Exhausted new mom? This simple organizational tip will help!
When I came home from the hospital with my first child, I was definitely unprepared for the sheer chaos that ensues when sleep patterns become totally upended.
The sunlight streaming in my window would tell me it was daytime and I’d have the urge to get up and get something done as my peanut slept, but my brain was so cobwebby, even though I’d haul myself out of bed, I would end up just “nibbling” at the tasks that needed to be done without ever finishing anything.
It didn’t help that my new little one would wake up every two hours. My slow-as-molasses-in-the-wintertime approach to the chores meant I’d only be a quarter of the way through something when I’d have to stop, feed, and rock. Nine times out of ten, I’d forget what I was doing and start on something else after the baby was back down. It was like I had developed a full-blown case of organizational ADHD. Thank heavens my sweet husband had a sense of humor about it!
My inability to focus made me pretty miserable.
I felt “off,” and stressed. I knew I was supposed to be enjoying my maternity leave, but instead I was just constantly worried I was forgetting something important and feeling overwhelmed. I was aware that the constant chaos was robbing the present moment from me, but felt powerless to do anything about it. That’s me in the featured picture – I think my face sums it all up, really!
It was only once that my little guy started to sleep through the night and I returned from maternity leave and regained a consistent routine that I got my groove back.
A Trick to Avoid the Same Fate
So a month or two before our second little guy joined us I started to think about how I could avoid the same fate during this maternity leave. I had been doing some research on habits for work and was particularly intrigued by the concept of a keystone habit. Essentially, a keystone habit is a simple process that, if tracked daily over time, transforms everything. For example, studies have shown that the simple act of keeping a food journal not only leads to more weight loss, but also has positive trickle-down effects into other areas of life – from budgeting to household organization. Start with one little positive habit, do it consistently, track your progress, and you’ll start to see improvements in other areas of your life as well.
I wondered if there was a keystone habit that I could put into place as a new mom — one that was simple enough to do while sleep addled and while chasing after another toddler.
I drafted a list of potential options from going on a walk each morning to just making my bed each day.
In the end, I decided to start with the simplest option: making my bed. I could do that rain or shine, whether or not I had gotten 4 hours of sleep or 1.5 hours. So I printed up a little Excel spreadsheet for myself with the days of the week across the top and my little bed-making habit on the left. I printed it out and stuck it on the fridge. Then, each morning, after coming home from the hospital I had to track whether or not I’d done it.
Here’s what I found the first week:
• The tracking sheet on the fridge kept me honest. If I came downstairs and hadn’t yet made my bed, I would turn around and march back up to make it.
• Making my bed made me feel like getting dressed for the day. It was a habit that, for me, triggered another knee-jerk habit which made me feel more “normal.”
• Making my bed made the bedroom look more organized. That (a) reduced my stress level each time I entered the room, and (b) triggered me to pick up any clothes I dropped in exhaustion the night before.
In short, it helped considerably. No matter how exhausted I was, I could always summon the energy to make my bed. And just that one, simple action, made me so much more likely to do something else that made me feel better and more in control. It snowballed in a good way! By the end of my first month, I added another keystone habit to the list – either go on a walk with the bambino or, if the weather was bad, do a gentle post-natal video.
Overall, I credit that simple bed-making routine with helping me truly enjoy my second maternity leave.