3 Tips on How to Lighten the Mental Load with Time Management Strategist & Mama Kelly Nolan

mental load

As you prepare for your baby’s arrival (or perhaps you’re holding your baby in your arms!), you might have a couple of thoughts swirling around in your head building on that mental load. From setting up the nursery, to when formula may be introduced, to when it’s time to buy more diapers, potty-train, what daycare or schooling will be like, when it’s time to buy larger clothes and…

the list…

goes…

on.

Not only are you juggling the role as mom but also as a wife, working woman, daughter, and friend all while trying to serve your own personal needs, too. Managing all of these thoughts and decisions add up to the mental load we carry around as moms. 

“The countless little decisions that feel like they don’t add up to much but take up so much time and energy.” Kelly Nolan, Time-Management Strategist For Women

Now, we may not have a project manager for life we can call on to come in and cross off all of those to-dos, but there are ways to get that mental load in check that’ll leave you feeling rested and in control.

We connected with time management strategist, Kelly Nolan, to pick her brain on how to lighten the mental load when managing a new life event (like, um, having a baby) along with all of the other things that come our way. Here’s what she had to say…

1. What does the mental load mean to you?

I think of it as including all the other thoughts that come from juggling so many roles as moms, wives, working women, daughters, friends, and our own personal needs–and managing the to-do lists that come with each role. Managing it all can involve a lot of mental gymnastics and logistical organization–and that adds to the mental load.

2. Sometimes a big life change—like having a baby!—can make us rethink what’s working for us and what’s not serving us personally and professionally. Did that happen to you? 

Definitely. When we were thinking about starting our family, I was really unhappy practicing law in California and I knew I had to make a change. I’d also watched enough friends and colleagues go through early motherhood and work re-entry to know it was challenging—and worth it for the right job. But I wasn’t in the right job.

For a variety of reasons, I decided to leave law. When I thought about what I wanted to do next, I realized I developed a skillset to manage my demanding law career while keeping a healthy personal balance and still operate at a high level. I also realized more people, especially women, wanted more help managing their time and tasks, it felt like a perfect (and wonderfully-collaborative) fit.

3. What is the biggest thing you see new moms struggle with? Career moms and stay-at-home moms? 

For ambitious women used to go-go-going, it can be really hard to slow down to the pace of a newborn. There’s a mental struggle and frustration that comes from having way less time in your control and being consumed with all the small tasks babies require. It’s even more frustrating when, after being asked “what you’d do today?,” you can’t always come up with a great answer even though you know you were running around all day.

You can feel like you’re putting in 180% and only showing up at 60% across the board.” — Kelly

Then, when some moms return to work and/or kids’ lives become more logistically demanding with school, playdates and activities, there’s a sudden expectation to do so much in so many roles. It requires a whole new level of logistics coordination, and many women internalize the difficulties in managing it all as a failing on their part. It can be very defeating, frustrating and overwhelming. 

4. What are your top 3 tips for moms feeling the weight of the mental load? 

Say goodbye to those to-do lists.
Get as much of it out of your head as possible. This includes the typical to-do list stuff, like calling the pediatrician. But go farther. Include all the things, like nursing, giving D-drops to babies, restocking the changing table once a week. Everything.

Say hello to a calendar (and stick to it!).
Put as time blocks into your calendar as you can (I recommend Google Calendar). You’ll get a better visual sense of where your time is going and get handy phone alerts reminding you to do the things when you need to do them. It may clutter up your calendar, but it’ll free up your mind, so really give it a try. 

Plan ahead at least two weeks out.
It can be so hard to devote time to planning, especially when we feel so tight on time, but planning truly makes the next weeks run smoother and helps you know what to do whenever you sit down for the short quiet windows of time (instead of wasting 5 minutes combing through to-do lists deciding what to do). I recommend doing this as least once a week.

Bonus Tip
Don’t waste nap times cleaning your house only for it to be destroyed 10 minutes after naptime is over! I used to do that, but then realized that saving all cleaning to bedtime so that I could use my daughter’s nap times to get work done or sleep in was amazing. After bedtime, I could clean while listening to an Audible book and sipping on wine – and it was way more enjoyable. So that’s a random little tip that may help you enjoy more parts of your day!

5. What’s the biggest obstacle to getting moms to manage their overwhelm, even when they have the tools and systems at their fingertips?

Planning. It really is so hard to slow down when you feel tight on time, but the weeks I plan and the weeks I don’t are night and day. The payoff is huge. Just commit to it for a month and then decide if it’s worth the time in your opinion.

6. How do you get a partner on board to help manage the overwhelm?

While I think we all go through phases where we want our partners to magically know what to do to help us and our kids, clear and direct communication is really the best way.

On days my husband is home, I have our daughter in the morning and he has her after naptime. This is clearly in our calendars, which is huge for me not having to remind him to do things all the time. Additionally, when he’s home for dinner, I do our daughter’s bedtime and bathtime while he cooks dinner. There’s a lot of flexibility in this as plans shift, but having these clear default patterns is huge for our relationship. Expectations are clear, so no one gets disappointed too often. 

In addition, since we use our calendars to reflect these patterns, we can easily shift them in the calendar so we’re not constantly reminding each other of changed plans or forgetting.  

7. What’s something that you do every day to nourish yourself? What’s your non-negotiable?

Always having a great audiobook or podcast going and on deck. Whether I’m walking my daughter and dog or cleaning dishes after bedtime, listening to something I love is such a treat.

Mental Load Lightened

Ah. Doesn’t that feel better? You may not feel the shift right away but the little adjustments you make here and there will make a world of difference. So whether it’s finding your non-negotiables, saying adios to that to-do list, or adding in a calendar to the mix, a little can go a long way!

Ready to get that mental load lightened? Head to our Directory where you can find career coaches and more to help you find a little more calm in motherhood.

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