Tuesday, February 4, 2014

How To Get Your Work Done

I'm part of a mother's group on Facebook and last week a mom asked a question about how she could get all of her work done.  Her third baby is six months old and getting more into a routine and she wants to be in one too. I didn't comment but I did think about my answer. How do I get my work done? 

You have work to do so you must have a plan. Work will not be accomplished well (or at all) if it's done haphazardly.

(Warning! Before you can work your plan you must decide your priorities. What are YOU going to do? You can't work a job, have a spotless house, cook gourmet meals, homeschool your four children, volunteer ten hours a week, and spend three hours a day developing a talent or working on a hobby. You aren't a superwoman. Decide what you are going to do and go do it.)

photo courtesy of michal marcol/freedigitalphotos.net

1. Have a rhythm. Life with small children can be unpredictable and it's frustrating to put times to activities and always feel like you are off your plan. So I don't put times down. We don't have a schedule; we have a rhythm. And by rhythm I mean an order to our work. We have a specific "time" to unload the dishwasher, do our Bible time, read, do that day's cleaning, fold a load of laundry, pick up the toys, play a game, iron. If you have an idea of what you need to do you can learn to move from one activity to the next smoothly. 

2. Change it up! I'm not talking about your rhythm here; I mean your days. Don't follow the same rhythm every single day of your week. One day every two weeks we go grocery shopping. One morning every two weeks we have a playdate with some friends. Every Friday we go to Toddler Time. But have a plan. Don't just go gallivanting around because you're bored. If you have work to do at home you have to be at home to do it. There's enough to do to not be bored. 

Schedule your trips away from home. Do you have to go to the laundrymat? Take games and books for your kids. Run all your errands on the same day. Be home for naptime!!! 

3. Schedule your work. Know what cleaning you need to do each day. We're back to cleaning a little every day since we started preschool. I really enjoyed cleaning once a week but it took a whole day out of our lineup for school.  Don't try to clean every corner of every room every week. Divide up your work and then do it and don't sweat the rest. Say, "Oh, the furniture's dusty. That's ok; it gets dusted on Wednesday." Then move on to cooking dinner or reading to your kids or spending time with your husband. 

4. Have a designated break. When your kids are napping or in quiet time take a short break. Read a book, browse facebook, whatever. Just sit and be for a few minutes. But monitor that carefully and don't waste your whole time. 

5. Stop wasting time throughout the day. The biggest thing I did to help myself was to take facebook off my iPad. I don't need to look at it every time I walk through the kitchen. Don't browse pinterest or twitter or instagram or your email or read a few blogs. When you are working, work. Save the extras for a designated time. Or don't do it at all. Don't sit down to watch tv or read magazines or talk on the phone if you are supposed to be playing, cooking, or cleaning. 

6. Follow the plan. You know what you need to do and what day you need to do it. Now do it! Now obviously some flexibility is required here. Your husband can have an emergency, one of the kids- or you!- may get sick, it may be 40 below outside. Then swap that day's rhythm with another day's and move on. (And sometimes you just stay in pj's, read books, and watch VeggieTales. But that should be a rare exception.) For most regular days, work your plan. Even if you don't feel like it.  

7. Experiment. Change the way you are doing the cleaning. Change what you are doing during the kid's snacktime. Change the order of your morning work. Different things will work best for you and your family. But try them for long enough to find out. Don't try it for two days and say it doesn't work. I cleaned my house on Mondays for six months before I decided that a little every day really did work better for us. 

8. Break up the work. Don't expect to work on cleaning for 45 minutes with no interruptions. Do 15 minutes of cleaning and then 20 minutes or playing/reading/preschool, then swap the laundry and let them play while you work a little more. Then change diapers and read and play a game with them. Then teach them something and let them help you work. Then let them play while you work. Life with small children works better in little intervals. And you will be less frustrated if you expect to only work for a short amount of time. 

9. Be willing to change. As your children's ages change, as your husband's schedule changes, as your health changes, adapt your rhythm. I find our rhythm changes at least every few months as our children get older. About the time you really get in a groove you will need to change something. 

10. Embrace Reality. You can't do everything. Your house won't be spotless with a meticulous preschool running at home with gourmet meals on the table but you can have a real, lovely life.  You may simply need to lower your expectation and find out what's really important for your family. 

There's a lot of work for a stay-at-home mom to do. There's a lot of work for anybody that's doing anything in life. But you can learn to do it. And then you can learn to do it well. 

What helps you get your work done? 

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