Genius Productivity Hacks From Women Who Get The Struggle

Illustrated by Isabella DiMarzio.
As a working single mom, I know the chaos that ensues when I need to be out of my apartment — in heels, on a bus to New York City — at 7 a.m., after getting my son ready to start his school day. Nearly a decade in, I have a sometimes-needed morning babysitter on call, and I'm a big fan of packing lunches at night — and of pre-selecting outfits so that no one (not even the too-cool-for-school tween boy) is screaming at the closet, “I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR” before the sun comes up.

And I’m not the only one who kisses my kid on the cheek and closes the door behind me while he watches the milk in his bowl of Fruit Loops turn pink. According to the Pew Research Center, 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 include career moms who are either the sole or primary source of income for their families. Us working moms are not oblivious to the fact that we have two jobs: parenthood and our chosen career. Ahead, real-life working moms share tips on how to lean in without toppling over. These are genius productivity hacks anyone can use to make the most of their time, on and off the clock.
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Illustrated by Isabella DiMarzio.
"Of course, I need a paycheck, but I also feel like one of the reasons I love working while being a mom is the opportunity for adult interaction. When I meet clients, I'm not shy about talking about my outside interests — and what my kids are currently up to. I've gotten so many tips on preschools to check out and cool events for kids, just by asking. I think work should be one part of your whole life, not separate, and treating it as such makes it enjoyable. One time, I even had a client who invited my family to a pumpkin patch with her kids. Not only was it fun, it was also great networking — I ended up winning that account, and we're still friends. I think strategic socializing is the best!" —Kristen, 34
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Illustrated by Isabella DiMarzio.
"As a working single mom, I take advantage of my lunch break. My boss, an attorney, provides his staff with an hour. I use this time to make a Whole Foods run. I kill two birds with one stone by picking up veggies, fresh meat, and dessert for dinner. Back at the office, I store my labeled groceries in the company fridge and eat at my desk while working. It beats hitting the drive-through or serving cereal for dinner." —Elaine, 36
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Illustrated by Isabella DiMarzio.
“I have a meditation app on my smartphone called ‘Meditation Timer.’ I set it to 10 minutes a few times a day, close my eyes, and take deep breaths. It’s been really valuable to do this at the office because I often walk into The Hunger Games at home. Taking breaks during the work day is healthy and normal — that’s why kids have gym class and recess, right?" —Anna, 39
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Illustrated by Isabella DiMarzio.
"For me, there’s no time to hit the gym on my lunch hour, so I switch up my desk chair with a stability ball throughout the day and keep free weights in a spare desk drawer. I also walk three laps around the office building on a nice day while taking a work call. I strategically plan to do something active during long phone calls. I always avoid the elevator and walk four flights up and down multiple times a day. Getting this mini workout in during the day makes me feel good, and it also means I don't have to fit one in at night when the kids need me for everything." —Gina, 41
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Illustrated by Isabella DiMarzio.
“I drop my kids off at school and head straight to work. I get there by 8:40 a.m., but work doesn’t technically start until 9 a.m.. I use the time to fill out school paperwork, review the cafeteria lunch menu for the week, put on makeup, and follow up on personal emails/calls without interruption. I used to spend that time waiting in line at Starbucks, but then I got smart and started bringing my coffee from home. And sometimes I just recline the seat in my car and take a nap until 9 a.m., because, obviously.” —Jessica, 34
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Illustrated by Isabella DiMarzio.
“I’m a nurse, my husband works in finance, and we have four kids. We don’t get that much alone time together, and we both have high-stress careers, so I’m always sure to send him a racy sext like, ‘Meet you in the shower, I’ll be wet and waiting,’ on a day when I know we have time to get it in. It puts me in a good mood all day.” —Theresa, 37
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Illustrated by Isabella DiMarzio.
“I use personal days to take all my kids to the dentist. Not the most exciting use of my time, but I’d rather pull them out of school to get their teeth cleaned, because nothing is worse than working all day and wrangling three tired kids to the dentist’s office. Bottom line, when you plan out a personal day, you can knock off six months of boring to-dos from your list." —Nina, 30
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Illustrated by Isabella DiMarzio.
"I make a to-do list the night before work, with every activity planned, along with a rough estimate of just how much time it will take. I also have an hour or two of flexible time booked into my day, which I can use for spillover projects, email catch-up, or even just time to gossip with my coworkers. Knowing exactly what I have to do makes it easy to just dive into work." —Jenna, 34
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Illustrated by Isabella DiMarzio.
"Girls’ Night Out is something my friends and I always try to plan, but never actually do. A kid is sick, a mom is tired, the babysitter canceled. So, once a week, my two coworkers and I go out to a nice lunch and have a rule that we can’t talk about our kids. The places we pick are in walking distance of our New York City office and always have a bar — and yes, depending on our afternoon schedules, we do sometimes order a glass of wine. Even though it’s daytime and there’s no dancing, it’s still a rejuvenating break." —Anna, 39
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Illustrated by Isabella DiMarzio.
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