Being a working parent can often feel like being the star of a circus called "The Balancing Act." Juggling multiple responsibilities can be overwhelming; it can feel as though there isn’t enough time in the day to tame the never-ending to-do lists, from deadlines and meetings to grocery shopping and school pickups.

If you feel like you’re dropping a ball or two, you’re not alone. Many parents in Canada feel the strain of balancing finances, planning for the future, navigating mental health, establishing a work-life balance and tackling their daily to-do lists for their families. It’s a lot to maintain!

With a small dose of organization and planning, mixed with a touch of creativity, “mastering the art of time management for parents” can be a story with a happily ever after. Instead of treating your to-do list like a daunting task, think of it as your personal ringmaster, guiding you through the chaos. Break down your daily tasks into manageable chunks and tackle them just like a high-wire performer—one foot in front of the other.

7 Strategies to Manage Productivity

1. Manage Your To-Do List

Before diving into your to-do list, take a moment to identify your top priorities. What are the most important tasks that require your immediate attention? By setting clear goals, you can streamline your to-do list and make sure you address the most critical tasks first.

To better manage your to-do list, consider categorizing tasks into different areas of focus. For instance, you can have separate sections for work-related tasks, household chores, and personal responsibilities. This segmentation helps you prioritize and allocate time accordingly.

Take advantage of technology to streamline and enhance productivity as a working parent. Numerous digital tools and mobile apps are available to help create and manage your to-do lists. These applications offer task reminders, deadline notifications, and integration with calendar platforms. Explore different options to find the one that suits your needs and preferences. Test out different apps until you find one that works. For example, perhaps you’re a visual person, and like to colour-code the parts of your day by task type. Or, maybe you would like voice notes. Create recorded voice notes and reminders while you’re on the go and check back at the end of your day to sift through what needs to be tackled.

2. Communicate With Your Employer

Open and honest communication with your employer is crucial when balancing work and family responsibilities. Having a conversation with your employer about your needs as both an employee, and as a parent, can help you solve any potential challenges before they arise. By expressing your needs and concerns, you can collaborate to find a suitable arrangement that is proactive, and benefits both parties.

One effective way to ensure a productive dialogue is by creating a list of tips to guide you through the process. First, be prepared and have a clear idea of what you need as a parent: flexible working hours, telecommuting options, or even provisions for emergency situations. Second, choose an appropriate time and place to discuss your concerns with your employer. Find a moment when both of you are relaxed and ready to engage in a constructive conversation. Third, be confident in expressing your needs and concerns in a respectful and assertive manner. Use clear and concise language, focusing on how certain adjustments or accommodations can benefit not only you but also the company's overall productivity. Be open to negotiating and finding compromises that work for both parties.

Collaborating with your employer to find solutions will demonstrate your commitment to both your family and your job. Be proactive in finding resources and support systems that can assist you in maintaining an optimal work-life balance. This may involve researching available parental leave policies or childcare services that can alleviate some of the pressures you may face as a working parent.

A professional approach will help foster a supportive work environment that recognizes and values the importance of parenting responsibilities while promoting productivity and employee well-being.

3. Delegate and Outsource

Recognize that you don't have to handle everything on your to-do list alone. Delegate tasks to your partner, family members, or consider hiring some help if possible. Letting go of some responsibilities allows you to prioritize your time and energy where they are most needed. Consider outsourcing certain tasks to lighten your load, such as:

  • Consider enlisting the help of a reliable babysitter or nanny who can provide much-needed relief when you need to attend to other obligations. Websites and apps specifically designed for connecting parents with qualified childcare professionals can serve as a valuable resource in this area.
  • Save time and effort by outsourcing grocery shopping and meal planning to delivery services or online platforms that offer ready-to-cook meal kits. This allows you to focus more on quality time with your child and less on general household management.
  • Another aspect that can be occasionally outsourced is educational enrichment. Hiring a tutor or utilizing online learning resources can provide your child with extra school support, ensuring they stay on track academically.
  • Consider reaching out to professional organizers or cleaning services to maintain a clutter-free and tidy home, providing a conducive environment for your child's growth and development. 
  • Outsourcing personal tasks such as housecleaning, laundry, or even just taking a few moments to yourself for a massage or spa treatment can significantly contribute to your overall well-being and ability to be present for your child. By embracing the concept of outsourcing parenting tools, you can ultimately strike a balance between your parental responsibilities and personal life, allowing you to be the best parent you can be while also taking care of yourself.

​​​​​4. Prioritize Self-Care

Amidst the busyness of work and family life, it's crucial to prioritize self-care. Although it might seem like you have no time to spare, allocating just a few minutes a day can be all it takes to kick-start habits that help you recharge and rejuvenate.

Put an alert on your phone for a time of day where you know you’ll be able to spend 15 minutes on yourself. When your alert goes off, spend those minutes on something you can access right away. If you’re at home, perhaps you can engage in a quick 15-minute walk outside or mini-exercise routine. If you’re driving or on-the-go, try playing a mindfulness or meditation podcast, or relaxing music. Some other ideas are picking up a book, having a relaxing bath (if you have a bit more time), sitting with some deep breaths (easy to do in an office chair!) or picking up a hobby (knitting, a game of cards with a friend, a comedy video online). Try to use one day a week to spend more than 15 minutes on something for you. Perhaps it’s coffee with a friend, or a trip to the dog park with your furry family members. Maybe it’s attending a yoga or fitness class. Start small but make an effort to do one thing each day for you.

Establishing healthy boundaries between work and personal life is also crucial. Setting specific time limits for work-related activities and prioritizing quality time with family can help create a healthier balance and reduce stress. By creating a list of self-care tools and committing to practicing them consistently, working parents can effectively manage stress and foster a sense of well-being in both their personal and professional lives.

5. Set Those Boundaries

By establishing clear lines between work and personal life, you can create a sense of structure that allows for dedicated time with family while also ensuring optimal focus and productivity during work hours. This may involve setting designated workspaces, creating strict schedules, and communicating expectations with both employers and family members. Additionally, prioritizing self-care practices such as exercise, mindfulness, and regular breaks can greatly enhance overall well-being and reduce stress levels. By implementing these strategies, working parents can navigate the balancing act with confidence and success.

6. Financial Plan

As a working parent, managing finances can be an additional source of stress in an already busy life. However, with strategic financial planning, it’s possible to alleviate some of the stress and gain control over your financial situation. To begin, creating a list of financial planning tools is essential. These tools can include budgeting apps, expense trackers, and online banking platforms. By utilizing these resources, you can easily monitor your income and expenses, track your spending habits, and set realistic financial goals. It’s important to establish an emergency fund as a safety net for unexpected expenses. By setting aside a certain amount of money each month, you can make sure  you’re prepared for any unforeseen financial circumstances that may arise. It’s crucial to regularly review and update your insurance policies, such as health, life, and disability insurance, to protect both yourself and your family in case of emergencies. Consider seeking the advice of a financial planner who can help you create a comprehensive financial plan tailored specifically to your needs and goals. A professional financial planner can offer valuable guidance in terms of investments, retirement planning, and debt management, ultimately relieving some of the stress associated with making complex financial decisions.

7. Navigate Holiday Triggers

Navigating holiday stress triggers can be particularly challenging for parents, as they face a myriad of additional responsibilities during this time of year. However, with proper planning and effective strategies, it’s possible to manage and minimize the stress that can arise. One essential tip is to prioritize self-care. Amidst the hustle and bustle, parents often neglect their own well-being. By taking care of yourself both physically and mentally, you'll be better equipped to handle any stress triggers that come your way. Another useful technique is setting realistic expectations. Often, the pressure to create a picture-perfect holiday experience can become overwhelming. Remember that it's okay not to have everything flawless, and that what truly matters is spending quality time with your loved ones. Additionally, effective time management can greatly reduce stress. Creating a schedule and sticking to it can help you stay organized and ensure that you accomplish the most important tasks first. Finally, don't hesitate to ask for help when needed. Whether it's delegating tasks to family members or hiring outside assistance, reaching out for support can ease the burden and make the holiday season more enjoyable for everyone involved. By implementing these tips, parents can navigate holiday stress triggers with a greater sense of ease and create a more joyful experience for themselves and their families.

The holidays can often become cluttered with endless to-do lists and commitments. Simplify and streamline your holiday season by focusing on what truly matters. Consider scaling back on elaborate decorations, extravagant gifts, and excessive events. Instead, focus on creating meaningful traditions, spending quality time with loved ones, and giving experiences rather than material possessions.

Juggling life, keeping up our to-do lists and managing a family home as a working parent can be very challenging. With the right support and strategies, there are ways to manage. Finding balance, and the right tools are often easier said than done. Remember, everyone is juggling a set of their own daily tasks and challenges, and is doing the best that they can. Nobody is perfect, so give yourself some grace this season and set yourself up for success with some systems in place that help you juggle like a pro.