You hear a lot about “mom brain” when you’re a new mother. This includes forgetfulness, clumsiness, falling behind on just about everything. For moms of new babies, having “mom brain” or “mommy brain” makes perfect sense. Infants are a lot of work, sleep is elusive, and five minutes in the shower seems like a day at the spa.
But honestly I think “mom brain” isn’t just for new mothers. Motherhood is busy and exhausting. My youngest is six and I feel like I’m still in a fog half the time, trying to keep up with this fast-paced thing called motherhood.
I try to stay on top of everything. I use my iCloud calendar all the time, and my gorgeous Law of Attraction Planner, and we have a family calendar displayed on our fridge complete with color coding – yes, I’m that mom.
I try to respond to emails as they come in and return phone calls in a somewhat timely manner. I set alerts with my Reminder app in my iPhone of the really big stuff that I have to get done.
But I miss things along the way.
Something comes up and I forget to respond to that email. Or an alert goes off and I’m in the middle of something, I promise myself to do it later and it doesn’t get done. Or I arrive at the school for the field trip just moments after the school bus leaves because I got the time wrong in my rush to read the teacher’s email sent the night before. And how can I make a list, go to the grocery store, come home and discover that I still forgot the most important thing?
It’s because I’m tired. My brain never turns off. Even if I’m not physically doing something then I’m still mentally doing something. I think most, if not all, of us moms are wired this way.
My mind is constantly firing off things I need to do, or worse yet, things and people to worry about and be concerned over. Did my boys drink enough water today? Did they eat well? Did I let the dog in before I left the house? Did I call my mom? Did I remember to send my great aunt her birthday card? Were baseball pictures tonight? Oh crap, laundry!!
Sometimes I’ll start one thing, only to be interrupted and pulled to another thing. This process will repeat itself until there are many things half done, and I’m exhausted.
So I decided to put an end to this insanity. It was time to give my mom brain a reboot. So here’s what I did. It’s an easy process and super helpful when I stick to it.
STEP 1: Write smarter lists
I am the list queen. Legit! I love making lists and I have lists for my lists. Because my brain never turns off, there is always something I need or want to get done. But it can get to a point that my lists are overwhelming. When they’re overwhelming, I don’t want to look at them anymore. I stop using them and sink deeper into chaos. That’s when my lists actually do more harm than good.
But when I get “smart” with my lists, then they help catapult me forward.
Here’s my strategy for using lists more effectively
Lists can be a great way to give your mom brain a break but only if they are used effectively. That means being strategic with the lists you create and how (and why) you use them. These are my lists:
>>> This Month List – I start the month by creating my monthly list. This is the list of all the stuff that needs to be done this month. Sports sign-ups, birthdays, appointments, all of it goes on this list.
>>> This Week List – Using the “This Month” list, I pull things into my list for this week. I make this list every Sunday night. These are all of the things that need to get done this week. There was a point in time I didn’t do this step and just went straight to step three. I find that including this step makes the next step easier and keeps everything a little clearer in my mind.
>>> Today List – I then pull from the “This Week” list to create my “Today” list. I do this each night before bed so that I have a clear picture of what my day will be like tomorrow. I find that doing this cuts out a lot of the mind chatter at night and allows me for a deeper sleep knowing that I have all of my ducks in a row.
Other ways I use lists
- Evergreen List – I use to be a reporter, producer and news anchor for a time in my career. In journalism, the term evergreen is used for the story ideas that stay relevant over a long period of time. So my Evergreen List is a list of things I want to do that can really be done at any time. This may include things I want to buy, stuff I want to do around the house, projects I want to complete. They have no deadline and in all honesty they may never get done.
- Seasonal Lists – I have a list for each season of the year. On this list I keep the things that have to be done every year because I found I was using up a lot of mental space (and time and energy) recreating lists of all of the same things every year. For instance, Spring includes things like plant flowers, wash the windows, power wash the deck, sign up for Summer camps, sign up for swim lessons, etc. I then set a reminder in my phone and on my calendar to check the list and plug that stuff in on my calendar.
- Store Lists – I do a lot of my shopping online but I also shop at stores in our area. It’s annoying to write up a list before leaving only to get back home and realize I forgot to put something on the list. So I keep a list for every store I shop at and add to the list whenever I think of something. We run out of toilet paper? Add to the grocery list! Need a new swimsuit? Add to the Kohl’s list! You get the idea. Then when I have time to go to the store, my list is already made.
- Road Trips & Vacation Ideas – Forget Pinterest, I love word of mouth when it comes to road trips and vacation ideas! I figure if someone I love and trust had a great time, then I trust their judgement more than a random stranger on Pinterest. If I hear of a great suggestion I add it to the running list in my phone. Tucked away safely for a later time whenever I’m planning a trip.
The main takeaway from this is to break down lists. We all have lists but if they are jumbled messes like mine have been, and have no system, they’re not doing you any good and are probably stressing you out.
STEP 2: Shut down screens
There are some very real side effects of cell phones and other smart devices. An increasing body of evidence suggests that the time we spend on our smartphones is interfering with our sleep, self-esteem, relationships, memory, attention spans, creativity, productivity and problem-solving and decision-making skills.
It may be fun to binge watch our favorite shows on Netflix but it may be costing you a good night’s rest. Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night to help detox our bodies, restore our systems and be refreshed. Yet the average American adult gets between 4-6 hours of sleep each night. Reduce your screen time so you can increase your z’s and you just might find yourself feeling more on top of things. Still having trouble sleeping? Check out this article about reclaiming your sleep, and read this one about how caffeine may be contributing to your restless nights.
STEP 3: Say no so you can say yes
You may find it hard to say no to those volunteer and work opportunities. But the truth of the matter is that you may actually be taking on extra work that you just don’t need right now.
Yes, it’s good to help out your community, church, the kid’s school and so on and so forth. However, it’s also good to have time with your family and be fully present. If you find yourself always stressed, running around like a crazy woman, or looking at your phone more than your children, you may want to consider saying no more often.
You only have so much time and brain space! Do you want your kids to have the frazzled mom who volunteered for everything? OR the mom who has her stuff together and volunteers less?
Motherhood is a season and right now, this is your season of growing your children. They need your love, support and guidance and the truth is that you can’t do that if you’re out there caring for everyone else and their kids. When your kids are older, you’ll have loads more time and wonder where the years went with them when they were younger.
STEP 4: Take care of yourself
We cannot pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself. Love yourself enough to make time for self-care even if it’s just a few minutes a day. Self-care doesn’t have to be hard and it doesn’t have to extravagant. Here are some ideas to get you started. Read Self-care for Busy Moms