How to Feel Productive Despite Your Current Season

How do you define productivity? Has it changed since before the world turned upside down?

I’m guessing you might not feel very productive right now against that traditional definition.

Some of us are navigating this new normal of working from home with our entire family + a side of homeschooling.

Others are essential and, in some cases, are now split from their families to avoid risk. This devastates me, but we will rise from this stronger than ever before.

But back to productivity … there has to be a sustainable way to cope and manage through this complete shake-up of our lives without feeling like we just floated through 2020 without accomplishing anything at all.

Maybe you feel this way too, but I just can’t accept the elimination of productivity in this season.

There must be a way under ANY devastating change in life to remain productive.

The path of least resistance: We must change the way we measure productivity and intentionally redefine it …

What Our “New Normal” Looks Like Today

We’re all facing this “new normal” within our own circumstances and individual priorities right now.

Literally everyone is facing a different form of this collective grief experience. It blows my mind when I think about it too deeply.

No matter how you’re experiencing this, there’s no denying that this is HARD.

But then you realize that everyone came into this season with existing emotional & physical baggage. Things that already felt heavy and created plenty of overwhelming feelings.

Whether the issues are marital, postpartum health, chronic health, or even family-related, they’re all present behind the veil of this pandemic.

It’s A LOT.

In our home, our current situation looks like this:

  • Working from Home x2
  • Independent (& mostly compliant) 4 year old girl
  • Energetic (& messy) 1 year old boy
  • Two Loud (& cuddly) Dachshunds
  • Exercise that consists of up & down the stairs or around the block walks
  • Anxiety that comes & goes
  • Postpartum health issues and lots of telemedicine appointments with my naturopath
  • Letting go of perfection, but really wishing I didn’t have to – ha!
  • Constantly re-assessing and re-prioritizing everythinggggg.

I truly don’t feel like our lives shook up that much, but my subconscious says otherwise.

We’ve always been homebodies. We’ve stocked our house to keep us sufficiently entertained during the rainy Seattle winters. Our gym is at home (hello, Peloton!). We’ve even spent this much time together 24/7 as a couple before.

But it’s still different, because our expectations, routines, and measures of productivity are different now too.

It’s become crystal clear that without my health, I can’t even think about knocking down my to do list, decluttering my entire house, and finishing all the projects in the world.

I’ve faced health issues before (and cast them aside), but in the midst of this crisis with zero alone time to reset, I can’t deny that taking care of my health is my #1 priority.

What about you? What does your current situation look like? Is there something screaming for your attention?

So What Does Productivity Actually Look Like Right Now?

Even though I’m not accomplishing tasks at the pace (& level of focus) that I’m used to, I still count myself as productive.

Because productivity is redefined for my current season.

Today’s productivity doesn’t look like it did before … and it shouldn’t.

Productivity takes a completely different form in each season of life.

Knowing this, I’ve carefully built systems into our life to keep the “essential functions” running well when everything else keeps getting shaken up (such as our home finance binder).

Prior to becoming a mama, I felt productive when I worked 15 hour days and churned out deliverable upon deliverable. I felt needed, smart, and capable. I freakin’ loved my job and all the challenges it brought me. My brain was clear and I could handle all of that effort with bells on.

Almost immediately after having my daughter, productivity began to equal NOT working long hours. Saying “no” more often. Delegating low value tasks (even if I enjoyed doing them), especially at work. Nursing my baby and resting more was more productive to me than nailing a spreadsheet in record time. I didn’t always listen to this intuition though.

Now? During this pandemic? Productivity equals self-care.

It means intentionally slowing down and taking care of myself first.

As an introvert with the entire family home right now, I recognize my need to make intentional space for quiet, while also making intentional time for cuddles with my babies (because this, too, will end).

Balancing my body as my son weans from nursing is key to gaining my energy back (it’s been rough). Once my energy is back, then I can dive into my work and aspirations in a more productive way again.

But for right now, self care – the quiet, the hot showers, the morning journaling before the kids get up – it’s all the most productive work I can be doing right now.

What Feels Productive in this Season of Uncertainty

Investing time to read life-giving books. Rhythms of Renewal, by Rebekah Lyons is giving me life right now. Starting multiple books at the same time is my jam, so I’m also loving Less is More, by Emily Ley, and Do Less, by Kate Northrup. This trio of books is so perfect for this current season as we figure out a routine to slowwww down, calm anxiety, and be more intentional with our time and energy.

Calming the noise with relaxing music. My absolute favorite music to relax to is the Marconi Union radio station on Pandora. It’s so good, it even relaxes my son in the most magical way, too.

Leaning on my husband for help around the home. I truly couldn’t imagine doing this without him. If your husband’s home in this season too, make the most of it. Truly. Don’t be a statistic when this all passes (unless the writing was already on the wall). Here’s my free Home Management Balance Guide to help kick you two off on a plan to successfully partner at home.

Being honest about my boundaries and need for space. I nearly hit a breaking point trying to manage everything, found a window of opportunity to take some time off of my day job, and instantly took it. Recognizing & taking mental health days is the most productive thing you can do sometimes!

Updating and refining my home management systems (always!). When I DO have a burst of energy, investing in our systems around the house has been so helpful for when the energy leaves again. I’ll tell ya, this whole “no cleaning service life” is NOT for me! Didn’t need a quarantine to tell me that, but it’s as good a time as any to nail our cleaning plan.

What’s Definitely NOT Productive in this Season

Velcroing myself to the news and social media. Can you relate?! I’ve been following a selection of data collection sites that feed me with the facts and statistical forecasts. Opinions and assumptions are just bringing me so far down. It’s best that I stay away from most news outlets and limit my social media input. Come fill my feed with beauty on Instagram.

Trying to fit into “pre-COVID” plans. Beating myself up for not being able to stay on track with commitments I made to myself before COVID-19 hit isn’t serving me AT ALL. I’m still making progress. It’s just a little slower than I originally planned.

Letting our schedule get too loose. The kids are still waking up and going to bed at the same time as before. They’re still eating meals and taking naps at the same time as their school schedule. On days we get a little loose on that, it sets everything off. Those anchors are key to everyone’s sanity! We used this process to build our quarantine family schedule and it’s been so helpful!

Procrastinating when I actually have energy. During this health downturn, I’ve had to remove tasks in the name of rest. Somehow, when I’ve found myself with energy, I still procrastinate. I realized that it was because I hadn’t developed my official course correction for 2nd Quarter with a plan for who I want to be when we’re on the other side of this season. When I have the energy, I simply can’t procrastinate!

Imagining “what if” scenarios. I don’t even want to write any of them out right here. We both know this isn’t serving either one of us.

Accepting this Season of Life

Aside from however you need to redefine your productivity vision, you must accept that this is the world we live in right now.

We stay home.

We are safe.

We batch our groceries in bi-weekly trips. We freeze bread and skip the hamburger buns (white bread, baby!)

We focus on essentials and trim the rest (including our own hair).

We pray for our hospital and grocery store essential workers. They are heroes!

We will rise beyond this, even though we don’t know when.

But today, we’ll just keep taking one step forward each moment. We’ll move slowly. We’ll move intentionally.

We’ll remain productive in exactly the way we’re supposed to be each day.

And we won’t beat ourselves up.

How does productivity look different for you in this season? Are you resisting, or slowly making your way over to full acceptance?!

productivity for working moms