How to Get More Done

Reposted and adapted from my unattended personal blog, Something about Serendipity.

Over the years, I’ve been getting asked repeatedly how I accomplish all of my home/DIY projects, and have design clients (no longer as of 2016), while having kids around me all day. I’ve been responding with short answers over the years, but I figured I will post a little more in-depth regarding some strategies that work for me. Please note that these are my feelings on this topic, certainly not a lists of “should’s” . If it helps you at all, then that’s just peachy keen.

Becoming a parent comes with the complication of getting things done that used to be part of your routine. It’s an ever-changing balancing act. People tell you in the beginning to take it easy and it doesn’t matter if the dishes don’t get done and to adjust your expectations, or eat chocolate/drink wine and enjoy your life, but over time you start to wonder when you are supposed to adjust already and get some stuff done!?

As a type-A over-achiever, the frustration I feel when I don’t accomplish the things I want to or even need to do (the dirty undies don’t wash themselves, do they?) often builds and turns into a nagging, deprecating monster that works on my brain like a pin-ball machine and it’s hard to know where to begin. On the flip side, it is very important to enjoy every moment that you can with your children as time passes in the blink of an eye and then they will be gone. 

Emotional Strategies for Getting More Done

  • Accept that you can only live one day at a time. No, I don’t think you should give up on your goals, but you have to be more realistic about your expectations and enjoy your life.
  • For some, you will need to relax (I’m one of them!) and realize to accomplish something that took your childless self 1 day, it may now take you 2 weeks! But if it takes 2 weeks and it actually gets done, it’s much better than trying to do it in 1 day and turning into a crazy person with an undone mess around you.
  • For others, it might mean that you have to light a fire under yourself and push yourself even when you don’t feel like doing anything. This is me sometimes too. I don’t just have some endless desire to work on projects 24/7. You have to find the motivation. What is that motivation to you? Dessert when blank is done? Use your motivation as a reward to get off the sofa/bed/floor and do something.
  • Don’t give into the “I’m a parent, so I don’t need to care about my health/house/face/spousal relationship/hobbies/passions”. It’s so easy though! When I was designing interiors, I heard a similar sentiment from clients on occasion as a reason to have waited so long to call me. We all need goals and aspirations that motivate us in personal ways. It clears your head, makes you happy, and keeps your personal identity intact. It also makes you a better parent and partner for your spouse.
  • Know the difference between something that’s urgent and important. Important means that something has long term value in your life. Urgent means that something requires immediate attention. Sometimes things overlap, being both urgent and important, and really do need to be done ASAP. Other times things are only one categorization, or none and can potentially wait. Prioritize based on knowing the differences.

Style Strategies for Getting More Done

  • Go natural. I love that more women are supporting one another in “going natural” with their hair. Talk about a money and time saver! Plus, natural looks natural, which most often is the way things look best. Women should also support each other in embracing our God-given traits. I think we can also take cues from the French in this department… When I realized how much less time I had to get myself ready when Remy was born, I began trying to find ways to have a more natural routine for my hair. I trained my hair over time to only need to be washed every 5-7 days (and yes, I sweat when I exercise!). I also use a ton of dry shampoo. This means that I spend about 5 minutes doing my hair 4-6 days out of 5-7 days between washes. The first day I wash it, I often go to bed with it wet, then hit it with a curling iron or blowdryer in the morning for no more than 10 minutes.
  • Makeup to enhance, not make up stuff that doesn’t exist. We all know those ladies who look like a makeup advertisement and they look gorgeous more often than not, but I don’t have the time for that these days. Nowadays my makeup is there only to enhance what’s already there, not to contour and make narrower, etc. For me that means that I get up and put on my bare minerals foundation, a touch of blush, and maybe gloss or lipstick. I skip the mascara and eyeshadow most of the time, because I find I don’t need it unless I’m going out or having my picture taken. For me, the outcome is not worth the time investment. For you, it might be mascara and concealer and you’re good. Figure out your essentials and move on.
  • Put on a real pair of pants on most days. I find if I get dressed as soon as I can, I’m ready to go in whatever direction the day takes me. It doesn’t matter to me that I may not go anywhere that day. I find that if I get dressed, there is a correlation to me getting more done. Read into our Dressing Like an Adult series for more information and tips!.

Dinner Strategies for Getting More Done

  • Don’t cook every night. Sam is a great man for a lot of reasons, but one of the best things about him is that he will willingly eat the same dinner two nights in a row. I do not cook every night and probably won’t ever. It’s a waste of time in my opinion! #LeftoversAreLife
  • Stop cooking from recipes that require you to go to the store every day. This is where getting creative with what you have comes in hand. I usually buy in season produce and then stock my pantry with dry and canned staples and my freezer with meat…then I make something based on what I have. Unless there is a special occasion or I’m having a huge craving, I don’t really vary from this. I go to the grocery store no more than 2 times a week and try to fit that in around other appointments or outings.

Cleaning Strategies for Getting More Done

  • Break it down & Schedule your cleaning tasks. In 2005 I found this chart in the pages of Real Simple magazine and input all of the tasks into my Google calendar (it feeds to my computer desktop calendar and my phone notifications) where they automatically repeat themselves as often as the tasks need. You’ll notice there are tasks that repeat themselves weekly, monthly, annually and so forth. Once they are in my calendar, I can forget about them until a reminder pops up the night before. Then, I know what I’m in store for the following day. I put the tasks that I enjoy more on Fridays, when I’m generally feeling lazy and wanting my weekend to be present. The chores I least enjoy fall on Mondays when I have more energy. I never have more than 20 minutes of tasks per day to clean my entire house each week. This doesn’t include routine picking up of toys, but if I do what I am supposed to each day (which doesn’t always happen!!), then each week my house will be clean as far as dust, dirt, and germs are concerned.

Time + Scheduling Strategies for Getting More Done

  1. Take advantage of technology. I use my Google calendar for everything. To-do, cleaning, meetings, goals, etc. It’s flexible scheduling since you can put a task on one day and move it to another day, should you run out of time to accomplish it. It keeps my mind off of what needs to be accomplished, and helps me free up my brain cells for keeping my daughter, and myself, alive…and having fun 🙂 Here’s a post about staying organized and communicating effectively.
  2. Utilize your partner. I realize not all parents have a partner, but you should utilize any friends or family living close by from time to time. Every week day morning Sam is on kid duty while I get ready. Then while I eat, he gets ready. If you can’t have a spouse around in the morning, perhaps he/she can take over bedtime duty if you need the catchup time. If present, both parents should be willing to put in time with their kids. Make sure you’re asking your spouse to help out as they’re at home.
  3. Stop watching TV during the day. I typically only watch TV after the kids are asleep at night. If I had it on during throughout the day, I would do nothing, because I love me some TV! Sometimes I’ll even try to watch a children’s program with my children, but then realize I’m using it as an excuse to avoid something that needs doing.

DIY/Decorating/Project Strategies for Getting More Done

  • Research. One of the biggest deterrents from taking on housing projects with kids in the house is that you don’t want to open a can of worms that will overflow into your house at the exact moment your child needs you. This is where Youtube and Pinterest and the internet in general come in huge handy. Any project I’m considering, even if it’s something of my own design, I try to research from all possible angles. If I want to build a corner bench and I know the general gist of it, I’m still going to not only look at blogs and forums to see what questions people have about it, but I’m also going to watch videos of people installing them on Youtube. Once you’re as informed as possible, then begin the project. You’re less likely to end up with an unforeseen issue that, if the fates of the universe have anything to say about it, will result in your child having a crisis at that exact moment.
  • Don’t clean up until you’re really done.  Naps can last be anywhere from .5-2.5 hours. You just never know. I do my house projects during my power hour or when the kids have quiet time/nap each day. I focus well at night, so this is why I choose these times. Once they’re done with quiet time or nap, I have only a few minutes to stop whatever it is that I’m doing and go to them. For painting, this means that I put my paint filled brush into a cup of water and into the garage, while wrapping my roller in a Ziploc and placing it in the fridge (if I plan to use within 24 hours) or into the freezer (if I think I might not use it again for up to a year. This is one way that I clean up my projects quickly and am able to bounce between project and parenthood. If it’s something that I cannot bounce between, then I enlist help from relatives or friends to watch the kids on that day.
  • Hire a pro, partially. If a professional needs to be enlisted to do some of the work, but the cost is causing you bad dreams, then see if you can hire one for part of the job. For instance, when we did our new deck at the townhouse, I did 90% of the demo (with the aid of my dad, church missionaries, and a friend), before the builder got there. Again, for our kitchen butcher block countertops at the townhouse, Sam and I hauled the countertops to our house and did all of the demo, but then hired someone to cut them and install them because we had no saw to do it. We saved time and money. Everybody wins!

Whew, I’m tired! This is a lot of information, but hopefully even a few of these will help you get more done. Happy Weekend, lovely people!






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