Parent Lightly - The logistics of parenting - simplified.
I’m a mom of two, and I’ve been doing this working parent thing for almost six years. During that time, my husband has had various travel and evening positions, so I’ve learned how to streamline as much as possible. I have a PhD in Economics and work as a consulting manager for a large software company. I specialize in analysis that adds value – and knowing when the effort outweighs..
Do you live in fear of a neighbor dropping by because your house is such a mess? Do you feel guilty about the clutter but still struggle to get motivated to clean? I completely get it.
I’m not sure why others are messy but for me it’s a combination of boredom (there are so many more interesting things to do!) and underlying perfectionism (if I can’t get it perfect, why bother doing it at all?). So I really have to find tricks to motivate myself to clean up. I know that it won’t be perfect but I can’t let that stop me from trying.
Here are some cleaning motivation tricks to get you moving and 12 hacks to make cleaning fun!
How do I get motivated to clean?
Sometimes you need a good reason to get started! Use one of these tips to get your butt OFF of the couch.
#1: Invite people over
This is the very best way to get yourself motivated to clean! If you’re not a naturally tidy person, you are probably comfortable with a certain level of mess at home. You might not notice or be bothered by clothes on the floor or dishes in the sink.
All of that changes when you invite someone over! Suddenly you see your house through their eyes, and that can be a little embarrassing. You’re guaranteed to clean up when you know that you have guests coming.
#2 Pretend you’re a guest in your home
If you don’t have any dinner parties on the horizon, you can generate the same feeling by imagining you’re a guest in your own home. Pretend your house is someone else’s. Are you suddenly noticing the cluttered counter? Are you grossed out by the toothpaste in the sink? Sometimes we’re blind to our own mess but notice someone else’s. That’s why this trick is so good.
When I’m having trouble getting motivated to clean, I really like this approach and use it frequently. Imagine that you’re walking into your home as a guest. You’re eating at the kitchen table – is it clean? You’re using the bathroom – is it tidy and stocked with toilet paper?
#3 Imagine your future self
Sometimes your present self isn’t too motivated but you know that your future self will appreciate having a tidy house. If you empty the dishwasher tonight, even though you’re dog-tired, you’ll be grateful tomorrow morning. Hang up your coat when you get home in the evening and your future self will be thrilled to find the coat in its place. Take out the trash before a trip and your post-vacation self will be happy to come home to a house that doesn’t smell.
The motivation of your future self will often get your current butt in gear.
#4 Start with just 5 minutes
If you just can’t talk yourself into getting started, overcome the inertia by promising yourself that you can stop after 5 minutes. Don’t set a timer in case you’re having so much “fun” that you forget to look at the clock. You’ll honestly be surprised how much cleaning you can do in 5 minutes. And nine times out of ten, you’ll probably be willing to clean a little longer. Often the hardest part is getting started. Once you do, you may be able to go for 20 minutes. And you can do a lot in 20 minutes!
How do you make household chores fun?
Even if you’re motivated, it helps to make chores feel more fun. Cleaning can be boring, so find ways to make it more interesting.
#1 Listen to podcasts
Listening to podcasts is a great way to have fun while you’re cleaning. You can save your favorite podcasts for cleaning time so you’re extra excited. This is a great way to have more fun cleaning because you’ll be actively looking forward to listening to the latest episode of your favorite podcast. It just so happens that you have to clean a little bit while you do it!
#2 Listen to audio books
Listening to an audio book while you’re cleaning can also be very motivational. It’s fun to listen to a book because you can get into the story. Save a good book for cleaning time only, and you may be so excited to find out what happens next that you’re voluntarily getting out the vaccuum. It helps to pick something exciting and engaging – a page-turner!
#3 Play some cleaning motivation music
Your favorite music can make cleaning more fun too! Listen on your ear buds or crank it up on the stereo. Whether you like classical music or cheesy pop songs, your favorite tunes will definitely add a fun factor to cleaning. Mix it up by picking a random Spotify playlist or a selection of your faves from the 80’s. NKOTB is bound to make you laugh while you’re sweeping.
If you already have the music going, you might as well dance! Cleaning is boring, so bust some moves while you’re vacuuming or washing the dishes. OK, it sounds super goofy and a little Mrs Doubtfire but we’re not going for cool here. We want fun! If you don’t want your neighbors to see you lip-syncing into your feather duster, close the curtains. The sillier the better.
#5 Watch a favorite TV show in the background
Watching your favorite TV show can be fun when you clean if you can watch it. I personally don’t like to watch TV when I’m cleaning unless I’m folding laundry and can sit down. Otherwise, I miss too much of the show. Still, watching a TV show or movie could be super fun if you have a small place.
#6 Set a timer and see how much you can do
When in doubt, make up cleaning games! You super competitive types will like this one, even if you’re only competing with yourself. I like to guess how long it will take me to clean up a room – maybe 5 or 10 minutes. Then set the timer and see if you can beat your time.
This is a great game because it’s fun, but it also shows you how little time it really takes to clean up. Tidying can seem daunting but when it only takes you 5 minutes to tidy up the living room you suddenly realize that….it’s really not that time-consuming. Laundry and dishes can eat up a huge amount of time, but most other tidying isn’t that bad.
Another way to do this is to see how how many rooms you can clean in 20 minutes. Guess how many you think you can do and then see how far you get!
#7 See how much you can clean while the toast is toasting or coffee brewing
Cleaning games don’t have to take up much time at all! I like to clean in short bursts because that’s less exhausting for me. You can often find little pockets of time while you’re waiting for something – bread toasting, coffee brewing, water boiling. These are great opportunities to do a little cleaning.
See if you can empty the dishwasher before your toast is done or switch the laundry before the water boils. Somehow, racing the clock takes your mind off whatever boring task you decide to do. And you have toast or coffee to look forward to when you’re done! You can actually get a lot done in those little pockets of time, too. Those are things you won’t have to do later.
#8 Promise yourself a special drink/treat when done
I don’t know about you, but I like a glass of wine or a sparkling water at night. Why not hold off on your special nighttime treat until you’re done cleaning? Don’t undermine your health goals for the sake of cleaning, but having one drink or a small piece of chocolate is just fine. Hey, whatever it takes.
#9 Talk to someone on the phone
Life can be busy and sometimes it’s hard to catch up with loved ones. Cleaning time is a great opportunity to talk on the phone. You’re busy with your hands but you can easily chat with friends and family.
The best way to do this is to have earbuds so you can be hands-free while you’re on the phone. When my husband travels, I always make myself get up and do some cleaning when we chat in the evening. It’s nice to have some company and I don’t really think about the cleaning when I’m on the phone.
#10 Make it a team effort!
If you have a spouse and/or kids, make cleaning a team effort. Cleaning is so much more fun when you have company. Doing housework by yourself can be kind of a bummer if other people live in your house. You feel like you’re the only one doing all of the work. That’s why it’s so nice to clean as a family. Even if your partner or kids don’t do things exactly like you would, the benefit of cleaning as a team far outweighs anything else.
#11 Race to see who can pick up the most/fastest
If you’re team cleaning, might as well make it a competition! See who can pick up their room the fastest, or who can put away the most items in 5 minutes. Race to see who can put their laundry away most quickly or who can fold the most clothes (neatly!) in 10 minutes.
#12 Make it super short but consistent. Even 5 minutes
If you can’t make cleaning fun, make it short. You can do anything for 5 minutes. So make a goal to clean every day for just 5 minutes. If you go longer, great, but don’t feel compelled to or guilty about stopping. Sometimes the best way to make something tolerable is just to not do it for long.
To Keep Your House Tidy, Make Cleaning Fun – or At Least Make it Quick
Some people really enjoy cleaning, but if you’re not one of those people you have to learn how to make housework fun instead. Listen to an audio book, have a dance party or race the clock – whatever it takes to make chores more enjoyable!
Happy Amazon Prime Days! If you’ve been eyeing something big on Amazon this might be the time to go ahead and buy. Here are my FAVORITE deals that will help make your life easier!
About Prime Day
Keep in mind that you must be an Amazon Prime member to take advantage of Prime Day savings! Some deals also expire (time-based) or have a limited number of deals available. I will update this list as much as possible, but some deals may not be available when you click on them. If you find a deal that is no longer available just ping me and I will update! Thanks so much and happy shopping!!
This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase an item from one of the links in this post, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. Please visit my Terms & Conditions for more information. Note that only the Amazon links are affiliate links.
Chromebook: Need a lightweight laptop for web-based work? I LOVE my Chromebook and the price is right!! Just be aware that this runs Android OS!
Ipads & Apple Watches: If you’re an Apple user and need a new Ipad this might be the time. I’ve been thinking about a smart watch for a while so I’m very tempted by this offer. Still, I’m an Android user so I would go with an Android watch over the Apple version but if you use Apple, jump on this one!
Noise-Cancelling Headphones: Just got back from a trip and realized I need new headphones. Mine work OK but the fabric inside is torn. The battery in my headphones also died about halfway through the flight, underscoring just how big of a difference they make! Block out engine noise and crying babies alikw!
Roomba: I’m seriously thinking about getting a Rooma. Our living room gets SO dirty because it’s very high traffic. And we just got a dog, so hello dog fur everywhere.
Vitamix Blender: If you love smoothies, soup, margaritas, cauliflower rice or homemade baby food I highly recommend the Vitamix Blender! Powerful enough to power through almost anything you put inside.
KitchenAid Mixer: Rarely have I been tempted by a KitchenAid Mixer (I don’t bake much) but this pretty blue is calling my name!
Bissell Steam Mop: I’m buying this mop. I think it would be amazing for cleaning up bathroom & kitchen messes!
Marmot Coats and Camping Accessories: Marmot is a high quality outdoor brand. If you’re in the market for a raincoat (for yourself or your family!), a down jacket or camping gear check it out.
Is paper taking over your home and life? It seems like we get a tree’s worth of paper coming into our house every week. Between junk mail, kids’ school papers and household records it can feel super overwhelming. Even though we manage more and more of our lives online, paper doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
When paper gets to a certain point, it’s hard to know where to start.
If you’re ready to clear the paper piles from your kitchen counter, dining room table and desk, these steps will give you a starting point for eliminating your paper clutter for good.
Step 1: How to purge papers
The first step is purging papers you no longer need. You’re probably hanging on to a lot of paper that’s in this category. You’ll need just a few supplies for this phase: shredder, recycling bin, camera and/or scanner and computer.
Recycle/Shred paper you no longer need
First, make a big pile of the paperwork you don’t need anymore. Not sure where to look? Here are some places to start:
Junk mail: If you’re keeping magazines or ads that you don’t need, they can be disposed of.
Outdated documents: You can get rid of paperwork related to houses or cars you no longer own.
Kids Papers: We get a lot of informational papers from kids’ schools. Recycle anything that relates to something that has already passed. Choose a few important tests and papers to keep, then dispose of the rest. You may have to be stealthy!
Old financial statements: Almost all of your financial records are available online these days. An exception might be if you have closed an account but want to keep the account records.
Taking pictures or scanning documents to reduce paper clutter
There are some papers that you need to keep the information from but don’t need the physical paper. Anything informational usually falls into this category. Not sure how to differentiate? Here’s a simple breakdown.
Need the physical paper
Official Government & Legal Documents
Investment certificates (stock certificates, CDs)
Don’t need the physical paper
You can either scan the documents or take a photo of them, depending on the type of document. Letter-sized papers can be scanned if you like, but it’s not necessary. You can take and save a picture of almost anything for later.
Make sure you come up with a way to organize your digital files! Store them in an organized way on your computer. Don’t forget to back up your files with a service like Carbonite. This is a super important step if you’re storing information and documents digitally.
Use the internet for manuals
If you’re like me, you have a million manuals at home. Unless you really need the physical manual for some reason, it’s OK to throw it away. You can access almost any appliance manual online. Feel free to confirm that you can find the manual online before throwing the physical version away!
Step 2: How can I organize my paperwork at home?
Now you’ve hopefully reduced your paper piles a bunch – by half or more! That process alone should make the organization step seem a little more manageable.
Now you’re probably wondering how to organize papers that are left! You’ll have different systems for different types of papers. These fall into a few categories.
Filing system for important papers
First, you need somewhere to file Very Important Papers. These are the papers that you need to keep hard copies of. They are important to have but you probably don’t need access to them frequently. This type of paper include important legal documents:
Divorce Papers & Custody Agreements
Wills, Medical Directives & Powers of Attorney
Physical investment instruments like stock certificates and treasury bonds
Business papers like articles of organization & operating agreement
In addition, there are documents that are super important but not legal documents. Here are a few that I’ve misplaced in the past:
You need a safe and organized location to store these documents. Group all of this paper together to see how much you have. You probably don’t need more than two filing drawers. You’ll also need hanging files, file folders and a pen.
I usually create a hanging folder for each category, and then have a file folder for each item within the category. Here’s an example:
Hanging file: Cars
Folders: Truck, Subaru, Motorcycle
Make sure that your partner, if you have one, also understands the system so they can file and find papers too!
Create an easily accessible paper organization system for active papers
Some papers are “active” papers. These are papers that you need to take action on in some way. Examples of active paper are:
Active papers need to be organized but accessible in a way that helps you take action on them. This one is a little tougher! I suggest finding a pretty file folder or hanging file box to store these active papers. You’ll have to develop a system of reviewing these papers about weekly to make sure you don’t miss anything.
Papers for other people
Papers that require action from other people need a special system. If you have younger kids, you probably only need to file papers for your spouse. To do this, you can label a separate file folder for your partner and put it somewhere obvious.
For families with older kids, you might need a folder for each child. When the system gets this complicated, a small filing box is the perfect paper clutter storage solution. Create one file folder for each family member and store active papers there. Make sure that your family knows to check the file folder regularly! It’s helpful to put it somewhere obvious and create a ritual around going through the papers each week!
Step 3: How do you keep paper clutter under control?
Putting a paper organization system in place is only the first step of the paper decluttering journey. Once you have a good paper filing system, you have to come up with a way to maintain it. Like anything, a beautifully organized paper system will quickly become chaotic again if you don’t have a good way to keep up with the paper. Accept that this is how it is. You’re not doing anything wrong – it’s just that paper is always coming in so you have to be consistent in how you deal with it.
Review immediately and put into file/active/recycle
The best way to keep paper under control is by reviewing it immediately as it comes in. If you put it in a pile to “get to later” you will rarely get to it later. Try to deal with anything that comes in by the end of the day.
Decide quickly whether the paper is active, important but not active or unneeded. Immediately file the papers you’re keeping in the proper places. Shred (if needed) and recycle anything that you don’t need to keep. It’s much easier and faster to deal with one day’s worth of paper than a big pile of it!
Reduce incoming paper by unsubscribing to ads/junk mail
You can also reduce the amount of paper you have incoming. You can also remove yourself from catalog and junk email lists. Use the PaperKarma app to unsubscribe. Simply snap a photo of your unwanted mail and press “unsubscribe”. You’ll be removed from the mailing list if possible!
If you do most of your shopping online, you don’t need to receive paper catalogs. Save some trees by unsubscribing from as many lists as possible !
Make your accounts paperless!
Select paperless billing for as many accounts as you can. Many companies are encouraging customers to select paperless billing since it saves paper and postage for the company as well! This is a great way to eliminate paper bills and account statements.
Use a Rocketbook, reusable notebook or electronic method for note-taking
For people who take a lot of notes, paper notes and notebooks can really accumulate quickly! Not only do paper notes pile up over time, but they’re also often difficult to organize and access. Enter a reusable notebook!
I personally have two Rocketbooks and I LOVE using them for notes. There are a few huge benefits for me:
#1 I only have to carry around ONE notebook
#2 I don’t have a bunch of old paper notebooks cluttering my house and office
#3 I can easily organize the notes digitally and access them at any time
The benefits of a reusable notebook go far beyond reducing paper clutter – but that’s a great bonus!
Review & address active paper weekly
Designate a day to review and deal with all of the active paper. The turnaround time is usually long enough that papers, forms and invitations can hold for a week. (If it’s urgent, just handle it immediately.)
Some people choose Sunday to review active papers, but I prefer Monday when I’m at my desk. Find an hour or two that works in your schedule, is quiet and is a time when you have all of the materials you need.
Get a special drink to motivate yourself! This is note the time to power through. Try to make this habit as pleasant as possible so you will be likely to keep it up.
Review filed & active paper quarterly, address as needed
Once a quarter, review the paper you’ve filed. Is there anything that’s no longer relevant, for a car that you’ve sold or a house that you’ve moved out of?
Go through the active paper file, too. Is there anything that’s been hanging around in the “active” file week after week? It might not be so active.
Shred and recycle any documents you don’t need anymore. Take photos and dispose of documents that have information you need, but you don’t actually need the paper copy. Re-file any remaining documents if needed.
You can eliminate paper clutter FOR GOOD!
The good news is that you don’t have to continue to be overwhelmed by paper clutter! You can declutter paper and stay on top of it with just two things: solid paper clutter organization ideas and a paper administration routine. Clothes get dirty, houses get messy and paper accumulates. By reducing the amount of paper that comes in and developing systems to organize your paper, you’ll be free from the overwhelming mountains of paper clutter for good.
Bedtime has to be one of the most challenging times in early parenthood. There you are, trying to tuck your little one in. You’ve had a full day of work, parenting or both. Adult time is so close you can taste it.
And then…your kid won’t get into bed or won’t stay in bed. It is SO hard to keep your patience when your kid is having problem at bedtime.
That’s why you need these 9 bedtime hacks. Like many things in parenting, I’ve found that the only way to solve bedtime challenges is to try a bunch of things and see what works.
I have used every one of these nine tips at some point in the past, and I still use many of them today! I guarantee these hacks will keep you from losing your shit at bedtime and will get you through to the other side.
How to Get Kids into Bed On Time
Some kids have trouble just getting into bed. Maybe they like to dawdle on their bedtime routine, or they ask for one more books. Kids have mastered the fine art of the delay tactic!
Number 1: The Benefits of a Consistent Bedtime Routine
Keep the bedtime routine consistent every night.
Set up a clear bedtime routine – that includes bath, brushing teeth, putting on pajamas and books. When you have a routine to refer to, it’s no longer a power struggle. You’re not making them brush their teeth or take a bath. It’s simply something that’s a normal and expected part of the bedtime routine.
A study of infants and toddlers’ sleep routines showed that children who had a consistent bedtime routine showed improvements in time to fall asleep and had fewer night wakings. The mothers’ moods also improved significantly after they implemented a nighttime routine.
You can help keep your kids on track by making a bedtime routine chart or bedtime routine cards for them to use. This method is especially helpful for children who have trouble focusing on the steps they need to complete. It also helps kids see how close they are to story time, which can be a huge motivation!
Number 2: Keep them on track and do a hard reset if things get too crazy
My kids often get wound up a bedtime. They’re overtired and things can get rowdy. I hate it when that happens because it both derails the bedtime routine and riles them up.
To nip the craziness in the bud, I find an air horn noise on my phone and play it as loudly as possible. I realize this sounds ridiculous, and maybe it is. But that air horn immediately gets their attention. Then I can ask the kids to calm down.
The point here is that you can’t let bedtime get away from you. Stay on top of the entire routine from beginning to end. If a kid starts to wander a little off the path, gently (but firmly) but them back on. Because kids are so tired at bedtime, any little deviation can lead to chaos.
The best thing you can do for your kids at bedtime is to be their bumpers to keep them on the path. A good night of sleep is one of the best things you can do for your kid, and it’s good to stay focused on that goal during bedtime.
Number 3: Get a Sleep Training Clock
We have a programmable clock called the Remi clock (it was a kickstarter product). You can set your kids’ wake and sleep schedules. When it’s “sleep” time (8 pm for us), the clock’s face goes from awake to asleep.
It also starts playing music, and this is key. It’s super annoying to try to read books over the bedtime music, so the start of the music the kids’ cue to get into bed. Again it works well because it reduces the likelihood of a power struggle. Getting into bed becomes “the bedtime music is playing, it’s time to get into bed” instead of “mommy says to get into bed”.
Number 4: Short goodnight after lights out
Keep the goodnight short and sweet after lights out!
I used to spend one on one time with my kids after lights out, but I’ve changed that recently. I was actually very reluctant to give this time up because I love spending that one on one time with them.
Ultimately I shifted the one on one time to a different part of the bedtime routine because keeping things short and sweet after lights out really does help. The kids get out of bed significantly less frequently since we’ve made this change. It’s totally worth it!
I’m not sure why it works, but I think it sends the message that mom and dad aren’t interesting after lights out.
How to Get kids to Stay in Bed
Some kids go to bed without a fight but won’t stay there! I know because my four year old has gotten up four time during the last hour as I’ve been writing this article. So frustrating!
Number 5: Spending Quality Time with your Child
Spend one on one time with your kid each day – it might make bedtime easier.
Sometimes a kid struggles with sleep because they’re worried about something. That’s why it’s important to spend some one on one time with each of your kids every day. I used to do this after turning out each child’s light and tucking them in.
When I realized that bedtime goes more smoothly when I make lights out short and sweet, I decided to move the one on one time to a different part of the bedtime routine. I have two kids and sometimes I’ll do “quality time” with one kid while the other is in the bath or shower. I’m still close enough to see and hear the one in the bathroom, but it’s still private enough for the child I’m talking to.
Another option is to have special one on one time after you tuck your child in, but before you turn your lights out. This way they know that when the lights are out, it’s sleep time. You could also try spending a few minutes one on one with your child during the day instead of at night!
Number 6: Use a Bedtime Pass
I’ve used the Bedtime Pass concept with varying success throughout the years. The idea is pretty simple: give your child a ticket each night. They can use the ticket to get out of bed one time each night – and one time only! We called it the “Get Out of Bed Ticket”.
A kid who is cautious and thinks ahead will often decide to save the ticket for something really important, and end up not using the ticket at all! Even if they do use the ticket, that’s still just one wake up.
I think that the bedtime ticket can work really well for certain ages and personalities. If you’re at your wits end with your kid’s sleep, it’s worth a try!
Number 7: When your kid gets out of bed, do not engage
When your kid gets out of bed, try to be as boring as possible. My husband and I used to get into huge debates with our youngest about whether she needed more water or her room was too cold or whatever it was she wanted to argue about! We put a stop to that when we finally realized that she didn’t really care about the water or the temperature. She was just trying to amuse herself, and we were playing right into it.
So we stopped arguing or even reacting and it works like a charm. When your child gets out of bed to request something, just lead them quietly back to bed. Don’t talk or make eye contact. Keep your expression neutral. If your kid request something small, like a cup of water, give it to them quickly and without comment. If they ask for something unreasonable, say, “We can talk about that tomorrow. It’s bedtime now.” And leave.
If you have a kid who likes drama, this method works really well! You don’t have to be jerk about it – just be completely uninteresting! They’ll tire of the game soon enough and might actually even fall asleep!
Number 8: “You don’t have to sleep, you just have to rest”
Bedtime can become a power struggle. But like it or not, you cannot make your kid sleep and there’s no point in trying. You can create conditions that will help them sleep, but you simply cannot force them to fall asleep.
Telling them that they have to go to sleep creates a power struggle that you won’t win. Instead, set firm rules about bedtime that do not involve actually sleeping. Some rules might include:
Stay in your room
Quiet music only
Stay in your bed
Whatever rules you set, be firm about enforcing them but do not insist that your child “needs to sleep”. The fewer power struggles at bedtime, the better.
Number 9: Change your Child’s Sleep Schedule
Children who are too tired – or not tired enough – can have bedtime problems.
If you’ve tried everything and it’s still not getting better, try experimenting with your kids’ naps and bedtimes. Some kids sleep better at night when they drop their naps (although it can make the evening hours a bit hair). They might just not be tired when you put them down.
On the other hand, overtired kids also have trouble falling asleep. A mom I talked to recently had success with moving her kids’ bedtime an hour earlier. The children went to sleep more easily and slept longer. Sounds like a sleep miracle!
Observe your kids at bedtime and try to figure out what’s really going on. Is your child perfectly calm and just not sleeping, or do they seem more wound up than usual? Your child’s behavior is probably the clue you need to figure out whether they’re too tired or not tired enough.
If your Child Refuses to Go to Bed, Try these tips – and don’t give up!
Although the years of kids bedtime problems can seem endless, these issues do improve over time. If you maintain a consistent routine and keep bedtime from becoming a power struggle, you have a great chance of making it to your couch and Netflix sometime before midnight. Promise!
Going back to work after having a baby is TOUGH. You’re getting used to motherhood, your hormones are all over the place, your boobs are leaking and – oh yeah – you’re doing it all on no sleep. Nothing easy about all that!
Add in work and, well, it feels a whole lot more complicated. Suddenly you’re considering the prospect of showing up somewhere at a specific time. You may feel like a completely different person in some ways.
Some new moms feel terribly guilty about leaving their children. Others look forward to adult conversation and feel guilty about NOT feeling guilty. Sometimes moms can’t win.
No matter how you’re feeling about returning to work after maternity leave, there are some things you can do to make your transition go smoothly.
Number 1: Find trusted childcare before returning to work from maternity leave
You need a caregiver you can rely on.
You will not be able to focus if you are unsure about your childcare choices. Research your options in advance and get on daycare waitlists if you want to go that route. If you’re going with a nanny or care by a family member, you can wait until a month or two before you go back to work to start your search.
GO WITH YOUR GUT! Choose the option that feels comfortable to you as a mom. And don’t be afraid to change if you’re feeling anxious or unhappy with your choice. Your baby really won’t remember this, so it’s really about you and your feelings about the childcare.
If you don’t trust your childcare, you will constantly be worrying about your baby at work. You’ll have trouble getting anything done because you’re so worried about your baby. That’s why it’s so important to do whatever it takes – within your budget – to find childcare you’re happy with.
Number 2: Set a pumping checkpoint a month after you go back to work
If you aren’t planning to pump when you go back to work after maternity leave, you can go ahead and skip this tip! If you do want to try pumping at work, schedule a checkpoint for yourself. Give it your best try for a month and then revisit your decision.
So many moms drive themselves crazy trying to continue pumping at work when they would be happier switching to formula. This is not something to drive yourself crazy over.
To keep yourself from blindly continuing to pump when it’s not working for you, schedule a monthly check-in with yourself. Ask yourself if you want to change your pumping schedule or if you want to continue at all. You can and should ask yourself this question frequently.
Number 3: Test bottles before going back to work
Have your partner do a bottle test run
If you haven’t given your baby a bottle while on maternity leave, it’s time to start testing now! Many babies who are used to breastfeeding are finicky about bottles – my kids definitely were. I had four different kinds of bottles and they would only take one.
Some babies just struggle with bottles and it’s good to practice in advance. You’ll be super worried at work if you think your baby isn’t eating.
It’s also good to have some experience with how your baby drinks from a bottle so you can help the care providers. For example, my oldest drank from bottles very, very slowly. I had never given her a bottle, so I didn’t know that this was just her way. She was slow at 9 months, and at 7 she’s always the last person to finish any meal. It’s just her, but I hadn’t given her enough bottles before going back to work and didn’t have the confidence to stand up to the daycare providers.
Number 4: Acquire at least 2 days worth of bottles your kid likes
Once you find bottles your kid likes, get 2 days’ worth of them. Most likely this will be eight bottles for a typical workday – three bottles and one backup bottle per day.
Your life will be much easier if you wash the bottles in the dishwasher overnight, take them out to dry the next morning and then use them the following day. It’s hard to try to label wet bottles so dry bottles are better. And using the dishwasher is the best.
Number 5: Learn how to use your pump before you return to work
Pumps are weird. Learn to use yours at home, where you’re comfortable.
This seems obvious but I assure you that it is not. If you plan to pump but haven’t used your pump yet, now is the time! This is not like any machine you have ever used. It has tubes coming out of weird places, you hook it to yourself in strange ways and the parts are all confusing.
So before you go back to work, take out the pump and all of its parts. Wash all of the parts if you haven’t already. Read the manual and figure out how to set it up. Hook yourself up to it and pump a little.
Pumping is a strange feeling and you will never really get used to it. The goal here is to become comfortable with the equipment and the feeling in the comfort of your own home, rather than in a strange lactation room at work.
Number 6: Buy at least 3 days’ worth of pump parts
Just like bottles, pump parts need to be bone dry before you use them again. If your pump parts are dishwasher-safe, you can run them through the dishwasher overnight. Then they can dry throughout the next day.
You should have two sets of pump parts in rotation and a third at the office in case you forget something. I guarantee this will save your butt at least once!
Number 7: Buy some new clothes
Bodies change during pregnancy. You might have gained weight or simply have a new body shape. Go with it! Buy a few new outfits that fit your body as it is now.
If you plan to pump or nurse before work, also think about the best type of outfit to pump in. I preferred a nursing cami underneath a dress. Some women prefer wrap tops or button-down dress shirts.
Go with forgiving, comfortable fabric like ponte. Shop the sale section so you won’t feel bad if the item only lasts a while or you spill milk on it. You don’t have to spend much money for a wardrobe refresh.
Number 8: Get a hair cut
You’ll feel more like your old self with a fresh haircut!
Nothing feels better than a fresh haircut, and it’s just what you need to help you feel like you again after months in yoga pants and a messy bun. Take the opportunity to leave the baby with your partner, grandparents or do a daycare test run!
Your baby will get to practice some bottle skills and eating with someone other than mom. You’ll get to practice being away from your baby in a low-stakes situation. And – bonus – your hair will look great too!
Number 9: Give your colleagues a reminder about your return to work a week in advance
I don’t usually advocate staying in touch with work on maternity leave, but I do think it’s a good idea to ping your colleagues about a week before you’re back. Tell them which day you’ll be back and remind them of your schedule.
Emailing in advance gives your co-workers a chance to think about things for you to work on. If you’re busy when you get back, you’ll have fewer opportunities to worry about your baby!
Number 10: Plan your routines and divide tasks with your partner
When you first return to work, you’ll be beyond exhausted at the end of each day. And thanks to newborn sleep habits – or lack of sleep habits – you’ll be pretty tired in the morning too.
On top of that, you have a million and one things to remember to do each day – wash yesterday’s bottles, fill and label bottles for the next day, manage pump parts and breastmilk if you’re pumping, and on and on!
Forgetting a step is a problem too – your baby might not have enough milk or you won’t be able to pump. That’s why you really need to remember everything.
To keep yourself organized, figure out what your morning and evening schedule will be. Talk with your partner about who will do drop-offs and pick-ups. Who will wash pump parts? Who will take charge of bottles? Agree in advance on a division of labor so you don’t end up doing it all! This will greatly ease your anxiety about fitting everything in after you return to work from maternity leave.
Number 11: Schedule a meeting on your first day back – but not too early
Schedule a meeting for around 10 am on your first day back. You will have plenty of time to settle your baby at daycare or with the nanny. Then you can feel the feels for a while around returning to work and “leaving” your baby.
But after that, you have to get on with it, put on your game face and attend that 10 am meeting. Rip off the band-aid and jump right back into work mode. The less time you have to wallow, the better.
Number 12: Schedule your baby’s first day of daycare BEFORE your first day of work
Schedule your baby’s first day of daycare before your first day back at work. Thank goodness I worked from home with my first because I sobbed for hours on her first day at daycare. I had actually started back to work a week earlier, but my mom had watched the baby at home.
During my second week of work, baby started daycare. In retrospect, this was the opposite of what i should have done. Learn from me: on baby’s first day of daycare, do your crying and then get your hair cut, get a pedicure or go shopping for some new work clothes. Get through the emotions before you have to be a professional.
Number 13: Make a checklist
Between the sleep deprivation, the new schedule, the hormones and the guilt, you will forget stuff. Make a checklist of the things you need to take with you to work each day. Laminate it and check off each item every day. It might be annoying but it’s better than hunting down spare pump parts at Target.
Number 14: Go back part time
Return part time if you can, especially at first.
If your company allows you to use your parental leave intermittently, you can return to work part-time and then ramp back up to full time.
You can schedule 2-4 full work days or some half days. Working 2-4 full days means that you have a few days completely off. On the other hand, working half days means that you only have to make it through four hours of work before you can head home. Think about what appeals to you more.
If you choose partial days, be careful to leave on time each day. Don’t allow a half day to become a whole day! In this sense, a few full days work better because it’s easier for colleagues to remember that you’re in on certain days. People have more difficulty remembering specific hours you’re available.
Number 15: Scope out the lactation room situation with help from HR/trusted colleagues
Ask a friend or HR to provide some information to you about the pumping facilities before you return to work, if you plan to pump. You probably didn’t pay much attention to lactation rooms before you became a parent, but they’ll be very important to you when you return to work.
Ask these important questions:
Where are lactation rooms located?
Do lactation rooms have outlets? Refrigerators? Sinks?
How are lactation rooms reserved?
Do I need a lock or code to access the lactation room?
Number 16: Stock your phone with baby pictures and stash a lightly used bib or burp cloth in your bag (weird but really)
When you’re pumping or just missing your baby during work hours, pictures and videos on your phone can provide a real mood boost. If you are pumping and having trouble with letdown, the smell of your baby can trigger letdown. Bring a lightly used bib or burp cloth in your pump bag to help with the “baby smell.” It sounds weird but it 100% works.
Number 17: List 5 work accomplishments & 5 things you like about work to get through the tough spots
List five work accomplishments and five things you like about working. This is your reminder for the tough spots you’ll inevitably have. The first year back at work after having a baby is tough. Society makes you feel guilty, you doubt your ability to be a good parent and worker, and sometimes it all feels too overwhelming.
During those times, you’ll need something to remind yourself why you’re doing this in the first place. That’s where this list comes in!
Frequently Asked Questions about Returning to Work
Is it OK to go back to work after having a baby?
Of course it’s OK to go back to work after you have a baby. Whether you’re going back because you have to financially or because you enjoy your job, you can and should make the choice that’s right for you and your family.
Can I change my hours after maternity leave?
For short term schedule changes, you may be able to use your FMLA leave time intermittently during your first year back. This gives you the option to return part time before ramping up to full time. If you’re interested in switching your schedule permanently, review your company’s policies and then pitch the idea to your management.
Can I change my maternity leave date?
You can change your maternity leave start date until you’ve actually gone on leave. This isn’t a problem at all and HR departments except your maternity leave start date to change. You can also change your planned return date during your leave. Just get in touch with your benefits contact to confirm that your new proposed maternity leave return date is within your company’s leave policy, then share the new dates with your management.
How long after maternity leave can I return to work?
You can usually return after your OB has cleared you to resume normal activity. This is around 6 weeks for a vaginal delivery and 8 weeks for a C-section. Most women need longer to fully recover from birth, get used to caring for a baby and bond with their child. For this reason, you should consider taking the maximum parental leave offered by your company.
How do you cope with going back to work after maternity leave?
Plan well but know that going back to work after having a baby is not easy. Prepare yourself for some bumps in the road. Never forget that you are the best mom for your baby and part of being a parent is choosing what’s best for your family. Whether you’re returning to work after maternity leave by necessity or choice, know that being a working mom is one of the most rewarding paths you can take.
If you’re getting ready to head back to work after maternity leave, you’re probably wondering how you are going to pump enough milk to feed your baby. It can feel daunting, but you can definitely pump at work for as long as you want to. It’s all about having the right system – from figuring out your daily pumping schedule to finding a discreet place to pump.
Pumping at work is not always easy, but it’s worthwhile!
If you want to keep breastfeeding at home, pumping at work is one of the best ways to maintain your milk supply. But how can you make it work?
Daily pumping schedule
It’s important to plan your daily pumping schedule. When you have a schedule, you can block your pumping times on your meeting calendar and plan around the sessions.
At first, expert lactation consultants recommend pumping once every three hours you’re away from baby. If you work for 8 hours a day, with an hour commuting and an hour for lunch that’s about 10 hours total. You would start off pumping three times a day.
There are a few ways to set up your daily pumping schedule, depending on when you feed the baby before work. Here are a few options:
Daily Pumping Schedule #1: Feed the baby at wake up
Your first daily pumping schedule option is to feed your baby just once in the morning. This saves you time before work and pushes your pumping schedule earlier in the day.
The first daily pumping schedule gets you to work earlier because you’re only feeding the baby once before work. The down side is that you end up pumping fairly early in the day. It can be difficult to step away from work when you’re just getting warmed up.
Daily Pumping Schedule #2: Feed the baby right before dropoff
Another option is to feed your baby right before you take them to daycare or leave them with the nanny. This takes more time before work, but it does mean that you can push your first pumping session later in the day. When your baby gets older, this schedule also makes it easier to drop the third pumping session.
With this daily pumping schedule, the third pumping session is almost unnecessary. You can imagine how you might be able to drop that one over time. I always preferred feeding the baby as close to dropoff as possible because I hated having to pump just as I was getting to the office. This schedule allows you to settle into the morning and get a few things done before you have to take a pumping break.
Tweaking the Daily Pumping Schedule
When I was pumping three times a day, I would usually get solid output on the first two sessions and less milk on the third. That’s OK! Over time you’ll figure out what your milk output is like and you can adjust accordingly.
As your baby’s needs change, you may be able to change your pumping schedule. I had to add a short pumping session at night, after putting the baby down, when my kids were between 6-9 months. Once they started solids, their milk demand seemed to level out and I was able to drop the evening pumping session. Eventually I dropped the third pumping session at work too.
Most discreet ways to pump at work if there’s no lactation room
Pumping is a private affair and most women may have a hard time achieving letdown if they’re worried about someone walking in! That’s why finding a private space to pump is on the top of new moms’ list of worries about returning to work. The ideal situation is a private office or lactation room for you to pump in. That’s not the reality for many new moms returning to work, though.
Know Your Rights: There are Legal Protections for Pumping Mothers
If your office doesn’t have a lactation room – ask for one!
Hourly employees who are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and work for an employer with more than 50 employees are guaranteed time and a place to pump. According to the Affordable Care Act, employers are required to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is free from intrusion from coworkers and the public” to express milk.
Some states provide additional protections for lactating mothers, but not all. Even if you aren’t covered by a state or federal law, your employer should be able to make accommodations for you.
Find a Space
In an office setting, this space could be a windowless conference room or office. The room could also have coverings on the windows. You can ask to have a lock installed to prevent people from walking in. Put a sign on the door when you’re pumping so people know not to knock on the door or try to enter.
You can use a door stop on the inside of the door as a backup, just in case someone has a key or you forget to lock the door. If the room is used for other purposes, make sure that you have reserved the room for your pumping times. Don’t let anyone guilt you into giving up the room during those times, either!
If you work in a service setting, like a store or restaurant, your workplace might not have that many private areas. Although your employer might have trouble finding a suitable place for you to pump, don’t forget that they are required by law to figure something out. As uncomfortable as it might be, remember that by standing up for yourself you’re paving the way for future new moms.
Pumping at work: Storing milk
Pumping moms know that pumped breastmilk is liquid gold. Once you’ve gone to the trouble of pumping, you definitely want to store it somewhere safe and cold.
Keep Milk in the Refrigerator
There are a few ways you can store milk at work. The best option is to have a dedicated refrigerator to store milk in a lactation room or your office.
Another possibility is to put your milk in a cooler and store it in the communal fridge. I was always nervous about doing that because I was worried that someone would accidentally take out the cooler or dump out the milk or something. In reality I’m sure nothing would have happened, but that’s how precious that breastmilk was.
Store Milk in an Insulated Cooler with Ice Pack
A third possibility is to store your milk in a cooler with an ice pack. Freshly expressed breastmilk is good for 24 hours in an insulated cooler with an ice pack. You can keep your insulated cooler with an ice pack with you at your desk and when you pump.
What did I do?
The first time I pumped, I worked from home which was heavenly. I would sit at my desk and pump away. Then I could stroll on over to my refrigerator and store the milk. No worries about forgotten parts. No fretting over co-workers. If you can work from home while you’re pumping, I highly highly recommend it.
With my second, I worked in an office and I went with the cooler and ice pack option. My building had a lactation room, but it was a few floors away. I had a private office without an interior window (and it was on the 6th floor so no worries about exterior windows.) Nine times out of 10 I pumped in my office.
I used the door stopper inside the door method to keep people out, and stored milk in a cooler in my office. That reduced the time I was walking all over the building to get things out of the refrigerator. And I was much less likely to forget the milk if it was on my desk vs in the cooler!
Pumping at work: cleaning parts
Most moms don’t really want to be washing pump parts in the office kitchen sink while chatting with their boss. Ha. To avoid this awkward scenario, you have a few choices.
Wash and Dry the Parts Somewhere Private
One choice is to wash your pump parts in the lactation room if it has a sink. Another option is to wipe the parts down with a Medela Quick Clean wipe and let the parts air dry between sessions. You can always microwave them in a Medela QuickClean steam bag if you want to be extra sure they’re clean. One challenge to this method is that the pump parts are supposed to be completely dry before you use them. They might not be completely dry in 2-3 hours.
Refrigerate Parts Between Sessions
Another choice is to keep the parts in an insulated cooler with ice pack and use them each time you pump. The down side to this is that…the horns will be cold and that won’t feel great on your breasts! This is fast and really reduces the amount of effort it takes to pump. The CDC did update its pumping guidelines in 2017 to say that pump parts should always be washed between sessions, so you can decide whether to take the risk or not.
Have a Fresh Set of Parts for Each Session
A final option, if you are willing to invest some money, is to have completely separate sets of parts for each nursing session. Since pump parts wear out over time anyway, you might end up buying new parts eventually. You can save yourself a bunch of washing by buying redundant parts up front! Then just throw everything in the dishwasher overnight to wash and sterilize.
Pump at work checklist
It takes a lot of equipment to pump at work and forgetting even one component can throw the whole thing into chaos. This checklist will help you make sure you don’t forget something in the morning rush!
If you’re pumping at work, you need a serious pump! Buy a double electric manual pump, so you can express both breasts at once.
I recommend having one at work and one at home so you don’t have to lug them back and forth. Ideally your pumps would be the same model so you can use the same parts everywhere. By the time I was done breastfeeding my second, I had TWO pumps at work and one at home.
At a minimum, keep your pump at work and have a manual pump at home if you don’t plan to pump at home regularly.
Buy an extra set of tubing to keep at work. I melted the pump tubing the first time I tried to sterilize and it took days to find new tubing. Also sometimes the plastic pieces in the tubing come loose.
Pump tower parts
This could look pretty different depending on your pump. It’s the part that provides the suction. Sometimes it breaks down into multiple pieces and sometimes it’s one integrated pieces.
I recommend having two complete sets of pump towers. The reason is that they need to dry completely before being used. If you put them in the dishwasher overnight and pull them out in the morning, the parts will still be wet. With two sets of parts, they can dry for 24 hours.
I had six full sets of pump tower assemblies, plus parts for my backup pump and a manual pump.
Flanges or horns
The cone-shaped plastic pieces that cover your breasts. The milk flows into the flanges through the pump tower and tubes and into the collection bottles.
Many women find the flanges that come with pumps ineffective or uncomfortable. If you aren’t producing as much milk as you’d like when pumping, you might want to try some different flanges.
The collection bottles screw into the pump towers to collect the milk. I had so many collection bottles because I also used them to store milk in my refrigerator at home.
The staggering number of flanges and bottles I acquired over my pumping career.
Insulated cooler bags and ice packs
You’ll need one or two cooler bags with ice packs to transport milk home at the end of your work day. If you decide to store your pump parts in a cooler bag, you may need an additional bag as well.
Medela wipes and sterilization bag
If you want to clean and sterlize your pump parts at work, the Medela QuickClean wipes and sterilization bags are very handy.
Lay-flat storage freezer bags for home
I really like the Lansinoh lay-flat freezer storage bags and never had a leakage issue with them. If you get ahead of what your baby needs, freeze that precious breastmilk for another day!
Hands-Free Pumping Bra
Do yourself a favor and spend the $10 to get a hands-free pumping bra. You can use the pumping time to look at pictures of your baby, read a book or answer email. I actually found working to be the best way to get through a pumping session (once I got used to it). I would get absorbed in something and then realize my 20 minutes was up!
A tote bag (or two!) will definitely be needed to carry all of your equipment – especially if you’ll be transporting everything to the lactation room a few times a day! I used the tote bag that came with the Medela pump but if you’re more stylish than I am or would rather be discreet, there are so many cute bags out there for toting pump parts!
These two bags went with me to and from work every day. I used one to carry parts and the other to carry milk in coolers. This also shows the Lansinoh freezer bags and Medela Quick Clean Microwave Bags.
Look at the Checklist Daily
It’s really easy to forget a piece. That’s why you should keep at least a few items at your office. I suggest leaving at least two sets of the pump tower assemblies, two collection bottles and two flanges in your office just in case. One time, I forgot something and had to run to Target to buy spares. That’s a benefit of having a commonly used pump.
To help yourself remember everything, print this checklist! I suggest laminating it and then checking each item off in dry erase marker when you pack up for the day. When you have a ton of things to remember, a checklist will really help you stay on track.
Things You Can Do to Make Pumping Easier
Nothing will really prepare you for pumping at work, but you can definitely make it easier. Going back to work while also pumping is a really hard thing, but you can do hard things!
A few months ago, I wrote about making a master household management checklist. This is an area of household management that people often overlook. Most of the chores aren’t daily or even weekly so it’s hard to get into a rhythm and you won’t make it a habit to change the air filters or have the exterior power washed.
So how the heck do you remember to do all of those things that occur infrequently and don’t always have a specific date that they need to occur? It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin!
Fortunately, there are tons of household management apps available that will help you track your master task list!
Make a list of household tasks
The first step is to make a list of tasks, which you can learn about in detail in the master list of household tasks post. The tasks can be broken down by frequency, like:
Once you have an exhaustive task list, you have to find a way to remember everything. Fortunately, you have a couple of different options!
Physical bullet journal
Many people like using a bullet journal to keep track of tasks. In this physical notebook, you can write down your entire list and keep track of when each item is completed. This is a great option if you prefer to have something physical and you enjoy putting pen to paper.
Some down sides are that it isn’t easy to share, so one person in your household will have to be the keeper of tasks. One person will have to take on the mental load of maintaining the list, which isn’t ideal. It’s also harder to edit your list once you’ve written it down and a bullet journal isn’t going to send a reminder to your phone!
Your calendar can be a great way to manage infrequent household management tasks. It’s easy to remember time-bound tasks – just put them in your calendar! For chores that don’t necessarily have to be done at a particular time, you’ll need to pick a date.
The potential downside of using a calendar is that you might end up with a lot of reminders on your calendar, and sometimes it’s not convenient to finish tasks exactly when you put it on your calendar. You have to make sure not to ignore the calendar reminder when it comes up!
Household management app
Productivity apps are a great option for maintaining your master list. You could try a to do-todolist app, like Todoist or Wunderlist. These apps won’t necessarily offer a ton of organization options, but you’ll have a straightforward way to track everything.
Another option is to use a project management app like Trello. Trello has a wealth of functionality to help you organize tasks, assign them, color code and more. Trello is also great for collaboration – you can share boards with your spouse and each person can view and edit tasks. This means the mental load is shared – a must in busy households. Because Trello is so flexible and collaborative, it’s a perfect household management app.
My favorite thing about using something like Trello is that it brings together the benefits of a list (straightforward, doesn’t force a date on things that aren’t date-bound) while also giving you the ease of a calendar (add reminders for tasks that are important to finish on a certain date).
What is the best app for staying organized?
Let’s look at the household management apps in a bit more detail to help you decide which one is right for you! It’s super important to find a household management system that makes sense to your brain – and your family – if you’re going to stick with it! This is really getting into the nuts and bolts of setting up your list and hopefully it helps you if you’re still struggling to wrap your mind around your master list.
Rocketbook Bullet Journal Style
If you want to have a physical list, I LOVE the idea of using a Rocketbook. The Rocketbook Everlast is an erasable notebook that allows you to upload notes to the cloud via their proprietary app.
The reason I like a Rocketbook bullet journal style master list is that you can create a template for your list using permanent marker then erase the tasks and reuse the template next year. You’re also able to upload the latest task pages to cloud storage locations like OneNote, Evernote and Google Drive. You can even automatically email the list to your spouse! Cool, right?
Here are the steps to create a bullet journal master task list template in your Rocketbook:
Step 1: Order your tasks first by frequency, then by category if desired.
Step 2: Create a template for each frequency category, like this:
PSA: Use a ruler! If you aren’t sure about this approach, draw the template with Pilot Frixion pens to start. Then, if you like it, you can redo it with permanent marker!
Step 3: Add tasks and due date where relevant.
Step 4 (Optional): To share with your spouse, use the Rocketbook app to upload your task pages to the cloud or send via email. Note that you’ll have to re-scan each time you make a change if you want your partner to see the updated task list.
Step 5: Schedule a time to regularly scan your list for to-do items.
Step 6: Make an “x” in the tracking box or write down the date when the task was completed.
List-Making App like Wunderlist
If you’re already a fan of a to-do list app like Wunderlist or Todoist, you can definitely create your household task list in that app too!
Step 1: Create a list for each frequency or category. For example:
Task List Annual
Task List Quarterly
Step 2: Add collaborators (spouse, kids, etc.) to lists
Step 3: Add each task to the right list
Step 4: Set due dates and reminders where appropriate
Step 5: Create sub-tasks for each task that occurs more than once a year
Step 6: Check off the tasks/sub-tasks when complete
Pro tip: For weekly tasks, just select “Show completed tasks” and uncheck each item to put them back on your list for next week! You can also reset your other lists this way at the beginning of each year!
Check out this video tutorial for more!
How to Track Your Master Task List in Wunderlist - YouTube
Many people prefer a calendar view of their tasks rather than a list view! I know that I often need to assign a specific day and time to a task – even if the task doesn’t have to be completed then. Otherwise, it will never get done. If that sounds like you, Google calendar is a great way to manage your household task list!
Step 1: Add an event for each item on your task list.
Step 2: If the event has to occur by a specific date, make sure to schedule accordingly. Make up a date for events that don’t have to happen at a specific time.
Step 3: Set up a recurring event for tasks that occur more than once a year.
Step 4: Schedule reminders if you would like them.
Step 5: Share events with your family members as needed.
Pro tip: If you don’t to have a million tasks on your calendar, consider combining tasks. For example, you could wash towels, change bedsheets and wash bedsheets every Sunday and combine them into one recurring task. That way you don’t end up with a cluttered calendar!
This video tutorial gives you a brief overview of using Google Calendar for your household task list.
How to Track Your Master Task List in Google Calendar - YouTube
You can learn more about Google Calendar by checking out my Google Calendar tutorial. If you enter your email address on this post you can see a more detailed video of using color-coding and more in Google Calendar!
Project Management App – Trello
I am a huge fan of Trello! It’s super flexible and you can use Trello to keep track of household tasks in a way that makes the most sense to you.
One way to set up your master household management list is to create a few different boards. Here’s how I would approach it:
Step 1: Create three boards
Household tasks Annual to Quarterly
Household tasks Monthly
Household tasks Weekly
Step 2: Create Kanban-style lists on each board: To-Do, Doing, Done
Step 3: Invite collaborators
Step 4: Add tasks to Annual to Quarterly board. Annual tasks get one card. Quarterly tasks get four cards, and so on.
Step 5: Add tasks to monthly and weekly boards using one card per task.
Step 6: Move the cards to “Doing” when started and “Done when finished. You can move all of the cards back to “To-Do” at the end of the period (year, month, week) to reset the board.
In this video tutorial, I show you the method described in the steps as well as a couple of other ideas. Remember, you’re only limited by your imagination in Trello!
How to Track Your Master Task List in Trello - YouTube
For more detailed tutorials on how to use Trello, check out the Trello Mini-Course, which includes three videos of about 10 minutes each.
Set up a Household Management App Today
It will take some time to set up your household task list today, but I guarantee that using a household management app will save you time tomorrow. You can also save yourself late fees and stress by using technology to stay organize. Whatever household management system you choose, there’s an app that can help make it happen!
Do you constantly feel like time is your enemy? I often feel this way on a busy day. I’m racing the clock to make it to a meeting from a late school bus pick up or trying to get 10 tasks done before I have to leave work for the day.
Why do working parents feel so frantic so often? It has to do with time and how we use it! No matter how much we might wish we had 48 hours in a day, no one can have more time. That’s why we have to use time well.
Learn how to prioritize if you want to live a successful and satisfying life.
Why is prioritizing tasks important?
It’s so important to prioritize tasks! Good prioritization is one of the most important time management techniques you can learn. Not only will you end up feeling better about your life, you’ll also perform better. There are some major benefits to prioritizing well, both at work and at home.
You will feel more fulfilled because your actions are aligned with your values
This is a big one! When people talk about prioritizing, they’re often focusing on this benefit. And it is incredibly important to make sure that our choices align with our values.
Many people go through life without truly scrutizing the choices that they’re making. Do I really need to go on that business trip over my kid’s birthday? Do I need to be the one taking every sick day with the kids or can dad/grandma/babysitter be responsible sometimes?
Each and every day of your life is full of choices, and if you have no guideline for making those choices you’ll often make decisions that aren’t really in alignment with how you want to live. You’ll end up feeling unsatisfied or like something is missing. That’s no good!
On the other hand, if you learn to prioritize based on your values system you’ll feel confident in the choices you’re making. Life will have meaning and purpose, and there’s no greater gift than that.
You will feel less stressed/overwhelmed
This is a bit mundane – but just as helpful! You won’t feel so overwhelmed when you learn to prioritize. If you can’t prioritize your tasks, everything seems important. When you develop the skills needed to triage your to-dos, you may realize that there are only a few truly must-do items on the list each day.
Realizing that some tasks can be put off to tomorrow, next week or never is incredibly freeing. The to-do list will suddenly feel manageable and the overwhelm will lift. This is especially important for working parents who have many demands on their time.
You will perform better because you will meet your commitments
Although prioritizing your tasks is great for you, it’s also great for others. I believe that people who can prioritize are star performers at work. Workers who can prioritize will regularly meet their commitments. They’ll choose the right task to work on first because they have a clear view of what’s important to the company.
If you prioritize well, you can usually spot tasks competing for your time and seek clarification. This helps you avoid over committing. It is much better to under commit and over deliver than the other way around. As a result, your colleagues will trust that you can deliver what you say you will and when.
Your relationships will be better because you will be clear on what you can do
Your personal relationships will also benefit when you prioritize clearly. It feels pretty bad to try to do too many things and fail at them all. Don’t commit to finishing a major work project on the same night your kid has a school event. (I’ve done it.)
You’ll feel like you’re letting your team down (by not responding to emails immediately) and you’ll feel like you’re letting your kid down (because you had to step out for a few phone calls). When you prioritize, you can kick that constant feeling that you’re failing everyone.
Instead, be clear up front about what you can and can’t do. For example, in the major work project vs kid school event example, you have many choices:
“Hey, work, my kid has an event on x date. Let’s plan to wrap up the project the day before.”
“Hey, kid, I have a major work project to finish so I won’t be able to make your event, but I know that dad and little sister are excited to be there.”
Whatever you decide, when you’re clear up front you’ve significantly reduced the bad feelings for all parties. Your kid might be a little disappointed if you tell him in advance that you can’t make it, but he’ll probably be pretty upset if you show up but aren’t really paying attention. On the work side, your co-workers may be a little annoyed about losing a day of work on the project but they’ll be able to plan for it.
It will super charge your career
I’ve managed people for 5+ years at this point and have a pretty good eye for top performers. You know what skill star employees tend to have? The ability to work on what’s important.
I have known many extremely talented people who would spend days on a mundane task that improved results by 0.5%. It’s not worth it.
When you learn to prioritize your work based on what adds the most value to your company, you make yourself extremely valuable to the company. In my mind, this benefit is very important to working parents who don’t want to work long hours each week.
Instead of working long, you can work smart. Look for the projects and tasks that bring the most value to your company, your department and your team. Then spend the majority of your time on those tasks. Your results will be massive compared to those who spend a lot of time on the fine details. And you won’t need to work 80 hours weeks to do it.
What are my top priorities in life?
Convinced that you need to learn how to prioritize ASAP? Awesome! I promise that it isn’t as hard as it seems. Before you can make good choices, you need to get clear on your life and business priorities.
This isn’t something anyone else can do for you! My priorities may be completely different than yours, and that’s 100% OK. What matters is that you decide on a vision that feels right to you.
What is your ideal life?
To get started, ask yourself what your ideal life looks like. What do you see yourself doing in 5 years? 10? 20? I find this useful because I like to think about whether I will regret something when my kids are grown.
Talk to your spouse and family (if you have older kids) about what your ideal family life looks like. Balancing the needs of each individual is as important as creating a collective family vision, so you may talk about your values for a long time.
Identify business priorities
It’s also important to think about your company’s priorities if you want to truly turbocharge your career. What does your company as a whole value that you can contribute? Your department? Your immediate team?
If you work with clients, ask yourself what it is they want. Although the specific pathways vary, you may find that the answers are pretty universal. Think carefully about your skills and how you can best support those objectives.
Take the time to do this right
You may need some time to mull this over. Talk to your family, friends and colleagues if you need to. Sometimes priorities are pretty clear but often they aren’t.
The good news is that this step is the heavy lifting. Once you have a set of life and business priorities, you have the guideposts that will help you make decisions more easily. Everyday choices will be much simpler, and you’ll feel calm and confident making them since you know you’re on the right path.
How do you organize and prioritize your life?
Now that you’ve done the hard work of thinking about your values and priorities, it’s time to apply them to your everyday life! Sometimes that’s easier said than done, though. When life gets busy, you might get overwhelmed and wonder exactly how to prioritize everything on your plate.
Fortunately, there are a couple of strategies that I’ve found really helpful over the years. I use these every day in my work life and personal life, and have used them to help colleagues who were struggling with too much to do.
Task Prioritization Matrix
The urgent/important task prioritization matrix is one of the best time management techniques. It’s also very simple! This techniques helps you prioritize according to your values. The urgent/important matrix (or Eisenhower matrix) categorizes tasks into four different quadrants:
Urgent & Important
Not Urgent & Important
Urgent & Not Important
Not Urgent & Not Important
Urgent & Important tasks occur when we’re in crisis mode – for example, you have a major client meeting tomorrow and need to finish the presentation.
Not Urgent & Important tasks cover long-term planning and strategy. Ideally you would finish your major client presentation in advance while it is still important but not urgent! In this quadrant, you feel calm and in control.
Urgent & Not Important tasks stop your workflow but aren’t critical to your priorities. An example might be non-critical email or irrelevant meetings.
Not urgent & not important tasks are things like watching TV and browsing social media. They’re probably not part of your priorities and they don’t need to be done at any particular time.
The most effective people spend 80% of their time in the not urgent/important quadrant. This gives them adequate time to prepare for important tasks, while understanding that occasionally unexpected crises arise and move them to the urgent/important quadrant.
In reality, many people spend their time “fighting fires” in the urgent/important quadrant and doing busywork in the urgent/not important quadrant. In order to be effective, try to spend more time on not urgent/important quadrant of the task prioritization matrix by planning ahead and avoiding tasks that just aren’t important to your priorities.
When overwhelmed, triage
When you’re overwhelmed, it can be hard to think straight. Your instinct might be to put your head down and plow through your to-do list. That won’t be effective, though!
Instead, take 15 minutes to triage your list. First, do a brain dump of every single task you have to do, from fixing a code defect to baking cookies for your kid’s daycare party. Got it? Everything.
Then start moving tasks to the task prioritization matrix. Decide if a task is truly important. If not, you can cross it off your list or alter it and move on. Once you’re pared down to the list of important tasks, start assessing the urgency. List the tasks in order by when they are due and how long they will take and start knocking them off.
You can grab the free printable prioritizing tasks worksheet to use in your triage step. Either print multiple copies so you’ll always have one on hand, or laminate and re-use with dry erase markers.
If you find yourself without enough information to triage, or you’re still left with too many tasks to do, it’s time to communicate.
At work, talk with your colleagues to understand the priority level of various tasks. Is there something that you could push the due date on (make it less urgent) or that the team doesn’t think is high priority (less important)? If your tasks still aren’t doable in the time you have, is there someone else on the team who can help?
At home, can you change tasks to make them easier, like buying cookies instead of baking them? Could someone else take charge of a task, like cookie buying? Is there something else that is less urgent that can be pushed to a later date, like calling the cable company? Can you outsource a task, like deep cleaning the house for your in-laws’ visit?
Choices will shift
Keep in mind that as a working parent, your choices and priorities will be in constant motion. This is not a black and white scenario where work or home always takes precedence. It’s a give and take.
On some days, you decide that you need to be at a major meeting so dad can watch the sick kid. On other days, you skip a less important meeting so you can take your kid to the dentist. Just because you prioritize work today and home tomorrow doesn’t mean that you value one over the other.
You’re the sum of your choices over time, in the long run. Never judge yourself on a day or even a week.
Learning how to prioritize is a super valuable skill
When you learn how to prioritize, you’ll feel calm and confident about your decisions. You’ll be able to think strategically and use your time effectively, contributing at work and home without running yourself ragged. The rewarding life you want can absolutely be yours – and you can still sleep!