Mom’s Baby Steps: Getting Things Done Bit by Bit

 

There was a time, when I used to work on a single project for hours on end. Before kids, before the house, husband and handyman, I used to sit down at my desk and emerge later with the draft written. I even recall reading the Sunday paper in one sitting.

Those days disappeared with the birth of my first child. And though I have more time now that my two girls are older, they haven’t really returned.

For the truth is that children go to school less than you expect, the leak never really gets fixed and the carpool remains a work in progress requiring mad texting every afternoon.

I love this full life. My interruptions are often adorable and endearing. Still, I need to get other things done. And so, I’ve adopted the baby-steps approach.

This involves doing projects bit by bit over time. It’s not ideal. I often feel impatient, spread too thin and craving completion. And it can’t be used for projects with a tight deadline

But for many others, it works.

I’m too embarrassed to reveal how long it took to redesign this website and launch this blog. But while it was underway, the kids changed grades and one changed schools.

The project ended up being like the kitchen renovation where you start to replace the refrigerator and end up redoing the plumbing.

I didn’t initially plan to commission a logo or automate my newsletter signup. But once into the redesign, I realized those things needed to be done. And each one was a project in and of itself.

So I did them – bit by bit.

It wasn’t fun. I despaired of finishing. I compared myself to more productive moms and felt like a loser.

Then recently this redesigned website and blog went live.  Completion! Could it be?

In fact, baby steps do add up, and the bit-by-bit approach has advantages. This website is better for my having taken frequent breaks and returning to it with fresh eyes. Doing the project in small pieces made evenings with the kids more relaxed.

So keep the faith and keep at it. You will finish, if you just keep starting – over and over and over again.

Photo Credit: Edmond Chen (flickr.com)

Have small children and want to read more on this topic? Read my “Incompletion” chapter in Beyond One: Growing a Family and Getting a Life.

Need help getting started on a project you are procrastinating? Read The Now Habit. And thanks to the fabulous Marla Beck for recommending it.

Disclosure: I use some affiliate links, which means that if you click and buy a product, I make a small commission. Thanks for your support!

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Comments

  • Luisa

    October 29, 2010 at 1:43 am
    Reply

    Jennifer, You are speaking my language! Some days I look around me and ask myself, "How did I get here?!!" I have 7 year old and 13 […] Read MoreJennifer, You are speaking my language! Some days I look around me and ask myself, "How did I get here?!!" I have 7 year old and 13 year old boys and a younger husband - so I'm living with 3 boys, essentially! But, that's another blog! Baby steps is the name of the game or you cannot accomplish a thing, and that doesn't feel so good. As you say, it works for the kids' projects, too. Every year during the last week before school starts, I have my now 13 year old clean/organize one small part of this room everyday for about a half hour: 1st the nightstand, then the bookshelf, then the closet, etc. After a week of this, he has a fresh, organized new room to start the new school year with, and it is something that we can all feel good about. Keep up the dialogue. It is reassuring to hear that we are not alone..... Read Less

    • JenniferHull
      to Luisa

      October 29, 2010 at 8:00 pm
      Reply

      Luisa, Great to hear from you! I love what you said about asking yourself, "How did I get here?!" I thought I was the only one […] Read MoreLuisa, Great to hear from you! I love what you said about asking yourself, "How did I get here?!" I thought I was the only one who did that. I like your idea of tackling your son's room. Baby steps are really the only way for that right? I mean, getting a kid to clean his room all at once is just too overwhelming (not to mention how it feels to mom.) Actually, maybe I should take that approach in encouraging my husband to go through his stuff. But that is definitely another blog post! Read Less

  • Elizabeth B

    October 28, 2010 at 7:16 am
    Reply

    Hi, Jennifer-- I'm almost 42, with a five year old and a two year old, so this blog topic is certainly close to my heart! I work […] Read MoreHi, Jennifer-- I'm almost 42, with a five year old and a two year old, so this blog topic is certainly close to my heart! I work three days a week outside the home, and I have to say that I find my office days downright relaxing. I get to decide when I eat, and no one interrupts me in the bathroom--how great is that? I admire WAHM moms who can keep their cool and stay productive. That is a skill I have yet to master. I hear you about the taking things in small chunks--if I didn't do that, no laundry would ever get done or any meal made! Cheers from Australia, Elizabeth Read Less

    • JenniferHull
      to Elizabeth B

      October 28, 2010 at 5:22 pm
      Reply

      Elizabeth - it's exciting to get a comment from Australia! It sounds like that outside office is a refuge and I can understand why. Any mom […] Read MoreElizabeth - it's exciting to get a comment from Australia! It sounds like that outside office is a refuge and I can understand why. Any mom of young kids knows that using the bathroom alone is a luxury not to be underestimated. I also find that making meals in small chunks works well. Recently, though, I prepped a dish but never got back to it. I had to throw out the ingredients a few days later. (Just so no one here mistakes me for being too efficient.) But yes - here's to baby steps - especially from Australia! Read Less

  • Lisa Lynch

    October 27, 2010 at 3:28 am
    Reply

    Hi Jennifer! Thanks for starting this great blog. I am facing the same sorts of issues! For me, doing work in small chunks can actually […] Read MoreHi Jennifer! Thanks for starting this great blog. I am facing the same sorts of issues! For me, doing work in small chunks can actually be more productive than trying to put in an 8-hour day. I think I'm now conditioned to get interrupted every few minutes -- so smaller tasks can be better. I recently started back at work -- 20 hours a week -- and after 7 years of staying home with kids, I will admit that I am more productive than ever during these short spurts of working! I think it's important that moms don't sell themselves short. We can accomplish more during baby steps than some full-time workers. Read Less

    • JenniferHull
      to Lisa Lynch

      October 28, 2010 at 3:56 pm
      Reply

      Hi Lisa! It's great to hear that your transition back to work is going well. I agree that motherhood makes you more efficient. What's hard […] Read MoreHi Lisa! It's great to hear that your transition back to work is going well. I agree that motherhood makes you more efficient. What's hard for me at times is getting to the stuff that requires long periods of uninterrupted concentration. I try to reserve mornings when the girls are at school for writing, for instance, but sometimes I just have to dive into my desk pile of small stuff instead because it has gotten so high that it is preying on me. That may be one of the perils of working at home. And of course this morning my husband and I found ourselves examining the latest leak in the bedroom. . . (unfortunately having a work-at-home husband is not always romantic). Water running down the wall into the white rug. Ah, well. Read Less

  • Gina Roberts-Grey

    October 22, 2010 at 12:45 pm
    Reply

    Great site! Baby steps work with teens, too. I'm a 40's mom and have a 14 year old. Small bites is how you get through […] Read MoreGreat site! Baby steps work with teens, too. I'm a 40's mom and have a 14 year old. Small bites is how you get through things like (gulp) realizing your "baby" will be driving with a permit in a few months. Read Less

    • JenniferHull
      to Gina Roberts-Grey

      October 24, 2010 at 5:32 pm
      Reply

      Gina, I agree - small steps can be helpful with the kids too. May he drive very slowly at first! We're doing middle school applications and […] Read MoreGina, I agree - small steps can be helpful with the kids too. May he drive very slowly at first! We're doing middle school applications and my younger daughter has lots of essays to complete as we are applying to a bunch of schools. This is on top of a big homework load. I'm having her do them a bit at a time over several weekends so she doesn't get too overloaded. Two applications down, one to go! Then again, I kind of admire people who can just sit down at the last minute and crank things out. Not my style - I get too stressed. Much is a matter of personal preference and I need my sleep! Read Less

  • Another Lisa

    October 17, 2010 at 7:13 pm
    Reply

    Hey, Jennifer. I enjoy your straightforward approach when it comes to parenting. I'm (gasp) almost at the mid-life point myself and have two young children […] Read MoreHey, Jennifer. I enjoy your straightforward approach when it comes to parenting. I'm (gasp) almost at the mid-life point myself and have two young children with seemingly endless years of homework, dance classes, and swimming lessons ahead. Lisa Read Less

    • JenniferHull
      to Another Lisa

      October 17, 2010 at 8:15 pm
      Reply

      Lisa, Thanks for being the first to comment on my blog! Overall, late parenting has kept me younger though it certainly has it challenges and I wouldn't […] Read MoreLisa, Thanks for being the first to comment on my blog! Overall, late parenting has kept me younger though it certainly has it challenges and I wouldn't do as well without caffeine! You may be surprised how some of those lessons turn out. My girls got into figure skating a few years ago and I found myself skating again after decades off the ice. I even now own figure skates. Who knew? I'm not particularly good. My aim is to just stay up and go round and round the rink. Luckily I grew up in Chicago, so it came back. It's amazing what your kids can get you into. Few moms in Miami grew up skating, so I'm one of the few on the ice! Jennifer Read Less

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About Jennifer

A former journalist for The Wall Street Journal and Time, Jennifer is the award-winning author of Beyond One: Growing a Family and Getting a Life and pens the MidAge Mom blog.

She’s profiled exceptional women from the Middle East to Latin America. Widely published, her essays have been included in two anthologies.

Jennifer is also a frequent radio and TV guest. Full Bio

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In Beyond One, Jennifer chronicles her leap from one child to two, describing the enormous impact the second child has on a woman’s body, marriage, family life, friendships and work.

"Hull is the kind of woman many moms long to be friends with. . ." -The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Credits

The Wall Street Journal, Time, The Atlantic Monthly, CNN.com, MS., Parenting, Real Simple, Salon.com, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Working Mother, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, American Way, Brain, Child, The Christian Science Monitor, and more.