It’s officially been a month since I’ve returned to work after having my second daughter. And, as I’m sure many of my fellow millennial working moms can attest to, it’s no walk in the park.
This time around I went back to work at 3 months postpartum (thank you, self-employment), whereas I had almost an entire year of maternity leave with my firstborn. And that extra time makes such a huge difference.
I do, however, acknowledge that I am in a unique position in that I get to work from home for the most part while my husband (on paternity leave) takes care of the baby. But nonetheless it’s still a difficult adjustment.
Returning to work when your baby is in the middle of the dreaded 4-month sleep regression, and you are also very much married to a regular breastfeeding routine, balancing work and motherhood can seem like a tricky endeavour. I am sleep-deprived, over-caffeinated, and my brain feels stuck in a constant fog. Did I mention the forgetfulness? Yep, baby brain is a real phenomenon and sticks around long after pregnancy!
On top of the personal transitions I am going through I still have a job to do! I still have to show up and get stuff done, regardless if I only slept 5 hours the night prior.
Being back at work earlier this time has meant that I have had to adjust the way I work to increase productivity. In order to prevent overwhelm and fatigue, I have implemented the following 3 changes to boost my daily productivity at work. And although they may seem very simple at first glance, they have in fact eased my transition back to work and helped me “stay the course.”
Using the 3-Item Task List Approach
Are you a list person? I love making lists, but I find that often I will look down at a list that runs a mile long and become overwhelmed quite quickly. Instead, each day I pull 3 items off my task list and choose to complete those to-dos before tackling anything else. I normally rank them in order of importance because crossing a “priority 1” item off a list not only feels good (insert two hand raising emoji), but also sets the tone for productivity the remainder of the day. I do sometimes keep an item on the list for a few days if it is an ongoing project, but I always try and complete the other two tasks I delegate for myself on that particular day. I find that this method (although simple) is very effective at breaking down your deliverables into manageable chunks to prevent burnout.
The “5-Minute-Every-Hour Rule”
This change was actually suggested to me by my therapist. In describing the overwhelm I felt being back at work and subsequently using procrastination or avoidance as a coping mechanism, she merely said, “Why don’t you just take a break every hour for 5 minutes?” Mind.Blown. Seriously, this little change to my daily schedule has allowed me to recharge, refresh, and come back to my work with a new perspective. Those 5 minutes usually comprise of grabbing either a snack or drink, cuddling with my baby, or scrolling through social media, but one thing is for sure: I feel much less fatigued throughout the day and less likely to procrastinate. Ultimately, this change is a win-win for both my employer and me.
Learn to say “No”
We as women have an especially hard time saying “no”, don’t we? We don’t want to come across as difficult or un-accommodating in the workplace, but sometimes taking on all those extra requests throughout the day really affects productivity. I personally find taking on ad-hoc requests from colleagues and management impedes with my ability to complete my daily 3-item task list, and ultimately, takes double the time to cross off a to-do. Now, this isn’t to say that I never take on additional requests; in fact, it’s a big part of my job! What I’m learning to do is set parameters around what I take on and when I attend to it. This practice usually entails kindly but firmly informing a colleague/manager that I will attend to their request once my task is completed, or alternatively, strive to find someone else that can assist them in that moment. You do, of course, need to use common sense: if a manager approaches with a time-sensitive task for you to complete, it’s probably in your best interest to set aside whatever you’re doing and make yourself available. If business is not to going to be negatively impacted by the time you attend to an ad-hoc request, then it’s pretty safe to assume that it can wait.
What are some ways that you use to increase productivity at work? How long after your return to work did it take to get your pre-baby groove back? Let me know!