It’s snowing outside today, which means my kids are home from school again. This doesn’t happen often here, but it’s meant adjusting my expectations for what will get done today. As a mom, I’ve learned to adjust my definition of productivity.

Seasons of Life

It’s funny how time changes things. I can no longer remember what I did with all my time before I had kids. I must have had a lot of free time, but I’m sure I didn’t feel like I did. As my seasons of life have changed, so has my definition of productivity and what it means to spend my time well.

change definition of productivity

After having my first baby, productivity looked like we both survived the day. That was it. I didn’t need to have showered or done any housework. Breathing was the goal and that was a success.

As she got a bit older and sleep returned to a new normal, adding tasks like grocery shopping and not wearing the same things for three days straight became the new bar. As each new phase came and I adapted, more was added to what I considered productive.

Our culture frames productivity in light of results. It can be challenging to quantify how much you’ve done when your attention has been focused on maintaining sanity and trying to enjoy some time with your child. So how do we change the way we look at time management and productivity?

To Adjust Your Definition of Productivity:

Change your expectations

If you are in the midst of any major life adjustment, it’s important to recognize that things will change. As a result, your expectations may need to adjust. I’m focusing on how things change when you are a new mom, but these same principles apply to any life-altering scenario.

The first step is accepting that things will be different. You will find yourself adjusting to new normals and that is part of the process.

It’s tempting to think we can continue on with life just as it was and oh we’re just adding a baby to the mix…no big deal. But it is a big deal and acknowledging and accepting that changes are coming is important.

As a result, priorities shift. It may mean reassessing your priorities and letting go of some of your commitments.

Lower the bar

Now that you’ve adjusted your priorities and started to change your expectations, lower the bar. And if you err on the side of idealism, lower it yet again.

Our expectations and standards are sometimes entirely too high. They can be unrealistic and set us up for failure.

It’s easy to imagine we are just going to rock this mom thing and still look put together with a beautifully clean home all while keeping a tiny needy human alive.

Reality is often a bit different so do yourself a favor and lower your standards, at least temporarily (but maybe permanently for some things). Your life has radically changed overnight and it is also ok to let some things go during this season.

Sometimes productive looks like:

  • hair that was washed once or twice that week
  • cereal for dinner (hey, at least you had dinner)
  • a happy kiddo even if no housework was accomplished

Productive doesn’t have to mean you checked 10 items off your to-do list today. But if you like that kind of thing, start adding some new things to the to-do list. Small things. Achievable things. Played blocks for 5 minutes. Read a book. Gave seven hugs. Brushed hair. Ate a meal while sitting at the table.

Don’t compare

Social media has given us false portrayals of people’s lives. We don’t share the pictures of everyone and everything seemingly falling apart. We see the highlights and imagine that it is the reality.

I’ve noticed women are really hard on themselves in trying to measure up to these unrealistic standards.

Not everyone is meant to start a new business while homeschooling four children and having a new baby. There are women who do this (although I honestly cannot fathom how) and are able to rock it. That doesn’t mean that has to be you. We aren’t all called to the same thing.

Comparing yourself to someone who appears to be in a similar life stage but who is succeeding at her side gig isn’t helpful. You’ve got your own race to run, so focus on that. Let’s be inspired by other’s successes but not compare and get discouraged when we feel we don’t measure up.

Honor where your heart, mind, and spirit are leading you. These seasons of life are short. Change the way you look at productivity and success in these seasons.

Don’t beat yourself up when you feel like you can’t do it all. No one can do it all. At least not all at the same time.

Look for the good

As you adjust your definition of productivity, do the best you can in whatever life stage you currently find yourself. Be realistic about what is achievable while also striving to improve.

This isn’t about being complacent. But more often than not, I hear women commenting on all the areas where they feel they are falling short.

Have grace with yourself. Being organized is awesome and to-do lists are helpful but don’t beat yourself up if you come to the end of the day and didn’t get it all done. Your worth and identity are not found in how many boxes you can check off.

Instead, be thankful for what went right. Look for the good and you will find it. There is joy hidden in the mundane. Choose gratitude and be intentional with your thoughts. Tomorrow is a new day and a chance at a fresh start.

As for me

I would have liked today to have been full of writing blog posts and getting things checked off my list. Instead, it was spent playing Yahtzee, watching my kids build snowmen, breaking up fights, and trying to figure out what to feed everyone.

As a mom, success can look very different from one day to the next. I’ve found freedom in being flexible and learning to adjust my definition of productivity.

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  1. Motherhood certainly does change what productivity looks like. I like what you said about changing expectations. It really is a mindset shift to come to terms that some days just feeding the kids is being productive. That was a hard one to swallow, but it really does make a difference when you start appreciating the little things!

  2. I’m in a different season, but your words were meaningful. I am retired, and a care giver for my husband. I’m finding a lot of days I have to change my plans to accomadate what he needs. I feel a lot of frustration, but your suggestions help me to look at the situation differently. I need to let the lists go and some days just care for him and fit in a little nap for myself. Thank you

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