As a mom, balancing the many demands of daily life can often feel like an uphill battle. With a never-ending to-do list and what feels like a limited amount of time, it’s easy to struggle with prioritization.
In this article, I’ll explore the reasons behind this struggle and provide valuable insights on how moms can focus where it matters most.
Yes, you can be productive as a mom even if life is busy. After reading this post, you will have a better understanding of the challenges of prioritization and learn effective strategies to prioritize your life, so it won’t feel so out of control.
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Reasons why you struggle to prioritize.
You might have been told before that your life is chaotic because you are in that “season of life”. While I don’t disagree, it doesn’t mean that you are incapable of prioritizing because your life is in a particular stage. Prioritizing your life is possible and recommended at any stage in life.
Let’s look at some reasons you might be struggling to prioritize.
The Juggling Act of Motherhood
It’s obvious that motherhood is packed with responsibilities, from caring for children to managing household chores and/or work commitments. This constant juggling act can make it difficult to determine what deserves your attention first.
When you’re a mom everything feels like a priority. Even worse? You drive yourself to burnout trying to do it all and feel intense guilt for not being able to.
The vicious cycle of trying to do it all and burning out will continue to make it overwhelming to prioritize effectively. Actually, it will feel impossible. You don’t want to go down that road.
Overcoming Societal Expectations
Society’s expectations of moms can add extra pressure to do everything effortlessly and without complaint. This causes moms to develop a sense of inadequacy and guilt.
That is also why moms struggle so much with self-care. Because if you prioritize your needs then it must mean you’re selfish or are neglecting your family.
That is simply not true.
External pressures will always be there, it’s up to you to see them for what they are and not let them influence you in a negative way.
You cannot meet everyone’s expectations and nor should you. Don’t let society’s expectations of motherhood get in the way of prioritizing what matters to you.
The Impact of Mental Load
Mental load is the invisible and unshared mental work that goes into managing and organizing household tasks, childcare, and schedules. It’s likely you’ve experienced or are currently experiencing it.
The mental load can make focusing on what’s important very difficult since you will be preoccupied with endless thoughts and reminders.
This is one of the many contributing factors a mom faces when they struggle to prioritize.
The Consequences of Poor Prioritization
Failing to prioritize effectively can have negative effects on both your health and the overall quality of your life. Here are some examples of the consequences you might face if you don’t prioritize.
Increased Stress and Overwhelm
When you don’t prioritize the most important tasks, you might find yourself constantly playing catch-up. Catching up isn’t bad and can be done on occasion, however, it’s the feeling of being stuck in a hamster wheel that’s the problem.
Clearly, this is very stressful and overwhelming. This will leave you also feeling drained and exhausted. You won’t have the energy or mental bandwidth to identify what your priorities are and act on them.
Missed Opportunities and Regret
Sometimes when you don’t prioritize what matters, you can miss out on opportunities. You might regret things you did or did not do because you tried to do all the things and ended up putting in a lot of time and energy for less important things.
It’s wise to prioritize so you can seize the opportunities that align with your values and goals. If you don’t, then the potential is lost.
Prioritizing what matters includes self-care. When you constantly put the needs of others before your own and fail to prioritize your self-care, you will be neglecting your health.
If you truly want to accomplish what matters to you and your family, please don’t put your well-being last. Because if it’s last to everything else, you won’t get around to it and you will continue to neglect your health.
If you want to feel in control and accomplished in life, your self-care must be met.
By neglecting self-care, you risk depleting your energy reserves. When you have no energy, it will be challenging to fulfill your responsibilities effectively.
Strategies for Effective Prioritization
To overcome the challenges and consequences of poor prioritization, consider using these strategies:
Define Your Values and Goals
Identify your core values and your goals. Understanding your goals will help guide you in the decision-making process and in return help you prioritize.
When you understand your core values, you can make decisions that align with your goals and avoid getting sidetracked by unimportant tasks.
Identify and Eliminate Time Wasters
The best way to find out what tasks you’re wasting your time on is to evaluate your daily activities and habits that don’t align with your values and goals.
Some examples of time wasters and distractions can be scrolling social media, and doing tasks that could be delegated or simply eliminated.
How many times do you check and read emails during the day when it’s not urgent?
Do you know how much time you spend scrolling social media?
Do you attend meetings or overcommit to events that you know will be a waste of your time but you can’t say No?
By eliminating or minimizing these distractions you reclaim valuable time you can direct toward more meaningful things.
Delegate and Ask for Help
Accept that you don’t have to do everything alone. The sooner you start delegating and/or outsourcing, the more prioritized and organized your life will be.
Delegate tasks to trusted family members, friends, or professionals who can share the load. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It shows your strength, and it shows smart prioritization.
Learn to get Comfortable with Saying "No"
Learn to set boundaries and say “no” to commitments that don’t align with your priorities.
Sometimes you will receive requests that you might want to fulfill but know you shouldn’t because it would stretch you too thin. That’s where it gets tough because you want to, but you don’t have the capacity to do it at that time and that’s okay.
Careful with FOMO (fear of missing out) and the pressure to jump at any request. It’s not always guaranteed that it will benefit you and you still have to commit your time and energy. Prioritize to figure out if it’s worth your time and effort.
Say no to one thing means saying yes to something else that’s more important.
It’s important to be kind to yourself throughout this process because perfection is not attainable. It’s also important to know that your priorities will change as well as your circumstances.
Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that you’re doing the best you can. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and learn from them. Practicing self-compassion allows you to navigate the challenges of prioritization with grace and resilience.
Showing yourself some kindness can allow you to be flexible in making the adjustments you need to prioritize better.
Create a Realistic Schedule
When you’re a busy and potentially overwhelmed mom, it’s to your benefit to be practical and set a realistic schedule.
Break down larger tasks into smaller, manageable steps and allocate time for each. By creating a structured plan that’s practical for you, you can manage your time better and increase your chances of accomplishing what’s most important.
Use Productivity Tools to Help You Manage
Take advantage of productivity tools and apps that can help you manage your time and tasks more efficiently. From calendars and to-do lists to project management software, these tools can streamline your workflow and enhance your productivity.
Todoist is a good example of an effective tool to help you prioritize your tasks.
You don’t have to use digital tools to be able to prioritize. You can use a simple notebook or planner to narrow down your tasks. My recommendation is that if you are going to do that, keep it simple and use a priority matrix like the Eisenhower Matrix.
It’s worth finding one tool that works for you and helps you manage your life easier and better.
Cultivating a Mindset of Prioritization
Beyond specific strategies, cultivating a mindset of prioritization is also important if you want long-term success. Here are some suggestions:
Shift Your Perspective on Time
You know that we all have 24 hours in a day. You still have to eat and sleep so it’s not going to be possible to do it all.
View your time as a precious resource and use it wisely. Be intentional about where you spend your time. That doesn’t mean you “don’t have time” for anything, you do but only if you use your time wisely.
Have you ever said, “Where did the day go?” or “I don’t have time to get anything done!”
This is the problem with not knowing how to set priorities. Time will slip by and you won’t realize it until it has passed.
There are going to be trade-offs too. Prioritization comes with trade-offs, that’s a fact for most people.
It’s not all bad though, you can always go back to what you deferred to another time when it becomes more important to you. Read my post: four burners to learn more about life balance and tradeoffs
Focus on One Task at a Time
Research shows multitasking to be ineffective. To put it simply, multitasking is switching from task to task before finishing the first. So, you start a task, and before you’re done you move on to the next one, then the next one, and so on.
It appears that you are getting a lot done but you are slowing yourself down significantly. And there’s a good chance that you will get overwhelmed, frustrated, and forced to start over again.
That’s a good way to waste time. It’s counterproductive and will decrease your efficiency.
Try single-tasking or not multitasking for a couple of weeks. Choose your top priorities and give them your full attention before moving on to the next and see how it goes. Compare your productivity and success with how you performed using task switching.
This will be valuable insight for you, and you might be surprised at what you discover.
Progress is always better than perfection.
Prioritizing is the act of letting go of the perfect in order to make progress and achieve your goals. Progress is a better goal than perfection.
It can be hard but letting go of perfectionism can open your life to a lot more progress and positivity. Practice self-awareness so you can catch those moments you begin to feel like it’s never enough.
When you notice it, focus instead on your values and goals. Recalibrate your frame of mind and focus on what you’ve identified as what is most important to you.
Celebrate Small Victories
Celebrating your small wins is highly underrated. It is not given enough credit as an effective contributor to your progress and success.
When you prioritize you might feel that what you’ve achieved is not significant enough or that it will take you too long to reach your goals.
Not true. Actually, small wins can help you build momentum.
If you are chasing big wins when you haven’t prioritized and/or set goals based on your values, you will likely struggle to achieve them. Why? Because you will not have a clear path to achieve your goal, and you are using up your energy doing too much at once which doesn’t get you closer to your goal.
Prioritization is a worthwhile skill to develop. It does require deliberate effort and self-awareness. There will be times you fall off path and put your energy into unimportant things.
Use the strategies I share in this post to help you cultivate better habits to prioritize effectively.
You’re a mom juggling a lot of responsibilities, your time, energy, and focus must be managed effectively to prevent burnout. Without prioritization, all your time, energy, and focus will be wasted on things that don’t matter.
Don’t let this be you!
Take the time now to identify your values and your goals. Use a prioritization method like the priority matrix here. Let go of the feeling you have to do it all, focus on one task at a time, and don’t forget to celebrate your small wins. They still have an impact.
Remember, your journey is going to be different from another mother’s journey. Find an approach to prioritization that works for you.
Also, please be kind to yourself. There will be days when you don’t achieve what you set out to accomplish. Embrace imperfection and embrace the process and don’t give up!
Recommended Task Prioritization Tools