We all know a mom—or maybe you are the mom—that seems like she can do it all. She is the mom who just seems to accomplish more in a day than anyone else, and it seems like she does it without even smudging her lipstick. The truth is that the "do-it-all" mom often gets a bad rap. People assume that she can't possibly be doing it all on her own—she must have a full time housekeeper, a nanny, or a secret time turner straight out of Harry Potter. While it would be great to have any one of those, especially a time turner, the highly efficient mom gets it done with equal parts of good old-fashioned drive and a handful of habits that make her efforts look easy. Here are her secrets revealed:
1. She gets up early or stays up late, but not both.
Efficient moms, like the military, get more done before 9 a.m. or after 9 p.m. than most people do all day. They know the time to get serious about getting things done is when the kids are asleep. So if you want to be efficient too, pick the time of day that's most productive for you and guard that time like it's really good chocolate. Just remember, burning the candle at both ends only leads to burn-out. Pick one or the other and still make a good night's sleep a priority.
2. She approaches her To-Do list differently.
Feeling like you have a mountain of work to tackle actually makes it harder to tackle anything at all. Most of us have a To-Do list that's way longer than the number of hours in a day, so how do efficient moms seem to stay on top of everything? They're just doing it differently. For example, when I look at my To-Do list, I divide it into time blocks rather than task blocks. Rather than listing the things I need to accomplish and working my way completely through each task, I look at my schedule and note that I can spend an hour with house chores, an hour with work chores, and an hour with miscellaneous tasks before I need to pick up my kids. Then, it's a race against the clock to get as many tasks done as possible in the allotted time. Working this way allows me to get more done overall because the time limit encourages me to work efficiently and stay focused.
3. She handles tasks with urgency.
Research shows that putting off a task, even for a few minutes, actually increases the likelihood that you will continue to put off that task in the future. We've all done it; you open an email and decide to respond later or find a bill and stick it in your purse with the promise that you'll deal with it when you get home. The procrastination struggle is real, but it's easily overcome by putting an end to the habit of putting things off. Any task that can be completed immediately, should be. Get in the habit of tackling a task as soon as it hits your hand (or inbox) and get back all that time that gets sucked away by the act of procrastination.
4. She procrastinates productively.
Even though most of her moments are spent purposefully conquering her tasks, "Super Mom" also has her moments when she just doesn't feel like putting on her cape. When that happens, an efficient mom uses those moments to do something that makes her feel productive, even if it's frivolous. Maybe she curls up with a great book or spends some time recharging with friends, but whatever it is, it's a task that she feels good about and makes her feel re-energized.
5. She sets her environment for success.
My dirty little secret of "getting it all done" is that I'm not really more disciplined than the next mom, but knowing this helps me set up my environment so I'm less likely to get lazy. Before I go to bed at night, I set out my workout clothes, so they're the first thing I see in the morning. At night, I plug in my phone in another room, so I'm not tempted to spend a few minutes playing on Facebook when I should be doing other things. Shoes always go by the door, so we aren't scrambling to find them in the morning, and so on.
6. She is a master multitasker.
Multitasking is such an important part of making it through the day efficiently that it's like a game. I get so excited when I find tasks that can be done simultaneously. Shopping for groceries while listening to a podcast is my version of heaven. Cooking dinner while helping with homework makes the evening go a little bit smoother. And, bonus tip, I never allow myself to binge watch my guilty pleasures unless I am folding laundry or exercising at the same time. Getting the socks folded and running a few miles on the treadmill makes me feel great about re-watching "Downton Abbey."
7. She puts her energy into the things that matter for the people that matter.
I learned this lesson the hard way when I fell victim to the Pinterest fueled Bento Box lunch craze. I spent way too much time crafting little themed lunches, mostly because I thought it would make me look like a great mom to the teacher. In the end, my kid didn't even care about the cat whiskers I made out of cheese because he just missed his favorite PB&J sandwich. And, the teacher didn't even notice the lunch because she has way more important things to do than to notice cheese whiskers. I was wasting loads of time on a task that didn't have a high enough yield. If it turned out that he loved the Bento Boxes, I would have kept it up because it matters and he matters, but instead, I spend my time on things that really make him feel important.
8. She keeps things clean ... to a point.
High achievers usually have at least one thing in common—a clean house—which makes you wonder even more how she gets it all done. The truth is that neat and tidy surroundings are actually a key component to being efficient. Having everything put neatly away saves the trouble of hunting for lost items, but more importantly, a cluttered home tends to lead to a cluttered mind. It's hard to focus on getting things done when you're surrounded by a mess. But, remember to focus on the things that matter. It helps to have the clothes hung neatly in the closet so you can find what you're looking for, but it doesn't matter if your sock drawer is arranged by color and season. Spend time keeping things clean to the point of functionality, but stop short of obsessiveness.
9. She has no problem saying "no."
To be effective, you have to know when to say "yes" and when to say "no." Most overwrought moms are guilty of overextending themselves, not just by doing too much, but by doing things that aren't fulfilling for them. Learn to say "no" to things that don't fit your schedule or won't make you feel like you're contributing in a meaningful way. P.S. Don't feel like you need to give an excuse; just smile and say, "no thanks."
10. She knows she can't do it all, and she doesn't feel guilty.
No one can do it all. Let me say that again: no one can do it all. For every choice to do one thing, another thing is sacrificed. Moms who seem like they're "doing it all" are probably just really efficient at doing the things that matter to them and not worrying about the rest of it. They don't spend a minute feeling guilty about any of the things they don't do because they know that guilt has a way of robbing both time and energy that could be put to other uses. When you let go of guilt, there's so much room to conquer the rest of the world—even Bento Boxes.
Jessica Bowers is a former teacher, a current behavior therapist, and a future crazy cat lady, but instead of collecting cats, she'll collect passport stamps. Until then, she is the mom of four boys who range in age from teens to tots, a homeschooler, and a believer in traveling often and eating really good chocolate. Follow her adventures at Suitcases and Sippy Cups.