Work Life Balance for Working Moms: The Ultimate Guide
Are you a working mom feeling stressed and overwhelmed? You’re not alone! Fortunately, there are things you can do to better manage your time and create the work life balance working moms crave.
In this blog post, we’ll share some tips on time management for working moms that can help make your life a little bit easier!
As a former attorney and career-driven working mother, I’ve experienced all of the stressful moments of early parenthood while trying to work a full time job. I know what it’s like to have to choose constantly between excelling at work and tending to your household responsibilities, while trying to figure out when to make time for yourself.
Busy moms experience pressures and expectations from all angles. The expectation of having a clean home. The pressure to work and meet deadlines like you have no kids. The expectation that your kids will have home cooked meals every day and that you’ll be at every soccer game.
The pressure of trying to do it all in less time is enough to break any mom. This is the working mom dilemma.
Ideally, society would update their expectations and provide working moms with more support and better child care options (especially in the United States!). Unfortunately, we may have a long way to go before that happens.
In the meantime, it’s important that we as working moms manage our time wisely so that we can control the overwhelm and make precious time for our own needs.
From my own experiences, what helped was applying the prioritization and time management skills I’ve learned through my career as a lawyer and product manager to my home life. I was able to successfully create daily routines and systems that helped me balance my priorities and find more time to do the things I loved.
Keep reading to learn time management strategies to help you get organized, increase your productivity, and find a successful balance in your home, work, and family life.
And don’t forget to grab your FREE guide on How to Plan a Stress-Free Week without Burnout, which includes my top hacks and an editable weekly planner to help busy, working moms achieve a calmer, more productive week!
17 Work Life Balance for Working Moms Tips
Here is a list of essential time management tips for working moms, which can help you take back control of your day and get more done:
1. Letting go of perfection
Before creating a plan to better manage your time, it’s important to keep in mind what you’re striving to accomplish- and it’s not perfection. Simply put, there is no such thing as a perfect mom, no matter what social media tries to portray.
You might know what I’m talking about. The mom that seems like she always has it put together: clean house, clean kids, fit body, home-cooked meals. SHE DOES NOT EXIST.
Every mom has her struggles, and especially those moms that work and are trying to do all the things in the 15-hour window they’re awake.
So, instead of striving for perfection, focus on creating progress toward some version of work-life balance. What does that look like for you?
It might mean creating boundaries, setting time limits, and saying no to some things so that you can say yes to others.
It might mean giving yourself grace when the house is a little messy or you have to order takeout for dinner because you just don’t have the bandwidth to do even one more thing that day.
It’s normal to experience guilt over not being the “perfect” mom you’d thought you’d be. I certainly experience this guilt every time I see a mom baking with her kids (I hate baking) but I accept that this is okay. I am not the Baking Mom, but I have other strengths as a mom, and my kids love me as I am.
Action item: Allow yourself to let go of the expectation to be “perfect” and make goals that are realistic and meet your needs and the needs of your family members. Learn more on How to Deal with Working Mom Guilt.
2. Set your goals
After coming to terms with the fact that perfection is not possible or necessary, it’s time to set your goals. What are your priorities? What do you want to accomplish?
Start by brainstorming a list of things that are important to you. The best goals are the ones that are measurable. What does success look like for you?
Even mini-wins can feel like huge wins when you’re making progress on a problem that has been weighing on you for months.
Here are some examples:
- Spending quality time with my kids
- Exercising 3 times a week
- Meal planning on Sundays
- Staying caught up on laundry
- Keeping the house tidy
- Deep cleaning once a week
Action item: Write down a list of all the problems that you could address and goals you want to achieve in your time management plan. Don’t worry about how small or large your goals sound- in the next step you’ll learn how to prioritize your goals effectively.
3. Determine your season
While it’s likely you’ll want to tackle all of your goals at once, it’s okay to put things on the back burner for a while. The mentality of achieving “perfect work life balance” is flawed because we imagine a 50/50 split in which we could easily dedicate all of our efforts and time and be great at both.
The truth is that it doesn’t work that way. Instead, sometimes you’ll want to excel in one area, like work, for a few weeks or a specific time period (for example, if you have a big presentation coming). Perhaps during this season while you focus on work, you simply “keep the lights on” and manage other areas of your life.
That doesn’t make us a bad mom or employee, that makes us multifaceted beings. There are seasons in your life for everything. We can decide and control what season it is and plan accordingly.
For example, if I know that this is my season of learning and I will be taking courses for a semester, I can plan accordingly by enlisting extra help with the kids so that I can focus on achieving my goals for this season. Once the season is over and I’ve done what I needed to do, I can plan a season for focusing on family time and bonding.
Planning your season offers you control on what your focus is going to be on at the moment, and allows you to keep mom guilt at bay since you know that this time shall too pass.
Action item: Plan your season for the next few weeks or months. You can choose any season that makes sense for your goals (focus, learning, self-care, etc.) and determine what needs to happen for that season in order for you to achieve your goals.
4. Prioritize your goals
Now that you’ve written out all the possible problems you want to tackle with your time management plan and chosen your season, take a look at your list and order the items in terms of priority.
Ask yourself these questions:
- If you only have time to accomplish 3 things on your list, what are the 3 most important things you want to solve?
- What goals would make the biggest impact to you right now?
- What is the one goal you could accomplish to make your life easier in the future? (Hiring help, creating a weekly meal plan, delegating work tasks, etc.)
- What problems have been weighing the heaviest for you?
- What problems require the least amount of effort to solve but would give you the biggest sense of relief?
Although prioritization can vary based on your situation, I usually prioritize the items that are high impact and low effort. I use this same practice at work when I’m prioritizing what features of a product we’re going to build next.
An example of this in my home life is my laundry situation. I could’ve tackled a number of items on my list first to improve and make more time for.
However, I chose laundry because it was the easiest to solve and yet, the biggest pain in my you-know-what. I knew that if I could finally get my laundry in order and organized, I would feel like a million bucks.
Remember, your goals don’t all have to be big. In fact, it’s sometimes better to start small so you can see results quickly and build momentum.
Action item: Take a look at your list of goals and choose the 3 most important goals you want to achieve from your list, taking into account the effort involved and the impact it would make in your life right now. Rank them in the order you want to address them, so that you can focus on making progress on one goal at a time.
5. Determine what can be delegated or outsourced
In order to make more time for the things that matter, you’ll need to start delegating or outsourcing some of the tasks that are currently on your plate. You shouldn’t have to do it all yourself.
Can you outsource any of your tasks to a professional?
Are there any tasks that can be delegated to the rest of your family? Even the best laid plans to organize your life gets derailed if your family won’t help.
So how do you get your family to help?
- List all the chores that have to get done daily and weekly. Print it out or make a chore chart that is visible for your entire family to see, like on your fridge.
- Assign your children age-appropriate chores. As early as 2 years old, I started asking my child to help me sort laundry, return dirty dishes to the sink, and put dirty laundry in the hamper. Older children can handle more complex chores like washing dishes and folding laundry.
- Let your family members pick their own chores. For example, I hate dishes but that’s my husband’s favorite chore so for the most part, he does them. Meanwhile, he hates cleaning bathrooms, but I don’t really mind it, so I typically take that on.
- Set a timer and work together. Set a timer of 30 minutes while everyone attends to their respective chores. I find that everyone complains less if they see everyone else in the house cleaning.
- Stay consistent. At least 2 times a week, I have to remind my daughter to fix her bed before she comes down for breakfast. But it used to be reminders everyday. The more consistent you are in enforcing the chores, the more likely they’ll start to do them on autopilot.
- Resist the urge to fix or redo it “your way.” Don’t like the way your spouse or kids do a particular chore? Offer a suggestion for improvement but otherwise let it go! If they see you’re constantly re-doing their work, they won’t put much effort into doing a good job because mommy will fix it anyway.
Remember, it’s not about perfection. It’s about instilling good habits of helping and contributing to the household.
Action item: Take a look at your list of goals and tasks, and determine if there are any items that can be delegated or outsourced to someone else. Circle these tasks and then create a plan for how you will delegate or outsource them.
Learn more about How Savvy Working Moms Get Help With Household Chores.
6. Focus on one goal at a time
In order to actually achieve each goal, it’s important to address them one at at time. If you aim to accomplish all 3 of your top goals all at one time, none of them will stick.
The way our busy mom lives work, we have to accept that we can only take on ONE THING AT A TIME.
It’s like when you start your year making all these New Years resolutions of losing 20 pounds, meal prepping every Sunday, and creating and sticking to a budget. Many people make lots of ambitious goals and start trying to go for them all in the same week, so it’s no wonder most New Years resolutions are not followed through.
Instead, take your time and you will see more progress. I like to give myself a timeline- say 15 days- where I will focus on incorporating one new routine, like a new morning routine.
This will give me time to adjust and adopt the routine so that by the 15th day, it will become a habit and I can move on to the next goal I want to go after.
Picking 1 thing to focus on doesn’t mean that’s the only thing you’ll do that week! It’s probably one of hundreds of tasks you’ll accomplish.
BUT it’s the one priority that will have you ending your week feeling like a QUEEN who is crushing her goals.
Action item: Choose the first goal you want to focus on and set a timeline for yourself- say 2 weeks. For the next 2 weeks, work on building this new habit into your routine until it becomes second nature to you. Put all your drive and energy into getting it done.
7. Eliminate distractions
When you’re trying to focus on one task at hand, it can be difficult with so many things vying for your attention. You might be trying to stay focused during work hours but get distracted by thinking about what you need to pick up at the grocery store later or whether or not you turned the oven off before leaving for work this morning.
In order to stay focused and make significant progress on the task at hand, it’s important to eliminate distractions as much as possible.
This might mean:
- setting your phone to silent
- turning off social media notifications
- leaving your phone in another room
- working in a quiet room with the door shut or
- letting your family know that you need some uninterrupted time to focus on work.
The more you can focus on the task you are working on, the more likely it is you’ll be able to complete it in a short amount of time.
In my head, unloading the dishwasher always takes an exorbitant amount of time. In actuality, I’ve timed it and if I focus on doing just that, I can 100% complete that task in under 10 minutes.
Blocking out time to complete a task won’t mean much unless you also proactively address the distractions that are most likely to come up and deter you from making progress.
Action item: Identify what typically distracts you when you’re trying to focus on a task and come up with a concrete plan to eliminate or minimize those distractions.
8. Set clear boundaries around your time
When was the last time you just said “No”?
- To attend another kids’ birthday party you don’t want to go to?
- To take on a thankless work assignment outside of your job role?
- To give your precious Sunday to do another favor for a friend?
It seems so contrary for a mom to say no doesn’t it?
According to our society, we’re the caretakers, the ones that can be counted on to pitch in and help. We’re supposed to be self-less.
But in order to make the most of your time, it’s important to set limits around it. Just as you wouldn’t let someone else take over your living room and watch TV for hours on end without asking, you shouldn’t let other people take over your time either- especially if it’s time that’s meant for work or taking care of yourself.
Think about it this way: Every time you say YES to something, you are saying NO to something else.
No to the time you could spend working on your side hustle.
No to the time you dedicate to your yoga practice.
No to spending a lazy Self-Care day at home.
If YOU don’t set boundaries for your time, no one else will.
And protecting your time is what will give you more of it.
- saying no to social engagements that you don’t really want to go to
- refusing to work after hours unless it’s an emergency
- and not letting people invade your personal space when you’re trying to relax.
It can be hard to say no, but it’s important to remember that you can’t do it all and that’s okay. You’re allowed to set boundaries for your own time and health.
By setting firm boundaries, you’ll get more control over your time and stop feeling overwhelmed and burned out by too many commitments.
Action item: Identify a couple of situations in which you typically say yes when you really want to say no. Come up with a plan for how you can gracefully decline in the future.
Here are a few ideas:
- “That sounds great, but unfortunately I can’t make it this time.”
- “I wish I could make it work, but I’m completely booked with other commitments.”
- “I’m honored, but I have to pass. Here’s someone else who may be able to help.”
9. Do a time audit
What are you spending time on? Do you know?
One of the best time management tips is to look at how much time you actually have and what you do with it.
Why? Because your time is a precious commodity. There are not enough hours in a day. We only get so much time, and once it’s gone, THAT’S IT, you don’t get it back.
There’s a lot of competition for your time between yourself, your boss, your kids, your spouse, your home, etc… but there’s only one of you and only so much time.
Treat your time like the precious, rare beauty it is: defend it, honor it, and use it wisely.
Without doing a proper inventory of your time to see how much time you actually have, you might:
- Overcommit to things with time you don’t have (my MO ☹)
- Have people who waste or “steal” your time
- Not use the time you do have effectively
- Not dedicate time to your most important work
So how do you properly do a time inventory? Here are some tips:
- Become a time detective and get clarity on how long tasks actually take. People usually overestimate or underestimate how much time they have. In order to see how much time it takes you do certain tasks, pick a few days in the next week to track down your tasks and write down how long you’re working on them.
- Look at your calendar and review the next 14 days. I know most people only review 7 days but that might not be enough time to catch work you needed to do for a deadline the following Monday. Best to catch surprises early.
- Ask yourself the following questions:
- What can I remove from this calendar? Think about events you don’t really want to go to or can’t go to, and unnecessary meetings in your work schedule. Do yourself a favor, decline, remove, and move on.
- What do I need to add? Think about all the sneaky time we don’t always account for, such as prep time needed for meetings, commute time to and from an event, and transition time between tasks. Figure out how much time you actually need and make sure that time is accounted for.
- How can I arrange my calendar more effectively?
- Here’s your chance to stack similar tasks or events to reduce the effort it takes for you to “switch” tasks. For example, I might combine most or all of my work meetings into the Tuesday to Thursday time frame, so I can use Mondays and Fridays for focused time work.
- When am I going to work on my most important priority? Estimate the time that will take to do, and schedule it for an optimal time in your calendar so you don’t forget.
Doing a proper time inventory is SO important so you’re not managing your time blindly.
Action item: Dedicate 3 days to tracking your activity and how long it takes you to complete tasks. Make sure to write everything down and review your findings, following the steps above to clean up your calendar.
10. Have a planner and family calendar
I am a huge fan of using a paper planner! It is the best thing to help me stay organized and on top of my commitments. I like a written daily schedule because it allows me to see everything that’s going on in one place so that I can make sure I’m not overbooking myself.
For a great paper planner that is designed specifically for working moms, check out the Mama’s Got Time Ultimate Planner & Organizer. It can help you implement schedules and routines in your life so that you can beat overwhelm, manage your home life, and make time for yourself and your goals.
Your calendar doesn’t have to be as fancy as mine- although it is pretty and it does make me happy to look at it. You can use a simple notebook or even just a sheet of paper to track your commitments.
The best way is to write everything down so that you have a clear idea of what you need to do and when you need to do it. This will help you avoid double booking yourself or forgetting about an important deadline.
Digital planners are also helpful. I heavily use the Google Calendar app to organize my family with great success. There are also a ton of other apps out there that can help you stay organized.
Action item: Choose a planner or calendar system that works for you and your busy schedule and start using it to track your commitments and schedule events. Take a look at this post on the 13 Top Planners for Working Moms for some ideas.
11. Plan out your weeks in advance
Planning your week ahead is one of the BEST ways to achieve your goals, complete your to-do list, and limit stress.
It may seem like common sense, but it’s actually really rare for people to plan out their week in advance on a regular basis.
One reason is mental- planning ahead can stress you out more because you’re looking at things you’d rather avoid.
Another reason is not knowing how to plan correctly. It’s not necessarily something we learn in school or at work.
But learning how to plan your week successfully can prevent you from constantly getting sucked into tasks that feel “urgent” but are actually NOT important and prevent you from doing more high priority work.
Action item: Set aside some time at the beginning of each week to plan out what you need to do for the week. I like to do this on Sunday evenings, but you can do it whenever works best for you.
12. Time block in 15-20 minute increments
This one is especially for the working moms out there! Time-blocking allows you to schedule your important priorities into specific chunks during the day.
It also allows you to set aside time for other routine things you have to get done, like laundry or prepping dinner.
When you’re trying to balance work and home life, it’s important to carve out time specifically for work. This will help to establish a boundary between work time and home time so that you’re not constantly working and never really taking a break.
During each time block, you are focusing on just the important tasks you’ve carved that time for.
Having a plan like this can reduce a lot of psychological stress because now you have a plan for when you’re going to get things done.
The beauty of time blocking is that you can build as much flexibility as you need (and you should, because our lives are notorious unpredictable!).
So how do you get started?
- Block time for your priorities during your most productive times. For most people, that will be in the early morning, before your day gets derailed and you start to lose focus and have less energy. For help building your most productive morning routine, see The Perfect Morning Routine for Working Moms in 9 Easy Steps
- Feel free to block short 15-20 minute blocks for small items like cleaning or checking email. It may not seem like a lot of time, but I’m a firm believer that you can get A LOT done in 15 minutes. That may be all you need to build up momentum on a delayed task.
- Build in plenty of buffer time between tasks to allow space for any delays or distractions that might crop up. You can take a break for 5-10 minutes and do things like eat lunch, take a walk around the block, or just relax for a few minutes.
Time blocking will help to ensure that you’re not working for hours on end without any breaks and that you’re taking some time to relax and rejuvenate.
Once you get into the habit of time blocking, you’ll see a world of difference in how much you accomplish in a day.
Action item: Identify a task that you can work on for 15-20 minutes and set a timer for yourself. Work on the task until the timer goes off, then take a break. Repeat this process until the task is complete.
13. Multi-task the “smart” way
Right now, there are loads of productivity gurus that will tell you that all multi-tasking is bad. After all, studies show that the more we multi-task, the less we accomplish.
I definitely made this mistake and called myself the “Queen” at Multitasking.
Problem was I was “doing” a lot, but not finishing much and I felt burnt out!
The thing is that moms often have no choice BUT to multitask. Between our children, chores, and work, we are already spread so thin.
So telling moms not to multi-task at all is not realistic.
But there is a way you can make multi-tasking work for you instead of against you.
Just remember this quick tip: MULTI-TASK THE MINDLESS, SINGLE-TASK THE MINDFUL.
What does that mean??
Mindless activities that you can easily multitask are going to be things like
- watching TV and folding laundry,
- listening to a podcast while taking a walk,
- or calling a friend while grocery shopping.
None of these activities require that much concentration, and can be multi-tasked without a problem.
In fact, this is a great way to combine a task you hate (ahem, folding laundry) with a task you enjoy (watching Netflix). That makes it more likely you’ll get the annoying task done.
Mindful activities are tasks that do require your full attention and should be Single-tasked. That may include complex things like a work project and meetings, or even dinner with your family.
Single-tasking these kinds of activities means you can complete tasks faster, perform better, and be more present with your family and friends.
It will also help you get more time back in your day and make you feel more accomplished.
Action item: Identify and distinguish tasks that can be multi-tasked and tasks which should be single-tasked.
14. Batch similar tasks together
When you’re trying to be productive, it’s helpful to batch similar tasks together. This means that you’ll complete all of the tasks that are related to one another in a set amount of time.
For example, if you’re a working mom, you might want to batch all of your household chores together on the weekends. That way, you can spend a few hours completing them all at once instead of spreading them out throughout the week.
The same can be said for work tasks. If you have a lot of emails to answer, try to answer them all in one sitting instead of answering one and then coming back to it later. This will help to minimize distractions and will make you more productive overall.
Action item: Identify three tasks that can be batched together and create a plan for how you can complete them all in a short amount of time.
15. Build in breaks
Although it’s important to stay focused on the task at hand, it’s equally as important to take breaks so that you don’t get burnt out. When you’re trying to juggle work and home life, it can be easy to work straight through your lunch break or forego your daily walk because there’s just too much to do.
However, if you don’t take breaks, you’ll quickly find yourself feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.
Instead, try to build in breaks throughout your day. This might mean taking a 10 minute break every hour, stepping away from your work for 30 minutes once you’ve completed a task, or taking a full break once you’ve finished your work for the day.
Breaks will help to refresh and rejuvenate you so that you can continue working productively.
Action item: Schedule breaks into your day and stick to them. Use your breaks to do things like eat lunch, take a walk, or relax for a few minutes.
16. Make time for self care
When you’re constantly working and taking care of others, it can be easy to forget about your own needs. But even great moms make time for themselves, even when they’re busy.
If you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll quickly find yourself feeling burnt out.
And making room for Me Time is crucial if you want to beat overwhelm:
- It helps you recharge your energy
- Helps you sleep better
- Increases your patience
- Helps you focus more
- Helps you become more present
It’s clear, when you prioritize self-care, you are setting yourself up for a happier, healthier YOU.
That’s why it’s important to make time for self-care, even if it’s just 10-15 minutes during nap time. During this time, you can do things like read, take a bath, or simply relax.
Self-care is essential for maintaining your mental health and well-being, especially when you’re feeling stressed out.
It doesn’t have to be super long, and in fact here are some easy ways to do Me Time in less than 20-30 minutes of your day:
- Read a chapter of a book or listen to a podcast episode
- Take a walk
- Take deep breaths
- Do some yoga stretches or a quick workout (MadFit’s quick Youtube videos are great for this!)
- Tend to your flower garden
- Give yourself a pedicure
- Deep condition your hair/apply a face mask
- Take a power nap during your free time (or sit outside and do nothing!)
These might sound like nothing, but especially on days you feel frazzled, doing any of these might be just what you need to refill your cup.
Action item: Make time for self-care each day, even if it’s just 10-15 minutes. During this time, relax and do something that you enjoy.
17. Reflect on the prior week
You can plan all you want and have the best intentions, but without reflection, you keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
Think about the prior week and ask yourself:
- What went right?
- What went wrong?
- What could have been better?
Why is it important to review and reflect on your prior week?
As moms, we have a tendency to go on Autopilot, and we stop paying attention and miss opportunities for improvement.
You need to become aware of where things are going wrong and become intentional in how to make it better. Perhaps if you see the same issue happening over and over, you can create a backup plan to be ready if and when it happens again.
Action item: Add 5 minutes of reflection to your weekly planning where you find one way to improve your habits, routines, systems, or processes. You’ll see those small changes build up over time in a HUGE way.
One last thing: don’t forget the positive!! What went right?
Figure out what’s already working, pat yourself on the back, and do more of that!
Working moms have a lot to juggle, but with a little bit of organization and planning, it’s possible to create your own version of work-life harmony.
By using the effective time management tips above, you can learn to manage your time as a working mom. Remember, it’s okay to take things slow and go at your own pace. You’ll get there eventually!
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Hi I’m Yesenia,
a working mom of two kids. I’ve experienced all of the beautiful and crazy moments of early parenthood: breastfeeding, picky eaters, toilet training, balancing work with kids, and the list continues!
I created Hard Knock Mama to help working moms navigate through their child’s early years and find a successful balance in their home, work, and life.