I was a working mom for seven years, and let me tell you: I got stuff done. I had a regular workout routine. I did a load of laundry almost every day to keep it from piling up. I food prepped and menu planned so my family had a home-cooked dinner every night.
I even went home on my lunch break twice a week and cleaned my entire house in 25 minutes.
(To be fair, it was a small house.)
But really, the theme was: I had a gigantic to-do list and I rocked it – most of the time.
Then I quit my job, and I started rocking it at home. I planned activities for my kids. I gardened and canned and cooked. I refinished an outdoor patio set. I primed, sanded, and painted my kitchen cabinets.
All while doing freelance work from home for a few hours per week.
But then, slowly…ever so slowly…that productivity started to wane. If worked picked up, the house got left behind. I found us buying takeout more frequently. Laundry became a task that consumed an entire day. Never in my life had I failed to pay a bill on time, but then I logged in to pay one and learned I had missed the deadline, leaving me with an added late fee.
Then one day, taking the trash bins to the curb felt like the biggest, most productive deal in the whole world.
And it made me wonder: what had happened?
Well, what happened was that I didn’t have the structure of the work week anymore to dictate my to-do list, and left without hard deadlines, my productivity took a nose-dive.
Which, of course, isn’t all bad. Part of the reason I quit working was to live in a more unhurried state, and I’ve most definitely accomplished that. The pace of my life has slowed dramatically, which is great.
But if I’m being honest, it’s probably slowed to a slower pace than I really need.
Really, I don’t know where all my time goes. It’s not like I’m watching TV or reading for leisure or napping. I’m definitely not spending it in a noble manner by entertaining my kids all day (or, in fact, hardly ever). The reality is that I do stuff all day long. It just takes me longer than it used to because there’s no sense of urgency. While I used to be able to clean my whole house in 25 minutes, now it takes me 45 minutes just to clean the bathrooms.
So I’ve decided to create my own sense of urgency. I know we all have different personalities and learning styles, but I’ve learned that I love a good to-do list that can foster a sense of urgency and, and the end of the day, show me my productivity in black and white. It also helps me reflect on all the things I’d like to get done (I’m looking at you, 2013 Family Photobook) and take them out of the realm of ‘someday’ and put them back into ‘today.’
I’m absolutely convinced that our capacity as mothers expands to whatever plate we put in front of ourselves, and I’m guilty of keeping my portions – and expectations of myself – far too small.
I’m not okay with that.
So there’s my confession: I get a whole lot less done now that I’m a stay-at-home mom and the only real deadline I have is the 8:45 am school bus. But I’m determined to fix that – and though it’s not revolutionary, I’ve discovered that a simple to-do list does the trick.
What’s your secret to productivity?