Returning to a demanding full-time job after maternity leave isn’t like going back to work after a vacation. Being both a new mom and a busy professional takes a lot of planning and, ideally, support both at home and at work.
Preparing to Return to Work After Maternity Leave
Justyna Denham of Warsaw, Poland, is a business professional who, when we talked, was preparing to return full time to her demanding corporate career from maternity leave after the birth of her twins. She is Polish, married for almost 8 years, and she is a busy mother of three girls (a 3.5-year-old and 17-month-old twins). In her spare time she is a dedicated student of productivity, time management, and personal growth.
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No typical day for stay-at-home moms
Being a full-time mom during her maternity leave, it’s difficult to plan out every moment of the day, but Justyna tries to plan the best she can. She has two routines that she follows on a regular basis:
Justyna likes to take an hour for herself in the mornings, if she can, to complete what she likes to call her “Miracle Morning”:
- 25 minutes spent planning for the day
- 10 minutes of meditation
- 25 minutes of yoga
What happens after that depends on her children and their needs, but she also tries to set time aside to work on one of her projects, such as decluttering and organizing. With her schedule constantly changing, she tries to focus on choosing three goals for the day.
Preparation is key
Justyna has been studying productivity as a way to be more efficient at work, and her three biggest tips for accomplishing her goals have been prioritizing, planning, and following through.
Planning ahead of time
For Justyna, planning in advance helps to avoid days where she spends all day just figuring out what to do (or what to do next).
- At the beginning of every month, Justyna tries to plan her days, allocating time to work on her projects. She also likes planning her weekends for fun activities, free time and hanging out.
- Making a weekly plan Sunday evenings helps her set priorities for the coming week, setting two goals for every day and leaving one blank for whatever may pop up.
- Meal planning is especially helpful. Justyna does her grocery list ahead of time and when it’s time to make dinner, she doesn’t spend time thinking about what to make or running to the store to buy the ingredients.
Justyna likes to take time before bed each night to write down three things she’s grateful for. She says taking the time to focus on and appreciate all that happened during the day helps her fall asleep.
Having a mastermind group to help keep her accountable has helped Justyna stay focused on her goals, including what she says is one of her challenges: planning a lot of things, then finding herself unable to succeed in accomplishing them. Justyna first heard about masterminds through Amy Porterfield’s Online Marketing Made Easy Podcast in an episode with Jaime Tardy called “Masterminding your Way to Success” and Natalie Eckdahl from BizChix. Being in a mastermind group also gives her quality grown-up time, and has helped her find a mentor.
When you’re a mom, you tend to forget about yourself … you’re so focused on attending to the needs of your children.” ~ Justyna
She also credits her husband for being a big help with the kids and the errands that need to be done for the house, and a steady source of support. As she prepared to return to her full-time job, she was especially grateful to find a really good nanny.
Tools for productivity
It’s tempting to think we can remember everything that’s coming up or needs to be done, but Justyna realized life is less stressful if she takes the time to get these things out of her head and onto paper or a planner. As the inspiration for her system, she recommends David Allen's book,Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.
Since she’s not always at a computer or on her phone while being a stay-at-home mom, she uses a paper planner to organize her tasks works for her, but she plans on using Nozbe when she returns to work.
Other apps and tools she recommends are:
- Notes App on the iPhone for groceries or errands
- Sharing an electronic calendar with her husband
- Pinterest for recipes
- Calm App for either guided meditations or nature sounds
Getting back on track
We all have days when it all gets away from us and we feel stressed and overwhelmed. Justyna suggests giving yourself permission to have those feelings, but only for a limited amount of time.
When it happens to her, she will take a bath, go for a walk or take a nap. If she doesn’t get a good night’s sleep, it’s easier for her to see things in a more negative way, and getting some rest helps her refocus on the positive.
Once her emotions are under control, she comes up with a plan to fix whatever's bothering or overwhelming her. Sitting down to do some planning helps her feel a sense of power and control and helps her regain her strength.
The elephant and the rider
Justyna talks about the metaphor of the elephant and the rider to explain how she sees this situation. When the rider is on top of the elephant, he assumes he is the leader. But if the elephant gets scared, all the rider can do is hang on and try to calm the elephant. The rider represents our rational side, and the elephant is our emotional side. Taking time to calm the elephant puts the rider back in the saddle.
Connect with Justyna
Final encouragement from Justyna
She loves choosing the three words for inspiration for the year (for more on these, please listen to Focus on Building the Life You Want — TPW 031) to set the tone for the year. Being a SAHM (stay-at-home mom) is rewarding, but it’s hard and overwhelming. It’s easy to forget about yourself, your needs, your dreams and goals. Remember that it’s okay to have your own goals and dreams, and to take time for yourself. We can’t focus only on our kids all the time. Even though time is limited, it is possible to have projects of your own. It’s important to have some goals. You can’t have everything at the same time, but you can have it if you plan, prioritize, and follow through.
What do you think?
Do you have any questions for Justyna? Do you have any suggestions for returning to work after maternity leave? Please feel free to ask your questions or share your thoughts by commenting below or on the Facebook page or sending an email to me.Click here to discover my favorite apps!
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