The top 7 apps & websites making a working mom’s life easier

Moms are busy. Really busy.

Add a JOB to the mix and it’s a wonder we get anything accomplished each day. {Ignore that pile of laundry in the corner.}

I’m always looking out for the best resources for working moms that make my life just a little bit easier. That means fewer to-dos, and more time back in my day for the things I really care about.

I’ve rounded up the top seven apps and websites that all working moms need to know about to rock it at work and at home all from your smart phone.

theSkimm

online resources for working moms theskimm

As someone with an interest in current events, but very little time to actually stay current, I rely on theSkimm. Their tagline promises to “make it easier to be smarter” and it does just that. In the time it takes me to nurse Audrey in my bed in the morning, I get briefed – and entertained – on the latest happenings around the globe. If time allows, I can dive in deeper to the news stories via the links theSkimm provides. If I have a hungry toddler begging for breakfast or a pressing work issue, I can come back to it later or wait until the next day.

Target

online resources for working moms target

There’s a reason moms are known for loving Target. Affordable prices, cute items, a Starbucks by the front door? Yes, please. But as much as I love the store, going there with all three kids in tow is pretty stressful. So I’ve turned to the Target & Cartwheel app. After I had Audrey, I was feeling a little down about not fitting in my usual clothes. Using the Target app I was able to skip the store, order a variety of items in a variety of sizes and try them on in my own home. Read: without the unforgiving lighting of a department store dressing room! I scored free shipping, and an easy in-store return that I completed with only one baby and no toddlers {and picked up my latte on the way out}.

Amazon

online resources for working moms amazon

When I went on bedrest with Audrey I knew I was going to need help when it came to errands. It was right before the holidays and I needed to do all of the Christmas shopping for our family. I quickly turned to online shopping and fell in love with the convenience of Amazon Prime. I was officially converted into an online shopper.  The real game changer was when my husband gave me the Amazon Echo Dot a few months later. This product tells me the weather so I don’t have to track down my phone, confirms my calendar appointments, adds things to my shopping and to-do lists, and even orders stuff through my Amazon Prime account all with simple voice commands. Plus, Daphne has learned how to ask for some pretty fun family dance parties. “Alexa, play the Trolls soundtrack…”

InstaCart

online resources for working moms instacart

The other thing I had to figure out while I was on bedrest was the groceries. Luckily, I found the InstaCart app. It’s like the Uber of groceries. Pick your local store, select your food items, and schedule a delivery time that works for you. The app even has great features that allows messaging back and forth, like if you have really picky eaters who only eat a certain ripeness of banana {Henry}, or if the store is out of an item. It’s so simple and convenient, that I was able to order groceries for my family while still in the hospital after giving birth. Someone took care of the shopping, and delivered the groceries my husband at home with our older two.

76th & Newbury

We didn’t find out the gender with our last baby, which made setting up a nursery a bit of a challenge. I knew our new bundle would be in our room for the first few months, so I didn’t worry…until she was born! I realized I was crazy to think I would be able to go out and shop for her room with three kids. And I was already feeling badly that she didn’t have a beautiful room to come home to like the others did. Luckily, 76th & Newbury provides completely custom artwork for the home without leaving the house. I was able to create prints just for Audrey that matched her bedding perfectly. I was super impressed with their customer service. Through my many rounds of edits to make sure it was just right, they always made me feel like the project wasn’t done until I was completely happy.

Poshmark

online resources for working moms poshmark

My husband discovered this app after cleaning out his closet and uncovering a bunch of hardly worn clothes and accessories. Poshmark keeps the clutter at bay while earning a few bucks! Since becoming a mom, I’ve always been into shopping at Consignment events like Just Between Friends. But now that I’m on the other side with some of our items, the cleaning, sorting, tagging, dropping off, etc. overwhelms me. In the Poshmark app, you snap a pic from your phone, add a description and price. Once the items sells, you simply print the shipping label and drop it off at a nearby UPS and wait to collect your cash. My husband has sold random things from jerseys to watches, and I’ve already had great luck in the maternity and children’s sections!

Greetabl

Greetabl calls itself “the total gifting experience made easy.” And I’m totally obsessed. I’ve sent it for every reason you can imagine – babies, birthdays, losses, and just because. I love it for those times when a full blown gift may be a little much, but a card doesn’t seem to say quite enough. With each box I’ve sent, I was able to customize with photos and patterns, and add a small gift -such as chocolate or handmade soap – with just a few clicks from my phone. It’s the perfect gesture for letting friends and family know I’m thinking about them even when life gets in the way.

Best Resources for Working Moms

What are your favorite online resources? How do they help you keep your life organized and simplified as a working mom? Tell me in the comments!


The links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

12 mompreneur tips for thriving {not just surviving} during the holidays

Holidays are such a special time to spend with family and friends. I love the lights, the traditions, the food, and the extra time at home with my loved ones. Yet, just because my kids get off from school, doesn’t mean my business stops – or even slows down.

So I took to the experts…fellow business owners and mamas who juggle their careers and their kiddos….to ask what tips they suggest for not just surviving, but thriving while working from home during the holidays. Keep reading to find out what I learned!
mompreneur tips

Plan ahead & stay organized.

 

Schedule out your days! While the holidays can often throw routine into chaos, take the time NOW to actually schedule out what needs to be done and by when; don’t just make a “to do” list and expect it’ll get done. Just because there’s only a few days left in the year doesn’t mean it’s time to slack off; get ready to rock 2017!

-Amber,  Thrifty Guardian and Embracing Temerity

 

 

Plan ahead! Make a schedule of play and working blocks, and have a few activities in your back pocket to keep the kids busy while you stay on your grind. Don’t forget to give your clients the heads up, too – send out an email outlining your holiday availability, noting any alterations to your office hours and reminding them of your preferred contact method.

-Resa, Eye Heart Creative

 

I use Trello during the holidays (especially my holiday gift and card planning board which helps me to brainstorm gifts and makes sure I’m mailing presents out on time.) I also use Trello to keep track of what is happening with my business and household, including recipes and meal plans, which takes a lot of stress off of me. Trello gives me confidence and allows the holidays to be more fun this year, since I’m in it all the time for my business anyway. It’s easy and fun.

-Dana Malstaff, Boss Mom

 

Find the time{r} to work with your kids.

 

Working with kids in the home is challenging. The one tip that keeps me focused and productive – and this has worked from 3 years old to the teen years – has been a timer and working in time blocks. My young children were able to watch a timer and keep themselves busy for 20 minutes in the other room while I did a deep focus block. I worked the way up to 45 minute blocks as they got older. I have found that with 2-4 focus blocks a day, I can conquer most of the heavy lifting.

– Cecily, Cecily: Nutrition, Love and Transformation

 

I use a pomodoro timer. I set it for 20 minute increments and I can only work during that time. No checking email, no social media, no attending to house work. You would be amazed how much you get done when the time is ticking…literally!

-Kristin, Pond Photography

 

 

During school vacations, I move my work from the home office to the kitchen. This way, I am literally running a command center within reach of everyone and everything we need. If there is a stretch of time coming up when I know that I need to be engaged with work, I try to have a ‘favorite’ on hand for the girls. Homemade play-doh is a double whammy, because we make it together which takes about 10 minutes, but then they have an open ended activity that – after a good raid of the junk drawer – can literally last hours!

-Jenna, Rodan + Fields Independent Consultant

Set boundaries for yourself

The holidays are my busiest season and I have to be very intentional about setting boundaries. When it’s Family Cookie-Baking Night, I don’t worry about Christmas shopping or work. When I’m working, I’m don’t feel guilt over the millions of Pinterest holiday crafts I could be doing with my kids. Peace is attainable if we fully engage in the task at hand and look for joy in the process.

– Jillian, Jillian Jones Music

 

Without a clearly defined schedule, it’s easy to lose yourself in work and totally miss out on family time. After all, isn’t the ability to be more present with our loved ones a big reason many of us work from home? Mark your off times in a calendaring system (I use Acuity Scheduling’s free plan) for your clients, put your hours on your website and in your email signature, and send your clients a note letting them know your hours. Block off personal time and guard it with your life. I promise, this Spring you won’t look back and regret having spent a little less time on your business and a little more with your kids during the holiday season

-Becky, Becky Mollenkamp, LLC

 

Take some time out for you. It sounds like a near impossible task with everything going on during the holidays, with work, the kids, and holiday commitments. Find some time to allow yourself to check out from your business, even if for a night after the kiddos are in bed, to Netflix binge, take a relaxing bubble bath, or enjoy a glass of wine to let your mind take a holiday, too!

-Britt, Home Sweet Hyatt

 

And finally, don’t forget what the season is really about….

 

The key to thriving in the holiday season is maintaining a place of rest and refreshment in your home for you and your family. Simply put, it’s about less stuff. In our culture we live and breathe a constant flash of discounts, sales, and good deals. And because of that, our homes can easily be filled with all of those things. Keep the season focused on enjoying your loved ones and experiencing life with them, let the new year ring in with memories, not overload of things that were accumulated through the month of December.

-Amy, Simplified Home

 

I think the holiday season is all about giving grace and savoring the moments.  As working moms we need to really allow ourselves the opportunity to fully enjoy those memories we’re creating with loved ones, but it’s also a lucrative time for many of us professionally.  Doing our best with what is truly important and forgetting the rest {for me it’s Christmas cards this year} is what makes thriving this season possible.

-Gwen, The Makerista

 

The holidays are all about spending time with loved ones and making good memories. My tip for working mamas is to plan what you can & let go of the rest. Plan/schedule out your work times and your fun times – be realistic knowing that you will want to let your hair down a bit in this season. Also, know that not everything will go according to plan, and that’s okay too.

-Veronica, Radiant Life Consulting

 

 


What tips would you add to the list to up your efficiency while working from home during the holidays? Share them in the comments!

Bouncing back: 5 tips for climbing out of a rut

climbing out of a rut

Y’all. I’ve been in Texas almost a month and I’ve realized two things. The first, I say y’all now. The second is that I am in a big time rut.

For starters, I’m coming off of one of the most stressful experiences of my life. Buying and selling a home doesn’t always bring out the best in a person. Moving cross country is a total mental, physical and emotional drain. Uprooting toddlers and finding new friends, new things to do and a new school isn’t my idea of a walk in the park. Plus, I’ve had to pull all this off before climbing into bed at 9 p.m. each day because baby Golden is zapping all of my energy for him {or her!} self.

So it’s no secret why I’m in a rut. The boxes are unpacked, the kids are settling into their new school and yet finding a way to climb out of this uninspired, unproductive hole still seems impossible.

If you’re normally quite constructive like me but have found yourself in a rut from time to time, read on!

Cut yourself some slack

As women we tend to be so hard on ourselves. Yet when I give myself a hard time about something, it tends to make me feel way worse. But who hasn’t been in a career or life rut? It happens to the best of us! Over the last few months I’ve chosen to be generous with myself when it comes to how much television I’ve let my kids watch or how little I’ve contributed to this blog. I was doing my best given my situation, all of which was temporary after all.

Start small

You’ll never get out of your rut if you acknowledge you’re in one and decide to to try to climb out. I recommend starting with something small. A big, overwhelming undertaking could send you right back into rut-mode, but taking on a manageable task and finishing it with ease may give you the encouraging boost to move on to the next to-do. Momentum gained!

Find inspiration

If you’re having trouble even getting started, you need to find a bit of inspiration. Maybe it’s going for a walk outside {I always bring my phone on walks because A. music and B. note taking for when those big ideas pop into my head}. Or listening to music. Or visiting an art exhibit. Whatever activity clears your head will help you forget your rut and fill your mind with motivation.  If that nature hike doesn’t shake your rut strut, spend some time with your children, husband or best friend. These people we love {who don’t judge us!} tend to remind us of what we’re capable of.

Do your best

If you’re like me, you are used to giving everything 110%. But vying for perfection could leave you drained or disappointed. For climbing out of a rut you need to abandon your usually high standards and find satisfaction in getting the job done. There’s plenty of time to improve when you’re rut-less.

Keep climbing

You did it! You’ve done something. It may not be your best work. It may not even contribute to your goals at all. But it was something. Anything. And now you can – and will – move forward, gradually introducing a renewed focus and quality. You’ve got this, mama!

“It is the best job in the world”

go back to work

Q&A with Amy Conway

There are two traits that I really admire in a business woman: passion and ambition. Amy Conway is a woman who is lucky enough to possess both. It’s a good thing, too, because after years at home raising her four children Amy is back in the workforce and is a force to be reckoned with herself!

I have known Amy as a stay at home mom, and while there’s no doubt that her family comes first, I’ve enjoyed cheering her on as she’s grown her business over the last year. Which is why I couldn’t wait to collaborate with her on today’s Working Mom Wednesday and Mother’s Day Giveaway!


Self-promo time. Tell me what you do.

I am a mom to four awesome kids: Molly, Kate, Nora and Liam, and lucky wife to Billy for 17 years. It is the best job in the world. My paying gig is with Visage – a promotional marketing solutions company. We get to work with clients to customize their branded apparel and promotional items. It is the second best job in the world.

What’s the coolest order you’ve placed?

A branded putting green for one of my clients to give to their top executive clients. Very fun!

{Want to see the second coolest order? Check out the cozy tee we’re giving away to one lucky mama just in time for Mother’s Day!}

If you weren’t selling swag, what do you think you’d be doing?

My passion is running, so I would love to train for a destination marathon. I am also known as the “baby whisperer” in the family, so I would volunteer at a children’s hospital and just hold babies all day.

You took a hiatus from the workforce to raise your children. Why did you decide to go back to work?

Honestly? It was time to go back to work.  My kids were in school all day and, let’s face it, they become more expensive the older they get.  I loved my time as a stay at home mom and going back to work is just the next step in taking care of their needs and growing list of wants. This opportunity found me and it has been a perfect fit for me and for my family. I have the flexibility I need to keep this family running along smoothly and I get to experience the thrill of the hunt and the satisfaction of closing a sale!

What has been the biggest challenge in growing your business?

I love the prospecting piece of finding new clients and developing creative ideas for their marketing plans. However, balancing that with the time spent taking care of my existing clients can be challenging. It works best when I am deliberate about carving out time for each piece.

What is a typical day like for you?

I start with a run-without fail! It’s really the only part of the day I can be sure to get it in! After a quick shower it’s time to herd the cats through breakfast and out the door to school. I’m a lucky gal that my kids are early risers so our mornings are usually fairly peaceful. I am then “all in” for work while the kids are at school, meeting with clients and cranking through the sales process. Then, depending on the season, we hit it hard after school with soccer, baseball, basketball, or track practices along with homework and dinner for the crew.

You have 4 kids. Surely that comes with a bit of chaos?

In order to minimize the inevitable chaos I plan our weeks with the precision of a military attack. I think it is my responsibility to the family to remain calm in the face of crazy. One recent weekday was triple-booked with activities so {after losing sleep over the prospect of a stranded child} I worked out the master plan and engaged all necessary parties. It was completely exhausting, yet successfully executed. At the end of the day, my daughter Kate said, “see mom, it wasn’t so crazy after all!” {If only she knew!}

What’s the best part about being a mom?

Looking at my kids’ happiness and knowing I play a large part of that. To see Molly beam with happiness in high school, to know that Kate “comes to play” at every soccer game. That Nora would spend every waking moment doing art projects, and Liam would never miss a soccer or baseball practice. Each of our children is such a unique blessing from God. Taking a brief moment of each day to pay attention to that is simply a privilege. It makes all the mean girl drama, endless rides to practice, calming of nerves, art project messes, quickly eaten meals and late night worries all worth it. Knowing they look to me to gauge their response to each new day is a huge responsibility and I do not take it lightly. Anne Lamott says it best: “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.”

They say it takes a village. Who helps you with your kiddos?

I have a fabulous support network of friends and family. We are blessed to live close to my husband’s family who eagerly helps out and never says “no.” I have learned over the years that it is NOT a sign of weakness to ask for help and that carpooling makes all kinds of sense, even if it is a pain to organize! Although my family lives in other cities, they are great with offering virtual support!

What is one product you love so much that you could be an ambassador for it?

I love our embossed leather journal. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve always loved a fresh journal or notebook!

What’s your best piece of advice for other working moms?

Be organized. It drives my husband absolutely crazy at times, but being organized helps calm the chaos in our lives. I find it the best go to survival skill in my working mom tool belt.

I’m on a quest to having it all. Do you think you have it all?

This question reminds me of something I read recently.  It puts “having it all” in perspective:

Early wake ups = Children to love
House to clean = Safe place to live
Laundry = Clothes to wear
Dishes to wash = Food to eat
Crumbs under table = Family meals
Grocery shopping = $$ to provide for us
Toilets to clean = Indoor plumbing
Lots of noise = People in my life
Endless questions about homework = Children’s brains growing
Sore and tired at the end of the day= I am still alive!


Amy is my partner in crime for our first giveaway here at The Free Mama! Check out the details and you could win some mom swag just in time for Mother’s Day. Looking for some custom goodies of your own? Contact Amy at Visage to get hooked up.

Want to be interviewed for #workingmomwednesday? Contact me to find out how.

How I’m cleaning up my work from home life

Friday is here which means I’ve survived my second week working from home. While I managed to stay on task and get my work complete, I cannot say that I was a role model for establishing some healthy work habits.

Earlier this week, I panicked. My sweet darlings are home with me on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which means I work quite a bit in the evenings. {A trade off I welcomed in exchange for more time with my family.}

Tuesday morning went all right. We painted and built race car tracks and played school bus. We kept busy, which kept the peace.

By mid-morning; however, things took a turn for the worse. I got anxious about my looming list of things to do before the kids returned to school on Thursday morning. I constantly felt pulled to respond to emails or do just one little thing that would earn a check mark of accomplishment on my to-dos. But my obviously distracted parenting led my children into one of the hardest places to come back from in our house.

Boredom.

When my nearly four-year-old daughter gets bored, she turns into a whining, lethargic television magnet. She won’t play. She won’t read. She won’t color. {But she will repeatedly tell you that she won’t play, read or color.} My husband and I try to limit the amount of TV time she gets, but she eagerly cashed in her 30 minutes with Mickey Mouse for the day by 10 a.m.

My toddler actually plays really well by himself most of the time. He loves his cars and books and trains. But when he gets bored, he throws stuff. He punches stuff. Or breaks stuff. Sometimes all three at once. He sure knows how to liven up this bore-fest.

That is when it hit me. Literally. My son hit me with a cardboard book as if to say “hey, read this to me NOW!” Daphne looked up from the hot dog dance. Henry flashed his innocent doe-eyes at me as if he hadn’t just chucked Little Blue Truck at my head. I was so preoccupied reading through emails during what was supposed to be family time that I probably hadn’t even noticed my son’s non-violent attempts at getting me to read to him.

It was time to set some boundaries. For myself.

Email Overhaul

I decided right then and there before my new book bump had even finished forging onto my noggin that if I couldn’t be strong-willed enough to not check my emails, then I just had to get rid of them altogether.

For Christmas, my husband gifted me an old, broken iPhone of mine that he had restored so that my 1,500+ photos and videos could be salvaged. I’d been using it as an iPod the last few weeks since it still carried all my old music on it, too.

I retrieved the iPhone and got out my current Samsung Galaxy. I quickly removed all work-related email accounts from my current phone and uploaded them all into the iPhone. Ta da! Work phone, personal phone. My work phone stays tucked away on family days and {so far} has been enforced just as tightly as Daphne’s TV time.

Invest in Efficiency

Two things you should know about me if you don’t already. 1. I’m pretty frugal. 2. I’m an extremely efficient worker. With that being said, there are so many resources out there these days to streamline work flow, particularly for marketing and advertising agencies. I’ve always resisted the urge to take advantage of them, or would only utilize the services that were offered for free, because being a boutique agency I’m able to serve all of my clients in what I felt was a reasonable amount of time anyway.

But if by week two I was freaking out about getting everything done and subsequently hindering family time, it was time to loosen the purse strings to make an investment in my new business. While I may be incredibly quick and accurate at doing my work, why wouldn’t I want to couple that with a program that would continue to work for me on my days off?

First, I did a lot of research on programs that would assist me with the social media management component of my business. After a lot of comparisons – from price, to ability, to interface – I decided to sign up with Sendible. The best part? They offer a 1-month free trial, phone support, and training webinars.

Second, I signed up for QuickBooks Self-Employed. I’m already familiar with QuickBooks online from doing the books for my husband’s business a few years ago. It’s incredibly user-friendly and because it syncs directly to my bank account, I don’t have to remember to make any entries myself. Taxes are no joke and there are so many ways for small business owners to make mistakes. Investing in this online program allows me to work more closely with our CPA and track my income and expenses without being responsible for the initial recording of them.

Finally, I upgraded to Canva for Work. Canva is a great online resources for non-designers to pretend to be designers. While I’m fairly literate in InDesign and other Adobe products, I am not a trained graphic designer and have wasted quite a bit of time attempting to be one. I have used Canva for over a year to make really quality images to use for social media, signage, invitations and more. The reason I decided to up the ante from the free version is to save myself time. Canva for Work has the added benefit of saving everything you need for your brand{s}. You can save a color palettes, logos, templates, fonts and more. This investment was the hardest for me, because it seems like a luxury when it offers a great version at no cost. With that being said, I have huge plans for all of that time I intend to save not having to type in my hex colors each and every time I design an image.

I feel less stressed and less distracted already. These three investments were definitely worth it.

{Note: For print pieces and particular projects, there is absolutely NO substitute to a good graphic designer.}

Be the Teacher

I had to help oversee a work event for my former employer last week,  and while I was there someone said something that really resonated with me. She asked how winter break was and I mentioned that the dreaded ‘B’ word had sneaked its way into our house during the second week my kids were home from school. I added that they were looking forward to going back to school {mom included} because of the structure and plethora of activities coordinated by their teachers. She just looked at me and said, “you can be the teacher.”

Once I got past the idea of me standing in front of them singing songs about the weather in an attempt to replicate circle time, I realized that she probably meant that I could incorporate the things that my children respond to at school into our home. For my daughter in particular, I concluded that was the constant flow of predictable activity.

When it comes to my business, I plan. I schedule out my time for meetings, projects and emails. In order to be a teacher to my kids, I needed to apply these same principles to my household like a lesson plan.

I kept the entire family in mind as I lesson-planned. We all get stir-crazy, especially during these winter months, so I first looked for indoor activities that wouldn’t break the bank if we did them every week. My mom got us a family membership to Wonderscope Children’s Museum for Christmas, so {purely because they both start with the letter ‘W’} Wonderscope Wednesdays was born. It was easy to get both of my kids excited to pack up snacks and head out to play and learn.

Coming up with something to do on Tuesdays was a bit more challenging. While Kansas City has a ton to offer, I was determined to create some habits for our family to build some consistency in our new days-at-home schedule. After all, me being home with the kids isn’t just new and challenging for me. My daughter downsized from full-time 5 days a week pre-school, as well, and she’s had an equally difficult time adjusting to the unpredictability of each day.

This week I decided we’d go check out the Johnson County Library, something I thought was a luxury for stay-at-home parents. Well, we had a great experience and I learned a lot. {You can check out 150 books at a time. Everything is DYI with a library card. They have movies and video games. What?!} The best part? A 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning story time kicks off next week. Jackpot! We’ve read the 4 books we checked out 1 million times and both kids are already asking when we get to go back and pick out more books. While I will continue to look for other free opportunities in town, it’s safe to say that Library Tuesday will become a thing. {Catchier name ideas are welcomed.}

It’s only been a week, but everything went swimmingly. I was more engaged with my children, didn’t spend any money, and honestly didn’t even think twice about my iPhone pinging away with emails at home. The best part? No one got bored.

Get more done by adopting this one habit

After a week at home for the holidays, my kiddos are finally out of the house. My coffee is hot. My desk is organized. The day is young. I finally sit down to work.

I know I need to write another blog post, but first I think I will open up Facebook and schedule a few social media posts I’ve planned for a few of my clients for the New Year.

Then my phone pings. Someone liked my most recent Insta post about working on my business goals and plans for 2016. It’s so exciting to see new followers {strangers even!} finding my blog and corresponding social pages.

Back to Facebook. Okay, one post scheduled.

I better check my Femfessionals email. I haven’t checked it since before Christmas and I really need to finish my plan for our community in 2016. I fire off a few emails to fellow Kansas City business owners about some event ideas.

I return to the browser with my Facebook page open. I scroll through my news feed, just once, and an article called “21 Annoying Facebook Status Updates that Need to Stop” pops up. That looks interesting, and I definitely need to find out what those things are {to make sure I’m not an annoying Facebook status poster}, so I click on it.

I skim the article and go back to my news feed, fully confident that all of my friends totally are not annoyed with my posts. Cute pictures of my friend’s baby’s first Christmases rotate with puppies and snow and more click-worthy articles from Buzzfeed and the Huff Post.

And then I glance in the upper right corner and realize an hour has gone by already. And I haven’t even started this blog post yet.

I’m not much of a gambler, but I’m willing to bet some version of this has happened to you before. Our phones and computers have become major time sucks thanks in large part to social media. But it isn’t just mindless scrolling that can cause us to lose track of time and productivity. I didn’t have a plan. I sat down to accomplish one task, but immediately moved on to other things on my to-do list and then became distracted. While my email sending and social media managing still chipped away at my overall workload, I lost valuable time and creative energy bouncing between tasks. Not carving out specific time for particular projects prevents us from packing in a fully efficient work sesh. So what should I have done differently?

Start each day with not only a list of top work priorities, but a schedule for accomplishing them. This technique is called time blocking and it is a powerful tool that can truly help you get more done if you make it a habit. So how can you {we} become better at time blocking a get stuff done? Try these 4 tips to time block like a pro.

1. Block time to time block

You shouldn’t spend your freshest moments of a new day mapping out your time blocks, so plan them in advance. Carve out time on one of your least productive day, typically a Monday or Friday or even the weekend, to evaluate what you need to get done for the upcoming week. I use Google Calendar for everything, both work and personal, because it actually looks like little colorful blocks that can be shared with others so they know when you’re time blocking a.k.a unavailable.

2. The early block catches the worm

I’m a morning person. I’d say 80% of what I get done in a day happens before 1 p.m. Be sure to schedule your time blocks when you work your hardest so they don’t fizzle into a procrastination period. Just keep in mind that you should aim to get your highest priority work accomplished before you move on to things like meetings and emails. So if you’re a rare breed who perks up after lunch time, don’t over commit in the morning or meetings may intrude on your precious time block.

3. Tune out to block in

When it’s time to time block and you’re ready to dig in to that super top priority thing to do, eliminate distractions. No social media. No emails. No phone calls. No office visits. It’s go time.

4. Don’t over block

When you schedule out your time blocks, it’s important to keep windows in your day. Projects may come up that you weren’t anticipating and certain jobs make take longer to accomplish than you originally thought. No need to fret if you’ve left some holes in your day to work on these things, as well as catching up on any outstanding emails or phone calls {although I do recommend carving out an email time block if you receive a high volume of them}. Finish that important task before your time block was over?

Do you time block to reach maximum productivity during your work day and make sure important tasks get done first? What works or doesn’t work for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Happy time blocking!

 

 

7 tips to help working moms become more efficient

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!

1. Multitask

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.

5. Prioritize

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!

6. Move

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.