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7 Productivity Tips for Working Parents…So You Can Leave Work at 5PM Guilt-Free

7 Productivity Tips for Working Parents…So You Can Leave Work at 5PM Guilt-Free

If you’re tired of always being the last parent to pick up your child from daycare, consider this: are you working as smart as you can? Clocking in extra hours doesn’t always mean you’re working harder. While it’s no secret that workplace pressure continues to rise, it’s nearly impossible to leave the office on time if you’re not working efficiently from 9 to 5, regardless of what’s on your plate.

If you’re ready to rid your child’s status of the last one standing (at daycare), here are 7 habits to get you working smarter so you can leave work on time, guilt-free.

Do the Hard Stuff First

For many, the most productive time of your workday is the morning. Instead of responding to emails or doing other low value work, use the peak time to get the hard tasks done first. Just as getting stuck on a roadblock has the ability to affect your mood for the entire day, checking off a notable item on your to-do list has the ability to set a positive and productive tone for the rest of your workday.

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(Mentally) Prepare for 5PM

I don’t mean packing up and getting ready to leave. Second to starting off your day with a punch by knocking off some major items from your task list, set the expectation with yourself to leave at 5PM. For me, one of the major reasons my productivity wanes after lunch is because I don’t own my afternoons. I get thrown a lot of ad hoc requests and even meetings sometimes, and before I know it, it’s 4:59PM and I’ve yet to finish my priority work.

Instead of going with the flow of the day, and working on whatever gets thrown your way, identify your key priorities and block time in your calendar for it. Then, identify the time you want to leave the office and aim to get your priority work done before that time.

Take More Breaks (To Avoid Burnout)

It might sound counterproductive but you’re a human, not a robot. Working too long is actually the killer of productivity – according to science, you can only focus for 90 minutes at a time. It’s called the ultradian rhythm: a recurrent period or cycle repeated throughout a 24-hour circadian day. Just like your sleep cycle has highs and lows, so does your brain’s ability to focus throughout the day.

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If you’ve noticed that the longer you stare at your computer, the less focus you have, its nature’s way of telling you it’s break time. Even a five minute bathroom break and water refill can help you get back on track.

Don’t Multitask

Let’s face it – humans are notoriously bad at multitasking. We’re just not meant to focus on more than one thing at a time. When you’re constantly switching gears, you lose momentum. You might feel like you’re accomplishing a lot but you’re actually spinning your wheels.

Not only that, but multitasking reduces the quality of of your work, and (surprise!) hinders your efficiency too. The biggest instigator of multitasking mayhem? Your inbox. Just because an email arrives, it doesn’t mean you need to respond. Set times for checking your email and you’ll be surprised at how effectively you pummel through projects when you’re not switching from screen to screen.

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Protect Your Priorities

No one will respect your 5PM check out time, if you don’t first. Be assertive by communicating when you have to leave, so you can set boundaries around your time. If your co-workers need something, let them know to speak up by a certain time, in order to avoid last minute assignments or meetings.

When you communicate your goals, you’re more likely to follow through and people tend to be supportive when goals are made public knowledge.

Give Yourself Transition Time

I never seem to do this, so I’m always scrambling to get out the door but giving yourself time to wind down from your workday is important too. Make sure you’ve cleared out any essential email, organized your files or workspace for the next day, and tied up any loose ends before you head out for the night.

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Block out 10 to 15 minutes before your planned departure to get yourself sorted, so you don’t revert to checking work emails during critical family time in the evening.

Know That Work Will Be There Tomorrow, And the Day After

Be honest: will there always be a to-do list? Yes. Will there always be fires to put out? Probably. The thing with time is once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. And while there will always be work that needs to be done, you don’t have to be a slave to it.

It’s a hard concept to grasp, no doubt, but the harsh reality is that there will always be more to do – so at the end of the day, you have to decide how much time to invest in your work each day.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Jennee Rasavong

Freelance Content Marketer

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Published on September 21, 2018

11 Smart Pieces of Advice to Help You Thrive as a Single Mother

11 Smart Pieces of Advice to Help You Thrive as a Single Mother

Becoming a mother is one of the most difficult challenges a woman can take on in her life. Whether this happens the “natural” way, with the help of science, or through adoption, being in charge of nurturing another human being is a herculean task to take on.

Typically, when we think about parenthood, we imagine two parents sharing the responsibility and having each other to lean on. However, according to the 2016 U.S. Census Bureau, 1 in 4 children under the age of 18 are being raised by a single mother.[1] This is a significant portion of the population that often gets overlooked.

If you are one of these mothers raising your children on your own, you are undoubtedly aware of the additional challenges that motherhood has placed upon you, including the constant struggle to find sufficient time, energy, money, and support.

For single mothers who find themselves bogged down by their daily responsibilities and struggle to stay afloat, don’t be fooled by the belief that you have to do all. It is possible to thrive and live as a single mother if you take advantage of all available resources and adjust your priorities based on your situation.

1. Find your community and ask for help

As the sole caretaker of your kids, going through the successes and struggles of parenthood can feel isolating and lonely. You have probably developed a strong sense of independence because you’ve had to go at it alone.

Being self-reliant is necessary in many situations that you have to face, but do not fool yourself into thinking that you don’t need support from others. If you have family nearby, strengthen your relationship with them by visiting and talking more often. Find time to catch up with old friends or co-workers, and don’t assume they don’t want to hang out if they are not parents themselves.

Would you prefer finding mom friends[2] who have more in common with you? Use resources like apps, Facebook groups, and community events to meet local moms in your area.

After you have established a support group that you can depend on, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It is NOT a sign of weakness or incompetency to admit you can’t do it all, and others are probably more willing to lend a hand than you think.

If you feel uncomfortable burdening others, suggest trading favors such as taking turns babysitting. Because after all, helping is each other is what community is all about.

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2. Make peace with the past

Before you can move forward, you must make peace with your past and not let it define you or rule your life. Whether your journey to single motherhood was through divorce, death, or never having a relationship the father, it is crucial that you leave behind the feelings of abandonment or betrayal you may be struggling with.

You cannot change the past and the hurt you had to endure, but you can use the strength that you gained from overcoming those obstacles to work towards making the best life for yourself and your child. Learn from the past but live in the present and look towards the future.

3. Make plans and set goals

The daily repetition of trying to balance work and home life can make you feel like you are on operating on autopilot. However, it is imperative to set goals for yourself and to keep working towards self-improvement.

In your personal life, you can set a fitness goal (train for a 5k), a reading goal (read 20 books in a year), or a travel goal (take a trip to Europe). At your job, you can set career goals such as gain leadership experience, get a promotion, or earn a degree or certificate.

Spend time creating a realistic plan to on how you can go about achieving these goals. Not only will working towards these goals make you a more well-rounded and successful person, they will bring more purpose and fulfillment to your life.

4. Look for role models

A great way to jump start your plans for the future is to find a role model or mentor who is further along in their life or career experience. This person can be a great resource when you need guidance on what types of goals to set for yourself and how to achieve them.

It’s also important to have people to turn to for encouragement during difficult seasons of life. Someone who has been through it before can provide the most genuine reassurance that tough times will get better and that staying positive is best approach.

5. Rethink your priorities

Single parents have twice as many responsibilities to take care of, so priorities and expectations must be adjusted accordingly.

Know that you are not superwoman and striving for a perfectly clean home, no dirty laundry, and home-cooked meals for your kids every day is not a reasonable expectation. It’s okay to take shortcuts sometimes, like serving your kids cereal for dinner or waiting until the next day to wash the dishes.

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Don’t compare yourself to anyone else and let go of the guilt that you feel for being the only parent that your kids can count on. Give yourself a break and don’t sweat the small stuff.

6. Make time for me time

Even though it can be difficult to find, making time for yourself is critical to maintaining your sanity and well-being. Without a built-in partner to take over, finding time to be away from the kids must be done intentionally and planned in advance.

If you are sharing custody, use the time away from your kids not only doing productive things but also making sure you are taking care of yourself. Sleep, exercise, and balanced diet are not things that can get pushed to the bottom of the priority list. Also make time for fun activities, such as hobbies and creative outlets.

Even though being a mother is the most important job you have, don’t let it be the only thing that defines you. Time for yourself is more difficult to find if you are the sole caretaker of your kids.

Use the resources that you have to devote time to self-care, and you and your kids will thank you for it in the long run.

7. Stay organized

With so many things to juggle, great organizational skills are an absolute must in order to keep everything moving smoothly. Use apps such as Mint for your finances, Mealime for meal planning, and Cozi as a family organizer for everything from appointments and shopping lists to after school activities.

Maintain constant contact if you are sharing custody so that it is clearly communicated who will be responsible for what when it comes to your kids. Follow consistent routines in the morning and nighttime so that your kids also know what to expect on a daily basis.

8. Be flexible (Don’t be a control freak)

Although it is important to be prepared and stay organized, things don’t always go according to plan.

When kids get sick and have to stay home or babysitters cancel at the last minute, allow for flexibility by having a contingency plan for childcare and with your employer.

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For example, make a list of people you can call when you need last minute childcare, or talk to your boss in advance about working from home when emergencies come up.

Most of all, don’t let unexpected changes stress you out and ruin your day.

9. Learn to say no (Don’t feel guilty)

Single mothers have limitations in time, energy and resources that families with two parents wouldn’t be able to understand. Because of these circumstances, it’s important you let go of feelings of guilt and stop trying to do everything and be everywhere.

You don’t have to say yes to every single birthday party your child is invited to. Your kids don’t have to be involved in sports and extracurricular activities every night of the week.

Limit the things you do to only the ones that are the most enjoyable and meaningful for you and your family. Doing more things does not make you a better mother; simply a more tired one.

10. Live within your means

When you have to raise your family on a single income, budgeting and spending within your means becomes more important than ever.

If you have outstanding debt that is accruing interest, make it a priority to pay those off as soon as possible. Outlining a budget is the best way to visualize how much money is being spent every month on various things and what is left over.

Find ways to save money on the necessities by looking for sales at the grocery store, buying some things secondhand, planning out meals.

After the necessary bills are paid, determine how much can be spent on luxury items such as eating out, vacations, and going to the movies.

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Don’t let finances be a source of anxiety for you and your family. Keep your bank account in good shape while teaching your kids how to spend money responsibly at the same time.

11. Spend quality time with your kids

The time you spend with your kids is so precious and much more limited as a single mother. Make the time that you spend with your kids count.

Rather than sitting in front of the TV, take them on fun and budget-friendly outings to the park, the playground, or a museum. Use meal times as the perfect excuse to ask them about what they are learning in school and the friends they spend time with.

When your kids ask you to play with them, look at it as a privilege and an opportunity to bond with them, rather than a distraction or waste of time. Be present when you are with them, with no work or multitasking on your mind. Your relationship with your kids will absolutely reap the benefits.

Final thoughts

Being a single mother is not an easy job. That’s why it’s important to use all the resources available to you in order to make this job a little bit easier.

Using technology, an organization system and a supportive community are just a few examples of things you should utilize to your benefit. It’s also important to shift your mindset and be more practical when it comes to things like priorities and finances.

Most of all, don’t forget about your own self care. Only when you take care of yourself can you best take care of the people you love.

Single mothers are some of the most hard-working people out there, and you deserve to have a happy and fulfilling life.

Featured photo credit: Alvaro Reyes via unsplash.com

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