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So your kid turned one and they’re walking. You were excited and thinking that maybe this was the beginning of regaining your independence. Instead, you have a little person that often aggressively demands your attention without yet being able to form complete sentences. They want to open everything, they want access to your laptop, they try to take your papers, and they won’t let you get anything done.
For me, I found myself struggling to get a lot more done once Rigel was walking around and dropped down to only one nap a day. I not only work on this blog, but I also do contract work and I’m still working on my MBA (I should be done with it by the end of next month, thankfully). I had to come up with some strategies to get work done and keep up with the housework. So here is my list of tips to be as productive as possible without any help during the day:
1. Wake up earlier: I know, I know. You’re soooo tired. Your toddler has more energy than an Energizer battery and you need at least 9 hours of sleep to keep up with the kid. But hear me out, if you’re struggling to find time during the day to concentrate on work; you know, those tasks that kind of need undivided attention, then waking up earlier may be the only time that you have to focus on financial reports and not the building blocks that are being tossed down the stairs. Consider just moving your wake up time by 15 minute increments over the course of a couple of weeks until you’re waking up about an hour and half to two hours before the kids wake up. Trust me you’re going to love the alone time.
2. Pick out your clothes the night before: It’s incredible to me how much more focused I can be sometimes when I’m not sitting in the pajamas I’ve been wearing since Saturday night. Shockingly, even just changing into a pair of joggers is enough to make your brain think it’s time to get to work. To make sure I get dressed these days I pick out my clothes and Rigel’s clothes before bed. Saving time in the morning that I can instead use to get a few more minutes of work in or spend with Rigel.
3. Plan Your Day: I know trying to work with a toddler around often feels like you’re at the whims of your little person’s tantrums but if you plan your day even roughly it’ll give you the incentive to get your little one to get with the program. Now you’re not going to always be successful with your plan for the day but if you get even 80% there then you’ve had a really successful day. I use the Panda Planner to keep me on task and write out things like mealtimes, Rigel’s nap, work blocks, and Rigel’s activities. Since I started using the planner I have found that I’ve been getting a lot more done, even during hellish teething weeks.
4. Have Multiple Screens: If you read my post about How I Use my Amazon Fire Tablet As a Work From Home Mom then you know I realized that I needed to make getting access to my work and school projects easier. The only way I could figure to do that was to lug around my laptop to every room of the house as we went about the day. That was not only hard to pack up but also the laptop became a target of Rigel’s as he got more mobile. I figured a tablet would be an easier solution and something that I could easily put into a bag or just leave downstairs. So get whatever tablet you can afford (and think won’t be easily broken should your toddler get their hands on them) and get to work! I recommend you stay around the 8 inch range if possible — the bigger you go the bigger the target for curious hands.
5. Stand While You Work: A toddler sees a comfortable lap and they immediately want to sit on it and block you from using your keyboard, touchscreen, pen and paper, everything is theirs now. For a while I was just standing to work at my kitchen island when we were downstairs but I have recently converted my mid century modern desk in the loft to be a stand-up desk with the Flexispot desk converter after one too many fights about who should be using the desk top with Rigel. Another added benefit of being able to lift my laptop and screen when we’re in the loft is that Rigel can’t play with them when he’s in there.
6. Let them help with chores: I know this one probably seems crazy with some of these toddlers but trust me there are chores that they can start helping with. While Rigel is still pretty destructive when it comes to folding laundry, he’s very good at helping me load the washer and load the dryer. He asks for a paper towel to clean up after himself when he spills water or milk. He helps clean up his toys. And he helps unload the dishwasher. It takes a little time and lot of mimicking but after a while your little one will get it and start helping more and more around the house. And you’ll be thankful for it because it means just a little bit less that you have to do.
7. Delegate Tasks: Use your people resources in your house. If you have older children give them chores to do around the house or have them entertain the toddler while you do work or take care of things around the house. Have your partner take a shift with the kids or have them take care of chores that you haven’t been able to do while you spend time with the little ones. For example, my husband usually does the bedtime routine so I can clean up downstairs and get some last minute work done before work. Work out a system that works for your family so Mama can get things done.
8. Be Flexible with Your Non-Negotiables: What are non-negotiables? They’re activities that you do not want to put off. These include things like getting a workout in, doing your journaling/meditation, or putting on your make-up. They’re things that make you feel good and empowered. But as I discussed tip #3 with toddlers you never know how the day is going to go. Just because your toddler threw you a curve ball or more accurately threw a building block at you doesn’t mean you need to give up on the things that are important to you, you just need to do them differently that day. So maybe you can’t run on the treadmill because you had to use naptime for work but you can still do a Cardio Dance workout for your cardio while the kid is up. Or maybe you only do a 2 minute meditation while the kid’s preoccupied playing instead of your 10 minute. Or you put on some make-up from your little quick set bag that you can do at the kitchen island, instead of your vanity on mornings where your toddler woke up too early.
9. Have a List of Educational Videos: I know a lot of Moms have hang ups about screen time. They worry that if their child is exposed to television too early on that they’ll have a low attention span and won’t ever pick up a toy again. But we’re living in a whole new world now where kids as young as 3 are being asked to do virtual school; give your kid an edge by letting them learn from videos. And also give yourself a little bit of time. We do about 20-30 minute “lesson” videos. Rigel’s current favorite YouTube channels are Songs for Littles, Baby First, and Super Simple Songs. Adding to this idea Rigel also has a Amazon Fire Tablet that he uses to play recognition and matching games. It gives me some time to do things when he’s gotten tired of his toys. And shockingly he still runs around and plays with all of his toys, even non-toys.
10. Make Time for Play: This one is especially important for only children, now that playdates are frowned upon. You’re a busy Mom, you got tons going on between maintaining the house and working. But remember your first job is to be that little ones Mama. Make time for snuggles and play. Take a micro-break for kisses and tickles. They really do grow up fast. And if you’ve made the choice to stay home with them then really be with them. I usually leave an unscheduled hour following meals to just devote to play time. And then sprinkle play breaks throughout the day. You won’t regret it trust me.
So those are my top tips/hacks to get some work done as a Toddler Mom. Let me know in the comments if there’s anything inventive you’ve done to help you be more productive as you try to get things done with a toddler around the house.
Remember you can do all the things,