You may have read the title of this blog post and thought, “getting stuff done with toddlers” is an oxymoron. And it can be, to a degree. However, you’re probably able to accomplish much more than you’d expect in any given day by following a few simple principles.
Given the unusual circumstances of 2020 and the fact that I’ve been a work-at-home mom for two years now—by choice, despite Coronavirus—I’ve had to learn to get creative with combining a toddler and productivity.
Now, I wouldn’t exactly call “toddlers and productivity” a match made in heaven on their own. Toddlers are… well, they’re toddlers. They need to be trained, and we as mamas have been given the responsibility and privilege of training them.
Fortunately, when they’re still little, nap times are a saving grace! Here are a few tips for being productive when the kiddos are either awake or sleeping.
1. Get them involved.
This sounds like it might be a dangerous proposition, depending on what you’re trying to get accomplished.
A bathroom renovation? Repainting a bedroom? Sharpening kitchen knives?
Nah. Get a babysitter.
Emptying the dryer of warm clean clothes into a laundry basket? Putting small articles of clothing away? Straightening up pillows? Kids can handle that—even my two-year old knows how to help with those. I wouldn’t expect her to do an entire load of laundry on her own, but she knows how and usually is excited to help!
In fact, Piper already has a couple of her own “chores” that we’re working on getting consistent. Her jobs are to feed the dogs, clean up her toys, and put her books on the shelf. They’re simple things, but they help her learn responsibility.
Here are some other things we do to get her involved around the house. She stirs ingredients together when I’m baking something, and she rinses plastic dishes while I’m cleaning up the kitchen. She helps hand me laundry when I’m folding towels, and uses her own little dust glove to wipe down surfaces when I’m cleaning the house.
Amanda, that’s great for you and all, but it would definitely take more time for me to do it with my kid than it would for me to just do it alone — is this really “productive”?
I hear you, loud and clear, and there are times when it is better to get the job done (see aforementioned tasks) and occupy the kiddo with another activity.
But I’ve found the times that I’ve let Piper get involved in helping are precious times where I’m training and spending time with her, she’s learning, and we’re getting something accomplished together — which I’d consider to be a win-win-win for productivity.
Occasionally she’ll pour a cupful of water all over the floor, but the sweet times outweigh those messy times by far!
For the record and for my conscience’s sake, of course there are times where her helping turns into a disaster. Occasionally she’ll pour a cupful of water all over the floor, but the sweet times outweigh those messy times by far! (And now there’s an opportunity to show her how to wipe up a spill!)
2. Utilize sleep windows.
The early hours of the morning before Piper wakes up and again when she goes down for her afternoon nap are the times when I’m able to get the most focused work done.
I know it is so easy for me to get wrapped up in me that I want to use the time I have “alone” to do things I just want to do rather than use it to be productive and get responsibilities taken care of. A couple things I’ve found that really help me with getting over that are as follows:
Time-blocking: This is deliberately setting aside specific blocks of time for certain tasks. When I’m being consistent in time-blocking, I like to set up my planner a week in advance with the tasks I need or want to get done during certain times (morning/nap time). I will highlight a portion of the planner with the length of time I’d like to spend on that task, and pencil it in there.
Set timers: There are two methods of this that I like to use. One is called the “Power Hour” and it encourages you to set a timer for one hour and get as much crossed off your to-do list as possible. One hour isn’t that long, so it feels conquerable. At the end of the hour, you get to relax and admire all you accomplished!
The other method I use is called the Pomodoro technique. I use this for longer projects, particularly when I’m seated at the computer for a long stretch of time. It sets a timer for 25 minutes and you work during that time, then you get a five minute break. After four Pomodoro cycles, you get a longer 15-minute break! This helps break up the process of working on a big project.
3. Give yourself grace.
There will be a day when your toddler just won’t go down for a nap. Or maybe she learned how to climb out of her crib and is now trying to perfect her escape technique every twenty minutes during that “nap” time. Or maybe she threw that cupful of water on the floor….on purpose. (I’m definitely speaking from recent experience here.)
The point isn’t that every day is a productive day; the point is that we’re training ourselves to become productive people.
It’s okay to have days where productivity is thrown to the wind. We all will have them—especially with miniature humans living in our homes.
The point isn’t that every day is a productive day; the point is that we’re training ourselves to become productive people. The struggle comes in when we allow those few bad days to excuse the days when we could be productive but choose not to be.
I hope these little tips and tricks will help and encourage you, especially in this time when a lot of people are working from home! What are some ways you get things done with kiddos running around?