You’ve been awake since 5 AM with a crying baby, the day got away from you and you feel like you didn’t accomplish anything. When you’re at home caring for kids, some days are just like that. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to be more productive and accomplish more than you thought possible—even if your toddler picks today to spread an entire bag of flour all over your kitchen floors.
1. Focus on the Small Things
The best way to overcome sadness and that “overwhelmed” feeling is to focus on the small things you accomplish in a day. You might not have time to cook lunch, dinner, go over ABCs, build a tent fort, and clean the entire house, but maybe you built the fort, fed the kids, and cleaned the kitchen after dinner. That is still a job well done, so pat yourself on the back.
Keeping a to-do list helps you see what you’ve accomplished in a day. Write down even those small tasks, such as cleaning the guest bath toilet or reading a book with your first-grader.
2. Say Yes to the Best
You only have so many hours in a day, so you won’t be able to meet everyone’s expectations. In The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands, author Lysa TerKeurst says, “The acid of over-activity eats holes in our souls. And from those holes leaks the cry of the unfulfilled calling that never quite happened.” She goes on to point out that we say yes to so many things that we miss out on the best things in our lives we should focus on—our best yeses.
How does this apply to SAHMs? If that play date isn’t the best use of your time with your child, doesn’t meet your life goals or it will take away from something you both truly love, you need to say no. Say yes to only those things that truly matter, such as family time. Don’t allow feelings of guilt to creep in—saying no is your way to make the most of the limited time you have.
3. Prep for Meals
There are time savers that can free up your schedule such as picking one day a week to do meal prep. If you lay out all your meals on Saturday or Sunday, and Wednesday hits like a sudden tornado sprang out of the clouds, you’ll be prepared for dinner at least. You’ll grab your already prepped meal out of the fridge or freezer, heat and eat. No more drive-through food!
Another way to save time is by making your weekly menu a routine. Some apps for meal prepping allow you to routinize your shopping list based on your weekly meal plan. Taco Tuesdays and Pizza Fridays are days the entire family looks forward to. Planning also helps you shop loss leaders, buy in bulk, and stick to your budget.
4. Set Deadlines
Even though you’re not working in the corporate world, it’s perfectly fine to set some deadlines for yourself. Have you ever heard of Parkinson’s Law? The concept is that if we have a deadline that is two weeks away, our nature is to take that full two weeks before completing the project. Overcome the tendency to procrastinate by setting deadlines ahead of when things are due. If your child’s preschool application is due in 30 days, give yourself a one-week deadline to complete it and turn it in.
Momof6.com offers some fantastic printable to-do lists that you can use to set your to-dos and create deadlines for yourself and your children. As you set your deadlines, make sure you prioritize the most important tasks, and anything that can wait goes to the bottom of the list.
5. Prep the Night Before
Do you ever wonder how Sally up the street shows up early to every function and her children are impeccably dressed and ready for the day? Sally probably prepares for tomorrow’s tasks the night before. You can use a simple family organizer app, such as Cozi Family, to keep everyone on the same page with activities and see what is going on at a glance.
Complete whatever you can the night before, such as laying out clothes for the next day and packing lunches for everyone. If you find your house is a mess all the time and you can’t get a handle on your day, try resources such as Fly Lady to get a grip on the basics of organization.
6. Ask for Help
Do you still find at the end of the week there is more on your to-do list than you can take on? Don’t be afraid to ask for help from family and friends. Many people want to step in and offer their help but don’t know where to start.
If it’s in your budget, source out some of the work. If you can’t find time to clean the outside windows, hire someone to do it for you. Local college students often need extra money, especially over the summer.
Focus on the Goal
You’ll never regret the time you invested in growing your children into happy, well-adjusted adults. Make every moment of their childhoods count. Give yourself a break. If the dishes sit in the sink for a few hours longer than you’d like, that is a small thing on the big list of goals you have for your family.
At the end of the day, you’re teaching and nurturing a future productive adult, and that’s worth far more than all the clean kitchen sinks in the world.