Time-management blogger and author Laura Vanderkam wrote recently in her newsletter that she’d read 72 books so far this year.

I hit reply and asked how on earth she’d accomplished that while working and raising four kids. My book reading has dropped off dramatically since having kids, mostly because I’m so tired at the end of each day that I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.

She wrote back saying she wasn’t surprised to hear that, since her research shows mothers with children under 2 years old have less leisure time than those with older children. (Laura knows I have a toddler and a newborn — not one, but two under 2.)

She also offered some tangible suggestions — and one in particular is already helping me read more books. Laura suggested I read on my phone.

I pretty much hated this idea right out of the gate, because I already spend too much time on my phone. I’m trying to spend less time on my phone, not more. And reading on a tiny screen doesn’t appeal to me. Plus, I love physical books. I tried a Kindle a few years ago, but found I missed the feeling of holding the book in my hands, missed turning pages.

That’s why when I purchased several books a few months ago with the hope of reading them during my maternity leave — Sheryl Sandberg’s Option B, Jennifer Latson’s The Boy Who Loved Too Much, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah — I bought physical copies.

Except… here’s what happened

But four weeks into life with my new baby, I’d barely picked them up. One of the times when I’d hoped to read was while breastfeeding at night, but it wasn’t happening, mainly for logistical reasons: I didn’t have enough hands to feed the baby and hold a physical book, and I couldn’t see the book in the middle of the night without turning on a bright light. Even when it occurred to me to read while feeding the baby in daylight, I often couldn’t reach my book from wherever I’d settled. That might sound like a lame excuse, but once I’ve managed to get my newborn onto my boob in a position that’s comfortable for both of us, and my breastfeeding pillow, burp cloth and Zerlar are in place, I wouldn’t move even if you waved a donut in front of my face.

My phone, however, is almost always within reach, since I’m constantly using it for other things — texting family, adjusting the music playing in our living room, and taking pictures of our two little boys. My phone is also easy to hold with one hand or balance on a pillow, and it’s back-lit and visible in the dark. So I’d resorted to browsing social media, catching up on emails or ordering items on Amazon while feeding the baby, instead of reading something meaningful.

Until I put the Kindle app on my phone. Laura, that was a brilliant idea. Counter-intuitive, yes, but it’s made all the difference. Within a few days, I made significant progress on one of my books, and now reading that book is my default activity while feeding the baby.

Now, you’re probably not up half the night breastfeeding a newborn, but I suspect this approach would work for you, too. How much time do you waste browsing Facebook or Twitter while standing in line, eating your lunch, or waiting for a friend or colleague? What if you could access a real book with a simple swipe, on a device you’re already carrying with you?

How many more books do you think you’d read each year if you got through a few pages every time you usually look at social media? And how much better would you feel about learning something new or enjoying a novel than browsing through Facebook photos of your ex-boyfriend’s wife’s sister’s dog?

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After years as a journalist, I’m a fan of deadlines. I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes with finishing a task on time.

Having a baby is the firmest kind of deadline — your newborn is coming no matter what. So in the months before my first baby was born, I used that impending deadline as motivation, to focus on what really needed to be done and make it happen, both at work and at home.

Except I made a crucial mistake. I set my deadline at the baby’s due date… and my water broke three weeks early.

When I called my sister to let her know, she was getting ready for bed and answered the phone in a drowsy voice. “Are you in labor?” she asked dryly, implying playfully that 1) there wasn’t any other reason I should be calling calling that late and 2) I couldn’t possibly be in labor already.

“Actually,” I said, “I think I am.”

Our doula advised me to stay at home through the night so I could be as comfortable as possible and head to the hospital in the morning when my contractions were closer together. Following her advice, I climbed into bed to rest. But as any woman who has gone through labor will tell you, sleep doesn’t come easy when you have pain in your abdomen every few minutes.

So while my husband caught a few hours of shut eye, I crept downstairs, opened my laptop at our kitchen table, and began forwarding emails.

learning to be a working mom

One of the rare times I got dressed during maternity leave.

My company, Socialexis, had been acquired just two months earlier, and we were in the midst of transitioning my team in-house at The Penny Hoarder, where I was responsible for overseeing and growing the editorial side of the company. Emailing your colleagues during active labor might sound crazy, but the truth is, it was a welcome distraction from what was going on in my uterus. And I knew it would give me peace of mind in the coming days, mental space to focus on my baby instead of my inbox.

By the next afternoon, I was a mom.

I’ve blogged about the acquisition and why I decided to join The Penny Hoarder as an employee after years of growing my own business. But until now, I haven’t shared much about what it was like to have a baby at the same time.

While writing about careers and entrepreneurship comes easy, sharing the highs and lows of motherhood in a way that’s helpful to others requires peeling back conflicting layers of joy and resentment, gratitude and guilt. For me, these words are harder to get on the page.

Here’s a glimpse into what it was like to make this transition as a new mom.

Why startups should support new moms

How parents — and particularly new moms — juggle work and babies is an important topic, and it’s one we don’t often discuss in the startup space. Startups tend to be full of ambitious and childless 20-somethings who are eager to put in long hours when they need to; I know because I was one of them.

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This Guy Earned $15K By Launching His First Online Course. Here’s How He Did It

May 8, 2017 0 comments

Thinking about launching an online course? Here’s how one online entrepreneur did it successfully.

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Hiring at a Startup: How We Managed to Go From 3 Employees to 55 in Just 18 Months

February 20, 2017 4 comments

Smart hiring is one of the biggest challenges startup founder face. Here’s how we’ve grown our team at The Penny Hoarder strategically in a short period of time.

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What Being a Working Mom is Really Like

December 9, 2016 7 comments

Becoming a (working) mom has been the most joyful transition of my life — and the most challenging.

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3 Tools Digital Media Companies Use to Create Compelling Content and Maximize Web Traffic

June 10, 2016 7 comments

At the digital media company where I work, we’ve dubbed this “the year of science.” We’ve long relied on intuition and experience to create content that will engage readers and drive clicks to The Penny Hoarder. And while that has worked well, growing the site to 20 million readers a month, this year we’re putting […]

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Our Twitter Love Story Continues… (Plus a Ridiculously Adorable Photo)

November 1, 2015 17 comments

Since our son was born eight weeks ago, I’ve tried to write a coherent blog post at least half a dozen times. But as any parent will tell you, mothering a newborn is exhausting. Between around-the-clock breastfeeding, evening fussiness and a lot less sleep than I need, I’m lacking the physical and mental capacity to […]

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Why You Should Use Flow for Task Management (Over Basecamp or Asana)

September 1, 2015 10 comments

I’ve long used Flow for task management. My Socialexis team used it, my editorial team now uses it at Taylor Media, and my husband and I even use it to keep track of household tasks. In short, I’m a huge Flow fan. So I’m always surprised when this app doesn’t make it into conversations about the […]

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Doing the Work vs. Writing About It

August 17, 2015 11 comments

This blog has been quiet for nearly a month. It’s perhaps the longest I’ve ever gone without posting. On several occasions, I started writing a blog post to explain why. I wrote about how I’m juggling a company transition and preparing to have a baby. I wrote about how I’m failing at a lot of little […]

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Work With Us! We’re Hiring Full-Time Editors, Writers & Social Media Superstars

July 20, 2015 4 comments

After building my own business for the last five years, my blog-management company was acquired this summer by a digital media startup. Now I’m in-house at Taylor Media as Executive Editor, building an editorial team. It’s a fun and challenging ride already! While several members of my Socialexis team have joined us for this transition, […]

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