them (laminate if you wish), and keep them handy. Rotate the entire week’s menus from this pile instead of sitting down every weekend to plan a menu for the following week. This directly simplifies your grocery list and makes it a standard list in line with the pre-set menu! (Then proceed to #4 above and outsource that set grocery list, see what I did there 😊).


Make a list of things kids need on a weekly / monthly basis and set them for auto-delivery in whichever services you use to order these items. Diapers, wipes, kid’s body wash, that special toothpaste that your kid won’t brush without are good options for order by subscription. You will find many services actually reward this planning mindset and provide a discount for monthly subscribed orders.

With little kids in the house, the morning rush (especially Monday mornings!) is a huge challenge for working parents. Make a standard list of items your kids need every morning. It is so much easier to quickly scan that list as you prepare their bags vs. having to think every single day and run the risk of something falling through the cracks!

Pro tip: Make a list of anniversaries, birthdays, teachers’ appreciation, kid’s class activities, special occasions, and order gifts, write notes, etc., in one sitting for the entire year! Make sure to add these to your calendar, so you actually remember to pass on the items you have carefully crafted! This can free up a large chunk of time in the day-to-day grind and allow you to focus on other priorities.


Summing it up

Everyone has the exact same 24 hours in their day. What we do in that time truly sets us apart and directly influences the varying degrees of success and happiness. J.R.R. Tolkein said it best: “All we have to do is decide what to do with the time given to us.”

So working mamas, what are your go-to productivity hacks?

If you have a personal story and lessons learned to share about how you’re owning your career, write to us at richa@pinkcareers.com.

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Priya is a chemical engineer by training. She received her bachelors degree in India and masters and PhD in the US. She has held a gamut of roles at ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company over the last 7 years including working in the lab, troubleshooting and designing for operations, building strategies for business development, software product management and teaching technical courses to early career engineers. She currently works as the Sr. Program Manager of IP Operations at Amazon.  

Priya has published over 10 scientific papers, holds 3 patents and has presented at over 20 technical conferences.  

She is a mom of two young children and is constantly hustling to find that coveted personal life - work life balance! In addition to engineer and mom duties, she loves to read, write and watch movies.


Find Priya on LinkedIn here
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WANT TO LEVEL UP YOUR LEADERSHIP SKILLS?

 Turn to PIVOT - our platform for virtual, instructor-led career training.

Get unlimited access to live professional development classes and learn how to communicate assertively, overcome imposter syndrome, lead effective virtual meetings, and delegate like a pro. Learn the skills you need to succeed at the workplace, when you need it. 
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