The Working Mum's Survival Guide
Earlier this year, Missy started school, and I started doing full days at the office.
Now I'd been warned. My sister had said 'You'll be busier than ever. You think you'll have all this time, but you just won't.' She warned me, and I thought 'Pfft!'.
By week 4 I was an absolute wreck. All I could think of was 'Omg - I have to do this for the next 12 years... and some people have, like two kids... some have four... omg!' (Serious respect to those girls who work full time with kids xx).
Six months in and, honestly, I'm still crazy tired, (and I have my first two wrinkles :( ), but I've gotten really good at saving time and being more efficient, both at home and at work, so today I thought I'd share my tips with you!
This post ended up being quite long, and a little bit random, so I've divided things into Home and Work sections for a little bit of order - enjoy!
I'm a zombie in the mornings, and the biggest thing I've found is that routines are King - the same thing, the same way, everyday. Get up, make coffee, drink coffee, wake child, dress child, do child's hair, give child breakfast and iPad (so she can slowly wake up), get myself ready, pack bags, shoes on and go. Routines have never been my thing, but without our morning routine, we'd be crazy unorganized. So if there's one, single tip you take from this post, start yourself a strong routine.
2. WAKE UP RIGHT
Try waking up a little earlier. I know, sleep is so precious, but how much easier would your mornings be with an extra 10m? And when you wake up, switch on the radio or music! It gets everybody moving and in a good mood to start the day.
Make breakfast easy! Cereal and toast are standbys for a reason - they're fast and easy. I often whip up some Bircher Muesli on the weekend, then serve it through the week. I make it with oats, good yogurt and pureed apples - mix it together, add anything else you like (cranberries, sultanas, honey, cinnamon etc), and leave it in the fridge at least overnight. I'm yet to meet a child who won't eat it, and in winter, 30 seconds in the microwave makes it warm and fluffy. It's fast, good for them and oh so easy - and the perfect weekday breakfast.
Get clothes ready the night before. I lay out uniforms and pack sportsbags in the evening so they're ready to grab in the morning. It saves frantically hunting for tiny socks, and is just one less thing to do.
I also do lunches the night before - obviously with an eye to not making soggy sandwiches! I also make lunches to a formula - sandwich/wrap plus a homemade treat, plus cheese and biscuits, plus two pieces of fruit. For me, this is fast and easy, and I can do it in 5 minutes after dinner. I regularly change up treats, sandwich fillings and cheeses, and buy seasonal fruits so it's not the same thing all the time, and again, it saves time in the morning.
Most of the time, I bake two slices on Sunday night for lunches, and to take to our various offices for morning tea. I find slices so fast to make - I mean, you just tip them in the pan, smooth them out and once they're baked cut into pieces - many don't need icing, they're easy for little fingers to handle, and I burn them way less often than biscuits. My favorites are all Women's Weekly recipes, and my go to one is this vintage Ginger Coconut Slice. (I never add the ginger.) This slice cuts beautifully, and you can vary the base as much as you like - try adding cranberries, white chocolate chips and just a drizzle of icing
7. CLOTHES AGAIN
By Sunday night I also aim to have all the uniforms and our work clothes washed and ironed so I can just grab and go through the week. It's also handy to have a capsule wardrobe for the week that you can mix and match. I generally just do pants, blouses and jumpers that get mixed up with fun scarves, jewellery and shoes. It saves time, but I still get to change things up depending on my mood - today was a blush, grey, white and maroon day with a touch of gold :)
Dry shampoo. 'Nuff said.
9. DROP ZONE
Always keep bags, shoes, mail, keys etc. in the same spot, and teach the family to do it too - it makes mornings much faster when you're not hunting for keys. Missy doesn't have homework yet, but we do practice reading and writing every night. I make sure after she's done everything goes back into her satchel, ready to take to school in the morning. It only takes a minute, and saves hassles later.
Speaking of bags, I get all the school notes out and read them as she's doing her reading - then they either go in the bin, get written in my planner and then in the bin, or signed and sent back to school. A packet of little envelopes is so handy for all the lunch orders and notes, and putting them straight back in her school bag means we never forget them.
11. DINNERS & GROCERIES
Try putting together a list of quick dinners your family love. I don't need a recipe for any of our family favorites - I've made them that many times - so I just have them as a list and use this to plan our meals. It makes dinner time easy to plan, easy to cook, and easier to sit through as there's less whining :) Also, if you can, do your big grocery shop once a fortnight. Going to the supermarket takes so much mental energy! I do the big, three supermarket shop every second week, and a quick top up one for salad, fruit, milk etc on the off week.
12. KEEPING TIDY
I unpack the dishwasher before making dinner, then I pack it as I cook - so there's no gigantic mess to clear up later. This is one of my favorite sanity and time savers! I also like to throw a load of laundry on in the morning, and again in the evening. This makes such a difference! And since I started doing this, my laundry just magically stays clean.
13. HANG EVERYTHING
Hang as many clothes as you can - don't fold! I hang pretty much everything except socks and knickers. It's so much quicker to put washing away, and if you do it straight from the dryer, you'll save yourself a ton of ironing. Also, I hang business shirts, blouses and light knits on their hangers from the laundry door architrave to dry overnight - it's great in winter when it's too cold to use the washing line, and I can just transfer them straight to the wardrobe in the morning.
Delegate whatever you can. We have pink jobs and blue jobs in our house, and Missy has her own jobs to do each day too. Also, consider getting a gardener or cleaner in. We've had gardeners for years, and they can do in an hour what takes Dan five hours, so for us, it's completely worth it.
14. THE CAR
I always keep baby wipes in the car... because every single morning I only notice Missy has breakfast all over her face when we're half way to school... And really, every mum wonders how they made it through life without baby wipes... they're handy for just so many things.
1. HOW DO YOU WORK?
Everyone works differently - some are better in the morning, others in the evening, some thrive on fast paced pressure, others need silence and space. Learn how you work, and make the most of it! I crave uninterrupted work time - I can easily focus on a project 7 days a week for a month - in fact it's my idea of bliss! But constantly switching projects, jumping from home to work stuff, and changing gears all day long is just exhausting. So, knowing this, I tend to create solid boundaries between projects - Monday is Project A, Tuesday is Project B, Sunday is home stuff - which allows me time to think and get that uninterrupted time to work.
2. USE A PLANNER
If you don't have one, you need one! A planner means all your appointments, reminders, notes and lists are in the one place. It means you're less likely to forget things - and given how busy everyone is these days, that's important. If you don't have one, you can click here to find heaps of my free planners.
Take time out to plan your day or week ahead - this is huge. Just 10m checking your planner and sorting out where you need to be and when will save so much stress. It's also a great time to plan your priorities - those must do things that really have to happen. I like to only schedule half my time too - this way my schedule is still flexible enough to deal with unexpected events and interruptions.
4. CLEAN OUT YOUR TO-DO LIST
If your to do list is anything like mine, there's a heap of stuff on it that just isn't that important. Yes, I need to sort out that bottom drawer of random, ancient paperwork that someone else created (I won't name names!). And yes, I have a stack of filing that's getting rather high. And sure, if I was to re-label all my files to bring them in line with our current system, that would be awesome. There's a reason those things have been on my to-do list for months, where so many others have been done and dealt with - it's because they're just not that important right now. We all have things like this on our to-do list, and one day, when it matters, we'll do them. But right now, they don't need to be done, and they don't need to be on your to-do list.
5. APPOINTMENTS & ERRANDS
I try to stack my appointments and obligations as close together as I can - it saves so much time! I get my nails done while Missy's at dance class, and when I'm getting my eyebrows done at the hairdressers, they trim her hair for me while she waits. I also try to stack up a heap of errands and go and do them all at once!
6. USE THE PHONE
It's old school, but try using the phone rather than email! So many things can be sorted out with a 30 second phone conversation, rather than an email chain that goes back and forth all day. Also, I use alarms on my phone all the time so I can focus on work and not worry that I'll forget to pick up Missy from school, call someone back, or just burn the biscuits (which I manage to do anyway lol!).
7. JUST SAY NO
Learning to say no to things you really don't have time for, and really don't want to do is easier said than done. But, with a bit of practice you can do it! Years ago, I used to be on heaps of committees and found that I always ended up taking on the lions share of work. Setting up an inaugural Law Journal? Why not. Revamping the interior of our city apartment building? Sure. Single handedly organizing a charity high tea? Yep. And then I banned myself from going on any committees for a long time - the last one, Missy's kindergarten, I still helped out - but I did what I could, and said no to what I really didn't have time for. There's an opportunity cost to everything, and these days, even though I love helping people out, I tend to think about what it's going to cost in terms of time and stress before taking on something new.
And last but not least, because you must be exhausted by now...
8. TAKE TIME
It's so important to take time to just zone out and clear your head. Taking a holiday is awesome - but it's not really a holiday if you're rushing around from site to site, looking after the kids and making sure everything is going to schedule. What was that Modern Family quote? 'I'm a mom, traveling with my kids. It's not a vacation, it's a business trip.' Sometimes, holidays are more stressful than they are relaxing, and taking time is as much about the little things as the big ones. I've found that anything that stops the whirl of to-do's and must not forget's in your head is great for destressing. I tend to zone out and clean the house with my headphones in, take 5m to have a cup of coffee and read the paper, or of an evening, watch a series on Netflix. It's easy to get not only physically tired, but also mentally and emotionally exhausted, and it's really important to take care of yourself, so make sure you take time for you! xx
So there we go! This post ended up being waaay longer than I expected, so if you've gotten this far, well done! And hopefully my tips will help you survive the craziness of juggling work and home :)
If you're looking for more posts on getting organized, just scroll down to the suggested posts below - and don't forget to sign up to my newsletter along the way :)
All the best,