(and how to conquer them)
Discover the biggest productivity killers for mums and how you can solve them. Plus get our daily planner for free!
Are you a work at home mum (WAHM)? Or are you trying to work on a project but feel like you’re constantly getting distracted? I’ll be talking about five things that may be derailing your productivity. And I’ve got a few solutions that might help you!
All mums are busy right? We wear many hats as mothers and if you’re also a WAHM like me, time is valuable! I have three kids who are always with me because we homeschool and I’m also a blogger, a stationery creator and (when not in lockdown due to a global pandemic) a gigging musician. Getting anything done requires some serious intention. Things don’t happen by accident round at my house. And I’m guessing they don’t around yours either!
Don’t let these derail your productivity
There are 5 things I’ve found which can seriously derail your productivity as a mum who wants to get anything done – like this year! Whether that’s making a cake for your sister’s wedding, organise the attic, or complete an online course. And I’ve given some solutions to help you around them so that you can be more productive.
Also, before we dive in, if you know other women who would appreciate this post, share it with your friends. They’d be so happy to know that you’re looking out for them! Just click the text below to tweet it out!
I put this one first because I think it’s the number one killer of productivity around the world. Yes, my friend. Your phone, your computer and all of their bells and whistles literally distract us constantly throughout the day.
You might be working on something and then *ping* – someone’s sent a message to a group you’re in on Whatsapp. Or someone tagged you in a photo on Facebook or…. you get the point. Now, technological distractions can come in several forms. Here are the most common;
- Social Media – Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube, Whatsapp, TikTok and the myriad of other ever-evolving social media platforms!
- Internet – browsing the internet aimlessly and window shopping online.
- Emails – opening emails you’re not interested in and also re-reading old emails because they’re still hanging around your inbox.
- Gadgets – spending hours with a shiny new gadget….because.. it’s shiny and new!
How to deal with this distraction:
Turn notifications off on your phone or smart watch.
Before getting buckled down in your project or work, put your phone on silent or airplane mode. Close down any windows on your computer that are open to social media channels as they may alert you to incoming messages and updates which will continue to distract you.
Use the internet with a purpose.
If you need to use the internet to look something up. Look it up and get off. If, whilst you were searching, you saw something that you might want to look further into. Bookmark the page and close the window immediately! Write a note on your to do list to schedule a time when you can surf the net and go back to that page which will be waiting ever so patiently for you in your Bookmarks. Don’t waste your precious time disappearing down the rabbit hole that is aimless web surfing! You’ve got more important stuff to handle, right? That can wait.
Unsubscribe from all email newsletters which you really don’t have time to read right now. Don’t feel bad about the person or company sending you those emails. They won’t die if you unsubscribe. I’m pretty sure about that. You can always re-subscribe later if you really want to.
Deal with it just once
Try to only deal with emails once. If you’ve read an email make a decision to either delete it, archive it or work on it. If you can’t work on it right away because it’ll take more than a couple minutes, make a note in your to-do list with the action required for that email and then archive it. Yes, that’s right. When you send an email to the archives, it isn’t gone forever. You can access it anytime you want by typing a relevant word or two in your email search engine. This will also help you get through your emails faster because old emails won’t continue to clog up your inbox.
So technology is the first item on my list of things that derail your productivity.
This second item is a real productivity killer for me sometimes. I go through periods where this isn’t even an issue and then BAM!! It’s a time sucker for like a whole week! So, my number two item is…:
Do you watch Netflix? Is there a favourite soap or TV programme that has you hooked whenever it comes out? I hear ya girlfriend!
You know, the funny thing is that we don’t even have TV in our house. Okay, let me back up here a minute. We don’t have a TV licence which means that we don’t watch broadcasted television in our house. We decided over 13 years ago that we’d stop watching TV shows and we haven’t missed them – not once.
However, with the growth of digital channels like Netflix, Amazon Prime and others, the temptation to sit down in front of the TV when I should be doing something else is very real!
I could go a couple of months watching absolutely nothing, and then suddenly something like The Crown, Downton Abbey or Brooklyn 99 pops up and well….let’s just say my productivity flies out the window!
So what’s a girl supposed to do?
Set a time for TV
Set aside a specific time for watching things on TV and turn the TV off when that time is up. Remember that you can always continue watching that show later. There are a lot of catch up services on TV and if you have a Smart TV, your most recent programmes will be saved in your viewing history for you to continue watching later.
Make it a treat
Make watching the continuation of your favourite show like a motivational reward if you finish XYZ in your work or tasks for the day! And keep staggering your TV time this way to continue motivating you to finish your project. For example; when I spend two hours on project X, I get to watch one episode of my favourite show.
Follow it with something else that’s good
Try appointing something else to happen after that episode of your favourite show. Something that either has to happen or you really want to happen. Examples of this are things like dinner, a soak in the tub or going out to meet friends.
Watching your favourite show before having to go out somewhere means that, when it’s time to go out, the TV has to go off. There’s no time to sneak in the next episode because you literally have to be heading out the door.
Get it out
If you have a TV in your bedroom or other rooms of your house, why not try getting rid of all but one. Just have one TV in the main living area of your home and nowhere else. Put the others in the attic or garage for now to reduce the temptation to watch TV in bed until the early hours of the morning.
Get a friend to help
If you really struggle with watching a lot of TV, ask a good friend to hold you accountable. Ask her to check in with you every day or twice a week – whatever works for you. Get her to ask you how much or how often you’ve watched TV in a quick text message. When you know somebody will be checking in on you, it can be surprisingly motivating to pull your socks up and get into gear. Why not offer to keep her accountable in something too, as that may help her to remember to check in with you regularly as well.
Do you struggle with productivity because TV is a constant drain on your time? Now you can begin to change that.
The next productivity killer is actually quite sneaky because it’s one that appears to make you more productive. And for a long time, I honestly thought it did. Wanna know what it is?
If you’re a mama, you probably do this a lot. You cook dinner while your kid tells you about a story they just wrote. Or you talk on the phone while reading the mail. And it seems that you can do a lot more this way. But in reality, something is slipping through the gaps. Either you’re not fully paying attention to your kid’s story. Or you’re having to re-read the mail several times because Susie’s conversation about her waxing mishap is more engrossing.
The trouble is that when we try to multi-task this way we aren’t really using our brain to achieve two things. Our brains are switching from one thing back to the other continually. All the while backing up a little every time it switches back just to collect our thoughts on where we left off in the previous task.
Multi-tasking this way in fact makes us slower. Think of it like trying to file your nails and knit at the same time!
There is a way to ‘multi-task’ effectively
Multi-tasking can’t be done when your brain is switching it’s focus from one task to another. However, you can “multi-task” if you do two tasks that don’t need your brain’s focus in the same way.
Your brain needs to focus on actions that are not automatic. So doing an automatic activity paired with a thinking (non-automatic) activity can work. Examples of this include listening to a podcast while you do the dishes. Or having a conversation while you drive your car (assuming your not a beginner driver!).
If your brain can run one activity on autopilot, your brain is then free to focus its mental energy on something else. The trouble comes when we try to use our brain to do two tasks which both require our mental focus.
Two productivity solutions
- Focus on one task at a time. Give tasks your full attention whenever you can. This may mean asking someone to speak to you in 10 minutes when you can give them your full focus. Or delegating jobs to other people so that you aren’t divided in your attention.
- ‘Multi-task’ only when you are doing an autopilot activity like folding laundry, washing dishes or eating.
So my friend, multi-tasking isn’t always productive. If you can’t do one of the tasks you on autopilot, then it’s best to do one task at a time and focus fully on each job so you can get them done quicker.
The next disruptive item comes with it’s own saying;
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
Yes, my friend, you guessed it. I’m talking about having;
4. No plan
Why does not having a plan derail your productivity? Surely if you have things to do, you should just roll up your sleeves and start, right? Why waste any precious time planning?
Or perhaps you think, “I don’t need to plan, I know what I need to do so I just get to it.”.
I’ve had both of those mindsets myself. But let me tell you why planning is so important.
A game plan helps you win
Our lives are seldom made of single item days. The reality is that we have more than one thing to do each day and having a plan guides you through your day so that you don’t waste any time. And so that nothing falls through the cracks and gets missed. Each day needs a game plan. Wars are won, companies are built and days are made successful with plans.
Brian Tracy, author of Eat That Frog, said that;
One minute of planning will save you 10 minutes of execution.
This means that planning saves you ten times the effort in actually getting something done!
In this case, a daily game plan is essentially a productivity essential. It draws out what you will deal with first, second and third. Where you need backup and when you might want to pull in a substitution to achieve your goals for the day.
Planning helps you prioritise all the things you need to do so that the most important stuff gets dealt with – always. If we were to just attack the things on our list without thinking about the order of importance, we’d probably procrastinate on the really important stuff.
A lot of really important things can also be difficult to do, and so it’s no wonder that we naturally avoid them. Prioritising helps you to gain vision and motivates you to do troublesome tasks which you would rather recoil from.
You can see which items can be delegated to other people better when you assess how much you have to do. If you just started going from one task to the next and doing everything yourself, chances are you won’t get everything done. And furthermore, you may have done some tasks that could easily have been delegated because you were just charging through them. Delegating a task or two would have freed up your time to do the things only you can do.
Make a game plan for your day and prioritise your to-do list. This is Productivity 101. Each night, I write out a list of tasks that I’d like to get done for the next day. Then I highlight my three most important tasks so that I can clearly see what’s most important.
You can use my popular printable to help you do the same. It’s called The Daily Game Plan. You can get yours free here. It helps me not only prioritise my tasks but also block schedule time to achieve them so I know whether or not there are enough hours in my day for the things I want to achieve. And which tasks need to be moved to another day or delegated to somebody else.
So, make sure you grab our Daily Game Plan to boost your productivity!
Now I might get some haters about this next point but I have a good reason for saying this is a productivity killer. Because, frankly, it derails my productivity a lot! Dear mamas, I’m talking about:
I love my kids. I really do. Their cute faces. Their hilarious comments. And their squeezy hugs. But I’d be lying if I said that they never affect my productivity. Because they do.
Now, I’m not saying that I have more important things to do than be with my kids. What could possibly be more important than your precious little hearts, right? No, I’m not saying that.
And I don’t mean that I don’t want my kids around. I homeschool – so I must really want them around! Nor am I the kind of parent that wishes my kids were somewhere else because I find them to be annoying or a nuisance. I adore my kids being with me every day – one of the reasons I homeschool. And I find them totally hilarious!
My kids only affect my productivity when I want to focus on a particular task which, occasionally, happens to not be them. Do you need to read that again, mama? Write it out if you have to! Here’s why our kids can sometimes affect our productivity.
As mothers, we wear many hats apart from just our ‘mama hat’. We might transition to being a ‘chef’, ‘writer’, ‘public speaker’, ‘teacher’, ‘wife’, ‘friend’, ‘neighbour’ or a myriad of other responsibilities and roles. And although we are a mama 100% of the time, we may need to be a ‘[fill in your own blank here]’ some of the time. And that’s not a bad thing.
Girl, do you feel guilty when you need to cook a meal for your kids? Of course not! And is it possible to play hide and seek with our kids whilst cooking? Ummm, my guess is ‘no’. You see, there are times when our kids need to give us a bit of space so that we can be our best ‘chef’ self.
And the same applies to when we are in a different role. Some roles we can do with our kids alongside us, like ‘chauffeur’ or ‘gardener’ or ‘baker’. But there are other roles where we need space to focus on a specific responsibility. And that’s a good thing!
If you consider your roles to be good for your family, then don’t feel guilty about asking your family to give you the space you need for that role or task.
But how do we do this? Here are a few solutions for you to help you gain some productivity:
1. Sort your kids out!
I mean this in a completely friendly way!
Take some time to get your kids sorted and settled before you start on your task or activity. This may mean giving them a snack and an activity to do for a period so that you can focus.
Or perhaps, spending some time playing with them before asking them to continue playing without you so that you can do your task. When kids have had some focused attention from you, they’re less likely to draw you away from what it is you need to do just so that they can get your attention.
Check out my Ebook 165 Activities Kids Will Love for a ton of great (and mostly screen-free) activity ideas:
2. Swap your kids!
When I was speaking to my husband about swapping our kids, I saw my eldest daughter’s face fall in horror! She thought that I wanted to give her and her siblings away! ?
But what I mean is this, arrange with another mum you know to have all of your kids for a few hours one day. And then on another day, you take all of her kids for a few hours. A kid swap!
What mum wouldn’t want a few hours to herself? And the great thing about this solution is that your kids can have a couple of playdates too!
If it works well, why not try making it a regular thing? My husband’s parents did this when he was young so that the adults could go on dates every other Friday. Win-win I say!
Make a list right now of a few families you think this could work well with, then get on the phone and propose a Kid-Swap!
3. Go Daddy
Kids love spending time with their dads. Dads are often silly, fun, adventurous and kinda like big kids themselves! Why not ask dad to take the kids out to the park or playground so that you have a bit of time to get things done.
If he’s able, ask if he can commit to doing it at regular intervals!
My husband’s work is completely sporadic (being self-employed), so he can’t commit to a schedule, but he will take the kids out when he can.
Work with what you have and don’t complain if he can’t do it as often as you’d like. If he can do it at all, that’s a good thing, right?
And if he’s stuck for ideas of what to do with the kiddos, get him to check out the activities in our Ebook:
4. Grandparents to the rescue!
If you are fortunate enough to have your own parents or in-laws around who are willing to help – ask them! Many grandparents really live up to the role of spoiling their grandchildren! And they can often be more than happy to take your kids off your hands for the afternoon to grab an ice-cream or feed the ducks in a local park.
If your parents or in-laws are nervous about watching little ones for any length of time, I suggest you ease them into it. Have them round, or visit them and let them hang out with the kids. Do this several times before asking if they would mind having the kids on their own.
They might feel more comfortable if they are in their own environment. But essentially, you might need to gradually build up their confidence and feelings of success. Keep encouraging them and tell them how much fun your kids had with them.
Soon, they’ll be asking when they can take your kids out for you! ?
5. Hire someone
Now, if you don’t have extra funds for childcare, this solution may not be an option for you.
Having said that, my husband and I have “hired” someone to watch our kids in the past without paying them. My husband has given guitar lessons to a youngster in our church for free and in return, she was happy to babysit for us without getting paid. It was kind of a service-for-service swap if you like.
So, find out whether you are able to pay someone to watch your kids for a few hours. And if not, see if there’s a service you could give someone in exchange for babysitting. Perhaps it’s lessons in French, sewing, cooking, Computer software knowledge or any other skill you may have up your sleeve. Utilise it! And find someone willing to swap their services with you.
Sometimes, in order to be productivity, we need to sort our kids out first. Keeping them occupied or at a play date, or even with a responsible teen or adult can greatly increase our productivity as mums – and provide them with lots of fun!
We’re always mums. But we do have other roles that may need our attention. And that’s absolutely fine! Don’t feel guilty about the other roles you may have if they are good for your family. Speak to your family about it and ask for their support.
There are lots of strains on our productivity; technology, TV, multi-tasking, not having a plan, or even our own little bundles of joy. But with some thought, preparation, and planning, you can make sure that these things are not as much of a productivity killer as they once were.
Let me know in the comments, which one you struggle with the most. And if there’s something you struggle with that hasn’t been mentioned here, let me know in the comments. I hope this post has given you some tools to help you become more productive. I’m rootin’ for you mama!