A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

Some days the life of a busy mom looks like this:


You cross the finish line of another non-stop day, and you are exhausted… but you honestly don’t know what you have to show for all your spent hours. Projects are piling up at work, the house and kids look like they need to be hosed down, and you can’t remember the last time you had uninterrupted quality time with your spouse. And tomorrow it begins again.

Getting it all done while making the most of your time is possible. Try adopting these 15 practices for maximizing your productivity:

1 | Get up on time.

“Well begun is half done.” So say the timeless philosophers Aristotle and Mary Poppins. Save yourself the stress of playing catch-up all day by shifting into gear with time to spare. You’ll set yourself up for a day’s worth of successes.

2 | Jump-start your brain in the morning.

Don’t roll directly out of bed and groggily begin your most mentally intense task of the day. Invest a few minutes in getting the engine of your brain humming before you dive in to the meaty part of your morning. Pick what works for you – going for a jog, downing a cup of coffee, reading an article, watching the news, or chatting with a coworker.

3 | Write down a to-do list.

Struggling to recall, prioritize, and adjust your day’s plans are not feats you can easily accomplish mentally. Not only are you setting yourself up to lose track of something important, but you’ve got the constant nagging of reminders in your head. Dump everything out of your brain onto paper so that you are free to focus on the present. Estimate the amount of time each task will take, or you’ll create a list that requires more hours than you have.

4 | Delete, delegate, defer.

These are three of the four D’s of time management. If you want to do – the fourth D – the important items on your list, you’ll likely need to carve out the time you need. Say no ruthlessly wherever you can. Share the burden whenever possible – both at home and at work – by capitalizing on other people’s skills or simply their availability. Question the urgency of each task to ascertain whether it can be postponed.

5 | Map out your time.

Create a customized schedule based on the items you truly need to tackle today. At the same time, don’t reinvent the wheel every morning if you have a routine or elements of a plan that consistently work for you. If you’ve determined that you have a two-hour training session to attend, a one-hour report to write, and a 30-minute school carpool to drive, assign those activities specific blocks of time in your day.

6 | Group similar tasks together.

That one-hour report could easily turn into a two-hour, half-finished report if you derail your train of thought by investigating every email alert, calling to set up a physical, or paying off your credit card bill. Consolidating your activities allows you to crank through one set of tasks efficiently before tackling the next. Make all of your phone calls, respond to your emails, and pay your bills in bulk at pre-determined times during your day.

7 | Allow for buffer time.

Expect the unexpected. Don’t assume there will be no traffic, that your meeting will end precisely on time, or that your kid’s five-minute bath will not deteriorate into 15 the way the last few have. If you fail to build some wiggle room into your plan, you will force yourself into constantly rearranging your schedule – and drive yourself crazy in the process.

8 | Just start.

Dive in. If you can’t commit to completing a difficult or annoying task, identify the first step – however tiny – and do that. You will have accomplished something, and you may find that you gain the momentum to keep going.

9 | Focus on the task at hand.

Don’t bounce back and forth between two activities. Give a project your undivided attention so that you can get it done. Devote your energy to an experience so that you can enjoy it fully.

10 | Make decisions quickly.

Most of the day-to-day decisions that we make work out well enough so long as we make a decision. It’s far better to pick a set of lamps for your living room and face the possibility that you’ll dislike them enough to return them than to sit in the dark while you visit every local lighting store and website. Consider how important any decision really is and impose a time limit on yourself accordingly.

11 | Create an artificial deadline.

Some items on our to-do lists don’t have a finish-by date and thus never get done. Impose a deadline on yourself and plan to meet it. Consider creating a reward for meeting the deadline, or a penalty for being late.

12 | Set a timer.

Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time available, so create boundaries on yours. A ticking timer compels you to move, move, move. Instruct yourself to work out for 15 minutes or tell your kids that they have five minutes to pick up all of their toys. See how much you can truly accomplish to the sound of a ticking clock.

13 | Use found time productively.

Have a few activities you can do if you find yourself unexpectedly tapping your foot. Waiting for your doctor’s appointment, the end of your kid’s ballet class, or a late train? Read a saved article, return a phone call, or write down tomorrow’s to-do list.

14 | Organize your space.

You will frustrate yourself and waste time if your space isn’t working for you. Don’t be late for work because you had to scour the house for your car keys or be tardy for a client meeting because their file is buried somewhere on your desk. Create an organizational system that works for you so that you can quickly access the things you need.

15 | Be flexible.

Life throws us curveballs, despite our best planning. Anticipate what you can, but know that sometimes you have to modify or – in extreme cases – throw out your whole schedule for the day. Adjust your plan as you encounter obstacles and keep moving.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

When we consider all the skills our kids will need to succeed in the future, what comes to mind? Perhaps creativity, tech skills, or an excellent understanding of math might be at the top of many parents' lists. Social-emotional skills, like empathy, compassion, or the ability to understand another person's viewpoint may not be the ones you thought of right away, but deep down you know they matter.

We've all had those co-workers who didn't know how to listen to our ideas or friends who couldn't compromise with others. We know that in the work world and in our personal life, emotional skills are key to developing and maintaining healthy relationships.

If you are the parent of a toddler, you know that young children are inherently self-centered. It's not some faulty aspect of their character or a misstep of parenting skills. Young children simply do not have the brain maturity to consider another person's perspective or needs just yet—their brain physically is not ready to handle that kind of mental work.

However, child development research shows us that we can do a few things along the developmental path to help foster social-emotional skills in our kids. With a little help from us, our kids' brains can develop with meaningful connections that tune them into the feelings of others.

Here's how:

1. Treat others how you want your kids to treat others.

How we talk to our kids becomes their internal dialogue. We know from research that this goes for emotional skills as well. A recent study showed that when parents talk to their kids more about how other people might be feeling, the kids had better perspective-taking abilities—the ability to see a situation from another person's point of view.

This, of course, is the basis of many emotional skills, especially empathy. Just by talking about another person's feelings, kids begin to develop those crucial brain connections that help them develop empathy.

It's worth pointing out that very young children under ages 3-4 do not have the brain maturity to really understand another person's perspective. They lack a crucial skill that psychologists call Theory of Mind, meaning they can't understand the mind of another person.

However, our urgings and thoughtful phrasing to point out how another person might be feeling can only help them down this developmental path. Then, once their little brain matures, they will be in the habit of hearing and understanding the feelings of others.

2. Model positive emotional behavior in daily life.

It's probably not surprising to learn that how we react to our kids' feelings influences their emotional development. When your child gets upset, do you get angry or ruffled by their big emotions? We are all human, of course, so sometimes our kids' emotions are the exact triggers that fuel our big feelings, too. However, if we can remain the calm in the emotional storm for our kids, their development will benefit. Through modeling emotional regulation, over time our kids will learn how to self-regulate as well.

One study, in fact, showed that toddlers whose parents exhibited anger or over-reacted to tantrums were likely to have more tantrums and negative emotionality by the end of the study. However, the opposite dynamic can happen, too. Parents who model firm, but calm emotional regulation help their kids learn these skills as well.

3. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions.

Many times, we feel that one of our main jobs as a parent is to protect our children from the big, often overwhelming emotions of adults. For instance, we try not to break down crying or become red-faced with anger in front of our kids. It just feels too big for them to handle and perhaps not developmentally appropriate.

As they mature, however, older kids are able to handle a bit more discussion and expression of honest emotions. Have you noticed that kids usually pick up on the fact that you are upset even if you try to hide it? Kids are naturally curious and, many times, very sensitive to the emotional tenor at home. If they are developmentally ready, this can be a good time to have more discussions about emotions and how to handle them.

For example, my 9-year-old is playing a lot of baseball this summer and always wants me to pitch to him so he can practice batting. Now, I am not a very skilled player so my pitches often go off course or are too weak. He had gotten in the habit of correcting my pitching or (more likely) complaining about it every time we played.

After repeated experiences with this, I was not only annoyed but it also sort of hurt my feelings—so I finally told him how I felt. Guess what? His behavior at practice time changed dramatically! The mere fact of him realizing that his mom has feelings too really made him think about his words more carefully.

These types of interaction can become part of your "emotion coaching." It may sound silly but it can make a big impact for kids, especially as they grow older and are more able to really understand the emotional lesson. On some level, it's nice that our kids think we are superheroes, but it's also crucial that they understand that we are still human, with real feelings.

The magic of helping our kids develop empathy doesn't happen in well-planned lessons or elaborate activities. The real magic happens in the small, simple interactions and discussions we have with our kids each day.

You might also like:

In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

You might also like:

Sometimes it can feel like you never get a minute to even finish a thought—let alone a to-do list. When your day is packed with caretaking, your own needs get pushed back. So when you finally get to lie down at the end of the day, all those thoughts are waiting for you. While we haven't figured out the secret to keeping you from over-analyzing every.single.thing. (sorry, mama!), we do believe you must carve out time for you. Because that rest is just as important—and you've certainly earned it.

XO,

#TeamMotherly

PS: We spoke to Jessica Alba and she gave us the lowdown on why she stopped breastfeeding, and Nordstrom is having their anniversary sale until August 5th. Here's everything we want!

My Instagram feed has been full of pictures of friends that their kids to the beach. I get it, I like the beach a lot. But the forest and the mountains are my real loves.

The way the damp leaves smell in the morning. The peace of walking underneath a canopy of trees. The sound of firewood crackling at night. Sigh, heaven.

I also grew up camping with my family and have done some intense hiking, backpacking and search and rescue. So it's kind of in my blood—I wear my frostbite scars with honor.

So I couldn't wait to get my future kids out into nature (minus the frostbite). I had visions of us hiking to a stream, swimming and splashing all day, then cooking a big meal over a campfire as we sing songs and laugh.

Then, I actually became a parent. Of three kids, actually, all of whom are still very young… and a dog… and a husband who doesn't really like camping.

Despite the realization that it wouldn't be exactly as I planned, this summer we finally decided to take our first camping trip as a family.

Here is what I learned:

1. Set the bar low

I had to remind myself over and over again that this trip would not live up to my expectations. I know this sounds like a bummer way to start a trip, but it really helped. I have the tendency to over-plan and get really (really) excited about things. This is not a bad quality, but it can lend itself to disappointment when things don't go as hoped. I didn't want us to leave the trip feeling like it was a failure in any way.

This trip was a success, and a big moment for our family, no matter how it turned out.

Instead of forcing activities or memories, I forced myself to just… be. Not expecting the trip to be magical opened us up to appreciate the unexpected moments of magic as they occurred naturally, without being forced.

This got harder, of course, when our car got stuck in the mud (true story), and we had to wait three hours for AAA to arrive. But when our kids talk about the camping trip now they still squeal with delight as they recount the story of the tow truck coming. You're welcome (I guess)?

2. We made it really easy

I put my camping ego aside, and we took a lot of shortcuts on this first trip. We didn't stay in a tent but rented a barebones cabin instead. For dinner, we ordered a pizza. And we let the kids play on our phones for a little bit in the evening.

Those things didn't make for a truly authentic experience, but goodness, they really helped. I have started to realize that there is no shame in making things easy, especially when you have little kids. And they didn't know any different. As far as they are concerned, we hiked the Appalachian Trail and gathered all our own food from the earth.

This was a lazy camping trip, for sure—and that was exactly what we needed.

3. I over-prepped for safety so I could calm down

I have hiked and camped in the White Mountains of New Hampshire in February—this was not that. At any given moment on our trip, an ambulance could have easily reached us, and we were only a few minutes away from a hospital at any point. But it made me feel much better to know that we were safe and ready for anything that should happen.

We bought a first aid kit, a survival kit, too many flashlights and bottled water. I was really big on everyone wearing good footwear and teaching them how to walk carefully on uneven terrain.

We also used the opportunity to teach about other areas, like water safety. Rita Goldberg of the British Swim School recommends "[teaching kids] to avoid water hazards and to not approach a fountain, river, pool or lake without an adult's supervision and permission."

We also incorporated their "Water Watcher" program, which assigns a "badge of responsibility" to one adult at all times, who maintains a constant watch over the kids while they are near water.

These easy steps, that we decided on ahead of time, made me feel much more relaxed, and therefore better able to enjoy our time.

This trip took some emotional adjustments on my part. It wasn't glamorous, or particularly exciting. But that was exactly what it needed to be. Emily Glover wrote that "by getting away from the distractions of home and focusing on each other...we're reminded of what really matters."

We found that in the woods—together.

You might also like:



Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.