Life can get pretty busy when you’re a mom.
Whether you work from home, work outside the home, or are busy with the thousand-and-one things that go into raising kids and keeping a home, it’s easy to run around doing things all day and feel like you’ve got nothing to show for it at the end of the day. Having a more productive day doesn’t necessarily mean getting more done, but getting the right things done.
So when you need to get things done, here’s 15 tips to have a more productive day:
1. Write it down.
Studies have shown over and over again the power of writing it down. If you want to get something done, put it on paper. The visual reminder will clear your brain and give you more room to focus on what you need to do. And the physical act of writing it down helps put it into your memory longer term too! But the real secret in writing it down is that it helps you filter the important from the unimportant — and that’s important when you have a lot to do!
2. Work with your natural rhythm.
Circadian rhythm is a biological clock we all have inside us. It’s what gets us up in the morning and helps us fall asleep at night. And part of circadian rhythm is the natural energy we all have.
For some of us, our natural energy peaks in the morning. We’re at our creative best first thing in the morning, and by mid-afternoon, it’s a stretch to get dinner done. Morning people tend to be cheerful and energetic in the mornings, but tired and cranky in the evenings.
On the other side, those of us who are “night owls” do not function well in the morning. Our natural energy peaks in the evening. These people need slow mornings, and find their best productivity will be later at night, staying up past midnight when they’re on a roll.
Fighting against your natural rhythm will not only make it difficult to get things done but will de-motivate you to even try. And that’s not good for productivity.
So whether you’re at your best in the morning, evening or mid-afternoon, working with your natural rhythm is the best way to get more done.
3. Put a date on it.
There’s nothing better to motivate you than a due date. So if you’ve been putting off something you’ve been meaning to do forever, then put a hard must-be-done-by date on it.
Work expands to fill the time. That means that whatever tasks you have will fill all the time you have. If there’s something you mean to do whenever you have “spare time”, you’ll never do it, because you’ll never have any time to spare.
So if you want to get something done, you’ll need to make time for it on your calendar. Write down what date you’ll get something done by, and it will get done.
4. Get ready for your day the night before.
There’s nothing like making decisions when you aren’t rushed to help you save time and get more done. So if mornings are a bit rushed for you — kids that need to be fed, partners that need attention, pets that need to be taken care of — this is a good strategy to help get more done.
This works on the “plan ahead” principle. When you know what’s for breakfast ahead of time, and you’ve already picked out your clothes for the day, getting ready is quick and easy. Even if you’re a night owl and prefer a slower morning, you can make mornings easier by preparing for your day the night before.
5. Use a checklist for repetitive tasks.
Don’t you hate when you have to repeat something because you forgot a step? Well when you use a checklist, you’ll stop skipping steps and you’ll never have to repeat a task again.
Checklists help keep routines and tasks with many parts in order. They help you remember where you left off in case of interruption, and they’re a visual reminder of everything you still need to do. Plus the act of checking a step off the list can be motivating to get things done.
And there’s the added bonus of being able to delegate and know that the task will be done just as well as if you had done it, because the steps are all written down!
6. Look for the quick wins.
Sometimes when you need a kick to get started, you need to look for the tasks you can do right away, quickly and easily.
I always keep a list of things I can do in less than a minute or two by my computer. So when I know I’ve only got a few minutes before my napper wakes up, or before it’s time to make dinner, or before I have a meeting with a client, I can still be productive.
Quick wins are also great ways to get you motivated and in the mood to do more. They give you that sense of achievement that can be addictive. And that’s a great way to get more done.
7. Use a timer.
When you have lots of time to get things done, it can fool you into procrastination. So grab a timer, or set the timer on your phone, and challenge yourself to get it done before the time runs out.
Turning tasks into games can help motivate you. There’s a song about it and everything right? “Find the fun, and the job’s a snap!” said Mary Poppins.
Timers help you to stay focused and push you to work quickly. And when the time’s up, you can look at all you’ve gotten done with a sense of satisfaction. Don’t forget the reward at the end!
8. Prioritize your tasks according to your inspiration.
So this can go two ways. Some people need to do the hardest thing on their list first, and then tackle all the easier things in order. And others need to work their way up to the hardest task.
The key here is to prioritize. (This is where writing things down can help!!) Figure out what the priority is, and when you want to do it. Then you can plan accordingly.
Priorities can help you stay on track and get more done, by keeping your eye on what’s important and what’s just busywork.
9. Communicate your plans to everyone who needs to know.
It’s so easy to get interrupted when you have a busy family. But when you can have everyone on the same page, you all can get more done!
So have a family meeting. Talk over breakfast about your plans for the day. Text each other. Use a family calendar. Whatever method you choose, make sure everyone knows what’s going on, when your deadlines are, and what your expectations are.
Communication makes for a more productive day.
10. Set an alarm.
My daughter will hyperfocus on her tasks. She can concentrate so hard on what she’s doing that she will ignore all other signals — someone talking to her, a text message coming in, or other tasks she might need to do.
So to make sure she stays on time and on task, she’ll often set multiple alarms. When she doesn’t here the first or the second, usually by the third her concentration has been broken enough that the alarm gets her attention.
Alarms can be great ways to help you move on from one task to the next. Kind of like timers, alarms can help motivate you to work quickly. But they also help you wrap up ongoing tasks too. And that keeps you from getting distracted and helps you have a more productive day.
11. Find a partner.
It’s always more fun to work with a friend. Whether you work on chores with your kids, or grab a colleague for a work project, sometimes you get more done together than apart.
So find a friend, get an accountability partner to check in on you, and get more done.
12. Publicize your to-do list.
This can be as easy as posting your chore list on the fridge, or putting your work task list on your public calendar. Or maybe it’s recording everything in an agenda somewhere and showing it to someone.
This works for multiple reasons. You get the accountability of sharing your to-do list with others. And you help them know what you’re doing, keeping that communication clear.
And all of that helps create a more productive day for you!
13. Focus on one thing at a time!
Contrary to what you might thing, you don’t actually get more done when you multitask. Studies show that multitasking can actually reduce your productivity instead. It’s actually damaging to your brain long term when you try to do more than one thing at once.
I’m so guilty of this. I feel like I’m wasting time if I’m not doing multiple things at once, and switching tasks frequently. But I know it makes me more tired, and my work quality isn’t as good if I were to simply do just one thing at a time, and do it well.
But the science is there. If you want a more productive day, focus on one thing at a time.
14. Get the prep tasks out of the way right away.
When you know you have to do something later, rather than letting it weigh on your mind, get what you can done sooner. Maybe this is pulling out your entree for dinner in the morning, so it can thaw in time for dinner prep. Or maybe it’s scheduling those phone calls, and making sure all the numbers are in one easy-to-access place ready for you for when you know you’ll have a quiet moment to take care of them.
When I know I have a bunch of errands to run, I’ll often map my route to make sure it’s the most efficient possible. And I can do that the night before my errand day. I can also make sure I have everything I need: the letters to mail, snacks for the kids, extra mitts or sunscreen.
This helps free my mind up for more immediate tasks. It also saves time later on. And all of that makes for a more productive day, no matter what I’m doing.
15. Don’t fix what isn’t broken.
It can be tempting to change what you’re doing when you read a list like this. But if what you’re doing is working for you, why would you change it? If you’re getting stuff done, quickly, easily and without stress — don’t stress yourself by trying to improve.
You might just break something that was working.
Get more productive, not less. Don’t try to fix something that doesn’t need fixing. Stick with what works for you, and don’t compare with others. Different doesn’t mean wrong! A more productive day is one that works for you, so make sure what you’re doing isn’t working before you change it. Then you can make sure you’re doing everything you need to do the way it will work for you.
But most of all, you’re productive and get more done when what you’re doing has a purpose. If you want a more productive day, you’ll have to connect to why you’re doing all the things.
For me, everything I do — work, chores, homeschooling — is because I love my children. I adore them. And I want to give them everything. I want to provide for their needs, give them a home to feel comfortable in, and teach them everything they need to know to thrive in life. That’s what keeps me going when life is tough, when I have no energy and no motivation.
I get more done when I connect what I’m doing to my love for my kids.
What will help you have a more productive day?