5 Time Traps for Working Moms to Avoid

You're a mom. You juggle a career, kids, family, volunteer work, the mental load, and maybe a side-hustle or hobby. You have lots to do, and the same 24 hours the Beyoncé does, but like me, you probably don’t have a staff to help you get it all done.

I’m always looking for ways to maximize the time I have each day, and after spending some time recently talking with my working #MamaFriends talking about how busy we are, these were the most common responses to what sucks up all our time. We shared a few tips to avoid these time traps, and I wanted to share them with you.

1) Responding Immediately.
Sometimes women feel obligated to respond to someone immediately via text or email, or answer the phone as opposed to letting it go to voicemail, when it’s not necessary. Whether we’re socially conditioned to do so so we’re “not being rude” or it feels like it’s urgent, doing so can be a huge time trap. Every time you’re mid-task and are interrupted, your brain has to stop, refocus, and then do the same thing when you return to the original task.

TIP: Set appointments to check email. Turn off the notifications on your computer and phone, then check in when it’s time. If something is urgent, the sender will find an alternate and more immediate way to get in touch with you. Otherwise, it can wait.

2) Or Putting Off Responding . . . And Then Forgetting!

I’m guilty of not responding to or making a note of an email that means an action item . . . and not writing it down . . . and then forgetting all about it until it’s due. And then I have to drop everything I’m doing to do it / fix it which results in time lost (and stress!).

TIP: Back to checking email only at your set times – that way you’re prepared to respond, act, delegate, etc.

3) Keeping a "Work-Only" To-Do List.
Being a mom is complex - and we're only talking logistics! Kids plus work plus family plus running a household makes for a complicated schedule and list of to-dos. If you're not writing down all the things that you're responsible for making happen, things will fall through the cracks. It doesn’t matter if you use a fancy planner or a plain notebook, how you keep your lists isn’t nearly as important as it is THAT you actually keep a comprehensive list of your to-dos. If you’re tracking all those to-dos in your head, you’ll end up wasting time and energy and more than likely miss something completely. Reduce some of the noise in your head and put that “mental load” on paper to alleviate stress and save time.

TIP: My mom always carried a small calendar in her purse, kept one on our fridge at home, and had a 5x7 spiral bound notebook with her all the time. She kept running lists of ALL the things that needed to be done, grocery lists, gift ideas, and every other thing that was part of her mental load. She didn’t need to have a daily list or fancy calendar for any of that, and to my knowledge she never dropped the ball on any of to-dos.

4) Skipping Menu Planning.
My first response to menu-planning was that if I spent time perusing cookbooks and Pinterest to plan gourmet meals, then scouring seven different specialty stores for the ingredients, and then spent three hours preparing each dinner for my family, I’d be broke, and have even less time than I started with. Once I decided that menu-planning for our family simply meant an outline of what we’re eating for meals and what to buy each week, I started saving time – and money. You can read more about how I plan for our family, but it amounts to us eating the same breakfast almost every day, rotating through 10 or so family dinner favorites during the workweek, and me grocery shopping only once per week.

TIP: Use online meal-planning services such as emeals.com, mealplannerpro.com, and www.plantoeat.com. You can also make a quick list of your family’s favorite meals, pick a few for the upcoming week, and plan around that. Do what works for your family.

For the time-strapped mom who also wants to feed her family nutritious meals, save time and money, AND incorporate cooking new recipes, services like blueapron, terras kitchen, etc. are great!

5) Not Preparing the Night Before.
The mornings that we seem to lose the most time are the mornings when I didn't spend a few minutes the night before making sure we’re ready for the next day. It always takes 12 minutes to find a tennis shoe if it’s not set out with the rest of the clothes, papers take twice as long to review and sign in the morning, and for some reason packing lunches in the morning is stressful, but I enjoy it when I do it at night. And if the coffeemaker auto brew isn’t set, well that means I’m going to have to wait at least seven more minutes before I start anything!

At the end of the day, I try to have a clean kitchen, coffee pot prepped with autobrew, backpacks and lunches packed for the kids, and my work things by the door.

TIP(S): Pack the next day’s lunches while you’re making or cleaning up after dinner. No need to drag everything out twice.
Auto brew. Always Auto brew!

Have a designated spot for kids’ backpacks – go through them at night to sign papers, etc.
Let kids who are old enough pack their own lunches and set their clothes out the night before.