Top Mama Hacks to increase efficiency and productivity
As a mum of three under 3.5 years, a Co-Founder of two companies, a wife, daughter, sister and someone who takes significant pride in their role as homemaker, it's fair to say I hold many hats. Over the past three years, taking up the roles all at the same time has led to many meltdowns. And it is with each meltdown that I've tried to pick myself up and improve the way in which I manage my life. The following are some of my favourite mama hacks to increase efficiency and reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed, a feeling I was far too used to at certain points of my life. Navigating the demands and responsibilities of motherhood is a daily challenge for me and I am constantly learning and improving. I'd love to hear what your top hacks are - feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Calendar / Scheduling App
Adding everything into a Scheduling app so you can diarise weekly workouts, kids classes, playdates, drop-off's - is key. And I mean everything - even reminders to check the fridge or to buy fabric softener. Try and think of every single thing you have to do over a 2 week period, and add reminders for everything. Once everything is written down in one place, this will immediately feel like a weight lifted from your shoulders. I use TimeTree, it's free and pretty simple and also allows me to share my schedule with family members. It syncs well with my apple watch and I get daily reminders of my schedule. I add each child's schedule in the calendar, each child has their own colour) in the app, as well as my own, so I can easily see free time. I also use this app to manage my work schedule with my team.
Meal Planning: List Of Meals
Meal planning can be a drag, especially after the novelty of planning meals for your cute little ones wares out once you realise meal time is more often than not a painful negotiation where your carefully planned out, nutritious (most of the time) toddler meal ends up partially on the floor. After feeling super un-inspired to come up with meals, I started writing a list in my phone (in the Notes section if you have an iPhone), of every single meal I can make at home for the kids. Now you can get really organised with this, you can split it into Chicken, Fish and Vegetarian and also by meal: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Snacks. So that when it comes to deciding your weekly or daily menu you can just go to your phone and select a few from your Master List. Every time I make something new that goes down well, I'll add it to the list. I avoid taking things away that don't work well, as I feel it's important to encourage your kids to eat healthy foods that perhaps that don't always enjoy.
White Board and Marker for visual schedules
When you hear the words White Board, you think of some large, hideous White and Metal bulky board and a thick pen. But no, these days, you can get pretty much everything stylised to suit your home and I found the cutest little gold-framed white board here, with the days of the week written on and a mini washable pen. I keep this in the kitchen, and write down all the kids weekly classes on it, so that everyone in the house can be reminded of the schedule - with multiple kids and multiple classes it can be easy to forget. And I know you have these reminders in your phone (since we just went through the importance of this!) but I still like to have a visual reminder of all classes for the week I can see everyday at breakfast. You can also use this to meal-plan (I'm not so good at pre-planning a full week of meals so this didn't work for me).
By far one of my favourite mum-investments has been this Ember Mug. It keeps my drink set at my desired chosen temperature for a good 2.5 hours. This means I can always drink hot tea/coffee, which has become a REAL mum luxury. Bought on a total whim during a business trip, it has become one of my favourite gadgets. You download the app, choose your desired temperature, and it syncs with your phone - so you can change the temperature as you wish.
Powerology Power Bank
Being on-the-go pretty much 6am to 6pm, my phone battery is always low, and so I bought this very long life 3 battery power bank, which I keep in my kitchen so I can always grab and go on the way out. It's a total game-changer.
Ok, so I know this seems like a basic one, but the power of audiobooks for mums that just don't have enough time, is seriously underrated. Whether it's 5 minutes in the shower, or 15 minutes in the car doing a school run, audiobooks is how I'm able to devour books and continue expanding and learning even on days where I feel so mentally bored despite the physical overstimulation that comes with multiple kids. And trust me, once you're invested in a book, you find pockets of time throughout the day to listen. My go-to apps are Audible and the free Podcasts app on iPhone. My favourite Podcasts are: SuperSoul Sundays, How I Built That by Guy Raaz, Impact Theory, Dear Therapist and Unruffled.
I have two organisers I like to use so that I have all the things I need to be an efficient mum. The first is my Tote Savvy that I keep fully stocked with the essentials in my everyday work bag - water wipes, toddler snack, make up, power bank, plasters, sanitiser - it has all my essentials perfectly organised in pockets so I don't waste time when I need something. The second is my Sunveno car organiser, which straps to the back of my seat (or any seat in a car) and contains things I need in my car at all times for the kids - sunblock, insect repellent, plasters, water wipes, toddler snack, a few books (concealed) and an empty sippy cup. It even has a little table you can use to make bottles on the go. These are things I regularly need when out and about. For all the essentials you need for a diaper bag (which is different), click here for our blog post on it.
Self-care: Schedule ahead
Mamas, self-care is not only important but it is necessary in order to be the best version of yourself for you and your family. It is easy to put this at the back in the midst of crazy schedules, but the way you feel after you've had some indulgent spa time or that facial you've been putting off, is truly something else. With that in mind, and as life has got so much busier with 3 kids, I schedule my self-care in for the next 6 months. That includes one facial every 6 weeks and 4 weekly workouts (Pilates 2x a week and Spinning 2x a week). This is ME time and it's taken me 3 kids to realise just how sacred this time is and how great I feel after it. With it already in the diary for a further 6 months, I always schedule around it, ensuring these pockets of me time do not get disrupted. They are JUST as important as my daily nursery drop-offs - and would you ever forget to pick up your kids? (well possibly, it's happened to me before, but you see what I mean). Mamas - schedule ahead for ALL the things you want to do, to ensure you schedule your life AROUND them. Think - spa time, massage time, facial time, work-outs, date nights with your husband and dinners with girl friends. Do not get so caught up in mum life that you forget what really is important in life. And that for me is feeling like and doing my best.
The greatest thing to ever come about from Apple Pay: no need for a handbag. Now hear me out. I know we needs tons of mum stuff when on the go, but you also need free hands to get around quickly with fast-moving toddlers. Once I installed Apple Pay on my phone, I stopped taking a handbag out with me. And once my baby grew into a toddler, I also switched from a giant diaper bag to a small insulated bag, which perfectly fits a water bottle, snacks, a diaper (if needed) and a pack of wipes (did you know Water Wipes come in small pack too - now that was one game-changing mum hack). Clip on a mini hand sanitiser and you're good to go, and if you need more things keep them in your Car Organiser. Yes I love my bag organiser, but I mainly use that for trips to the office. When I'm out and about on the daily, being hands-free is the ultimate mama-win.
Babies, Toddler and The Toilet
If someone asked me in that first year of a child what my most memorable product was, I'd say the SkipHop Pronto. We all now that as first time mamas we tend to go a bit overboard with the stuff. The diaper bags are full to the brim of every last thing you can think of for every sort of scenario, and it can sometimes be a pain to lug around. That's when the Pronto comes in. It clips on to your pram, making it the easiest to do nappy-changes on the go. Instead of having to rummage through a giant diaper bag, and carry one to the toilet as well as your baby, having a portable nappy changer aka the Pronto, makes life so much easier. It comes with a washable mat attached, and pockets for diapers, wipes and soap. It's the ultimate mama-hack! When my baby became a toddler, I'd fear those public toilet rushes that could not be avoided, until I came across this little gadget - simply fold away into your handbag and use whenever you're out, a little portable potty seat.
Make use of your Car Glove Box
In my car glove box, I keep a small make-up bag filled with some essentials: eye-liner, perfume, lipstick, moisturiser and an eye-brow pencil. It sounds basic but I cannot tell you how many times this little kit has saved me. I am on-the-go pretty much all day, from supermarket runs to office trips to school pick-ups, throw in a bit of spontaneous fun or bonding with the kids, that could mean an after school early dinner date or an impromptu play date, or even better, time for myself to catch up with friends. And when thrown into those situations, my little make-up kit in the car has always been the thing I've needed to take me from looking like haggard no-sleep mum, to, ok I think she had a good 9 hours last night. Try it - you'll be amazed at just how handy this is, especially since with the above tip of no handbags, you'll likely not have reams of make-up casually on you all the time.
DropBox: Family Documents
As my kids have increased in number and also moved from the newborn to toddler phase, I've felt the weight of responsibility for managing their ever increasing amount of paperwork - vaccine records, birth certificates, cord blood banking papers, report cards, the list goes on. And so, to keep everything in one place, including my own records as well as my care-givers, I keep everything well organised in Dropbox, with separate folders for each family member, and all their necessary docs. You an organise this further by splitting them into categories such as: Legal, School, Health etc. That way, I have everything available on a desktop on the cloud that I can access from my phone at any time seamlessly.
WhatsApp Groups: Receipts
I think being a part of too many chat groups is a problem of our generation. But one day, I discovered that having a chat just for receipts is key. It means that you can devote a set time weekly reviewing your receipts instead of doing it in that exact moment you're paying. Simply add the people responsible for paying regular house bills (groceries, maintenance, electricity, gas etc.), and each time a bill is paid for, ask them to send a photo in the WhatsApp group. That way, you have all receipts in one place and can refer back to them at any time should you want to spreadsheet them.
Once Upon: Photo Books
Still not made a baby book and feel guilty about it? Stop right there. Download the App Once Upon, and you can make a book in literally under an hour. On the 30th December 2020, I had this marvellous idea of creating a 2020 photo book - one that reflected our journey of the most life-changing year to date. We had so many beautiful memories of lockdown, we made ice paint, baked almost daily, played egg smash, did our first ever water balloon fight, my son learned to ride a bike, there were so many precious memories wrapped into such a challenging year. I downloaded the app, and it immediately filtered my photos by month, making it easy for me to select a handful of photos for each month for the whole year. Within 2 hours my book was ready. I waited to add one last photo on the 31st to make it complete, and that was it. Within 10 days I had my 2020 photo book, all done. Take the photos, make the memories, but don't let them get lost, these days are far too special.