HOW TO STAY PRODUCTIVE ON MATERNITY LEAVE
This is a guest post written by Katie Sadler.
Hello A Branch of Holly readers! I'm so excited to be here.
I'm Katie, from BeNourishd, a blog where I share stories about food, parenting and positivity. I'm a mum to two small children: Theo, 2, and Beatrice, 3 months. Children are all-consuming, and it can be very easy to let yourself disappear into their needs. It is hard to find time to yourself, but it's so important to do things that make you happy that are non-child related!
First up, two disclaimers:
I'm a big believer that when you first come home after giving birth, you should do as little as possible. Seriously. Make your partner into your personal butler, spend all day in bed or on the sofa watching Netflix. Take a couple of weeks at least to just recover, physically and emotionally, from one of the most significant things your body can go through.
Secondly, I consider myself to be a productive person but I'm not a "mumpreneur" who is setting up a home business. The things I'm doing right now, on maternity leave, are all things I'm choosing to do. I'd love my blog to generate an income, but I'm only sharing content once a week. If you are attempting to start a business, these tips will apply, but I also think you should consider getting as much childcare as you can afford!
How I stay productive:
#1 | I USE A BULLET JOURNAL
I started my bullet journal at the beginning of this year and I am completely converted. My brain is a sieve right now, so if I want to get anything done, it has to be written down. I know some people swear by digital to-do lists, but for me, the act of writing something down makes it easier to remember.
As well as lists of tasks, I also use it to keep on top of chores (more on this later), tracking books I've read, taking notes on podcasts or books or blog posts I've read, and even use it to record memories I want to keep down on paper.
I love this system because it is so personalised and flexible. If you look on Pinterest, you'll find endless examples of beautiful journals that people spend hours decorating. If that's your thing, brilliant. My journal is dull as dish water. I spend a few minutes with it at the beginning and end of each day, and a bit more time as and when I want to do something a bit more involved.
#2 | BREAK YOUR GOALS DOWN INTO CHUNKS
You're a parent now and I'm afraid the days of spending an entire day, or even a full afternoon or morning, doing something you love are probably gone for a while. And let's be real: naps are great, but they are also unpredictable, at least while your child is still a baby. Sometimes they might last 2 hours, sometimes they last 15 minutes.
Work out the steps you need to take to achieve your goal, and then break those steps down further into actions that can be completed in short bursts of time. This means you're less likely to have to stop work in the middle of a task, and is extra satisfying because there are more things to tick off in your to do list. Do one thing, tick, if the baby's still asleep, move on to the next.
For example, writing a blog posts consists of writing, sourcing links, photographing, editing photographs, rereading, and then scheduling. In the past I might have done all of those things at once. Luxury! Now I usually do them all separately.
#3 | PRIORITISE
There is SO MUCH I want to do. But realistically, I've had to accept that not everything is going to get done.
For me, the thing that consistently moves to the bottom of the list is vacuuming. I hate it, Peter hates it, and we're training him up, but Theo's not great at it yet. I let it get to the point where I absolutely cannot take it anymore before doing it. But I'm ok being a little bit slovenly, because I know I have prioritised other things that are more important to me: writing for my blog, taking pretty pictures for Instagram, and reading books for pleasure.
#4 | CREATE A CLEANING ROTA AND DO POMODORO CHORES
Speaking of boring chores: they can take up so much time. Right now I'm on maternity leave, and home most days, so in theory I could have a spotless house, but instead I spend the minimal amount of time possible on chores in order to do other things. I hate cleaning the toilet. I think changing the duvet cover is the most tedious thing one could ever spend time doing. But I like a clean bathroom and clean sheets, so I make sure they get done.
To keep on top of chores like this I do two things: 1) I add them to my habit tracker in my bullet journal, with a note of what day of the week they need to be done, and 2) I set an alarm when I do them.
The pomodoro technique is named after the little tomato kitchen timers you can pick up, and the idea is that you set your alarm and do focused work with no distractions for 25 minutes. That's how I do chores now. I do have some distractions (usually a podcast), but swear by the timer. If it's not finished in 25 minutes, I stop. But 25 minutes is a long time to change a bed! Usually I stop way before the timer goes off, but mentally it makes me feel better knowing I'm only going to be doing said loathesome activity for a short time.
#5 | GET AN EVENING ALARM
Right now, this is my 3 month old, but you could set an alarm on your phone, too. Every night between 8 and 9, Beatrice wakes up and wants me next to her. So I go up and sit on the bed while she falls back to sleep. BUT instead of going downstairs to watch tv once she's back asleep, I stay in bed and use that time to write, update my journal, brainstorm, read... anything I want to spend some time on.
I'm all for watching great box sets or specific shows you enjoy, but often found myself sitting in front of the tv watching stuff I don't even like (Big Bang Theory, I'm looking at you) just because it's on. Now I feel like my evenings are more productive, I still feel relaxed because I'm doing something I enjoy, and I go to sleep earlier so feel a bit more rested too.
#6 | ACCEPT THAT SOME DAYS, IT'S JUST NOT GOING TO HAPPEN
Children do not care about your blog schedule. They don't give two hoots about your workout plans.
Some days, no one naps, there are tantrums, bedtime takes two hours instead of 20 minutes, cups of tea go cold, and nothing gets done. On those days, just try to accept that it's not happening.
Sometimes you might have a week of those days, leaving you feeling exhausted and demotivated because of your lack of progress. That's normal! Just give yourself a break and do whatever it takes to feel rested. If that means nothing gets done and any downtime you get is spent watching Big Bang and eating crisps, that's the way it has to be. Pick yourself up the next day and try again.
So, those are some of the things I do. I would love to hear other people's suggestions! How do you keep up with your blog or creative habits with small people around? Share them in the comments, or you can find me here on Twitter and here on Instagram. You can also read what I've been up to on www.benourishd.co.uk. I'd love to hear from you.
I'm Katie, from BeNourishd, a blog where I share stories about food, parenting and positivity. I'm also a mum to two small children: Theo, 2, and Beatrice, 3 months.