Have you ever left a conversation with a friend, colleague or even someone you just met and wondered “how the heck does she do it?” As a young mom, entrepreneur, and generally energetic person, I must admit I get asked that a lot. I usually shrug it off with something like, “oh, I just like to keep busy!” But lately I’ve taken some time to think about how I should really answer the question. I think what I’m actually being asked is “how are you so efficient?” So, I’m going to let you in on my seven tips to improve your efficiency. Soon everyone will be asking you how you do it!
Multitasking, in my opinion, is a bit of an art. You have to know which activities to clump together so that you don’t sacrifice quality. For example, scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed during family time or catching up on important work emails while watching last night’s Bachelor Pad is a no-no.
My favorite example is my morning routine. I am an early to bed and early to rise kind of gal, but not too early. My alarm goes off at 6 a.m., which gives me a happy balance of clocking enough Zs while successfully getting our 1 and 3 year olds out of the house by 7:15. Here’s a play by play of how we do it:
6:00AM – Alarm goes off – NO snooze! Hit the shower…most days.
6:10AM – This is where it gets good. I read the news (I prefer theSkimm), while doing my hair and makeup, while nursing or pumping. My husband is all ready for the day and heading downstairs to make breakfast for the family…smell the bacon, eggs and coffee!
6:30AM – Divide and conquer! My husband gets one child up and dressed and I tackle the other one.
6:45AM – We all sit down and eat breakfast as a family.
7:00AM – Shoes on (kept in the laundry room), teeth brushed (a set of toothbrushes in the downstairs bathroom), and an impromptu dance party in the kitchen.
7:15AM – Load up and head out.
I’m particularly proud of that 6:10 window. Feeding another human and learning about world events while primping really gets me excited to take on the day.
2. Ask for help
Notice how earlier I said, “this is how we do it.” That’s because I don’t even pretend like mornings run this smoothly when my husband is traveling for work. One way to master efficiency is to know when to ask for help. Early on in our marriage, I told my husband it would really help both of us make it to work on time if he made breakfast. We woke up at the same time each day, but I took about 20 minutes longer to get ready than he did. About the same amount of time it takes to cook the full breakfast we’re both accustomed to. He totally got it and was willing to step up in the morning, something that became even more important when we added two toddlers to the routine.
Bottom line: if someone else can do something better or quicker than you can, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
3. Plan Ahead
Let’s go back to the morning routine again. Did you notice how I didn’t mention packing lunches or getting bags together? It’s because I do it all the night before. I’ve found it’s quickest to pack lunches either while making dinner or putting away any leftovers since you’re already in and out of the fridge and handling Tupperware. I lay out my kids’ outfits before bedtime. Heck, I still lay out my clothes. By planning ahead whenever you can, you eliminate unpleasant surprises (where is that library book?) and create the illusion of more time (dance party, anyone?).
4. Get Organized
I know this looks a little bit different for everyone. I’m a bit of a self proclaimed neat freak myself, and while I won’t project my tidy ways on you, I do urge you to get organized at home and at work if you want to improve your efficiency. The reality is, if you know where things are you will get to them faster. Keep your home and your office cleared of clutter. Pick up the toys on the floor before you go to bed; I promise you’ll feel better about it when you come downstairs the next morning! If this isn’t your strong suit, please refer to tip #2 and have someone help you file those papers.
I am a list-maker. Give me a post-it, some stationary, it doesn’t matter as long as it’s clean and I can write on it. Who doesn’t like to draw a giant check mark next to a completed task? Other than that fleeting sense of achievement, lists help you visualize the things you need to get done. I suggest separating work things from family things from errands or shopping lists since prerogatives change from a Monday to a Saturday.
When it comes to your business, make a list at the end of each work day for the following day. Write each task in the order they’ll need to be accomplished and then when it comes time to work on them, do not bounce around! Tackle them one by one and watch your efficiency improve and your to-dos decrease.
For my family and home, I have a giant to-do that includes long term projects like finally painting the outside of the house or getting around to our family photo album.
Make one list or ten, either way be sure to commit to getting things done and don’t procrastinate!
Remember how you weren’t supposed to Facebook stalk or watch your guilty pleasure television shows while working or family time? You know the perfect time to do these things? While exercising! Not only will you benefit from shutting off your responsibilities for a bit, but you’ll have the added perk of those endorphins. So sneak away from the kiddos already to get in some quality me-time and get fit while you Netflix.
7. Slow down
This is really important to remember, especially for working moms. While I pride myself in being incredibly efficient both in my business and at running my household, I sometimes have to remind myself to stop and smell the roses. Women are so incredibly hard on themselves and parents who work outside of the home are constantly on the go. So join me after the alarm sounds at 6 a.m. tomorrow in taking a deep breath and counting your blessings before tackling that to-do list.