6 resources that can help busy moms increase their productivity (one of them is my favourite)

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Being a mom in the 21st century and being "busy" are inseparable. From the moment we wake up in the morning right down to the minute we fall asleep, most women carry in their heads an endless to-do list of things which they need to get done. If you are like most women, then you also struggle to make it through your day with some days being worse than others. Days where everything seems to pile up - work projects, logistics to be managed at school and at work, housework and other chores.

Does this sound familiar to you?

As a health coach, I work primarily with women with chronic health conditions where work together to implement lifestyle and dietary interventions in order to reach their health goals. However, what I find to be a common obstacle in preventing many of my clients (and friends) from doing so is often a "lack of time". Since regaining health and/or sustaining good health takes BOTH time and effort, not having enough time to take care of themselves is a major constraint for most women.

I am quite familiar with this myself and have struggled with this in the past as I juggle home and work responsibilities. I often have days where work piles and nothing seems to get done or becomes overwhelming. Over time with focus and practice, I have become better at managing my time especially since I now juggle three roles- being a mom, health coach cum entrepreneur. This means that I have had to become very intentional about how I spend my time. This is necessary not only to prevent burn out in the long run but also to ensure that my time with my family is not compromised.

I have learned to use technology to a large extent to my advantage in this respect (being a tech geek helps as well!) to increase my productivity in the time that I get during the day to work on different aspects of my life. In this post, I am sharing with you 6 productivity resources that you can use in your daily life (both tech and non tech) to help you manage your day (and time) better. There are of course countless such options available, these are just some of the options that I use every day and have proven to be quite useful for me. 

1.Google Keep

When I was making this list, I almost left this one out since it seemed quite an obvious choice to use for storing to-do lists, checklists, reminders and such. However, I remembered that a few years back even I was not aware of the simplicity and usefulness of this app and it may be the same for some of you. You can download and use this app (for both Android and Apple/ Mac) on your smartphone AND your laptop so that they are synchronised at all times. 

Some features that find really useful

  • You can pin the most important notes at the top so that you see them FIRST
  • Reminders can be added to any post so that you will be notified when it is due
  • Each note can be shared with any person via various platforms including WhatsApp
  • Pictures and links can be saved easily
  • You can use different colours to differentiate and accentuate important notes

 

2.Technology apps like Freedom and Offtime

While I love using technology to enhance my productivity (as you would have realised by now) there at times when it can be a major hindrance in getting quality work done. Since writing is a big part of my profession, avoiding distraction is key to my productivity. 

Distractions due to incoming texts, social media, emails can really derail our thinking process and increase the time that we take to do deep work. Apps like Freedom (phones and laptops) and Offtime (phone only) offer us a way to block out these distractions while we are working. Try them for free and first, you can always pay for them to get added benefits. I have tried a few other similar apps but have found these to be quite effective.

Some key features include 

  • being able to block websites as well as apps and customise these as per your requirements
  • being able to block the internet completely if you need to
  • ability to schedule sessions free from distraction as recurring events at specific time of the day(I use this feature a lot)
  • Sync these blocks of time across all your devices (for the Freedom app)

3.Templates

This is one resource which is more old school and less tech-driven than the others. You can find and use various templates for a variety of purposes like weekly meal planning, weekly scheduling, to do and chore lists, to help with parenting, housework and countless more.

These templates can be found in many different places (both free and paid) but I find it easier to look for them on Pinterest. Since the search results are visual on Pinterest, it becomes easy to find what will suit your requirements. By saving them and printing them out, you can use these templates as an interesting and useful way of increasing your productivity.

 

 

 

 

3.Trello

Trello is essentially a project management app. You can use the basic features for free by creating multiple boards for different projects that you may be working on for both work and home. You can create as many as you want for e.g. separate boards for each child's school project work. These are saved in each board as a “card” which are tasks and/or ideas which can be edited, moved around and shared with others. These cards can in turn form different “lists” in each board to differentiate between various stages of progress. 

You can sign up for Trello HERE

  1. Evernote

This is one app/resource that I have been using for many years now and I am sure many of you will be familiar with this one. I chose to add this since this is so useful for streamlining information that we would like to save and access when needed. Evernote allows you to save websites/articles/pictures from the web using their web clipper in notebook formats making it really easy to save information. More importantly, it has searchable options across the notes (and pdf in paid version) while keeping it synced across multiple devices.

I use this to save research articles, websites, blog posts, information and most importantly for me, recipes in a very useable format. Check it out if you have never done so HERE

  1. Canva

This last one is by far my favourite. It allows me to be creative and productive at the same time. There are endless possibilities in terms of making invites, flyers, brochures, newsletters, social media banners, posters, ecards and more. There are beautiful editable design templates as well as photographs available, giving you many options which you can then customise to suit your requirements.

I use this quite often for both work and home related projects and I highly recommend that you check it out HERE

There you have it! 6 productivity resources which can help modern day moms like you get work done and stay on top without getting overwhelmed. The key, of course, is to use them as per requirements and as often as you need to without feeling pressurised to become a master at all these at the same time. Being patient with yourself and not giving up while trying something new is necessary to avoid both overwhelm and throwing in the towel. The key is to simply get started, no matter where you are. 

As Mark Twain said it so well

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started"

 

Related posts on this topic

Do you know your ‘WHY” ? (And why you should)

Rocks, pebbles and sand…the key to knowing what is important in your life

 

5 simple morning habits for a calmer, brighter day

Reading Time: 8 minutes

This is the THIRD in a series of 6 weekly posts that I am writing about self care- if you have not done so already you can check out the first part "Do you know your WHY?" and the second part "Rocks, pebbles and sand...the key to knowing what is important in your life".

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

-Mary Oliver (from the poem "The summer day")

Take some and reflect upon your answers to the following questions

What do I want from life?

What am I doing that really counts?

What would I do if I knew I would not fail?

What is the unique gift that I can share with the world so that I can contribute and make a difference?

For many of us, somewhere deep inside we have this niggling feeling that what we are doing is not contributing to what really matters to us and what is important in our lives. Taking the time out to reflect on the questions shared in all the three posts should give you some clarity and inspire you to think about what you need to change in order to move towards your goals and focus on what is important to you. As you do this, you will be able to take out the time to listen more, spend quality time with family and friends, enjoy and indulge in your hobbies, relax more and get to know yourself through meditation and self reflection. It would then be much easier to identify those areas of your life that need an overhaul or some tweaking in order to become the best version of yourself.

However, sometimes even when we have the clarity and the inclination to make changes in our lives, the external world can get in the way. Without realising it, we can start and end our day on autopilot merely reacting to circumstances and people, fulfilling their agendas and not ours. For many of us, as soon as the alarm wakes us up, our habitual thoughts take over and our mental playlist of activities, worries and to-do list fill our every waking moment. Each day turns into a month, then months turn into years and pretty soon we have lost decades of our lives simply by remaining on autopilot. We may also feel that because of our circumstances- financial, personal, professional we do not really have any choice but to live like this on autopilot.

This is simply not true

At each moment we have a choice. You chose to read this article today. You choose the clothes you wear, the foods you eat, the activities that you indulge in. You choose to be angry or to forgive people. You choose to be happy or to remain sad. You choose to be grateful for what you have or to focus on the things you lack in your life. You choose all these things and much more. BUT what you need to keep in mind is that this power to choose resides only in this present moment. In time, it is what we do every single day that matters much more than the profound decisions that we may make once in a while.

Once we are clear about what we need to do, we need to rise above excuses and do what is important and needs to be done. And one of the best things that we can do to increase productivity and get things done is to have a well thought out morning routine. Having a consistent morning routine is infact a common and recurring theme amongst many successful people. It helps to counteract the pull of distractions and overcome daily obstacles that can and do pop up. You can and should harness the power of an empowering morning routine as well. And in time, it can literally transform your life.

Whether it is the Olympic winner Michael Phelps, Olympic gold medalist Rebecca Soni, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, Warren Buffet, Ratan Tata, Indira Nooyi or countless other successful people, crafting a sacred space in the morning has made all the difference in their productivity and achieving their dreams. It has enabled them to start their day with intention and set a positive tone for the rest of the day. In other words, an empowering morning can set you up for 'wins' and motivate you to keep going with a calm and productive frame of mind.

Now that the power of morning routines is clear, let us see what it would look like for you. The first thing to note is that it is NOT and SHOULD NOT be the same for everyone. It is not about waking up at a particular time OR doing the same things that everyone else is doing. It is about finding, creating and then sticking to a routine that is right for YOU.

Remember, your mornings are a blank slate and it is up to you to fill it in with what work for you

What is a morning routine?

It is a set of activities that you do upon waking up in the morning. It can and does vary from person to person and includes activities like exercise, meditation, brushing teeth, prayer, journaling, writing and reading.

Take some time today and think about how you usually start your day. Simply start by making a list of all the things that you do upon waking up. The next step would be to identify what is important right now. (This becomes easier if you have already reflected upon this as I have mentioned in my earlier post) Once you know that you are doing the RIGHT thing you can get started crafting out a routine that works for YOU.

In this post, I have shared with you 5 simple habits that you can intentionally develop for a calmer and brighter morning

(It is up to you to incorporate as many of these that you want in your own routine)

Setting intention

Set the tone for the day by finding out what your intention is. The questions below can help you bring some clarity as you think about your activities for the day and set an intention-

How can I show up today that is in line with what I want to achieve today?

What do I want to see more of today? (good news, wonder, acts of kindness, joy)

What is my heart's desire at this moment?

How do I want to feel?

A few examples are "Today I will take care of myself better, show compassion to others and myself, remain calm, be more open to joy".

Journaling, meditation and reflection 

Prayer, meditation and journaling are all beautiful ways that you can use to ground and connect with yourself. There is no one right way to meditate or write in a journal, you simply need to find what works for you.

If writing free form is difficult, you can use the prompts given below (from the book "The Mindful Day by Laurie Cameron")

What I appreciate most in my life right now is....

 I am at my best when I am....

What brings me alive is.....

What I really need right now is....

What gets in the way of me being present is....

My next best action is.... 

Even if you do not have a formal meditation practice, the simple act of paying attention or being more mindful in how you start your day can have a profound effect. The beauty is that you can be more mindful with regards to any activity that you do already. The simple act of paying attention while having a cup of tea, brushing your teeth, showering, exercise will help you to bring awareness to that particular moment and replenish and rejuvenate you.

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Reading

Another way of connecting with yourself and the world in the morning is to read a book (and I don't mean the news). This will be different for each of us as we choose to read something that inspires and motivates us. I find that I prefer to read about other people whom I respect and who inspire me to grow and live a better life. Books like The four things that matter most by Dr Ira Byock, First things first by Stephen Covey, Essentialism by Greg Mckeown, The power of habit by Charles Duhigg, Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, Mindset By Carol Dweck, The Go Giver by Bob Burg and John Mann are just some of the books I have read over time.

Spending time with family

Spending time with your family is one of the best ways to start your day. It helps to connect with what is truly important for each of us on a daily basis. Whether it is 10 minutes or an hour, it is the quality of the time spent that matters more than how much time you actually get to spend with your family in the morning.

Since there is always a rush in the morning during school days (I have two school going children), I try and wake my children up around 10 minutes earlier and spend some time with them, giving them a hug or a cuddle and sometimes switching on their favourite music to get them started on the right note. My husband and I also make sure that we savour our quiet time together over our cup of tea and newspaper before we start preparing for our day.

Exercise and mindful movement

Research shows us that moving our bodies first thing in the morning whether it is through exercise (cardio, aerobic, strength training etc) or mindful movements like tai chi and yoga have a profound beneficial and positive effect on our health and how we deal with the rest of our day. By doing this first thing in the morning we have the opportunity to harness the benefits of exercise and movement throughout the remainder of our day. Schedule a workout or activity that you like doing already and then stick to it.

However, the key to having a successful and consistent routine is to PLAN for it and REMOVE anything that might get in the way

A few things that ensure that I stick to my routine are

  • preparing the night before by keeping my journal, workout clothes ready; preferably somewhere I can see them immediately as I wake up
  • using an app to make sure that I cannot access my emails and social media first thing in the morning (I will be covering this topic in details in one of my later posts)
  • having a simple structure that I can follow in terms of activities and time for the first couple of hours
  • setting an intention for the day; sometimes I set one for the entire week
  • complete my workout in the morning so that unexpected work or family issues do not come in the way later during the day
  • lastly, creating an environment that is conducive to self reflection and gives a peaceful start to my day; I love playing music and lighting incense to awaken my senses

My own routine is very much a work-in-progress and is not something that you need to emulate as is. The whole point is to find what works for YOU and then stick to it. It should be something that you enjoy doing and feel good about doing on a regular basis.

So take a pen and paper and start creating an empowering morning routine for yourself. Every day that you stick to it treat as a small "win". It is only when we pause to celebrate each step that we take in the right direction that we can stick to it and achieve what we set out to do no matter how long it takes.

Finally, take this magical time to connect with your body, breath and spirit to give yourself the best possible start to your day and to your life

As Marcus Aurelius said, "When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive, to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love" 

(As you go through these posts I suggest that you keep a journal handy so that you can reflect upon and write down the questions that I ask along the way. You may end up getting to know yourself better and even surprise yourself with your answers. And of course, I would simply love it if you would share with your experience of going on this journey of self-exploration with me)