Any new parent has to reorder their lives once the baby is born. Juggling a new baby with a career means that you have to enter the big leagues of time and priority magic. Staying productive while taking care of your child is not easy, but it can be done.
It can seem impossible, though. If you’re on a client call and the baby starts crying, what do you do? How do you start learning to balance between work and life without tearing your hair out or worrying about losing your job?
You’ll need a strong devotion to your priorities and protect your time as much as you protect your child. Here are seven ways you can stay productive with your work and continue taking care of your baby.
1. Clearly separate work time from home time.
Both of my parents worked from home when I was little. For me, if they were home, they were around to bring us to soccer practice, to a friend’s house, make dinner, the list goes on. I didn’t understand that work happened at home, sound familiar? Especially if you work from home, remember that proper separation between work and play is not just a physical separation, it’s mental too.
If you have a home business, you may be used to working at any time. A few hours here or there, sometimes in the middle of the night, sometimes a break in the day. It’s part of the fun of not having a rigid schedule.
Newsflash, it’s time to get one again. Time must be set aside to bond with your little one, not just take care of their needs when they cry while you work on a project. By setting strong boundaries on your work hours you free up time for family hours. When you are spending time with your baby, make that your sole focus. Make it a literal second job.
Whatever it is, a guest room converted to home office, your kitchen table, make sure family time is family time and work time is work time.
Related to the first, whatever and however you decide to do it. Make sure you communicate that goal to your family and coworkers. If it’s no calls after 5pm, or office door closed means no interruptions - make sure you spread the word so that your family and coworkers know what you’re thinking. Sounds so simple but we all forget that not everyone can read our minds (sometimes).
3. Set your priorities
Every person is in a unique situation. Sometimes your job must take priority. Other times, the new baby. The clearer that you can make it to yourself, your spouse, and your job what your priorities are and when they change, the easier your life will become.
A lack of prioritization leads to stress and we all know where that leads. By setting clear boundaries, you don’t have to decide between your child’s crying and the latest work crisis. Any employer that doesn’t respect those boundaries isn’t one you’ll want to work for.
4. Batch similar activities
You have more distractions than ever before and more things to juggle than ever before. A friend recently told me she didn’t realize how much she was capable of doing in a day until she was a mom. The little time you do have for work has to be as productive as possible. One way to do that is to try to “batch” similar activities. If you have several things you need to do that are similar, say generating the week’s social media posts for your company, try “batching” those activities together and do it all in one sitting.
Every time you have to switch to a new activity your brain loses a little more willpower and focus. If you can pour your attention into one thing at a time and guard yourself against distractions, you’ll get more work done in less time. Your brain is more efficient when just trying to focus on one type of activity instead of jumping from one kind of thinking to the next.
Try batching things like meal prep or laundry too so you can do them once a week in one big rush.
5. Remove distractions
We’ve all heard it before, but it’s amazing how much time we lose just scrolling through Facebook. Try putting down the smartphone and turn off Facebook.
Strangely, there is a sort of freedom that comes with this. When you limit the number of choices you have, your brain has much less anxiety. One of the reasons we are so distracted is that there are so many new shiny objects and activities around us. Have you ever sat down to work when your little one finally got down for a nap only to realize an hour later you didn’t do anything but look at Facebook and Instagram. We feel you, it’s close to impossible not to get lost in pretty pictures. But limit those distractions and I promise, it’s a lot easier to get things done. And if you really have a hard time blocking distractions, try apps like Self Control that block distractions for you.
Messy environments lead to messy minds. Tidy places, even if they have a lot of stuff, make a calm environment for both you and your baby. Messes and disorganization are a distraction for the mind, and you don’t need more distractions!
You don’t have to be crazy about it. Just make things tidy enough so it doesn’t weigh on your mind. Throw out those old papers. Put up those books you’re not reading now because you’re so busy. Keep your dishes done. Just a little attention each day will do it.
7. Take breaks
There are two forms of breaks that all new mothers should have. First, you’ll want some breaks in your workday to spend time with your little one. Between feeding and diaper changes it’s easy to remember when they are little but don’t forget that as they get older, they still need to have bonding time throughout the day with their parents. Try setting strict break times for this or blocks of pre-planned time to give your kids that quality attention (phones off).
Second, you need to schedule a break time for yourself. This may be easier said than done before your child gets a regular sleep schedule, but either in the early morning or late evening, take 15 minutes for just you. Decompress in some way, whatever works for you. Reflect on how well you took care of your child and of your business that day. Breathe, pat yourself on the back because you got this mama.
8. Seek help if you need it
We have seen (and admired) the capacity moms have to get it done. But remember, you don’t have to be supermom all the time. Take care of yourself and know your limits. If you need to outsource some work to a freelancer or take a lower workload, do it. If you need a part-time babysitter, hire one. Don’t burn yourself out if you’re nearing the end of your rope. Burnout isn’t good for your baby, your job, or your health.