How to Prioritize Tasks as a Mom
I’m sure I’m not the only one who sometimes just sits and stares at my house and/or my to-do list, eyes glazing over, wondering what I should tackle first and how to prioritize my tasks as a mom.
Some days it’s because everything feels urgent, and I don’t know what to do first. Other days, it’s because it all feels soooooooooo monotonous (why does my family insist on making more laundry EVERY DAY?) and it’s hard to determine what to do when.
Add to that some personal struggles with anxiety/postpartum anxiety and depression, and analysis paralysis is a very real thing!
Can you relate to any of this, Mama?
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The mental fatigue of trying to prioritize your tasks as a mom
As a stay-at-home Mom I sometimes envy my work-not-at-home husband, who has a boss to tell him exactly what he should be working on when.
I think that’s part of the mental fatigue that so easily grips us as mothers- not only are we trying to DO so many of the tasks, but we’re also having to decide what to do when and how and motivate ourselves (and others) to do them.
So what can we do? Is there a way to reduce the mental load of deciding on priorities every single morning?
YES! There is!
A basic Step-by-Step guide on how to QUICKLY prioritize daily tasks
FIRST, Set up your big-picture priorities
What matters most to you in LIFE as a whole? You’ve got to start there before you can figure out how you’re going to do the rest.
What matters the most to you, and to your spouse/family? What are the non-negotiables (or things that you want to be non-negotiable)?
I recommend talking through these things with your family and even writing them out together. To get done what is important to you all as a family, you’ve got to communicate well about it. And to communicate well about what is going to get done, you need to know what’s most important to each of you.
SECOND, think of YOURSELF as a priority!
When you’re thinking through these big picture things, please make sure you include yourself and your own care- moms tend to be bad about leaving ourselves last, and the truth is that we need to take care of yourselves, too!
What do you need to be able to keep up the pace set by motherhood? An evening off each week? Coffee in the morning? A friend to trade kids sometimes? Whatever it is, include YOU!
THIRD, learn how to use an Eisenhower Matrix to prioritize your tasks
The Eisenhower Matrix (or Box) is named after the 34th President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was the Allied Forces Supreme Commander in World War II, so the guy had to make a whole lot of tough decisions- which led him to come up with the Eisenhower Matrix.
I love this super simple method because it it makes it quickly obvious what needs to go first on my to-do list. Using an this simple method can help you sort our your daily tasks and quickly see what needs to get done the most- and what doesn’t.
A basic Eisenhower Matrix looks like this:
Simple, right? It has two axis: Urgent and Important + Less Urgent and Less Important. This creates four quadrants that make four categories.
The Four Categories of an Eisenhower Matrix to Prioritize Your Tasks as a Mom
The Urgent + Important
Things that are urgent AND important.
Maybe your daughter has a rash and you need to call the doctor to get her in for an appointment today. Or you’ve let the dishes pile up so much that there’s no more clean silverware (I’ve never done this of course…cough cough). Or the fridge is down to pickles and jelly and you really should go grocery shopping before dinner tonight.
Obviously, what goes in this category will somewhat depend on the day- obviously if someone needs to go to the Emergency Room, that’s going to trump needing to get groceries for the day. But anything that really does need to be done TODAY (or ASAP) and is also important should go on this list.
I’m also going to add to this that anything in this category that you can ask someone else to do (particularly a spouse or child)- DO that!
The Important, but Less Urgent
Next up is things that are important, but not as urgent.
This is stuff like meal planning, figuring out a date for your next dentist appointment, getting a birthday present for a friend, etc. Things that definitely need to be done, but they can be scheduled.
So for these things, you’ll need to decide WHEN you’re going to do them, and put them in your schedule or on your to-do list in such a way that you remember to do them (preferably before they hit the urgent category!).
In other words, doing the dishes *before* they hit the no-clean-silverware phase… (do you see how this is designed to reduce your mental stress?)
The Urgent, but Less Important
Third is the urgent, but not as important, category.
These are things that definitely need to happen (and ASAP) but they’re just not top priority- which means they may need to either get done by someone else or not at all.
Like, if there’s a sale at Love and Fit for the next 24 hours and you really want a new sports nursing/pumping bra (yes, that’s a thing!)- you have to do it soon to get the sale…but it’s not actually that big a deal if you miss it.
Sometimes you can delegate the things in this category- maybe you do need to pick up that medicine refill today, but your husband can do it on the way home from work so you don’t have to pack up the kids to go get it. Or maybe Instacart can bring you your groceries so you don’t have to get to the store.
Be sure and check out How to Simplify Your Life as a Mom for more ideas on how to automate your life and reduce your stress!
The Less Important and Less Urgent
This last category is one that some would call the “delete” category, but I’m going to disagree with that, at least for Mamas.
As Moms, we often have to put things on the back burner. We put our dreams and ideas on hold for a season so that we can invest in these little humans; how that plays out may look different for each mama, but we all do it in some way or another.
So there may be things in this category like “read about starting a mom blog” or “look up the Ava bracelet to track fertility” or “learn how to use SVG files for craft projects” but that doesn’t mean those things need to be tossed off the list. You and your goals and wants are important, too!
I highly recommend making a list of those types of things and setting that aside to pull from when you’re able.
Some things that go in this category, however, probably do need to be deleted- hint: if you’ve been putting it off for months with no consequences, it might actually not need to be done. 😉
Putting task prioritization with the Eisenhower Matrix into practice
Write it down
So you’ve got the idea of this- four categories to help you divide up what needs to be done when. Now it’s time to get practical and do that with your to-do list.
First up, write it all out! Every single thing you can think of that’s on your mind. Remember, the goal of this is to relieve you of some mental stress, not create it, so don’t try and come up with extra things (unless you really want to and it makes you feel better). Just get out anything you know is weighing on you.
Sort it out
Next up, sort it! Divide up your list into the categories. And remember, this isn’t an exact science. If you’re not sure which category to put it in, just pick one! The idea is to be able to do this quickly, so don’t over-analyze it.
Another well-known Mom blogger uses sticky notes to make hers! She uses a poster board divided into an Eisenhower Matrix and then puts sticky notes of the different tasks into the boxes. Genius!
Try a Trello Board
My personal favorite way of sorting things out is to use a Trello Board! I love it so much that I made you one with an Eisenhower Matrix. 😉
Pro-Tip: If you like using Trello to organize your thoughts, be sure and check out these other free templates to organize your mom life that I’ve made for you!
If you’d like to download this Trello template for your own use, you can do so at the end of this post!
Do it !
Now you actually have to do the things on your list (bummer, I know ;-)). But hopefully with the help of the Eisenhower Matrix (and my cool Trello board!) you’ll have a much better idea of what needs to happen when- and you’ll feel better as a result.
Do you have a way you prioritize your tasks as a mom? I would love to see what you do- post a comment below and let me know!
If you liked learning how to prioritize your tasks as a mom using the Eisenhower Matrix, you should check out:
- This post with a FREE Trello template for organizing and prioritizing your family tasks
- The Mini Course: Meal Planning on a Budget with Trello
- 7 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Mental Load– a great way to prioritize your tasks as a mom so things don’t hit the URGENT category as often!
- How to Use Trello to Organize Your Life– check out 15 different ideas for using Trello to get organized!