Top 10 Efficiency Tips to Simplify the Mama Juggling Act

When I wrote my last post I felt like I was on the verge of complete and utter implosion with my personal Mother-Work-Home juggling act. I took the last week off from Attachment Mama to clear my head, to look into ways to make life easier for our family and to finally, once and for all, re-incorporate regular exercise into my life – which has always been my sure-fire magic pill for stress management if I make it happen.

I sought out suggestions and received a ton of great ideas — most of which came from women I didn’t know (how cool is that?) — and I have already incorporated a few of the tips into our routine.

On the exercise front, starting tomorrow, I will be riding my bike to work! This may seem like piddly exercise to many of you — but for me, it’s huge. I haven’t ridden my bike since before I was pregnant with my first child — which was 2005! My exercise routine in general has been abysmal, if it happens at all. My husband got the bike tuned up for me and with a sassy new pair of mint green Keens — I will be pedaling with a lap top on my back in the a.m.

On the “how to make life easier” front —  I reached out for advice from a fantastic Austin Working Mother support group I joined this Spring called Business and Balance founded by Renee Trudeau. Renee wrote the book, The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. Women all around the country are joining together in personal renewal groups to go through Renee’s book together.  Similar to Artist Way groups — but instead of coming together to clear creative blocks, you discover how to create life balance post Motherhood together.

So I asked the savvy entrepreneur moms that are in the Biz and Balance group if they had some tricks for making the Mama juggling act easier — both at home and at work.  If any of you share the “How the cuss do I do it all?” question on occasion, here’s some of the highlights of the suggestions I received:

1. Weekly Meal Planning and Dinner Short-Cuts. My creative idea of trading room and board for cooking support during the week fell flat as our live-in cook moved out 2 weeks after I went back to work whole time due to too many other commitments. She was a great help while we had her and we’re happy to figure things out on our own now.  Ideas to make putting dinner together easier:

  • Crock Pot! This advice came from my friend McClain who is a master at time management. This skill came to her during the three years she completed her PhD and had 2 babies! Chop the veggies and soak the beans the night before, throw everything in the crock pot in the morning, set to low and dinner is ready 8 hours later. We’ve been doing this for the last two weeks and all I can say is, AMEN sisters.
  • Food Service Support. Pam Narvaez of Direct Effect Coaching recommends ATE Foods and My Fit Foods. I can’t recommend either because their definition of healthy doesn’t match mine. But I think the recommendation of incorporating almost-like-home food delivery service into the weekly routine is brilliant.  My local choice would be the Soup Peddler for its fantastic vegan options and bicycle delivery history. Natalie Tischler, designer and owner of Ornamental Things, suggests hiring a personal chef and gives her thumbs up for Adam Tyner of Sprout Austin.
  • Weekly Menus. Darlene MacAuley, Austin Hypnobabies childbirth hypnosis instructor writes her weekly menu on 4X6 cards and stores them in a recipe box so she can recycle and mix and match. She also advises making lots for left-overs.  I agree! Holly Reisem Hanna, founder & publisher of The Work at Home Woman is also a fan of meal planning and recommends a few online resources including weekly menus & grocery lists sent directly to your inbox from an online company like Menu For the Week and monthly meals prepared in advance with The Studio Kitchen.  We won’t be trying those services because they’re not plant centric but they might be useful for someone else.  At the Engine 2 headquarters within Whole Foods where I now spend a good part of my day, we are preparing to launch a grocery list builder for the plant strong recipes on the Engine 2 web site. It should be live by the end of the day! (July 28).

2. Stocking Up on Frequently-Used Supplies

Denise B. Cornell of Thompson Poole Photography suggests always keeping extra cleaning supplies, shampoo, shaving cream, laundry detergent, light bulbs and batteries “in stock” to eliminate the stress of unexpectedly running out of something at the worse moment possible.  She also orders supplies online including Shaklee cleaning products that can be delivered via UPS.  If you’re interested in Shaklee, I’d like to recommend Lis Riley to help get you started. Please email me at and I’ll pass along her contact information.

3. Knocking Out the Cleaning

  • A few women suggested that I check out Flylady. I’ve checked out her site and saw some solid tips, but wasn’t inspired to get into the whole recommended system. I’m calling myself out right here and now on my web site design snobbery which is the main reason I didn’t opt to dig deeper into Flylady. However, some good take-aways from FlyLady include keeping cleaning supplies, sponges, a toilet brush, cloths and paper towels in every bathroom so cleaning on the fly is easy.
  • Do not under-estimate what kids can do! Great reminder from Chris Heidel, A.C.E. Certified Personal Trainer/Owner of Libra Fitness.  So true! If I set it up right, my 3 year-old will joyfully help clean the table, wash the door glass (within her reach) and scrub the toilet. She’s even helped me fold laundry and make beds.
  • OUTSOURCE!!!  I heard this recommendation from three different women. Amen to house cleaners if it’s in the budget.

4. Remembering All the Daily To-Dos.  Monica Paredes of Yoga & Art, LLC, suggests incorporating the family “Launch Pad” which is essentially a basket by the door, where each evening you put everything in that needs action the next day:  due library books, forms filled out, returns, etc. She also recommends syncing calendars with your husband so you always know who’s doing what. I agree that Google calendars are great for this!

5. Batch Email. I LOVE this suggestion!!  This recommendation came in from two different women — Holly Reisem Hanna and Wendy Papasan, rock star realtor. This is also one of the recommendations in the inspiring book, The Four Hour Work Week, by Timothy Ferriss. Instead of getting sucked into responding to emails all day long and being in a constant state of distraction from fully completing projects, pick two times a day that you check your email and then leave it alone and focus on completing projects. Holly suggests trying an auto-responder on your email with the times you answer messages.

6. Focused Attention on Daily Goals. Also from Mr. Ferriss via Wendy — he recommends focusing on two main things you need to accomplish for the day (actually decide what they are the night before) and do them first thing in the morning – and ignore everything else – including phone and email.

7. Buy Time, Not Things. Another great pointer from Holly of  Work at Home Woman, she suggests we stop purchasing stuff and spend a little money on buying some extra time. What tasks can be delegated to someone else? Outside of housecleaning, try using a virtual assistant or personal concierge to take care of chores and unwanted tasks from your to-do list. My personal local favorite for errand support: Punch List.

8. Ask for Help.  Another solid reminder from both Chris Heidel and Monica Paredes. Monica asks her husband or friends for help when she’s really overloaded. And they can count on her to reciprocate. Chris asks her hubby to help out by finishing projects she starts. She make the weekly menu, goes to the store(s), gets home with the groceries, and — like the rest of us — is beat. (Especially if you typically shop with 2 children under the age of 4 like me). Her husband  puts the groceries away. He cleans the kitchen after she makes dinner. He returns things to Target after she find the right receipt. He makes the bank deposit after she collects checks and pays bills. Solid team work!!

9. Automated Banking.  Darlene MacAuley of Austin Hypnobabies suggests USAA for their free bill pay. And get this — apparently with USAA, you can deposit checks by taking a picture of the check with your iPhone. That is phenomenal. No more trips to the bank!

10. Get Comfortable with “Good Enough.”  I love what Monica of Yoga and Art had to say about the perfectionist conundrum we commonly find ourselves in as mothers.  She said, “I just let go of it, remembering we are all perfect just as we are, how we show up. So if the laundry doesn’t get done immediately, clothes don’t match, dinner is take-out — I know I’m doing the best I can.”

My personal bonus recommendation to add to this list that has more to do with stress management than efficiency:

When things get stressful on the home front, take five minutes and throw a dance party with your kids.  This is especially effective for us in the morning as everyone is anticipating my exit and getting increasingly upset about it and any time meltdowns ensue in the car.  Pick your favorite high energy, upbeat music, crank it and ROCK OUT together.

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10 Responses to “Top 10 Efficiency Tips to Simplify the Mama Juggling Act”

  1. felicia says:

    I am new to your blog (got it from Big Tent while I was looking for doctor recs) and I love this article. Thanks for putting it together and sharing. The best part is, I do a lot of this stuff so I felt a little less stressed just knowing I’m already doing things that make our lives more “efficient”.


    • Thanks for coming by Felicia! I wish I had more of the “make-life-easier-and-more-efficient” skill set before I went back to work. Good for you that you’ve already figured most of this stuff out!!

  2. Great article Monica! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Kimi Jo says:

    Found you through The Work At Home Woman, thanks for the great tips! Off to check out the rest of your blog…..

  4. Pam Narvaez says:

    Great article, I am glad that you found some of my tips helpful! Many women tend to think about time management, when in fact the key is ENERGY management. These tips all provide wonderful ways to manage your energy and all you to feel refreshed at the end of the day as opposed to worn out.

  5. Thanks for writing this wonderful article! I wish I’d have had that advice when my children were younger, but some of it is still very relevant.

    One extra tip about the bathroom and kitchen; keeping disposable cleaning wipes like Clorox Wipes (or if you prefer, the 7th Generation or Greenworks equivalent) makes quick wipedowns faster and easier, so doing a quick cleanup is a lot easier. You’re also more likely to get help from the spousal unit if the wipes are readily available and usable (whiskers in the bathroom, anyone?)

  6. amy says:

    excellent & all in one place ~ thank you!

    i deep clean for 15 minutes every day. i get the little one to help if possible, but usually it’s just me blazing through some section of the house….so everything gets cleaned, just not at one time. 15 min. is so much more manageable.

    i also cook for the week on sunday afternoons.

  7. Reggie says:

    brill.. yeah, crock pot thing is great and chopping the night before or when someone can watch the kids early.. this really, really helped the peace around dinner time for us. Thanks and keep on, keeping on!

  8. Kari Lavelle says:

    Great post! I especially liked the dance party idea! 🙂 And it was fun seeing Darlene’s name mentioned- she was my wonderful doula!

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