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Mom Hacks to Help You Knock Out That To-Do List

Photograph by Twenty20

When you're a parent, there are a million tiny tasks on your to-do list. In fact, the sheer number of miniscule endeavors a parent can undertake in a single day is kind of unreal. When my husband gets home and asks about our day, sometimes I can only name one or two "big" tasks—grocery shopping, going to the park, etc. The millions of small things are just too numerous to keep track of—making 87 snacks, changing pee-stained sheets, wiping ALL THE BUTTS. With all these to-dos on our list, it can be difficult to find enough hours in the day, but thankfully parenting is the mother of corner-cutting hacks. These are simple yet clever ways to help you check a few more things off your list in the midst of the parenting chaos.

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1. Bath-time hacks

If your kids are anything like mine, then they want to stay in the tub FOR-EH-VER. This is all well and good because they are contained and occupied, but when you have a never-ending to-do list, bath-time supervision can start to feel like a real time suck. There are some great ways to make the most of bath time, though!

Clean the bathroom: Who likes to clean the bathroom? But since you're stuck in there, it couldn't hurt.

Groom yourself: Do all the grooming tasks you don't always have time for (think: tweeze eyebrows, do a face mask, floss, finally remove that chipped nail polish).

Meal plan/make a grocery list: I always procrastinate on this. Bonus, you can get some kid feedback since they're a captive audience.

Read bedtime stories: If you do this while they're in the tub, you'll shorten the post-bath bedtime routine.

Make the kids multitask, too: They can brush their teeth in the bathtub!

2. Car hacks

I kind of loathe being in the car with kids. Someone is always dropping something on the floor and freaking out about it, and they're constantly poking and pestering each other. I've found that finding ways to engage them helps things go more smoothly for them. Plus, we can squeeze in a little quality time. And OK, multitasking quality time might sound terrible, but sometimes it's the only way it's gonna happen!

Listen to kid podcasts: We love listening to kid stories like this one. (I save this for days when we won't have as much reading time together).

Squeeze in some learning: We'll talk about the colors we see, practice addition and subtraction, sing the ABC's, work on memorizing things (poems, addresses, etc.), talk about nature/the weather/whatever is on their minds. They love it, and I feel like I'm being a super-attentive parent.

3. Kitchen hacks

I've never been the type who loves to cook. It's just not my jam. But even so, I have found that the kitchen can be an excellent place for multitasking.

Make extra meals: Whether you're making a pot of soup for dinner or pancakes for breakfast, make extras whenever you can. Making extra isn't much more work, and reheating pancakes for breakfast the next day cuts down on morning craziness. And leftovers for dinner or lunches are always a welcome reprieve.

Tidy while things simmer: Take this opportunity to wash the dishes, organize a shelf in the pantry or take out the trash.

Listen to podcasts while you cook: Since there isn't much time to actually read parenting books these days, I like to listen to parenting podcasts while I cook—that is, if my kids are happily entertained in the other room.

Whether you're making a pot of soup for dinner or pancakes for breakfast, make extras whenever you can.

4. Workout hacks

Working out is one of those things that is far too easy to strike from the to-do list when things get busy, but it is so important! Your body releases endorphins when you work out, and endorphins make you happy, and happy people like their children more. It's science. Here are a few ways multitasking can make your workouts happen:

Sleep in your workout clothes: It saves time in the morning, so you don't have to fumble around in the dark, figuring out what to wear.

Work out during kid activities: I love watching my daughter twirl around in ballet class, but sometimes it's nice to use that time for a bit of productivity. Wear workout clothes and squeeze in a run, or make a quick trip to the grocery store. It'll cut down on your stops later on.

Watch your favorite TV shows only while you work out: TV can be a real time suck, so limiting yourself to watching it only while you're at the gym or riding your stationary bike at home can be a good way to multitask. It can also make you work out longer/harder so you can keep watching!

Squeeze in workouts while you wait: You can do wall sits, squats, countertop pushups and more while you're watching your kids in the bathtub, waiting for a soup to simmer or brushing your teeth. Get creative!

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5. The most important hack

Delegate: In all things: DELEGATE. I have reached the point where I officially refuse to do something that my family members can't do for themselves. My kids can help fold and put away laundry, set and clear the table for dinner, dress themselves and more, so I let them do it whenever I can. Taking something off my plate frees up my time tremendously.

And ... sometimes, you've just gotta throw all of this out the window and stop multitasking and simply be present.

The laundry can wait 'til later.

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