As I'm writing this post, I have a fussy baby on my lap and a preschooler finishing off her breakfast. I've been interrupted several times and yet, I'm writing, slowly and inefficiently. But still, I'm getting something done other than changing poopy nappies. Huzzah! Celebrate your small wins ladies.
I've realised recently that certain time management techniques that have come to me almost instinctively over the past 5 years and two babies, don't actually come naturally to everyone. So today I'm sharing the little tips and tricks that have kept me productive and sane while juggling two kids, my writing and the dreaded housework.
TIP 1 Baby-wearing
Get yourself a baby wrap or carrier my dears. I have no clue how other mums function without them. Baby-wearing allows you to multitask on another level. Like yesterday, to my sister-in-Iaw's utter surprise, I stood next to her and washed the dishes while breastfeeding. Yup! You can calm a fussy baby, feed them, play with them and get chores done around the house all at the same time. Little confession here: I've even gone to the toilet wearing my baby a couple of times. I don't recommend this, unless you're desperate. I also don't recommend cooking with a baby- even though I've done that too. It's not safe.
Baby-wearing = less interruptions. Even out of the house, I can stick Ali in a baby carrier, cover him in a nursing shawl and breastfeed while having a meal at a restaurant or shopping for groceries. It's an amazing time-saving hack. Some people worry that baby-wearing makes your baby too attached to you. This comes down to your parenting philosophy. I'm mostly an 'attachment parenting' kind of mum and in attachment parenting, baby-wearing is highly recommended and considered beneficial for the baby's mental and emotional development. For more on this, google Dr Sears on baby-wearing.
TIP 2 Breastfeeding
It's weird thinking of this as a time-management hack, but I need to point out here in case it wasn't already obvious: breastfeeding is the most convenient way to feed your baby. You can breastfeed anywhere, while doing almost anything (if you wear your baby). I had to bottle-feed Ali for two days and that ate-up my time like crazy. You need to defrost breast milk, sterilise bottles and actually sit down and stick the thing in your baby's mouth. In contrast to this, breastfeeding can be a hands-free activity. I'm saying 'can be' because I guess that will depend on your baby's latch and how experienced you are at nursing. Still... you get the picture.
TIP 3 Learn to work sporadically
If you're expecting big chunks of uninterrupted free time to get your work done, it's not going to happen. But minutes do add-up, so you need to learn how to work in short bursts. It also helps to train yourself to focus on tasks in very hectic and noisy environments. Last year, I got quite a lot of work done in our hotel's kids club. There was music blasting, a TV, kids everywhere but I managed because I've trained myself over time to be productive regardless of the chaos around me. The more you do this, the easier it will become. In addition to this, you need to be smart about the way you carve-out time. I remember taking Maryam while pregnant to an indoor play area and having my books and laptop on me. She was distracted and having fun and I got some work done. Sometimes, you can even just brainstorm on your phone or do some research.
TIP 4 Don't underestimate the importance of mornings
Wake up. I know when you're a mum, sleep is sacred and it can seem easier to stay up late to get certain things done. But mornings, if this is possible for you, are ideal because it means you have the evening to chill and relax with your family/friends/spouse/ on your own. Plus, staying up late is just exhausting, especially when you have children who need to get ready for school at six the next day.
TIP 5 Learn to rush
Don't be leisurely when you do things. Finish your tasks quickly. This means don't take an hour to chop-up your onions. Cut corners when you can try to have a sense of urgency about you.
Side note: this tip is good for productivity, but not so good for your stress levels. But it works.
TIP 6 Don't do housework while the baby is napping
Chores that require physical labour can be done with the kids awake. In fact, if they're old enough, they can even help. The stuff that needs concentration or brain power- in my case writing- is what you do when the kids are sleeping. Self-care is what you also do when the kids are knocked-out, but never housework.
TIP 7 Compromise
You can't do everything and you can't behave in the ideal way all the time. Sometimes you end up compromising your work and sometimes it's family time. Sometimes you have to stick your kid in front of the TV for God-knows how long so you can have a shower or hand-in some important work. No judgement. You do what you need to do to survive.
TIP 8 Set goals and make lists
You can either do this on paper or in your head if you have a good memory- which is highly unlikely if you have kids. The point is, you have to mentally make a note that something needs to be done and decide on a time-frame. If you let your chores wash all over your head, nothing will get done. Try to evaluate your chores like this: I need to go to the bank, write a blog post, take Maryam out and organise the clothes.
These are your pending chores. When will you do them?
Okay, bank is on Monday because husband can drop me off, clothes tomorrow morning because Maryam will be in school. Bla, bla, bla.
Think about the things you want to do in a deliberate, organised and conscious manner then adjust and make changes based on your circumstances.
TIP 9 Buy a One-pot
Buy it. Buy it now. I'm talking about those electric pots that cook everything from pasta to rice to stews in a fraction of the time. Do it. You will thank me. Mine is in storage at the moment since moving to Saudi and I'm struggling to cook without it.
TIP 10 Get help
Book a cleaner. Get a babysitter. Don't be a bloody martyr.
I'm still working on this one because I tend to get frustrated when I don't feel totally self-sufficient. No one can do everything with zero support and if you do, you bet, your mental health is going to take a blow. If you can get help, do it so you can concentrate on the other tasks you have and spend more time taking care of yourself.
And those are all my tips! Hope you find them useful. If anyone has anymore ideas, I'd love to hear them.
See you all next week- hopefully...if I have the time :P