I spent this past Saturday baking cookies for several upcoming events. I didn’t think much about it but just got up and dove in. My husband was at work, so this process was uphill work with my two-year-old and nine-month-old. After nearly five hours of hard work, that included numerous interruptions and my son pulling a couple of batches on the floor while I was mid-diaper-change, I began to have that familiar questioning feeling? You know the one. Was this really the most important thing to do today? Should I have bought cookies instead? Maybe I should have made lemon bars or something that would have taken a fraction of the time? Should I have finished the laundry and garage first, squeezed in a workout? – Probably so. Prioritizing… ahh….prioritizing. How do you choose daily priorities in order to accomplish your goals?
Dreaming Big is Good
One of the reasons prioritizing as a mom is difficult is because we have big dreams, and that’s good!! I made a list recently of my dreams for myself as a mom. I know what they are, but hadn’t taken the time to write them all down. I don’t believe in dreaming small. The solution to not being able to do it all is not dreaming smaller. I do believe in prioritizing, though. And that’s where I am growing right now – slowly and steadily and sometimes painfully. I still get mixed up quite a bit, and then I go back to the list and decide intentionally what goal to focus on right now.
There is More Than One Right Way
There is more than one right way to prioritize your days. When I tutor middle school or high school composition, I often guide students through the process of letting go of the idea that there is “one way” to write a good paper. As long as you stay on-topic and within the parameters set by the teacher, there are often half a dozen workable ways to order your points, dozens of illustrations or quotes you could use, and hundreds of options for wording and choosing phrasing and vocabulary. Thinking there is only one “correct way” to write an assignment is paralyzing; trying to include every illustration or quote out there leads to a hopelessly long paper that doesn’t communicate much of anything. The same is true of motherhood. The trick is to look at the options available to you, decide your family’s priorities and focus in. Be ruthless to make choices to protect your priorities.
Write Down Your Dreams – What dreams do you have as a mom? These will not be the same for everyone. Write them down. Figure out which are most important. The most important ones for you will be the ones you are willing to pay a price for. One of mine is to spend individual, intentional time with my kids each day.
What Are Your “Give” Areas? – This has been one of the most helpful practical tools for me in managing priorities. For our family, making dinner is an area that can “give” when it has to accommodate another priority. We eat whole wheat sandwiches because my husband and I both are willing to make that choice to preserve other priorities. For other family food is a love language and the give areas are picking up the toys every night, mowing the lawn twice a month versus every week.
Plan For Rest Too – As moms, we’re in this for the long-haul. Don’t forget to carve out time for breaks along the way. Learning how to rest along the way is essential to accomplishing your goals in the long term!
Plan For The Unexpected – As a mom, your days have an unusually high level of unpredictability. Make plans that account for that. The biggest way this works out for me is not leaving anything really important for the last minute because the last minute might not be there when I need it!
Look for Easy Multitasking Opportunities – Do you have commute times to listen to books, podcasts etc. Do you spend any time regularly waiting in lines for school pickup etc where you could use the time to do work emails or perhaps even phone calls?
How Many Project Hours Do You Have? – Figure out how many and where the blocks of time are that are not accounted for. Do you usually have 30 minutes after the kids go to bed or before they wake up? If you work from home, is there a naptime you can count on for an hour of work time? Aimee calls this finding the windows, and it’s a game-changer for getting things done!
Chose Daily Priorities And Stick to Them – Pick the tasks for the day based on how much time you actually have available. Once you have decided the day’s priorities, stick to them. Don’t get distracted and don’t be afraid to say no to other opportunities. If you have chosen your priorities well, you will be much happier with the results of sticking to your plan.
Be Willing To Adjust – This is the counterbalance to the last point. Sometimes there is a golden opportunity to build on one of your mom dreams, but it requires dropping everything else for a day or even a few days. It’s an art knowing when to say yes and when to say no. Don’t be afraid to work on developing your sense of when to improvise. If in doubt, I like to begin by asking myself which way I normally lean in this situation (accomplishing my goals or jumping at a new opportunity)? Then I try doing the opposite and see what happens.
I am very much “in-process” on learning to pick my mom priorities well day-to-day. But I encourage you to join me in this process. Kids grow up quickly. Think about where you want yourself and your kids to be in 5 years, 10 years, and 15 years, and start making decisions to accomplish your goals!
Mommy Medicine is a group of moms that love sharing tricks, tips and strategies with our fellow moms. So send us your mommy questions you would like to see as the subject of a blog. We would love to hear from you! Subscribe here to receive posts straight to your inbox!
Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (2/15/2019)
Donnie Ray Jones (Flickr)