Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on FlexJobs.com.
Parenting can be hard. And balancing work with taking care of your kids can complicate things more. No matter where you are, you feel like you should be somewhere else.
And you’re desperate to find a balance that would allow you to actually enjoy both aspects of your life.
As it turns out, the key might be some easily implemented organizational strategies. At first glance, that sounds overly simplified.
But it really might be as simple as prioritizing tasks, asking for help, and setting clear boundaries.
10 Tips for Working Parents to Get Organized
If you need help figuring out where to start, consider the following tips we’ve rounded up. They’ll give you a big-picture look at several areas to focus on as a working parent.
1. Start Your Day Strategically
Carving out time in the morning helps you launch your day with intention. Set up a morning routine that lets you prioritize your daily tasks and complete them one at a time.
By launching your day with a structure you’re in control of, you can better avoid feeling overwhelmed throughout the rest of the day. And you’ll know what’s essential on your list and what can get bumped to a different time.
You should also prioritize movement. But if getting up 30 minutes early to meditate and start your day with a clear head and intention is your only option, consider it. You can always choose exercise and play later, during family time.
2. Make a To-Do List
Making organized to-do lists can help you keep track of your many responsibilities without feeling like you have to keep it all in your head. Start by brain-dumping your tasks and then group them into categories so you can prioritize what’s most essential.
Once you have listed all your tasks, unapologetically cross out the ones that won’t fit into your day.
Without those unrealistic tasks staring you down, you’ll have a better sense of accomplishment as your list gets shorter.
3. Set Reasonable Deadlines
Are you juggling a side hustle or freelance work? Or is this simply a season in your life when you feel stretched thin?
Regardless of why, it’s overwhelming and defeating to make a list and timelines that are unrealistic.
Setting reasonable deadlines will help you spread out the work and manage your time effectively. It’s great to get a task list done, but remember to allocate extra time for things that come up at the last minute.
And don’t let compare your situation to anyone else’s. If you do, you’ll likely give in to guilt and imposter syndrome.
Remember, images you see from influencers on social media support their brand; it takes planning and strategy. Those pictures of perfectly clean houses and parents with pristine outfits in sunny, meticulous offices aren’t realistic.
4. Create a Family Calendar
Whether it’s visiting the doctor every month with an infant or soccer practice during elementary school, kids’ calendars fill up. Prevent scheduling collisions by creating a family calendar that makes it easier to keep track of activities, events, and obligations.
First, jot down the nonnegotiables, such as work and school. Then, consider all the other time slots and where you might need to juggle or call in reinforcements, like grandparents or carpools.
With everyone in the house aware of each other’s needs, you can plan for upcoming work trips or school meetings and make sure no one is left out.
Consider using an online calendar that you can share with other caregivers. As your kids get older, you can have them add in their scheduling commitments as well. The more you can delegate some of the tasks, the easier it gets to manage everything.
5. Schedule Planning Time
Don’t you hate it when 5 o’clock rolls around, and you’re still trying to figure out what’s for dinner? Or worse, you had a plan but never took the food out of the freezer.
Your life gets substantially more manageable if you prioritize and embrace meal planning. And to plan your meals, you need to plan when you’ll make a plan.
Create time each week and each month to sit and plan everything from your budget to work commitments to school. Any moving or variable piece of your routine should get plotted to help limit surprises.
This is a great time to plan your meals, schedule your trip to the grocery store, and analyze your child care needs.
As you’re looking at your schedules and lists, you’ll be able to see who can be assigned to certain duties, when you need to delegate, and when it’s simply not an option.
6. Learn the Art of Saying No
The truth is, you don’t have to do it all. Learning the art of saying no isn’t easy, but politely refusing without guilt or apology can be liberating.
Choose your commitments and tasks wisely, and don’t feel obligated to say yes to everything. Letting go of some functions or events can help you focus on the ones most important to your family.
While flexible work gifts you the opportunity to be available more, it doesn’t mean that you can’t say no to chaperoning a field trip or going to get ice cream in the afternoon. It means you likely get to choose saying yes more often than you’re forced to say no.
7. Set Boundaries at Work
The same advice applies to work tasks. Try to break the habit of taking on every project that comes your way. Instead, build a routine where you say, “Let me check my calendar and get back to you.”
Take a realistic look at your to-do list and upcoming projects. Are you willing to take on more? What will that look like in terms of extra hours or less flexibility?
Next time your boss asks if you can handle a task, remember to check your calendar before you reply. Instead of saying no, let them know when your current workload would allow you to handle that task.
That might sound something like, “I checked my calendar, and I have space at the end of next week to work on that. Does that work for the deadlines?”
8. Take Time for Yourself
When it comes to caring for a family, parents often put themselves last on their list of priorities, but this is one thing you shouldn’t skimp on. It’s nearly impossible to be present and give your best effort without taking time for yourself.
Instead, schedule breaks throughout the day, take a walk around the block during lunchtime, and do something you enjoy after putting the kids to bed. Taking small moments for yourself can make a difference in calming your anxiety and overwhelm.
9. Let Go of Your Inner Overachiever
It’s a common misconception that working longer hours will lead to a promotion. But you don’t need to work ridiculous hours to get ahead.
In fact, studies have repeatedly shown that your productivity and quality of work slide when you’re hitting overtime and burnout.
Prioritizing work-life balance and setting healthy boundaries ensures that you’re putting forth your best work.
10. Take Advantage of Flexible Work Options
Technology has been a game-changer for working parents. Balancing parenting with your career is easier with a flexible role.
Flexible schedules can help you juggle things like school pickup and drop-off, running to ballet lessons and doctor’s appointments, and more. Work your lunch breaks around a midweek grocery run, or exercise after the kids go to school.
There’s no right or wrong way to put work flexibility to work for you and no one-size-fits-all approach.
Of course, you’ll still need child care if your kids are young. But with a flexible role, you might need less of it, as you can often work before they’re awake or share childcare responsibilities with another caregiver.
Getting Organized and Thriving as a Working Parent
Rediscover your wonder and joy for both your career and your family.
You can balance it all when you approach your tasks and time management strategically and with a clear sense of your priorities.