10 tips to prioritise, delegate and get stuff done when you are a working mum

Occasionally motherhood can be summed up in a few words: wake the kids, make breakfast, get everyone dressed, leave, forget something, leave again. The ability to navigate all of that—or better yet, to navigate it all with dignity and grace and a modicum of sanity—is as much science as it is art. And when it comes to translating that everyday experience for a working mum who owns her own business, it’s one thing to be busy, but it’s quite another to have days that are actually productive.

From an outside perspective, Sarah Humphries has flawless skin, the perfect capsule wardrobe and deftly handles difficult conversations with clients with grace and ease. But having known her as both my old boss and a truly wonderful friend, I know that all that “effortless-ness” come with a lot of effort and many hard lessons learnt along the way.

After starting her career with Parfums Givenchy in London, Sarah worked for years as a publicist looking after some of the most glamorous beauty brands in the biz. In 2013, she started Sarah Humphries Agency, launching with three clients and two full-time staff. Fast forward several years down the track and SHA PR is a happy little family with over 10 clients and 10 employees…. oh and she managed to have 2 beautiful little boys in the meantime. She is basically the perfect case study when it comes to being a working mum and how to get it all done.

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Prioritising and Delegating to get sh*t done

by Sarah Humphries

The greatest tip I can ever give a working mother is to let go. It is impossible to hold on to things as tightly as you once did. The probability of you being across every meeting, client or project at work in the capacity you once did is unlikely (particularly if you have very young children). Equally, you aren’t going to be there for every meal, step or word that your gorgeous child does either. For me, both of these things were really hard to accept, but the more I held on to the ideals I once held for myself as a business owner and a mother, the worse I felt.

And guess what: a mum feeling like sh*t is good for absolutely no one, including herself.

Tip 1: How to get sh*t done:

Be kind to yourself and let go of the expectations you put on yourself. Seriously. Drop it, if you don’t the other steps I’ve listed below won’t work, because they will be clouded with mum guilt and life guilt and wife guilt and just a whole load of guilt that does not help you in any possible way.

Tip 2: Outsource your life:

When I was in my 20’s I used to spend money on handbags. I loved them. Still do. However now my money goes on cleaners, dry cleaning (I refuse to spend my time ironing my husband’s shirts) and Woolworths online. And to be perfectly frank, I love each of these things far more than I could ever love a hand bag. You want to know why? Because they give me time, and there is nothing more valuable in my life than time.

Instead of going to Woolworths on a Saturday, I’m at the beach with my sons.

Prefer bake a cake with you kid than clean the house? Get a cleaner.

Not sure you can afford it, only get one every fortnight, or monthly for the big stuff. If you get a few hours to do what brings you joy then in my mind it’s worth it.

If you can afford a food service for a while, especially when you are new back to work and discovering your new normal, then do it. I’ve personally used Dinner Ladies in Sydney and recommend them highly. Or my sister-in-law (she’s very smart) has created Efficiently Nutritious, an online platform that gives you weekly recipes with a shopping list designed to feed you and your family wholesome, dietician created meals that have zero food waste. She created the website when she had her sons, because guess what, she was struggling trying to be a mum, work and eat healthy food.

Tip 3: Define early on the few things you need in your life to feel fabulous.

This will be different for everyone. For me it was about identifying what allowed me walk out the door feeling a bit more fabulous than frumpy:

Tidy hair. I invested in a Keratin Treatment.  It means I didn’t need to worry about blow-drying my hair, which a) saves time and b) doesn’t run the risk of waking a sleeping baby.

Short, unpolished nails. I stopped painting my nails because chipped nail polish did my head in. Instead, I invested (about $20) in a good nail file and a buff and polish file. I can do it at home and up keep is easy.

And yes, I know feeling fabulous should be far more about feeling it, than looking it, but to be frank, when I’ve had three hours sleep and I’m about to walk into a work meeting, I will take looking it.

Tip 4: Delegate your work

If you lead a team, then empower them to step up. Remember what I said about letting go, well this is your moment. And here’s the thing, truly empowering your colleagues to do a great job, not only benefits you, it benefits them. They feel good about the work they are doing and so do you. The sooner you realise, and embrace, that their success is your success the better.

Tip 5: Plan out your week

Book in 30 – 60 minutes in your diary every week to map out your week and plan it in your diary. In fairness, I was doing this ritual years before kids entered my life, but now I find it even more helpful.

Tip 6: Have templates

I have email templates ready to go. My team sends me a weekly snapshot of their clients, so I can review in minutes and revert back with questions or concerns. It makes my life so much easier, I’m across things without having to worry about micro managing.

Tip 7: Set boundaries

When I had my second child, I sent an email to all my clients with very clear boundaries. If you needed to speak to me, I would make myself available via my GM. I was clear on what days and times I was going to be in the office and I didn’t apologise for it. It felt hard to do and I was fortunate every client embraced my email, but there was a risk they wouldn’t, and I was nervous to send it. But here’s what I realised, if they weren’t OK, then they weren’t the client for me, so best I know that sooner rather than later.

It’s the same with the team, they know I’m available, but they are respectful of my time with the family and rarely contact me when I’m with the boys.

Tip 8: Don’t become a roadblock

This links back to delegation. I found the times that I wanted final sign off, but then couldn’t do it because my son was sick, or I was sick, or just exhausted from feeding all night and having a baby, I quickly became the roadblock, which sucked for everyone. If you can see it happening, identify it and quickly identify someone who can give the sign-off on your behalf. Let go of control, even if it’s just for a moment.

Tip 9: Invest in the night before

Everyone talks about their morning routines – you see article after article, after Instagram story and Facebook post. But here’s the kicker, a good morning needs a well organised night. Which feels like climbing Everest, once you finally have sleeping kids and a relatively tidy kitchen BUT if you have the energy, it’s worth it.

Have the school bags packed, work-out what you want to wear to work the next day (this is a game-changer, no more standing in front of your wardrobe trying to decide what you want to wear at 730am, when you need to leave at 745am), check your work diary so you know what is on and speak to your significant other to make sure they don’t have something on…one year my husband and I failed so desperately at this that we both had our Christmas parties on the same day and had assumed the other was collecting our toddler from daycare. That was fun.

Tip 10: Let Go of the guilt

At the risk of repeating myself, letting go of all that mummy guilt so important and it’s the hardest. I’m saying it as much for myself as you. Mum guilt is real and it is hard. So my advice is to acknowledge it, accept it and then let it go. And do this on repeat every time it creeps its little head, because it will and you need to.

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Sarah Humphries

Director Sarah Humphries Agency. Beauty and wellness obsessive. Occasional enjoyer of Malteasers. Mum of 2 boys.