Taking care of two young kids (an 8-year-old and an almost-5-year-old) is challenging for any parent, but if you add a book deal on top of that, some intense schedule strategizing becomes immediately necessary. For Brooklynite LaTonya Yvette, author of the recently released Woman of Color, balancing work-from-home life with mom life all comes down to ritual.
Yvette has run her eponymous lifestyle blog for seven years, and in the year-long process of writing her book, she kept at it, which meant she had to find new pockets of time in her day to accommodate for her new career venture. Alongside that, she also found ways to stay productive while working from home (more specifically, at a lovely wooden desk tucked into the corner of her living room) while also making time for special moments with her daughter and son.
Moms are masters of getting it all done; of course, they have their own secrets for exactly how they do what they do—and make time for themselves—in the middle of it all. Lucky for us, Yvette shared a few of her own methods for managing the madness.
Create hours in your day
When Yvette realized that her productivity levels plummeted after putting her kids to bed each night, she decided to switch up her schedule to find the time to write her book. “I read something a long time ago that said the most powerful or successful people are those who wake up at 5:30 am in the morning,” she says. “So I decided I would just try it. I realized that after I put my kids to bed, my brain was done for the day.”
Let’s be honest: If you’re not a morning person, that might sound like a major upheaval to your schedule. But Yvette explains that treating her early mornings as a matter-of-fact lifestyle change (and being realistic about when to unplug at night) helped her to shift her days without too much stress.
Plus, early mornings lent some unexpected benefits to her writing. “I would roll over, drink some water, make coffee, and just sit down for 40 minutes. The amount of work that I could pump out freely without judgment was insane,” she says. “My kids know that even if they woke up, they shouldn’t bother me before 7 am. That’s a benefit of having older children. If they do really need me, they’ll come and sit on my lap. They know Mommy needs x amount of hours and you get your time. Everyone gets their own time!'”
Focus only on the necessities
So you’ve started waking up earlier to increase your productivity, but that doesn’t mean you’re superhuman. Yvette found balance in her day with the help of a handy to-do list. “I keep a list of three very important things,” she says. “That really helps me because I’m someone who can become really overwhelmed.”
Organizing your list even further can also help: “I always have a list of three things related to my home and a list of three things related to work. That could be knocking down emails or putting up a blog post, or writing for half an hour,” Yvette explains. “Then, for home, it might be do the dishes, take out the trash, and make the beds. I can’t do anything else beyond those three—that really helped me realize how much I was actually doing on a daily basis and how I was actually going to burn out.” Writing down your own list, whether it be on your phone, a chalkboard, or in a notebook, is crucial. Just think of how satisfying it will be to actually cross everything off your to-do list each day.
Know when it’s time to switch off
Parenting two kids while running a successful blog and writing a book means your days quickly become jam-packed, so it’s important to learn your limits. Especially if you wake up to boost your productivity, working well into the evening isn’t totally realistic.
“Every day there’s a time when I hit my wall, about 4:30 pm. Since I wake up so early—even if I don’t wake up to write, I will wake up at 6 am and prep lunches or whatever—by then I realize my brain is done,” Yvette says. “I’m a high-functioning person, but sometimes you need to have a drink and you need to be done.” Don’t beat yourself up about logging off—it will keep you feeling good in the long-run.
Use ritual to shift your energy
When you work from home, tiny rituals can help you to shift your mind from work to play, even if your setting stays the same. After Yvette picks her kids up for the day, that means putting on some music everyone loves and creating a cozy abode.
“Every night, I’ll play music at home. Normally, my kids go off and they play or we play together and follow me through the apartment,” she says. “I realized that having music on helps create an environment that feels like home. Because I work from home, I need to switch the energy from day to night. I’ll dim the lights, and every time we eat dinner, I light big candles. Even if I’m not eating with my kids, I’ll light candles and just sit with them.”
Of course, if you have special rituals for unplugging, it’s also helpful to have a routine that helps you become your most productive self. “In the morning, I light Palo Santo and open up the windows,” Yvette explains. “I definitely feel like having those rituals helps me switch my mind.”
Make time for something mindless
All things considered, you’re not going to have every hour of your day planned and executed to maximum productivity—and that’s okay! In fact, it’s the thing that will prevent you from getting burnt out. “I’ll have an hour of something for myself that’s like really important. Whether it’s reading, a bath, or a movie, I’ll give myself that hour before I’m in bed,” Yvette says. “I realized I would wake up super upset if I didn’t have some time to do something simple for a little bit, you know, like Pinterest.”