Moms get a lot done. There’s no doubt about that – in fact, mothers with at least two children seem to be the most productive, at least according to a study of academic women done by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Although the study does look at a privileged set of well-educated, academic women a key takeaway reminds me of a phrase I’ve seen a lot in my mom forums, that if you want something done ask, as a busy person to do it. How do we get so much done? I recently devoured Gerry Langeler’s The Success Matrix, which discusses three attributes of successful people, vision, process, and output. Each combination (or lack of) these three elements results in a “Character,” which the author uses to “mentor” a leader-to-be in thinking about managing talent in a new organization. The character that combines vision and output is called “The Brute.” While this brings to mind Rocky battling it out in the ring, the character he uses to illustrate the blend of vision and outcome is a beautiful, Yale-educated woman who worked and then decided to stay at home to raise her two daughters.
It’s not surprising that the author chose a mom to portray as the Brute, and a stay at home mom at that. Raising children, especially young children, is all about vision and output.
You have to have a vision to endure the difficulty that children present. Changing another diaper, doing another midnight feeding, and having the patience for yet another fussy phase all require a vision that this child represents something more than the difficulty of the present moment. That vision may be of love of a spouse, a hope for the future, or a dream of a family life.
Children also require very clear output. Food on the table, some sort of organized routine of life, attention, and love. With babies output is pretty clear; as your child gets older and raising them requires less of a physical demand and more of a mental chess match, there’s still clear output. The school day ends at a certain time. There are activities to get them to and new shoes to buy. Their output is measurable in many ways – a report card, clothes outgrown, new skills learned.
It’s hard to apply process to children, because once you get a process down, things change. The baby goes through another growth spurt. You get into a rhythm, and then suddenly the holidays come with their never ending parade of disruptions, teacher professional development days, snow days, and travel and you have to reestablish a routine again.
Because the output of raising children is tangible and in front of your face every day, moms can survive without process, using little more than hope and elbow grease to get things done. One of my favorite articles about being a mom talks about “midnight moms” – how moms who get up with babies in the middle of the night get used to the lack of sleep and get up to take care of all the labor that falls upon them because of gender expectations at 11pm, 1am, and 3am.
Full disclosure – I am writing this at 2:25am because the baby woke me up and I can’t go back to sleep.
Langeler’s The Success Matrix offers some advice for how to manage people who fall into this category in your organization. They’re prone to burnout and can’t always repeat their results. Langeler also has suggestions for those who find themselves in this category, which I definitely do. He suggests making two to-do lists: your daily task list will be there, of course, but adding a long-term to do list will help as well. For each of those long-term goals, create a process that will help you, and then create a to-do list just for that process. This simple plan takes advantage of our love of to-do lists to get us to a more long-term, sustained effort.
I’ve recently read Getting Results the Agile Way which recommends thinking about “three things” you want to accomplish for the year, month, week, and day, and then documenting tasks for each of those outcomes. I’ve also used David Allen’s Getting Things Done and Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Langeler recommends the latter for Brutes especially. Of course, I’m obsessed with productivity systems because I’m hoping anything will make things easier, so I skim a new book about productivity every year.
Langeler has a podcast on his website about the Brute and it’s a good listen. Download it for your drive in or for your next sleepless night. Also, both Langeler’s book and Meier’s Getting Results the Agile Way are free if you join Kindle Unlimited, which lets you borrow books from Amazon’s library for $9.99 a month.
Images used with permission under Creative Commons; featured image courtesy of Zsolt Vajda; inline image courtesy of Flickr user TheGiantVermin.