I had never been a productive person and had always felt like I didn’t have enough time for all the things I was interested in. Well, then I became a mom and realized what “not having enough time” really means.
I focused entirely on being a mom during my maternity leave, which lasted for a bit over a year. A few attempts at being productive in other areas of my life resulted in one blog post and a halfway completed programming course. So yeah, I could hardly call that more than “attempts”, but I was happy with my role as a mom, and I felt like my baby needed me, so I didn’t mind being focused solely on that.
I guess my mindset shifted after I went back to work, and my ambitions suddenly came back. But it’s much harder to pursue anything now since I really don’t have enough time to do it all.
When I started working again, I felt like I was rushing all the time – rushing to get ready in the morning, rushing to drop my little one at daycare, and rushing to work, then rushing back. At home, I was again in a hurry to prepare dinner, and then after a bit of playtime, it was already time for my son to go to bed. I usually felt exhausted by the end of the day, so I just dragged myself around and watched TV until I also fell asleep. And then it was all over again the next day and the next …
It made me feel like life was passing me by, and I was beating myself up for being unproductive and not doing enough to reach my goals. It was a sucky feeling, and I needed to do something about it. I knew I could do better if only I organized my time, so I decided to make a plan. It took some trial and error, but I think it works, and I’d like to share it with you.
There are a few things that I don’t want to compromise on. The first one is sleep – I need at least 8 hours per night to function, and I don’t want to reduce that. I had tried in the past, and it never worked well. I just ended up being very tired, confused, and even less productive.
I also like being put together, which requires some me-time in the morning to make myself presentable before going out the door.
And the most important thing is the time with my son. We already spend most of his waking hours apart while I’m at work, and he’s at daycare (which, luckily, he loves), so I don’t want to spend even less time with him than I could, at least not on a regular basis. Being a mother is by far my priority, especially while he’s still so young.
So here is my plan, which I’ve built with the above limits in mind.
Go to Sleep Early and Wake Up Early
On weekdays, I have an alarm set at 5:30 am, and I go to sleep at 9 pm. As I said, I strive to get 8+ hours of sleep because I don’t function well with less. My son wakes up around 6:30 am when we also need to leave for daycare/work, which gives me plenty of time (well, maybe not plenty but enough :)) to shower, eat breakfast and get ready. If he wakes up early, I just put him in his high-chair next to me and give him something to snack on, which usually keeps him happy and occupied. He also likes to watch his mommy getting ready; he thinks it’s especially fun when I swish around with make-up brushes.
I stop with all my activities at 8:30 pm, which gives me enough time for my evening skincare routine and to wind down before going to sleep. I usually read or meditate for the last 10-15 minutes before bedtime, and around 9 pm, the lights are off. Sometimes I get really absorbed by what I’m doing in the evening (like writing this blog), and I want to continue past 8:30. Still, I noticed that it’s not a good idea because it is much harder to fall asleep without winding down first, and it just results in me being tired the next day, so I rather stick quite strictly to my plan.
It’s a schedule that works for me because I’m a morning person. If not, then adjust the time to fit your lifestyle but make sure to get enough sleep and to have enough time in the morning to get ready.
Prepare everything the night before
Many of us are used to preparing clothes the night before, but I also prepare make-up, jewelry, and sometimes even breakfast. I like to take my time and put some thought into it in the evenings and not rush like I used to in the mornings.
Since I have waaay too many things, especially when it comes to make-up, I figured that preparing everything in advance is a really cool way not to always reach for the same products in a hurry but to rotate them evenly. It’s more efficient and more fun! 🙂
The 2 Minute Rule
Since I want to spend the afternoons with my child, the only time I have for myself and my projects is after he goes to sleep around 7:30 pm. That gives me approximately one hour before it’s time for me to start winding down. Yeah, it’s not much, but a lot can be done in just one hour when utilized fully.
I had so many plans for that precious hour – I sometimes wanted to finish some things for work, I wanted to write this blog, I wanted to complete that programming course, I had another personal project in mind, … but I was usually so exhausted by the evening, that I ended up watching TV or doing something equally unproductive. Yes, I was truly tired, but I still felt awful for not pursuing my interests.
My friend suggested the 2-minute rule to me: “Commit yourself that you’ll do something for 2 minutes. If after 2 minutes you still feel tired and like you can’t continue, then stop – but you probably won’t.” And it’s true! I usually become completely immersed in whatever I’m doing, and soon the whole hour flies by. I’m really thankful to my friend for telling me about this rule since it helps me immensely to get things done.
Of course, there are also days when I feel too tired to do anything, even for just 2 minutes. When that happens, I go to sleep early. I don’t watch TV or otherwise waste time; I go to bed and read and usually fall asleep pretty quickly because I really only do that when I’m completely exhausted. I also might take one evening a week off (usually during the weekend) to do something fun and relaxing. Overall, I strive to be productive 4-5 days a week.
I decide in advance which of my interests requires my attention that evening, so I don’t waste any of that precious hour deciding what to do, and I can start working right away. I usually do something related to work or my blog.
Working out is an important part of my lifestyle, and I definitely have to make time for that. I always do short and efficient workouts, so I’m in and out of the gym in about an hour. My husband picks up our little one from daycare three days a week, and I can go to the gym (or do an at-home workout during the pandemic) right after work. This way, I don’t waste any time driving to and from the gym since it’s already on the way from my office to home. Because my workouts are so short, I still get home early enough that quality time with my son isn’t affected.
I think that weekends are a bit more flexible since we’re all together for two whole days and I don’t feel bad when I spend some of that time away from my little one. I think it’s important for parents to have some one-on-one time with their children, and weekends are perfect for that since it’s easier to divide time when there’s plenty of it.
I often take a couple of hours off each day to relax by myself in peace and quiet (every parent needs that, right?) or work on something that interests me. I really enjoy taking photos for Instagram during the weekends and preparing them in advance to post them in the upcoming days.
What about food and cooking?
Cooking can take up a lot of time during the week, so we often meal-prep on Sundays. Vegetables and meat can be chopped in advance, or things like pasta sauces and stews can be cooked and stored in the freezer. We could honestly be more organized about it, but I really enjoy cooking, and my husband is good at it too, so it’s not a problem for us to quickly whip up something after work. Our little one likes to watch us cook and help as much as he can, so it’s actually a fun family activity for us all. We often just roughly prepare a plan for the upcoming week and then wing it.
Anyway, it’s totally possible to be way more efficient at it, and many meal-prep ideas can be found online if you feel like cooking is taking up too much of your time.
So, this is how I organize my time. It might sound intimidating and limiting at first, but I’m the sort of person who needs a well thought out routine to thrive. Without a routine, I just start overthinking and procrastinating, and nothing gets done except the bare minimum, which I’m not ok with. I’ve been there and done that, and I hate the feeling of another day wasted.
In the end, I’d like to add that it’s totally ok not to want anything besides being a full-time parent. Being a mother is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I also think it’s the most important “job” one can have since we are raising new generations. If you feel fulfilled by being a mom, then by no means do I want to make you feel like you should do something else, too; being a parent is more than enough. I just wanted to share what works for me since I have other things that interest me, and I would be unhappy if I didn’t pursue them.
I hope you found some good ideas on organizing your time, and I’d be happy if you shared your routines and thoughts on the topic.