How To Be Productive Without the Overwhelm
An Insider’s Guide on How to be a Mum, and Follow Your Life Purpose
The baby brain is real. I have found myself asking my husband if he had seen my sunglasses, also when I was wearing them, and I left the house in a rush just to come back 10 minutes later to pick up my phone. I also forgot to buy nappies, to show up to a medical check-up, and to follow up on an email. A friend of mine forgot the kid strapped in the car seat while she went out to do some groceries.
Other things that I have been struggling with as a mother and when dealing with other mothers is the short attention span, the hypersensitivity to external factors (ex: crying of a baby somewhere else in the universe), and those moments where you wish you were in bed for a full week instead of sharing the third coffee of the day with another human being.
Baby brain creeps in slowly and a few months down the track we hear ourselves saying “What was I talking about?” more than 3 times in the same 10 minutes conversation
For a very long time, baby brain has been dismissed as nothing more than an old wives’ tale, but recently scientist have shown it does exist: “an intriguing study published last year showed there were reductions in grey matter in the brains of pregnant women in regions known to be closely tied to processing social information, such as decoding infant facial expressions and establishing healthy bonding between mum and baby” (Sasha Davies). To the changes of the brain that happen during pregnancy, we also need to add sleep deprivation and the fact that now a mother has another person to take care of and be responsible for.
Long story short, baby brain is VERY real.
There are things that can be done to tackle this “problem” that seems to be affecting mothers all over the world, but for now, I would like to implement strategies on how to be productive also when sleep deprived and exhausted.
Write down a list of what you need to do.
Get it out of your head and in 1 place. If you keep thinking “I need to remember to send that message, and to make that appointment and to bake those cookies”, you will end up feeling flustered, exhausted, and utterly unproductive for no particular reason. And chances are you will get to the end of the day and think “What message did I have to send?” making you feel even more upset and ready to give up. Place a notepad in your nappy bag or download an app on your phone. Whenever something comes to your head, write it down.
Wash my hair. Write it down
Doing the laundry. Write it down.
Write a blog post on sustainability. You guessed it right….write it down.
At the end of the day, bring out your beautiful weekly calendar and write down all the things that need to be done. All your tasks and appointments need to be in one place. No sticky notes around the house, no messy papers flying around. If you are a digital girl, add everything to your Google calendar.
Have everything out of your mind, and in a safe space. By following this simple trick you will instantly feel much calmer and accomplished, and you will acquire much more brain space.
How To Manage your Energy instead of Managing Your Time
To Increase Productivity and Obliterate Stress
Aim to have only 3 tasks to do on a daily basis.
As mothers, wives, and workers, we could easily fill our day to the brim. This is going to lead us to burn out, which is exactly what we want to avoid. So stick to the “3 rules”: 3 things to be done every day. Some days, it could be as simple as : wax under the shower, send a message to XXX, enrol my bubba to an activity class. Other days, when you are on fire, you can achieve more demanding tasks such as getting started on a project, show up for a playdate, organize an interview, or cook dinner for the whole week. You choose and prioritize.
The message I want you to take home is to keep it simple. A day filled with unachieved tasks will only make you feel powerless and unworthy.
Find when is your most productive time and use it.
I love mornings. I rock between 8am-12 pm. It is definitely the time where I have the most clarity of mind, where I can be productive and creative. Ask me to write an article at 8pm, and it will take me hours to roll out 500 words filled with spelling mistakes. Now that I know when I “rock”, I always try to book those hours for the more demanding tasks, like writing, submitting an essay, seeing clients, have meetings. I still work for the rest of the day, but I do tasks that don’t require my full brain capacity. Obviously, some days don’t work like that; my bubba stays awake in the morning, or clients want to see me later on in the day. It is fine and I can deal with that; still, it is important for me to know where my strengths are.
Delegate, Automate, Outsource.
Write down your full week in an excel spreadsheet. It is menial work, boring as it sounds, and time-consuming. Yet, it is the most productive task you can ever do. I want you to write down a full week and jot down everything you do from when you wake up until you go to sleep, and how long it takes you to complete every given activity.
(example: 5am wake up and meditation. 5.15–5.35am bathroom. 5.35am-6am. Prepare and have breakfast etc.). You will find there are loads of time sucking activities in your day (checking Facebook every 10 minutes anyone?), which you will need to work on. But for now, I would like you to focus on tasks that can be automated, delegated or outsourced.
I give you a few examples:
I have delegated grocery shopping to my husband; I’m a nutritionist, but he is much better than me at finding the items in seasons, to buy the cheapest one, and to carry heavy bags. On top of it, he likes doing it. Bingo!
I have outsourced the cleaning of the house; I have a cleaner that comes every 2 weeks. I still clean the kitchen and hoover every day, but the big part of the job is done by someone who is making a livelihood out of it. I HATE dusting. With passion. But I can use those 3 hours of free time to help clients or to simply play with my little love at the park.
Automate. I spend 30 minutes a week to make breakfast for the all week. I open 21 jars (3 people for 7 days) and I fill them all with the same ingredients (although I vary the taste every week and every season). An example of breakfast could be: chia porridge with bircher muesli topped off with yogurt, nuts and seeds and fresh berries. It saves me 10 minutes a day.
In the future, I will automate my social media feeds; I’m now working on that and I hope to put the change in place as soon as.
There are days when I’m on top of the world as the inbox is empty, my little one is happy and fed with pre-made breakfast, and I have managed to squeeze in a workout before nailing 3 articles. Other days Luna is sick, and the only thing I can do is calling in sick, and spend the day cuddling her in my arms. It took me a while to understand there is no balance; I’d rather give my 100% wherever I am. If I’m with clients, I don’t check my phone to find out how Luna is. If I’m with Luna, I don’t check my emails. I have worked very hard to create flexibility in my life, and it all started with accepting that I don’t have control over everything, especially not over other people health and needs.
Take care of yourself.
Always, and foremost, take care of yourself. If you wanna be a good mum and be present for your children, if you wanna be a successful human (whatever it means for you), if you wanna be a good wife and a productive worker, you need to take care of yourself. In the beginning, I found myself too often powering through colds, flu, muscle aches because I didn’t wanna give up and because I thought I had to keep powering through if I wanted to make it. It didn’t serve me at all. When exhausted, tired, unmotivated, you’d rather benefit from taking a day off and recharge your batteries instead of powering through a storm and come out depleted.