The Creative Mama » inspiring art, encouraging women

a day in my (productive/frazzled) life.


Random question. Did you ever have to write your own epitaph in high school English class or was that just the sort of fun reserved for my own little twisted teenage place in the world? I’m not sure what I wrote back then but these days I have a hunch what might be on my tombstone:


Here lies Erin Cobb

she was productive

except when she was messing stuff up


I’ve always had a knack for getting things done quickly. I think about the task at hand, divide it into digestible chunks, and then tackle it head on. Sure, sometimes it’s at the last minute but in the wise words of my husband, “if you wait till the last minute, it only takes a minute.”  Coincidentally, that would explain why I’m up at 11:46 p.m. pecking away at my keyboard on the evening before this particular article is due.

The point is, getting things done is the name of my game. But it has also been my downfall. See, in my mind every task I’m asked to do only takes about 5 minutes. So of course I agree to them. I’m a yes girl – it’s the way I roll. And then when all of those five minute tasks snowball and spiral down the mountain of my desk I end up drowning in my so-called productivity. And now that you know that about me, I’m going to share with you a few of my daily victories and failures. Here are all the ways I make the magic happen…and a few of the ways I screw things up royally.


Getting Stuff Done:

– I’m pretty dictatorial about my schedule. My morning run must be finished by 7, followed by making children’s breakfasts and lunches, cleaning the kitchen and grabbing a bite to eat of my own. Then into the shower by 8 and heading to preschool by 8:45. On the dot. Otherwise I miss The Writer’s Almanac on the way home – and then everything would go to hell in a hand basket.

– Early on in motherhood I learned to treasure the time when I had sleeping/occupied children and guard it above all else. Household chores are all done with kids awake and in tow. Never, ever will I do household chores while my children are sleeping or at school. Those hours are reserved for my own personal productivity – work, blogging, me time, etc. My philosophy has always been that it’s good for my children to see me maintaining our home and we can easily make that time quality time spent together. Besides, every five year old needs to know how to fold.

Post-it notes are my friend. I use them daily, with purpose.

– I have a system for (almost) everything and am pretty religious about the family and I adhering to each of them. For example, when the kiddos get home from school I just say, “do your jobs” and they know exactly what that means: go in the house, put your shoes in the basket, put jackets and backpacks on the bench,  put your lunchbox on the kitchen counter and go wash your hands. Over the top? Maybe. But it works.

– This year I switched to a two calendar system. I knew it was time to start using an online calendar, since I hired an employee who needed to keep tabs on my daily schedule. Plus my husband who was tired of manually syncing our calendars every week or so. So I started using Cozi. But after a month with it I realized how much I missed being able to see my whole month at a glance. And now I keep a paper calendar and a digital calendar. Yes it’s more work but it keeps me sane.

– I clean out my email inbox every day or so (except on the weekends). The only way I know that I won’t miss anything is if I get to the bottom of the barrel. So I make it a habit to sit down and plow through my inbox every morning. It’s my digital to do list.


Messing Stuff Up: (Here’s where I confess all the ways I’m a disaster each and every day. Ready for the real fun?)

– Some days I get up for my morning run, have breakfast, check my email and then change right back into my jammies – never having done a run at all. When I first started running the only way I could drag my butt out of bed was to make an internal promise to myself that if I got up and got dressed and still didn’t feel like going, I didn’t have to. And guess what? Some days I don’t feel like going.

– Even though it’s technically my children’s jobs to fold the napkins, sometimes I don’t even want to face the battle. So I leave them in the dryer and just fish them out whenever I need them.

– Sometimes Post-It notes go terribly, terribly wrong. I may need a special edition of Hoarders to save me from myself.

– I’ve been known to rant and rave about someone not adhering to “the system”…only to find that the offending person was me. That’s a nice slice of humble pie.

– Even with two calendars I’m bound to forget things and miss events. In fact, twice I’ve completely forgotten to be home when I’ve schedule clients to come view their portraits. Talk about an awful feeling.

– And right now there are 41 emails in my inbox waiting to be answered. And the earliest one is from December 21st of last year. (Technically though it’s from my husband and shouldn’t actually be counted. Right?)


Here’s the point. Each day we have opportunities for success and failure. Productivity and problems. Some days (or in my case, today) we’re going to lose our children’s gymnastics log book and buy the wrong kind of camcorder tape at the store. (Geez Louise, who uses a camcorder anymore?!) On those days I just smile and remind myself of the mantra of one of my sweet friends, “I’ll never have to do this day over again.”

And  then some days we’re going to fall asleep with the most overwhelming sense of accomplishment and pride in all that we’ve mastered in that particular day. And those are the times I resolve to soak it all in, basking in the productivity, and wistfully rejoicing that “I’ll never get to do this day over again.”








About Erin

Erin has been a mama for six years, a blogger for five, and professional photographer for four. She hopes to be all of those things for at least another 50. She’s passionate about her family, her friends, bright colors and shooting jpeg (what?!). Erin is also the creative force behind the highly acclaimed Clean Color video editing tutorial. Those are the things that feed her soul but Erin says writing about them feels like the dessert. Erin makes her home and runs her business in Huntsville, Alabama.

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  • Stephanie beaty

    love this e. — and your systems too! so true for many of us!!

  • Lacey R

    Yet again, why you are so lovable! I can relate to this article in so many ways–from our household routines and my kiddos’ “chores”, to the must-keep-it-whittled-down inbox, to my post-it littered desk & car dashboard (yes, me and my post-its go everywhere! : ) I agree whole-heartedly with your household chore/napping is for desk/me time philosophy. In long (since it’s obviously not short), I loved this post, Erin!

  • J Zollars

    Hi Erin! Great article as usual…just wanted to say that I’ve always been a fan of your “no chores during nap/rest time” rule. As a very new mother years ago I did not follow this rule/suggestion but then I remember reading that on your blog and from that day forward I’ve used the time for ME! Thanks for the gentle reminders!!