When you become a new mom, friends often ask, “How do you do it?”
When you go back to work, they’re dying to know, “How do you do it?”
So, how do you do it?
My answer: In blocks of time.
I found that as a work-from-home mom, I have to do things in “blocks of time” or else I will slowly go insane.
Allow me to back up a minute.
When I was in my 30’s, I worked full-time as a public relations professional. I was a bit harried (but a happily married working mom) and I have to admit, I didn’t have time for a lot of things. I’m not just talking about manis and pedis. There were moments when my friends wondered how I even managed to leave the house with two clothed children, let alone remember to dress myself.
Although I’m proud to say I never commuted to work naked, I do remember the time I arrived in two different black heels. And many a morning with dried spit up on my lightly starched sleeve.
Thankfully, I managed to exercise, shower, fix breakfast and slap on some concealer before my daily commute. But most days, I’d arrive disheveled. Sometimes with a pounding head. And a hankering for a hot tea containing enough caffeine to wipe away weeks of mommy insomnia.
When I look back, I don’t know how I did it. I just did it. I had no choice.
Then when I started my own public relations consultancy the year my son started kindergarten, I felt like I had won the lottery. I had officially become a work from home mom. I had my own business. I thought I was the sha-sizzle.
But there were still dishes in the sink.
Kids begging to go to the playground.
And a room full of laundry barking be folded.
I learned after one week that working from home isn’t a cakewalk. It’s awesome, yes, but it takes a lot of time to get it right.
You have to teach yourself how to balance work and motherhood. To manage deadlines with kids needing your time and attention. To be creative on command. Without slowly going insane.
You have to learn stick it out and prioritize. To re-analyze. And not fantasize about trying to be Carrie Bradshaw and Miranda all at once.
How did I manage to fit in enough billable hours as a PR consultant with two little ones?
Aside from caffeine and chocolate-covered cashews?
Blocks of time.
Knocking things off your list in blocks of time.
Now, I’m not a naturally organized person. I’m not a celebrity who has written a book about this stuff. I’m a human mom.
And I fully admit that I have a tendency to procrastinate.
But, like my husband always says, time is going to go by no matter what.
So, how are you going to use that time?
In blocks. One to-do at a time.
I have more than 23 years of professional experience under my belt and the only way I got here is with a lot of hard work, creativity and tenacity. And by doing things in blocks of time.
When you do things in blocks of time, you get more accomplished. And it’s a ton more tolerable (and some days, fun) too.
How to knock things out in blocks of time:
• Rather than spend the entire day working on one single project, do something with your kids for two or three hours, then knock out a proposal during nap time or while they are playing together.
• Stretch it out for a couple days so you won’t be stressed out.
• Don’t use the TV as your baby sitter. (But I get it. I have had those days too.)
• Do something with your kids early in the day, then they can relax afterwards and watch something or play or color while you tackle your deadlines.
• Trade play dates with another mom during client meetings.
• Plan conference calls while they are out of the house. (I will never forget hiding in the hall closet, trying to mask their yells by covering myself in bed linens.
I’d press mute, then talk, mute, then talk. It wasn’t pretty!) If this doesn’t work, try walking around the outside of your house and limit the call to 20 or 30 minutes.
• Start laundry after 5 p.m., while dinner is on the stove.
• Fold laundry after they’ve gone to bed while binge-watching your favorite shows. I call it binge-washing!
• Have your spouse help. Not just when things get crazy.
• Don’t try to be a hero – you don’t have to cook everything from scratch. (Carrie Bradshaw never did!)
• Never underestimate the power of a sitter or mother’s helper when you need to focus. (I never had this luxury, but I had a very supportive spouse and I put my daughter in preschool for a couple hours a day so I could manage a more doable work schedule.)
• Take a walk. Clear your head. Then jot down the things you have to tackle.
• Use mommy uber time to think. Some of my best ideas were born while driving the kids around!
• Don’t forget to shower! It not only makes you smell better, it helps clear your head! Plus it’s another place where good ideas are born.
I have a dear friend who says it’s okay to do something imperfect the first time. Just get it done.
When I was in my 20’s just starting out in my career, I’d spend too much time on the smallest tasks because I wanted everything to be perfect. I quickly learned that this strategy doesn’t work. It’s inefficient and unhealthy.
So, try it in blocks.
My BFF wrote a book years ago WHILE breastfeeding not one, but twin boys in addition to running a yoga studio and caring for three other children. I see her and she makes things happen because she dedicates her time into blocks. She’s a rock star.
Raising two teens and a consultancy still takes a lot of time and multi-tasking.
I may not have to hide in the hall closet to get work done anymore.
But I manage to fit in an occasional pedi along with re-runs of Sex and the City! Just hang in there, I promise it’s worth it. Just take it one block at a time.