There are a few heroes in the world that attempt to do the virtually impossible: parent children, work professionally, AND engage in some kind of schooling or degree program all at the same time.
Each of these endeavors are enough for many people on their own, much less combined with additional responsibilities. Understandably, taking on these three roles at once is quite the feat.
If you are a mom, an employee, and a student simultaneously, take a minute to read through these tips that can help keep you from coming unglued.
Tip One: Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize
Having three different sets of responsibilities that could each monopolize your time if you’re not careful takes tremendous intentionality in prioritization. Prioritizing all the things you’re expected to get done is a must-do practice. If you do not, you’ll end up completely swamped, overwhelmed, or hopelessly behind.
To prioritize your various tasks and responsibilities, you can try a few different filters. Sometimes it’s easiest to prioritize by order of importance. Sometimes it makes the most sense to prioritize by urgency or timeline – what will be expected of you first?
The categories various tasks belong to might also inform their weight or importance. For instance, no matter how pressing your current work assignment might be, your child’s wellbeing in the form of needing lunch will take precedence. Experiment a little bit to find out what filters or strategies work best for you.
Tip Two: Eliminate the Stuff that Doesn’t Matter
A helpful strategy often used in business applications can help take the process of prioritization to a whole new level. This strategy can be utilized by multi-role Moms. The 80-20 rule is an effective framework that says 80% of the value that you create – checked-off to-do’s, meaningful accomplishments, and worthwhile energy spent – comes from 20% of your total tasks. That means that the rest of what you do decreases significantly in what value it actually creates for your life.
Add to this fact the reality that you will never be able to completely finish everything on your to-do list, and this becomes a powerful principle: rank your responsibilities in order of meaningful value they create, and then start cutting off the least-producing stuff at the bottom. Don’t worry about even attempting to do things that aren’t in your top half.
Tip Three: Create Separate Spaces for Different Tasks
Sometimes this isn’t possible. If your space is small, if you work at home, or if you have limited control over your living quarters, you may only be able to take this tip so far. But as much as is physically possible, it can aid your productivity as well as peace of mind and general wellbeing to have designated spaces and places for different types of activities.
Can you have a homework table or desk that can remain relatively undisturbed by the craziness that happens in the rest of the house during the day? Could you keep a closet or spare bedroom closed off to be the place where you take your work calls?
Designating task-specific spaces in your house whenever possible can help you focus more quickly, keep things organized, save precious time in the windows you get during the day to work on other responsibilities, and help you be more present and focused on each task as you engage with it during your crazy waking hours.
Tip Four: Incorporate Self Care
You may feel like this is impossible. That self-care is something you’ll have to revisit in twenty years when the kids are out of the house. That you’re only getting four hours of sleep a night, and to even think about incorporating a yoga class or a salon visit once a week is laughable.
However, self-care is critical to your wellbeing and your continued ability to be able to show up in each of your vastly different and intensely demanding roles. Even if only for one half-hour block in a month, taking time to recharge with some self-care is a vital tool for managing stress.
Make a plan. Choose an activity. Put it in your planner. Make it happen.
Tip Five: Build a Support System
Finally, no one can pull off this kind of feat on one’s own. This could arguably be the most important part of a survival strategy to make it through parenting, employment, and studies all at once.
Networks and support systems take time, effort, intentionality, and investment to create. But the returns are magnitudes larger. For some people, family members might live close enough that they can provide a significant portion of a support system.
If you are lucky enough to have parents, in-laws, or other family within driving distance, talk to them about being involved either on a regular basis or just as an emergency number you can call when things implode, and you need some extra hands.
For those of us who do not have family close or available (or the types of relationships with those family members that would allow for this), support systems can be built with other types of relationships. Join parenting clubs, identify people on your street or in your neighborhood, make friends with parents from your kids’ school(s), or see if you can attend an interest group or two in your area to start building friendships that might become parts of a support network in the future.
It takes courage, but investing the energy and time into building these relationships can help you tremendously in the long run (as well as give you people you can also help when they need it).