In this post, I’m going to show you how you can be a more productive mom by maximizing your time to finally get things done!
Just when I finally figured out how to get things done with a baby, she graduated into toddlerhood and everything changed.
I had to start all over again!
So I came up with this system that I’m here to tell you about today.
I’m going to walk you through, step-by-step, how to create what I call a To-Do Inventory, which will help you organize your tasks and take advantage of even the tiniest 2 minute window of time.
Let’s get to it!
Just so you know, I incorporate affiliate links which, if clicked, could generate a small income for me at no additional cost for you.
Why is it so hard to get things done as a mom?
I frequently find myself wondering… Why is it so daggone hard to get things done as a mom?
Those of us who don’t work outside the home get to spend an awful lot of time in the house.
Finishing our to-do lists shouldn’t be that difficult, right?
But somehow it is.
For some, it might be easier than others.
Everyone is in a different season.
My toddler is in a phase right now where it’s practically impossible to accomplish anything while she’s awake. And she’s ALWAYS awake.
It got to the point that I wondered if I should just give up trying. At least until she matures a little.
But then I realized the problem (and the solution.)
There is nothing predictable about my toddler’s needs.
Sometimes she will surprise me and play independently for a good, long stretch of time.
Most of the time, she’s constantly interrupting me with tantrums and demands.
I can’t ever know when it’s safe to commit to a project and actually finish it, whether it’s conducting my daily speed clean, washing the dishes, or promoting my blog posts on Pinterest.
When one of those more significant and rare windows of time does pop up, I don’t realize it until it’s too late.
The rest of the time, it feels like there’s no point in even trying.
I exhaust myself spinning my wheels all day trying to get things done and feeling like I’ve made no progress on anything.
That’s when I realized…
I needed an organized system that allowed me to take advantage of even the tiniest window of opportunity.
Even my high-need toddler can subsist if I take two minutes away from her to get something done.
What if I had a to-do list that was based on the time it took to complete each task?
Better yet, what if I had a way to track my progress throughout each project so that I could start and stop as needed?
That’s when I came up with the To-Do Inventory.
Before we get started, get a free printable copy of my to-do inventory so that you can follow along!
What is a to-do inventory?
My to-do inventory is basically broken down into two parts:
- A project tracker, where I can keep up with multi-step tasks, and
- An inventory, organized by the time needed to complete each step of any given task.
The Project Tracker
The Project Tracker where you’ll break down your multi-step projects into the smallest reasonable pieces.
Then as each step is completed, you can mark it off so that you have a visual guide to show you when that project is done.
The To-Do Inventory
Once you step-it-out and dissect all of your bigger tasks into small pieces, you’ll organize them by the amount of time they take to complete–not by project.
When you get the chance, you’ll take a task from your inventory, do it, and then mark it off of both sheets.
The idea is that with just a few minutes of planning at the beginning of the week,
- You can break down your entire to-do list into the smallest steps possible, and then
- Do WHAT YOU CAN, WHEN YOU CAN in no particular order
- Without losing track of what’s finished and what still needs to be done.
If that sounds like something you need, then keep reading!
Create a To-Do Inventory in 5 Simple Steps
I recommend planning out your to-do inventory on at least a weekly basis.
You can do it at whatever interval works for you, but for the purpose of this post, I’m going to write as though you’re planning one week at a time.
Step #1. Brainstorm a master project list
Before you do anything else, you need sit down and brainstorm all of your tasks and projects for the coming week.
Everything you’re going to need to do, write it down.
If there’s a clear division in the types of responsibilities you have, such as housework and a job you do from home, for example, you may want to generate separate lists for each.
Step #2. Estimate time required for each task/project
After you’ve fleshed out your master list, you’ll need to estimate the amount of time it will take to finish each task or project.
Jot those times down next to the tasks.
Step #3. Break down each task/project over 15 minutes into the smallest steps
Next, take a look at your list and identify all of the tasks you expect to take 15 minutes or longer.
Then, write those tasks on a separate page and break them down into the smallest pieces possible (within reason).
Basically, break them down into tasks that can be accomplished independent from each other.
(While I recommend anything longer than 15 minutes, you could even break down 10+ minute tasks.)
I couldn’t reasonably dissect washing the dishes from rinsing the dishes, but I could divide washing/rinsing the dishes from drying/putting away the dishes.
If a task is going to take you a while, but can’t be divided into distinct steps, you can also try breaking it down into segments.
For example, ironing my husbands work clothes takes hours.
But really, it’s one big lump of a task.
If I want to make it more manageable, I could break it into quarters and say I’m going to iron x number of items at a time.
Step #4. Repeat step 2 for each bite-sized step
Once you’ve stepped-it-out and broken apart your more time-consuming tasks into bite-sized pieces, you’ll repeat step 2.
Now for each individual step, you’ll estimate approximately how long it will take you to complete (just that one piece).
Step #5. Organize each step by time requirement
Finally, take another page and create columns or sections labeled:
- two minutes
- five minutes
- ten minutes
- fifteen minutes
- thirty minutes
You’ll take all of the tasks still whole on your master list, as well as each piece of the bigger tasks that you broke down, and organize them in your to-do inventory based on the time required to complete them.
The goal is to have the most items in your 2 and 5 minute columns, and very few things in the 30 minute column.
Want the printables I’m using in this blog post? Just drop your email address below so I know where to send your free copy!
How to Use a To-Do Inventory to Be a More Productive Mom
Now that you understand better what the To-Do inventory is and how to set yours up, let’s talk about how to get the most out of your system.
Like I said earlier, the goal is to do what you can when you can.
You can’t always predict when you’ll have 30 minutes or an hour of uninterrupted time to get something done.
But you can pretty much guarantee two minutes.
Where to keep it
I recommend having your inventory displayed on a wall in one of your most frequented areas.
That way, whenever you pass by, if you aren’t already in the middle of feeding a ravenous toddler (or anything else), you can see what needs to be done and snag a quick task off the list.
Whatever you don’t finish one day, just plug away at the next!
Recurring daily tasks
Since you’ll probably have many recurring tasks, you can do a couple of things:
A) You can make a separate to-do inventory of the tasks you do most often that remains permanent or semi-permanent from week to week.
You can laminate it or put it in a sheet protector to easily wipe off and reuse each day.
B) If you want to keep everything all on one list, then I highly suggest putting your inventory in a sheet protector so that you can erase the checkmarks next to repeating tasks.
Keeping track of progress
On your Project Tracker, you will want to label each of the projects you break down alphabetically.
The first project would be A, the next B, and so on.
Each sub-task should be labeled numerically. A1, A2, A3…B1, B2, B3, etc.
Then, when you carry them over to the inventory page and they become disorganized, you can easily reference your project page to know which tasks belongs to what.
Then you’ll never lose track of what you’re working on and what still remains.
Benefits of Using a To-Do Inventory
There are so many benefits to breaking up your to-do list in this way!
- You can easily take advantage of any spare moment without exerting a lot of brain power (by the time you consult a normal to-do list and figure out what you have time for, those two minutes are gone!)
- The needs of the household are visibly displayed to your husband and older children, making it easier for them to pitch in.
- You can visibly track your productivity, so that at the end of the day when you feel like you haven’t done anything, you can SEE how much you actually accomplished (two minutes at a time).
- You can attack each project with more intention because you know what needs to be done and how long it will take.
- You can be more present with your children because you’ll have less interruption and more available brain power.
I want to know…
What kind of to-do list do you use currently (if at all)? Do you have a hard time getting things done with littles underfoot all day?
Are you going to try out a to-do inventory?
I’d love to hear where you’re at, so make sure to leave a comment below!
If you found this post helpful, you should also check out:
- Genius Strategies to Clean More in Less Time
- How to Organize Your Day with a Baby (to get things done)
- The Homemaker’s Ultimate Guide to Keeping House