Working while pregnant can be a challenge. Learn practical tips to keep up at work during pregnancy, be productive and feel less overwhelmed.
Black eyes, dark hair… I was picturing how my son would look once I finally got to meet him. Later in the day, I would read reviews on strollers, which would remind me to pick out a few more onesies at the baby store on the way home.
Sounds fun, except… I was at work. The project on the computer I was supposed to be working on was still glaring at me, untouched for who knows how long. Instead of fonts and layouts, I was comparing gender prediction charts and researching which fish was safe to eat.
Talk about a classic case of pregnancy brain at work.
Because even if you love your job, pregnancy can take over—physically and mentally. You can’t focus or be productive. And it doesn’t help you’re uncomfortable from the general fatigue of being pregnant.
You know you need to get a grip, but how can you keep up at work when you’re always distracted or uncomfortable?
How to keep up at work during pregnancy
With so many distractions these days, staying focused—pregnant or not—is getting harder. Social media, email, coworkers dropping by… even a non-pregnant employee struggles with concentration.
Add to that a pregnancy that takes your attention away, and keeping up at work could make those months even more challenging.
But of course, you don’t want to use pregnancy as an excuse to slack off at work. As much as you’d rather lie down and take a nap, you’re committed to doing the job you said you would. Letting your coworkers down or missing a deadline aren’t options you’re willing to allow.
Except you’re pregnant, easily distracted, and exhausted by lunch time. No worries, friend. You can definitely stay on top of work, despite the challenges a pregnancy might bring. What are a few ways you can bring focus into your work, even if you’re pregnant?
1. Schedule your day, including downtime
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Downtime and social media aren’t the evils of the world—you don’t have to stay away completely from them, even at work. They have their place in your workday, but only when you define boundaries around them.
How? Try this: schedule your day, including downtime.
First, write exactly what you plan to do during your work hours, from lunch breaks to meetings. Then, schedule what you’ll do during your breaks, from finding strollers to making doctor’s appointments.
Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, says:
“Schedule in advance when you’ll use the Internet, and then avoid it altogether outside these times. I suggest that you keep a notepad near your computer at work. On this pad, record the time you’re allowed to use the Internet. Until you arrive at that time, absolutely no network connectivity is allowed—no matter how tempting.”
Scheduling downtime makes the rest of your day more productive while still allowing you time in your day to tackle baby tasks. You’d be surprised how much time you waste when you don’t define those boundaries.
Now, when you’re working, work—no baby distractions. You know you’ll have time in your day to find those paint chip colors for the nursery or add burp cloths to the registry.
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2. Know your most productive times
Some researchers have found that willpower is finite—that it depletes as the day progresses.
This makes sense. After all, no one wakes up in the morning and says, “Well, I give up on my diet—I’d like to eat a banana split sundae for breakfast.” No, we’re far more resolved and focused in the mornings when willpower is at its strongest than at the end of the day.
That’s why, for many of us, our most productive time is usually the morning.
How can you use these facts to stay focused? Plan your most difficult and important tasks first thing in the morning. Don’t waste those precious hours replying to emails, tending to tedious tasks, or worse, thinking about plans for the baby.
Crank out the most challenging projects that must get done for the day and will have the biggest impact. You’ll resist distractions when your willpower is fully loaded.
3. Give yourself deadlines
I’m a fan of deadlines, particularly challenging ones that push you to get things done.
Imagine you had to write a ten-page report due in three weeks. Given the length of time, you’ll might delay the process or put it off. After all, you still have so many days before someone really needs it.
But what if you gave yourself two days to draft, write and polish the report? You bet you’ll get started on it right away.
You see, sometimes, more time isn’t a good idea. As Parkinson’s law states:
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
You’ll push yourself to get things done when you know you only have a limited time to complete them. You’ll simply find the time to make it happen given the boundaries you have.
Even if someone else doesn’t set a deadline for you, make one for yourself. Set a challenging but realistic deadline to push yourself to get it done. If the deadline is too far in the future, break the project up piece by piece so you’re still meeting mini deadlines along the way.
4. Recharge with breaks
As I’m sure you know by now, pregnancy comes with its own challenges. You’d rather nap than make another phone call, and waddling from one office to another is no easy task. Whether you’re slugging through the first trimester or nearing the end, it can be tough to work while you’re pregnant.
That’s why you need to use your breaks to recharge.
Take frequent breaks to go to the restroom or grab water or snacks. Take deep breaths, focus on a distant point to rest your eyes, and make sure to get out of your seat at least every hour. And actually take a real lunch break away from your desk, even if you’re eating in the kitchen alone.
That way, you’re better rested and recharged, ready to concentrate when you’re back at your desk. Gather your focus, stretch your body, and steer yourself back to your projects when you’re ready.
5. Plan for the next day
Before you dash out at the end of the day, spend the last 15 minutes writing your tasks for tomorrow. Write meetings to attend and important tasks to do first thing in the morning.
That way, when you come in the next day, you won’t waste time wondering what to do. You’ll already have a plan in place and know where in your day your most important work sits.
Then, place time limits on each item on your to-do list. Decide whether these tasks or meetings are even important (would a quick one-on-one recap work better than a group meeting?). Taking these extra steps now will avoid wasted time reviewing them the next day.
And set reminders on your calendar. Many digital calendars sync with other programs to remind you of your tasks. If you accepted a meeting with a coworker, set your calendar so it adds that meeting for you. Better yet, set it so it sends you reminders long before as well as close to when the meeting starts.
Staying focused at work can be challenging even for the regular employee. Add pregnancy to the mix, and it’s no wonder many moms find it hard to keep up at work.
You can still enjoy downtime and personal tasks, but schedule them into your day so you can remain focused the other times. Know when you’re most productive—if you’re like most people, that’s likely in the mornings. Give yourself deadlines for each task so you feel compelled to finish it by that time.
Recharge with plenty of breaks so you feel refreshed to tackle your tasks when you’re done. And finally, end each day by planning for the next, analyzing which tasks and meetings are most important—and which can be avoided.
With these steps, you’ll avoid wasting time and remain productive at work during the rest of your pregnancy. Even as you’re daydreaming about your baby’s eye color and planning paint swatches for the nursery.
Get more tips:
- 5 Signs to Stop Working During Pregnancy
- The Ultimate Mom to Be Guide: Everything I Wish Someone Had Told Me when I Was Pregnant
- Surviving the First Trimester when You Have No Idea Where to Start
- Essential Things You Need After Giving Birth
- 9 Things to Do Before the Baby Is Born
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