The New Definition of Productive


I’ve always been a list-maker. Pre-motherhood, when I put pen to paper, there was a much higher likelihood that a task would get that done that day – if for no other reason than I love the action of checking an item off a to-do list. At the end of a long day, there is something extremely satisfying about a completed list (type A personalities, I know you hear me). Although there were times that I overshot my goals for the day, I was still crossing things off and felt like a productive human being.

Then I had kids.

These days, no matter how hard I try, the list never seems to get completed. It takes weeks or sometimes even months to find the extra time to do something small like “clean out the closet.” I constantly find myself having to choose between getting “to-do” items done or getting sleep, spending time with family, or other aspects of life that aren’t meant to be compromised. As much as I want to be productive, I also want to be happy.

Then one day at the pediatrician’s office, as I was complaining about how I can never get anything done, the doctor gave me her biggest piece of parenting advice to date:

Set your expectations lower.

At the time, this didn’t exactly sound motivating… especially to someone who pre-kids was used to moving forward, both around the house and in life. Benjamin Franklin’s quote: “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today” had been working out just fine as my mantra.

Then I thought about what she said, and realized how true it really is. Life is a constant battle of what needs to be done versus how you really want to spend your time. In order to truly enjoy our lives in this busy season called motherhood, we need to change our definition of the word productive. Instead of trying to get 10 things done in a day, maybe we should just shoot for two. And let that be okay. That last load of laundry can wait until tomorrow.

The latest craze with Marie Kondo calls us to get rid of items that don’t spark joy. That same advice can be applied to a busy to-do list. Instead of writing down all the mundane items that need done, pick one or two – and spend the rest of your free time doing things that will bring you joy.