Ultimate Productivity Hacks: A Working Parents Guide to Sanity

70% of moms with kids under the age of 18 are working.

(That’s over 30 million working moms searching for balance just like you)*

 

reduce stress & increase productivity working mom

 

Ever wonder how those parents seem to do it all? Get the kids out of the house on time, be a leading contributor at work, get to the PTA meeting, and have a hot meal on the table at dinner time.

We wondered the same thing; with more responsibilities and less time to do them, how can you juggle home and work as efficiently as possible?

Parents Magazine interviewed 2,000+ moms about what stresses them out most, and how they find balance. The main culprits for stress were:

We get calls from parents all the time with the same sentiment: “I need a house cleaner because there’s just not enough time to do it all and I could use the extra help.”

So what we decided to do is create a guide of different productivity hacks that can help parents (both working and stay at home) reduce stress, get more out of their day, and create more pockets of time for themselves.

These tips are from parents just like you and from some of our favorite local Houston bloggers as well. So let’s get into it! The ULTIMATE PRODUCTIVITY HACKS FOR WORKING PARENTS!

 

 

 

Rise and Shine (Morning):

In the mornings you may feel like a taskmaster:

“Eat your breakfast.”

“Wash your face.”

“Get to the door, I can pause Daniel Tiger.”

“Own the morning and own the rest of your day.” It seems when your morning is running smoothly everything else falls into place. And when your morning is in disarray, well…

– Create a morning routine

A morning routine is one of the areas of the day that you can actually control. You control when you wake up, what you eat for breakfast, if the kids watch T.V. while they eat cereal, etc. Now a ton of productivity lists state you need to have a morning routine but NO ONE tells you the best way to implement one. UNTIL NOW! Check out this great post on how to implement a morning routine by Cathryn Lavery. It’ll change your life!

– Think about what time you need to get up in the morning, and then set your alarm at least 30 minutes earlier.

A quiet 30 minutes to yourself could be all we need with today’s hectic schedules. You can use those 30min. to meditate, go over tasks for the day, or just have a nice cup of coffee before the kids come running down the stairs.

– Use that fancy coffee maker and set the timer so your liquid fuel is ready the moment you wake up (or, more likely, the moment your children wake you up).

– If you find yourself spending a good chunk of time making morning lunches then these hacks are for you: Ultimate Lunch Hack #1, Ultimate Lunch Hack #2.

– Keep your bathrobe on over clothes if dealing with little ones

Anyone else ever been completely ready for work and then the kids get toothpaste on your nice clean work shirt or spit up, or apple juice or…you get the point.

Keeping your bathrobe on over your clothes is a great way to ensure you don’t do multiple wardrobe changes in the morning. This one I can personally attest to, my sons, 7, 5 & 3, LOVE Star Wars and one morning they had yogurt sticks for breakfast. I turn around for a split second and my boys are having a lightsaber fight with the yogurt sticks. Needless to say, I wasn’t going to go to the office with yogurt on my suit.

– Capitalize on your kids’ competitive nature and make getting ready a contest. Set a timer, then: ready, set go! Who can be completely dressed and ready by the time the timer goes off? Anything to get those feet moving away from the television.

– Utilize your commute time

If you use the park & ride, spend that time checking emails, making appointments, paying bills or my favorite, taking a nap… If you drive to work, use your hands-free to catch up with your friends or family for a chat or dictate reminders to yourself.

 

Afternoon:

– Auto-ship groceries

Ever tried going grocery shopping with 3 kids at once? It’s a special type of hell I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Not exactly the most fun way to spend a Saturday morning.

Instead of herding all those kids in the car and going to the grocery store, you can buy most of your groceries online. You can even use a service like Blue Apron to deliver the ingredients and recipes right to your door for a healthy family meal.

 

– Auto-ship services for the essentials: diapers, toilet paper, paper towels, and so on. Services like Amazon Prime and Diapers.com sell these items on the cheap, and they’ll be delivered to your door with free shipping.

– Work close to a grocery store? Use your lunch break to pick up fresh produce that you’ll need for dinner and do all of your other grocery shopping on the weekend.

– Use location-based reminder apps. These apps, like Checkmark, send out an alert when you’re near a designated location, reminding you to do something. For example, you can set a reminder that alerts you the next time you’re in Target to buy milk. Personally, any excuse to go to Target works for me.

 

Evening:

Plan a nightly routine

So having a nightly routine is just as important as having a morning routine. And it’s not just about the activities you do at night to prepare for the morning but actually getting a good night’s sleep. This is another golden post from Cathryn on creating and implementing a nightly routine.

Menu Plan and Prep meals on Sunday and Wed.

Meal prep is no longer just for the workout junkies counting their calories, it’s also for all us busy people out there. Tell me if you can relate, I get home from work and my wife and I look into the fridge and play the “So what do you want for dinner” game.

 

45min later you and the kids are eating takeout pizza.

Avoid that wasted time by having your meals planned, prepped and cooked beforehand. Prepping on Sundays and Wednesdays is a  lifesaver.

For those of you that don’t like to chop, saute’, braise, etc. One pot meals are the best! Throw everything in a crockpot then set it and forget it.

For those of us that are culinarily challenged Houston’s own Chelsea from the Perfect Catch has a great post on 8 slow cooker meals in one hour!

Bonus Tip #1: Prepare double the amount for every family meal you cook and freeze the extras. Freezer meals rock!

Bonus Tip #2: Invest in an affordable meal planning service like Fresh 20, or try a make-ahead program like Blue Apron, Dream Dinners or Let’s Dish.

– Shop in the Evening

If you do have to make that trip to the grocery store, go in the evening after the kids are winding down. The stores are empty, you can get in and get out and avoid the crowd.

– Workout in the Evening

What’s worse than 5pm traffic? the 5pm gym rush. It’s like a freaking night club. Instead of working out right after work go after the kids are down. There are fewer people in the gym and again, you can get in and get out, hassle-free.

– Lay it Out

Put all clothes out the night before, you can make this part of your nightly routine, (see tip below). Or you can do what we do and get our clothes picked out for the week. Shirts, pants, even shoes, and socks. Because there’s nothing more annoying than wasting 15min. looking for matching socks. For toddlers and babies who can’t dress themselves, purchase some “loungewear” that can conveniently transition from evening to day, so only their diaper requires a change in the morning.

– Shower at Night

After the kids are down for the night you can take a nice long shower. Showering at night frees up time for the morning.

– Go to bed earlier. Getting just one to two more hours of sleep a night can make a huge difference in your productivity and performance. Getting more done AND getting more sleep? That sounds exactly like what I need!

 

More Ways to save time:

Outsource

Depending on your household budget, consider outsourcing some of the household tasks, whether by employing a bi-weekly house cleaner or paying someone to do your gardening, ironing or laundry.

“I consider it an investment for my sanity,” said one working mom

– Keep a Schedule

I’m sure you’ve heard this one before a ton of times, well that’s because it works. Kids love schedules (especially if they’re all colorful and decorated with stickers and stuff) and adults need schedules too. A good schedule will help you be more productive at home, know what time dinner is, and will make sure no kid is left at practice. 

– No More Mountain of Clothes

You know that mountain of clothes you end up washing, drying, and folding on the weekend? The one that takes an entire television series to complete? Instead of waiting for the weekend to tackle the laundry put a load on every night or two, throw it in the dryer before you leave for work, then fold it in the evening while you watch your favorite 30 min. show.

– Label, label, label

Make it clear to your family where things belong. Nothing’s worse than running late for school because your kid is missing a shoe. Label shelves in the linen closet so everyone knows where to store items.

– Have a chore-busting “Family Power Hour”

This is a practice my wife came up with, that actually is worth its weight in gold. Arrange to have an hour designated only for cleaning. Every Saturday morning, usually around 10, my wife sets our Google Home timer, puts on some music and turns it into a bit of a game or family event. It’s chaotic, is stressful, but it’s also become a bit fun and competitive.

– Work-Life Balance

Do work at home; do home at work – it doesn’t matter where you do them, as long as they get done, so do whatever works for you. Pay your bills, schedule your house cleaner, or lawn guy at the office during your lunch hour, check your work email at home while the kids are doing their homework.

– Work alongside your kids

Work alongside your kids, if you have work to do at home, sit alongside your child as they do their homework. You’re encouraging them to work independently, while still being on hand if they get stuck on something. And if that math homework is too complicated for both of you, well, you can always look up the answer on your laptop.

– Make a homework box, basket or station

Give your kiddos a special homework box stocked with pencils, erasers, markers, etc. Ask them to bring it to the table whenever it’s time to do homework.

– In case of emergency

Organize a binder or folder with a list of emergency contacts. Include instructions for household tasks like watering plants, caring for pets and collecting mail. That way you won’t have to write out everything each time you have a house-sitter or babysitter. Keep a copy on your phone so you can change it easily.

– Keep the car prepared

Have a ‘car bag’ fully stocked at all times. Here are a few things it might/should include: a first-aid kit, wipes, water, plastic bags, snack bags of crackers…basically a diaper bag/snack bag just for the car.

– Plan online

Become a dedicated user of an online planner such as Google calendars (I LOVE GOOGLE CALENDAR), which can be easily shared and synced on smartphones, making sure you can always be on top of scheduling challenges. Even better when you receive your kiddos school calendar add it to your Google calendar and set alarms. This will certainly reduce the number of 11pm Wal-Mart trips for whatever project the kiddo has the next day. Share the calendar with your babysitter, grandparents, etc. so that everyone is up to date on activities.

– Carpooling

Carpooling with other families can lessen your chauffeuring burden. And carpooling isn’t just limited to taking the kids to and from school, you can also carpool to sports practice or music lessons can cut the time you spend driving and waiting in half.

– Doctors appointments first thing in the morning

Schedule your child’s doctor’s appointments for first thing in the morning. You’re less likely to have a long wait. Get in and get out (not that we’re keeping count but that’s the 3rd time we’ve used that phrase lol. I sense a theme here)

– Shop year round

Shop for holiday and birthday gifts year-round. Whenever you see a great gift for someone you love, buy it and set it aside to give later. For the guys out there, when you need an “I’m sorry for being stupid” gift you already have one ready to go!

– Work from home part-time.

I realize that not every job can be done from home. If you’re a doctor or a teacher or chef, you’re probably out of luck. But even though this tip doesn’t apply to everyone, I still had to include it.  If you do have a career that involves a fair amount emailing, phone calls or work on a computer, it doesn’t hurt to ask your director if you can work from home part-time.

– Stay Connected

Keep a positive connection with your kids all week long by planning something special for them to look forward to. Start talking about it on Monday; anticipation is half the fun. Or surprise them and pick them up from school early and go do something fun. 10 years from now your kiddo will remember that time you picked them up from school early to go see that new movie over Tuesday 2nd grade English class.

 

Bonus #1:

We LOVE our Houston bloggers! They show their support for small businesses, help keep us in the know what’s going around in the city, and keep us smiling & learning with their stories about their kids (both 2 legged and 4 legged lol). These guys have very hectic schedules, deadlines to meet, and understand that you might need a little trick here and there to go through the day lol. They were awesome enough to share their hacks that help them through their busy days. Check em out!:

 

Ashley Segura

www.newmominanewera.com

Do you have any morning or evening rituals that you do to help you set yourself up for success?

I’m the worst at sticking to a schedule so I usually set alarms at night for things I have to finish the next day, I’ve tried all the apps there is out there and haven’t found one that works as good as my alarms do!

How do you currently stay organized in your daily life, with running your blog, kiddo, etc.?

I have a notebook filled with my to do’s and calendars that I literally could not function without!

What’s your favorite caffeinated beverage to keep you going when you start to feel a lull coming on?

Coffee! I’m not the biggest fan of buying caffeinated drinks and stick to good old home brewed coffee!

What’s 1 productivity hack you would say has attributed the most to your current success?

I’ve hacked myself by giving myself deadlines before the actual deadline (lol) If I don’t do it then I wait last minute to do everything and I end up 10x more stressed!

 

Ariana Reed

http://www.3twentysix.com/

Do you have any morning or evening rituals that you do to help you set yourself up for success?

My morning ritual is making sure I have a good breakfast. I can’t get anything done without feeding the monster, haha!

Evening ritual is kind of on and off. I like to read before bed but sometimes I’m too exhausted so the TV is set to SLEEP and I pass out with funny shows like The 70’s Show, haha!

How do you currently stay organized in your daily life, with running your blog, your 9-5, etc.?

I stay organized thanks to two things. My iPhone and my planners. I love writing things down. I have a Bando planner that I use for my blog and sometimes work. And I recently jumped on the bullet journal bandwagon. I use the bullet journaling for my life goals, tasks, and dreams.

What’s your favorite caffeinated beverage to keep you going when you start to feel a lull coming on?

To be honest, I’m not a big caffeinated beverage type of person. When I feel a lull coming on, I take a break. My breaks consist of snacks and those always perk me up, haha!

What’s 1 productivity hack you would say has attributed the most to your current success?

We are our worst critics so my number one productivity hack would be silencing those inner negative thoughts that work against me. Easier said than done, but it’s a must when you have a goal/dream.

One more thing that has helped me that I mentioned before is taking breaks. Deadlines are important but so is our sanity.

 

Jeff Segura

Daddystylediaries.com

Do you have any morning or evening rituals that you do to help you set yourself up for success?

I make sure I finish everything I started that day. If there are any projects or errands I didn’t get to, I make sure they are prioritized the following morning. I plan my day accordingly and always leave some room for my daughter in there. So a flexible schedule is important for us.

How do you currently stay organized in your daily life, with running your blog, your 9-5, etc.?

Waking up early is how I get to start and finish most of my work. Once my daughter wakes up, we make breakfast, play with her, and then It’s back to work. Going to the playground is a double win for us since we play together and get some pictures of us. A planner is one of the most useful tools to manage all of the chaos.

What’s your favorite caffeinated beverage to keep you going when you start to feel a lull coming on?

Coffee is the only caffeine I need. I was never a coffee person until I became a dad!

What’s 1 productivity hack you would say has attributed the most to your current success?

Communication with my wife has been the best thing that we could have done. Not only is it great for our relationship but also great for our businesses!

 

Jill Jarvis

bigkidsmallcity.com

Do you have any morning or evening rituals that you do to help you set yourself up for success?

I don’t do anything fancy… I just get as much done as possible when the house is calm.  The morning and afternoon rush go a lot smoother when we are not in a panic trying to get everything done.

Each evening I write down my schedule for the next day and my to-do list.  If I can swing it, I also have lunch boxes ready, school clothes pulled out for the littlest kids and packed up backpacks by the door.

Each morning, I wake up about 20 minutes before everyone else so I can get myself ready and get some caffeine before the rush begins. Then I turn on music, turn on all the lights and get everyone out of bed.

How do you currently stay organized in your daily life, with running your blog, kids, etc.?

I write everything down.  No matter what I have to do during the day, I get it out of my head and on to paper.

So, everything from packing lunches to picking up kids to marketing meetings to articles I need to complete… it’s all written down on paper.

What’s your favorite caffeinated beverage to keep you going when you start to feel a lull coming on?

Iced tea!

What’s 1 productivity hack you would say has attributed the most to your current success?  

I don’t have any fancy hacks… but I feel the most in control of my home life and career when I am ahead of schedule.  As soon as assignments or opportunities come in, I like to make quick decisions on if I will do them or decline them… and if I decide to do them, I do them right away.

Saying “no” helps other people to plan better and for me to focus on what is most important.  Saying “yes” and getting the job done early let’s me say to “yes” to more things I want to do (like surprise family fun, last-minute high paying jobs and more!).

 

Bonus #2:

Some cool productivity apps: Apps that can help keep you on task and to make sure goals and tasks are accomplished.

    • CoziA shared family calendar to keep the whole family schedule.
    • Time logPerfect for anyone who needs to manage their time, especially when they are working for multiple clients.
    • WunderlistA really cool app that you can use on your phone, tablet or computer to make to-do lists to stay on task in the office or out.
    • IntuitionAn app designed by busy moms as a personal assistant to help you get things done.
    • Drop boxAn awesome online file storage service that keeps your files available at the touch of a button at home or on the go and saves you tons of time in the even of computer malfunctions, because you should be backing up to Drop Box.
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