As a working mom of three, I can tell you firsthand that it’s not easy organizing work and home life. Over the past 20 years as an RD, I’ve experienced many ups and downs trying to manage this delicate balancing act. I’ve had tight work deadlines, sick kids, and, of course, a trip to the ER with a sick kid when a tight deadline was approaching. However, throughout all my experiences, I’ve learned certain tricks to help me be a good mother and a working RD. Here are a few of my top tips on organizing—and balancing—work and family as a dietetics professional.
1. Use a Calendar
Whether you prefer pen and paper, your phone’s calendar app, or something similar, I recommend a place to jot down all appointments and important dates. For example, once the school calendar comes out, I insert all of the children’s important dates into the calendar. As client meetings or other important dates come up, I add them immediately into my calendar. This helps prevent any accidental double bookings for important family events or school functions.
I also keep a weekly “to do” list on a calendar (mine is actually an old-school pen and paper one). This way, I can list everything I have to do for work and family for the week. Every day, I itemize the list with the top two to three things that must get done. I tend to write my due dates a few days before they’re actually due to prevent late assignments.
2. Reschedule if Needed
With such a busy schedule, conflicts will arise. For example, I recently had a client dinner that conflicted with my daughter’s dentist appointment. I stopped getting stressed when these conflicts happen. I learned that it’s OK to reschedule doctors’ appointments and other nonemergency meetings. If you need to reschedule an appointment, be sure to do so as early as possible, as some individuals or offices have greater flexibility than others.
3. Plan Weekly Menus
As dietetics professionals, nutrition is a top priority for us and our families. Preplanning weekly menus—as well as meal prep—helps make this possible. Schedule a few hours every month or every other week to make lasagna, chili, or other meals that can be frozen and reheated when you don’t have time to cook. Stock your pantry with easy go-to options such as canned beans, tuna packets, and quinoa. Refrigerated single-serve yogurts, cheese sticks, and hummus with longer lasting veggies such as carrots also are good choices. If you prefer to visualize your plan, get a chalk or dry erase board to post your weekly meals.
4. Create a Communication Hub for Your Family
With two teens and one tween in my house, our schedules can get mighty hectic. So I created a group chat on our phones to make it easier for me to communicate with them. It’s much easier than texting or calling each one. If your kids are younger, or you prefer to lay off the electronic devices, call a family meeting once or twice a week to discuss what family or school activities and appointments that are coming up over the next few days.
5. Set Blocks of Time to Work
If you work from home, it’s easy to get distracted by the laundry that needs to get done or the dry cleaning that needs to be dropped off. Instead of dividing your attention and feeling overwhelmed, block off time to focus 100% on work, and set aside time to run personal errands and be with your family. Some folks like to head to a coffee shop, local library, or other location with free Wi-Fi where they can focus on work without distractions. Do whatever works best for you.
When you have an office outside of your home, blocking off time to work is easier, but you need to make sure you actually get work done. Focus on getting your tasks done while you’re at work and minimize socializing. This will help reduce the amount of work you take home or decrease the likelihood of staying late at the office.
6. Create “Me” Time
Part of keeping organized is also fitting in time to focus on yourself. I set aside an hour several times a week to go to my local Orangetheory fitness class at 6:15 AM and play in my United States Tennis Association tennis leagues. This helps keep me sane, and the exercise helps lower my anxiety. But it doesn’t always have to be exercise. Make time to get a manicure, catch up with friends over a glass of wine, or just veg for an hour watching your favorite Netflix series.
Following these tips—while reminding yourself that you’re only human and can’t do everything—can help you be more productive while maintaining your sanity. What other strategies do you use to manage and balance work and family?
— Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, is the founder of Toby Amidor Nutrition (http://tobyamidornutrition.com) and a Wall Street Journal best-selling author. Her cookbooks include Smart Meal Prep for Beginners, The Easy 5-Ingredient Healthy Cookbook, The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook, The Greek Yogurt Kitchen, and the forthcoming The Create-Your-Plate Diabetes Cookbook and The Best Rotisserie Chicken Cookbook Ever. She’s a nutrition expert for FoodNetwork.com and a contributor to U.S. News Eat + Run and Muscle&Fitness.com.