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When you’re a working mom, you’re on the clock non-stop. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and off-track. Fortunately, there are some simple ways you can streamline life to reduce stress and increase productivity.
It only took the loss of one iPad for me to realize that my kids would touch anything. The more expensive it was, the dirtier their hands were and the harder it dropped. Luckily, my insurance policy covered it, but the hassle of reporting and replacing used a lot of my valuable time. Trying to set up my new iPad to look, function and feel like the lost one? Never happened. I got close, but I hadn’t backed it up recently and can’t remember what I’m missing.
Don’t make room for anything in your life unless it’s functional and durable. That goes for diaper bags and smartphones alike. Invest in protective covers for your gadgets. If you have to choose between dropping a child or a gadget, you’ll drop the gadget. With a rugged case, however unfashionable, the gadget should survive intact. Small hands seem to gravitate to both messes and expensive (and breakable) items. Those same cases should also protect against kid interference.
Picture this: I arrive at Costco with two tiny children. They’re runners, so I have to get them in a cart as quickly as possible upon entering. I’m frantically digging through my wallet looking for my membership card so I can get started with my shopping. Then it happened. As I thumbed through a stack of plastic, juggling keys and wiggly kids, my wallet exploded. Loyalty cards, store credit cards, insurance cards and business cards went everywhere. Under displays, in the cart, all over the floor. I’ve dropped things from my wallet trying to dig through it before, but that was my wakeup call.
Remove everything from your wallet that you don’t need. You probably don’t need to carry 38 loyalty cards and 26 department store credit cards. If you’re committed to loyalty cards, try a smartphone app to keep track of account information and barcodes. Keep your Plum Card at American Express separate from your personal AmEx cards. Make it obvious which is which so you’re not accidentally co-mingling finances. Getting your finances and accounting right on the first try will be much simpler than trying to unravel a web of business and personal expenses.
If you have a web calendar, keep it up to date on your mobile devices. Sync products like email, contacts and calendars automatically so you’re always working with the most up-to-date information.
When I had my first baby, I thought I could still work from home at least part-time. And I could, but I tried to start the day after we came home from the hospital. Very few of my coworkers had any experience with babies, let alone having kids of their own, so they were not sensitive to the schedule of a new working mom.
I was terrified to miss a phone call. I thought if I did, there would be a perception in the office that I was just lazing around at home, watching daytime soaps. Instead I was juggling office minutia, major work responsibilities and a colicky baby. I finally got the baby settled in for a nap after 3 days of incessant crying (unless I was holding her). I was just about to start dealing with email when my phone rang. Loudly. I tried to silence it but the damage was done. It was another day and a half before the baby would sleep without being held.
In my experience, this is the toughest thing for new moms to do. It gets easier with time, especially once you’ve seen results. If you’re lucky enough to have flexible working hours or arrangements, set clear expectations. When will you answer the phone? Are any times off limits? How quickly do you promise to check and respond to communications if you can’t see them right away? If naptime usually lasts less than two hours, maybe that’s your benchmark.
When you’re with your family, is work off-limits or limited-access? Is it acceptable for you to check email on the sidelines of a youth soccer game? Will you have a “no devices at the dinner table” policy? How will you decide when your full attention is needed (for work or kids) and communicate that to those who need to know?
If you’re a working mom full-time, are end of day meetings unacceptable? How often will you have to pop out during the work day to handle a kid issue? How much time away from the office is acceptable (as long as your job gets done) and how much is too much? Will you only contribute to meetings when an agenda is sent early enough for you to prep at the office rather than a late night cram session at home?
By setting clear boundaries and expectations for yourself and others, you’ll know how to best balance work and home.
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