• Catrina Gardner

Productivity HACKS as a WFH mom with a toddler

Going back to work as a new mom, during a pandemic, and adjusting to a fully-remote position was… challenging. Those are 3 REALLY HARD things to navigate. Doing it all at once seemed impossible and it was a rocky road to begin with. Everything I used to know about maintaining a healthy work/life balance changed. Stretching my legs for a quick 10-minute walk was impossible without my son catching a glimpse of me heading out the door and screaming. Working out my and my husband's work schedule’s so there was little overlap resulted in almost zero quality time for us to spend together. Doing things for myself (by myself) seemed out of the picture.

A quick look into my day: I get up with my son between 6 – 7 AM every day. We spend the morning together. I then work from 12 – 8 PM. In the early days, I made sure I was asleep by 10 because my son was waking 2-4 times per night. Sleep and repeat.

It’s hard, it’s definitely hard. And it was hard to prepare for because we were all going through it for the first time TOGETHER! Nobody has gone back to work postpartum in a pandemic world where venturing outside your home is dangerous and daycares are closed and you’re afraid to expose yourself, your child, or anyone else. So how do you stay productive at work when you’ve got distractions and absolutely zero downtime which leads to burnout?

Luckily, we’re further into the pandemic and some things are back to normal. I’ve also been back at work for almost a year and finally feel like I’m in control of my schedule and balancing mom life, work-life, and personal life. To celebrate, I’m sharing my tips and tricks with you to keep yourself productive while working from home.

Productivity HACKS as a WFH mom

1. Find your village. You might have to get creative with this one. I felt so alone when I first had my son. I thought, “how can I have a village in a pandemic? My husband is an essential worker. We’re not allowed to go anywhere and I don’t want to expose my son to anyone. I’m alone.”

  • Work. I listened to an episode of the Coffee and Cosleeping podcast that was really eye-opening about your “village” and who it can include. I realized that my boss and coworkers at Vision Advertising made up a BIG part of my village. They gave me the time I needed to come back to work and worked with my needs. They reached out to offer support and checked in to see how I was.

  • Family. If you have family nearby and they have the ability and desire to help, let them! It is so hard to ask for help, I get it. You don’t want to feel like a burden or inconvenience, but many family members WANT to help! Some of my family help out for free (thanks grandma’s). My brother helps too and though he didn’t ask for it, I pay him for nannying and babysitting duties.

  • Professional Support. We enrolled our son in daycare part-time. Daycare is really expensive, so we only do it 10 hours per week. It’s so helpful though. He goes a couple hours before I start work and those hours have made such a difference for my productivity. I can take care of personal things in that time (hello, shower! I’ve missed you!) and it leaves me feeling motivated to begin my work day.

  • I know the village is HARD. I use a combination of all the above to help me out. I really do feel like it is SO HARD to do it alone, so find your people. I think they are out there for you. Each of the above options my feel challenging. Work might not be supportive. You might not have family nearby. Daycare is too expensive. I get it, trust me. You may have to make some decisions and changes. Relocate? Talk to work or find a new company that’s more supportive? These are some of the things you might want to think about.

2. Time blocking. I started time blocking early on at my current job and I stand by it now. Blocking off time in your calendar to plan out your day so super helpful.

  • Prioritize your tasks. Figure out when you need to get things done and block in time accordingly to make sure you’ll complete them in time.

  • Schedule time for small tasks. I have time blocks dedicated to checking email, organizing photos, and other small tasks.

  • Schedule self-care. I schedule 15-minute walks, lunch breaks, and fitness classes into my day. If I don’t they won't happen. And taking care of myself really improves my work performance.

3. Create a routine. Not only for your work but having a morning and evening routine is crucial for establishing personal time vs work time. Your routines help send signals to your brain so you know when it’s me/family time vs work time. To be honest- my routines are short with the little one-year-old, but I’m working on it! In the mornings I like to have tea and do a quick workout. In the evenings I like to wind down with TV followed by some reading time. The screen-free hour is crucial for this mama who works in social media.

4. Listen to music or audio. It might seem small, but you’d be surprised how often I forget to turn some music on to help me stay in my workflow! I also enjoy listening to podcasts related to business that are enjoyable to tune into while doing some PR work.

5. Take breaks. You’re not a machine! Trust me, you’ll function better and more efficiently if you give your mind and body time to rest, stretch, and reset.

6. Have a designated workspace. Having a spot dedicated to work can really help with maintaining your work/life balance and being able to focus on productivity. Somewhere that’s quiet and private is ideal. I’ve had 3 home office spaces in my house. When I first began working from home I set up an office in the spare bedroom. But soon after I got pregnant that room was turned into a nursery and my office moved into the dining room. This was great until Jamie actually arrived. The dining room was way too open and it was hard to get work done. Not only was Jamie usually in the next room, but if I ever walked through the living room he would cry because I wasn’t paying attention to him. I set up a corner of my bedroom and it’s dedicated to work. This works best for me because I can close the door and have privacy, plus I’m far away from other distractions in the house.

7. Set boundaries. It’s really easy to blur the line between work and personal when they happen in the same space. Setting firm boundaries can help you keep your sanity! Have dedicated working hours and stick to them. If you get an email outside of work hours, wait until tomorrow to answer. Be firm with your breaks, and trust me- I know this is a hard one! I’m working on it too.

Do you have any work-from-home tips? Please share them with me! My journey to becoming my best self is always evolving and I welcome any and all tips!


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