Here’s the secret, I don’t. But there are a few strategies and tricks that I use to help me feel like I do (most days).
As a stay-at-home/work-at-home mother, wife and housewife, there are a lot of balls to juggle. There’s a house to keep (somewhat) clean, schedules to manage, appointments to keep track of, bills to pay, not to mention my responsibilities as a wife, a mother and an employee (plus trying to fit in some volunteering and me-time). It’s easy to get overwhelmed with everything that needs to get done on a daily basis, but with a few strategies, I promise that you too can feel like you’re (almost) on top of everything.
1. Be Realistic
The first step is knowing that not everything can get done on any single given day and being okay with that. You have to know where your priorities lie. Cleaning the oven can wait for another day. Grabbing that half hour to spend with my daughter is far more important. Once you get your priorities in check, life becomes a lot less stressful. It’s easier to manage tasks when you know what must be done, and what would be nice to have done.
2. Get Organized
Everyone has systems that work for them, but for me it’s lots of lists and lots of calendars. I thought pregnancy-brain was bad, but mommy-brain is worse. There is so much to manage and remember and if I don’t write it down I am bound to forget it.
I used to just write my lists on a piece of loose-leaf paper, but I found that they were getting lost all the time and creating a lot of paper clutter. (More about how I tackled that issue in a bit). I have lists for just about everything – groceries, books I want to read, things I need to pick up a the hardware store, shows I need to catch up on. You name it, I have a list for it.
The first trick is keeping your lists in a place that you’ll find them. It’s no use having a list on a piece of paper that you’re not going to find when you need it. I keep long-term lists that I might need to access in days, weeks or months from now on the notes app on my phone. It’s easy to access because I always have my phone in-hand, and I can ensure that it will never get lost in paper clutter. Any time an idea or a thought pops into my head, I can immediately grab my phone and jot it down on the appropriate list.
I also have a daily to-do list. Every night, as I’m winding down for the night, I write down a to-do list for the following day in my planner. I find it helps to do it in my planner because I can see what work assignments and appointments I have the next day and plan accordingly. I can also see if there are things coming up in the week that need preparation. I limit this list to a 5-item maximum. It’s not realistic (for me) to have more tasks each day because I know I won’t be able to accomplish them all. If there is something incredibly important that must get done that week, but I can’t fit it into that specific day, I make a note of it in the notes column on that week’s spread. These five items are very specific so I know exactly what needs to be done. For example, right now I’m working on getting my daughter’s Canadian citizenship and passport. Instead of writing Canadian Embassy in the to-do list, I’ll write something like print Canadian paper work, or take Canadian passport pictures. It helps me stay laser-focused and reduces the chances that I’ll become overwhelmed with a mammoth task.
I also LOVE calendars. At any given time, I have 3 calendars running. The first is my planner. (Leave a comment below if you want to see how I use my planner). The planner is the command centre of our lives. It’s where I list all of the family’s appointments, my work assignments and my daily to-do lists. In addition to my planner, there’s a large calendar on our fridge and the calendar apps on our phones. The calendar on the fridge serves as a quick glance of the month ahead and only lists major events and appointments. Because it’s on the fridge and next to the grocery list, it serves as a visual reminder of the important things we have coming up. In the long run, when Avital is old enough, I plan on using it to help her keep track of school vacations, parties, assignments and the like. But for now, I’m really the only one who uses it.
The calendar app on our phones serves two purposes. First, it’s a quick glance for me if I’m out and about and have to schedule something and my planner isn’t nearby. But second, it’s a way for Ira to know what he has going on during any given week when he’s planning his schedule for work. Since Ira works shifts and puts in requests on a weekly basis, it’s easy for him to just glance at his calendar and see what he has going on for the following week.
You’re probably thinking that it’s a lot of calendars and a lot to maintain, but when you get into the habit of syncing everything up once a week, it really isn’t hard to manage at all.
I’m a creature of habit. Once I establish a routine, it’s really easy for me to keep it going. The problem is that I have a hard time getting myself into that routine. But slowly, I’m working myself into a daily schedule that involves work, some cleaning, some downtime and lots of mommy time. Some of the key things for me are going to bed with a clean kitchen every night and doing at least one full load of laundry a day. (It’s still a work in progress.) Incorporating these two things into my daily routine help maintain some sort of order and cleanliness in our home and make larger cleaning projects far less daunting.
I think the most important thing about managing it all is first managing your expectations. You can’t possibly do it all, all the time. Be realistic and stay organized, and I promise you that you’ll find a way to stay level-headed and sane.
I’m always looking for ways to make my life easier, so I’d love to hear your tips and tricks in the comments below.
And until next time…