Working Mom Survival: Tips for Organizing your Life

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As a mom with a full-time job, I just know everyone is wondering…“How does she get everything done?” Well, first of all, I rarely wash my hair, so that helps a lot. But seriously, I have some tried-and-true techniques to tackle my extensive to-do list and (mostly) maintain my sanity. I could wax poetic on each of these, but I’ve tried to keep this list brief and bright. Let me know if you use any of these techniques, too!

1. A good week starts with a productive Sunday. On Sunday I try to….

  • Meal prep. I pick out three dinner recipes to make for the week. If I pick out less, we run out of food. If I pick out more, inevitably, we’ll make dinner plans or somehow, the food will just go bad. I make three lunches for the same reason. I hate to let food go bad. Yet, I have let so much food go bad. Therefore, I now follow my little “rule of 3s.”
  • I plan my workouts and schedule them, lest I find myself planning on a Tuesday night run only to remember Tuesday afternoon that Grandma’s coming over for dinner. I examine my calendar, determine how many days I want to exercise (giving myself a little wiggle room to cancel a workout), and my availability on those days. Can I do a lunch hour workout? Can I get up early? Can I put my husband in charge of bedtime?
  • If I’m feeling ambitious, I plan my outfits. I hang items together (pants/top, skirt/top, etc.) and group 5 outfits together at the front of my closet.

2. I don’t multitask – honestly, it makes tasks take longer, and it creates more stress.

3. I make packing lists each night.

You know that feeling when you’ve almost drifted off into sweet slumber, and you remember you need to bring something to work or to your kids’ school and you panic that you’ll forget in the morning because realistically you will probably forget in the morning? Making a “packing/don’t forget” list the night before and keeping it in a location I’ll see before I leave has helped me so much. If I think of something to add to the list in the middle of the night, I get out of bed and add it, then return to bed worry-free.

I pack up what I can, including my and my daughter’s meals, and I always put my gym bag in my car if I plan to exercise the next day.

4. I go to bed very, very early.

Sometimes I actually follow the advice I give my child: I limit my screen time and get plenty of rest. I retire early with a book and aim to get at least 7.5 hours of sleep each night. Mornings are always hard and a little crazy, so I don’t add to that with self-inflicted exhaustion.

5. I (try to) clean one thing each day, and clean the kitchen every night.

I wipe down my kitchen counters, put away dishes, and scrub my sink each night. My main floor is an open concept plan and a clean kitchen makes a substantial difference in the overall look and feel of my home. I also spend about 15-20 minutes each night addressing something – cleaning the bathrooms, dusting, cleaning the floors, or vacuuming, so that I don’t become overwhelmed by mess by the weekend. I always put away all of my daughter’s toys before bed. Someday (hopefully soon!) I’ll enlist her help to accomplish this task. 

6. I tell myself, “I have plenty of time.”

It’s a little woo-woo, but it works. I also like, “it will all get done.” Approaching your to-do list with heightened stress isn’t going to help, so why do it?

I know that I’ve just scratched the surface with this post, and I’d love to dive deeper in the future for those who are interested! Meanwhile, I’d love to hear from my fellow working mamas – what are your survival secrets? If you have a hot tip, don’t keep it to yourself!

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A native St. Louisan, Diana lives in Creve Coeur with her husband, young son, two daughters, and two dogs. She has her Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology, which she uses as an excuse to be nosy regarding other people’s lives. She recently left a career in legal marketing to work part-time from home and focus on her babies (furry and otherwise). Her current parenting mantras are: “I can do it all, just not all at once,” and “It will probably be fine?” Diana gets her kicks by going for long runs, reading a mix of high-brow and low-brow literature, and seeking out activities her whole family (including the puppies!) can enjoy around town.