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THESE ARE THE 8 SIMPLE HACKS I USE TO MAKE MY LIFE AS A WORKING MUM EASIER
There are no two ways about it unless you’re absolutely minted and can employ a team of staff. Life as a working mum can feel like being stuck on a hamster wheel.
There is always something that needs doing, from the moment you wake up until the moment you get into bed, and don’t you love it when your overtired mind starts running to-do lists the moment your head hits the pillow?!
I’m not going to tell you that there’s a magic solution that will leave you breezing through each day, but there are things you can do to simplify your life and help it run more smoothly.
Simple hacks that will help you make the most of your time, defeat overwhelm and make your life easier.
These are the things that I’ve learned to do over the last few years as I’ve sought to simplify my life and find ways to have the time and brain bandwidth to actually enjoy my days rather than get through them.
WORKING MUM HACKS THAT ACTUALLY WORK!
1. PUT THE TEAM IN FAMILY
This is singularly the most important working mum hack of them all…
You and your family need to pull together as a team, especially if you have a husband/partner.
It is utterly shocking that in this day and age, a large percentage of women still take on the main parenting responsibility and still do most of the housework, no matter how many hours they are working.
And it’s not always down to the men of the household not stepping up. It can also be down to the social conditioning of both men and women and also us women thinking that no one else can do the job as well.
So, have an honest chat with yourself about the realities of why things are as they are in your family and then have an honest discussion with your husband or partner about sharing the parenting/household responsibilities more equitably.
And don’t stop there. If you have school-aged children, think about how their roles within your family team.
There are different schools of thought on whether kids should get paid for doing chores or not. I think it is great for kids to understand that everyone in a family has a shared responsibility to each other and that it is great for anyone’s self-esteem to feel useful.
2. HAVE A DIGITAL FAMILY COMMAND CENTRE
By far, my most sanity-saving hack is our family command centre. I know there are all sorts of creative ways of setting up a command centre in the home, but we have a digital version that I set up a while back, and it works a treat! I am very much in charge of managing it, kind of like the CEO of the family! But everyone is synced in with it.
We use our command centre for our schedules, sharing the household chores, managing all the bills and financials and all the other assorted to-do lists of family life.
It’s set up on Trello, which started out as a business project management tool but is fast becoming a super popular personal organisation and family organisation tool.
I started using Trello when I launched a startup a few years back. I found it such a simple but effective way to keep my startup team on track that I started adding personal tasks.
Then I realised it was worth inviting my husband to share the family hub board I’d created. A couple of years later, our daughter is also part of the family team!
If you’ve never tried Trello and fancy giving it a shot, I’ve compiled a short course of bitesize videos to help you quickly set up your own family command centre on Trello.
I have automated every bill and subscription that I possibly can. Yes, it’s prudent to check if there are better pricing options for stuff like insurance, but sometimes it’s just not worth the cost of the time it takes you to research and switch.
You always get notifications ahead of whatever subscription or bill plan is due to be renewed, so you have space to do the research if you have the time and brain bandwidth. Still, you can also relax safe in the knowledge that everything will roll on regardless.
I tend to do an annual financial health check at the start of each year, where I look at our family finances and our monthly budget and work out if we need to switch things up or down.
4. MEAL PLAN
I am a religious meal planner. I didn’t use to be, but it is a massive sanity saver, so I find it totally worth spending time each week sitting down and planning meals for the week ahead.
I used to use a google sheet. I had a great system set up with one sheet for the weekly meal plan and another sheet as a library of links to all our favourite recipes.
But I had a brainwave a couple of years ago that it would be great to use Trello as our family meal planner, so that’s what I did, and I LOVE it! It makes meal planning easy, which is part of the secret to keeping up with meal planning. Dare I say it? It makes it fun because meal planning with Trello is a really visual and mouthwatering experience!
I’ve put together a meal planning made easy post, which takes you through every step of setting up a meal planning system that works for you, including a quick overview of how I’ve set mine up on Trello.
It. Makes. Life. SO. Easy!!!
I’ve got a whole library set up, complete with images of the recipes, which makes it so much easier to make decisions (unless I’m super hungry, in which case I have to work really hard not to choose desserts as family evening meals!).
The family planner board is synced with our calendars, so each meal for the week goes straight in with a link to the recipe. This is great for two reasons: everyone knows what the evening meal will be and two because we can share the responsibility of cooking it.
This is what my Trello meal planner board looks like. My Trello family command centre video course walks you through how to set a meal planner board.
I swear, once you start using Trello for meal planning, you will never look back!
5. GROCERY SHOP ONLINE
I’ve been with Ocado for 11 years – I know this because they just sent me an anniversary coupon. Yay!!!
I honestly don’t know how anyone who is working and parenting and, you know, generally has a hectic schedule finds the time or the will to go and do a big weekly shop at an actual supermarket.
I’ve got the Ocado app on my phone, as does my husband, and we have a weekly slot booked, so we never have to think about placing an order – other than when everything fell apart briefly at the start of lockdown in the UK!!
Ocado generates a suggested shopping list based on the stuff we order most often, and I go in and add to that list every time it becomes apparent we need something. Then I sit down the evening before the cutoff time for finalising the order and go through and edit it. It is so simple.
I am so passionate about the benefits of grocery shopping online that I’ve also included this simple hack in my guide to creating more me time for yourself.
6. STOP MULTITASKING AND START MONOTASKING
I know us women are famed and fêted for being able to multitask. But stop!!!
I am a huge believer in monotasking, which is about minimising the number of tasks you undertake in the day and tackling each task with complete focus.
Yes, that can be easier said than done, but there are ways to achieve it. One is to get used to saying the word ‘no’ and for you and everyone else to understand that when you say it, you mean it.
Another thing that I find really helpful is to time-block. I know plenty of people who do this using the Pomodoro technique of setting 25 minutes for a task and then having a short break.
I tried this and didn’t get on with it, I found myself more focused on the time ticking than the task at hand and I don’t handle interruptions to my thought processes well. So I have adapted it to be sessions of 45 minutes, followed by a short break.
I know, I know, but the reality is, exercise isn’t just good for you because it’s well, good for you.
It’s also a great way to do something for yourself at a time in your life when it can feel like everything you do is for everyone else.
If you don’t already exercise on a regular basis, the trick is to find the best point in your day when it is possible to do some.
It could be that your best option is to start walking to and from work if you don’t work from home and really don’t have a minute spare.
I find that the best time for me to exercise at the moment is first thing in the morning. Some mornings it’s just a quick ten minute stretch or yoga session, sometimes I manage forty minutes of cardio and a little yoga. This is my weekday dose of me time.
But I know that in a few months time I will likely have changed when I exercise, because my daily schedule has changed.
So I guess the trick is to be flexible about when you exercise, but try and find a time of day that works for you in the here and now.
8. REFRAME PERFECT
Real life cannot be captured in an Instagram square, so step away from the pressure to have the perfect work life balance, the perfect family home, the perfect job and the perfect family.
Good enough is far more attainable than perfection and the great thing is that you and your family can define what’s good enough.
If it’s working for you all, then it’s good enough.
I really hope these eight simple hacks help you to find a way forward that simplifies your day-to-day life. Don’t forget it’s also super important to create me time moments in your week.
Read my post on me time and why it’s so important to find time for yourself and then whet your appetite by taking a look at my list of 21 me time activity ideas to tempt you into creating some more me time for yourself.
Luci is the founder of Mums Make Lists. She has written about all aspects of organising family life for ten years. Her main areas of expertise are family finance and budgeting, simplifying housekeeping and family admin and kids’ party planning. Read more.