Originally published on September 14, 2016 @ 3:00 pm
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Organizing your time as a work at home mother can sometimes feel like a full-time job in and of itself.
Working from home is both a blessing and a curse. Yes, working from home means flexing those 1440 minutes every day and doing with them what you want. The dream, of course, is to pull out a laptop while your child snuggles quietly with you on the sofa, spend an hour or two taking care of business, and then having the rest of the day to do what you want.
One of the lies draws of being a work at home mother is the idea of being able to set your own hours. But let's be honest, one of the first lessons you learn when you start working from home is — you don't set your hours at all.
Instead, you find yourself trying to squeeze work inbetween everything else. Open up that laptop, type up a sentence, then check on breakfast. An hour later, after finding the missing cup and tossing a load of laundry over into the washer, you can finally get back to that laptop — only now you don't know what you were trying to get at with that first sentence, so you start over.
Then, just as you get on a roll — that buzzer for that laundry in the washer goes off. You spend your day fighting, begging, and crying to get work done — scared of the financial fallout that may happen if you can't get it all done. Yet, during those times you are able to sit at the laptop for more than five or ten minutes, you feel guilty for missing out on your family.
After all, isn't that one of the reasons you wanted to work from home? So you could spend more time with your family? Not so your family can spend time watching you work.
Set your own hours??
Working from home as a parent is a constant battle to take those 1440 minutes and bend them into a schedule that works for us. One that allows us to complete our work, spend time with our family, and still manage the household without turning into overworked, overstressed, overtired zombies.
I get it.
I live it.
So here are a few tips to help you overcome these hurdles, organize your time, and be more productive and efficient while working from home.
Tips for organizing your time to be more productive and efficient while working from home as a parent.
- Organize your tasks by how frequently they need your attention: daily, weekly, or monthly. What do you need to check into every single day? Your back office? Order forms? What needs to be done every week? Social media planning? How about every month. Invoices? Blog posts? Take your list of tasks and organize them in a way that works for you and your business.
- Create a schedule based on these lists. Starting with your monthly tasks, choose a day every month to focus on those tasks. Popular choices are usually the first of the month, sometimes the last day of the month. You choose whatever one works for you. Go ahead and scheduled those days now into your favorite planner or calendar (online or paper).
- Next, pick a day of the week that will be focused on your weekly posts. Sundays are a popular choice, but I actually prefer Mondays. Go ahead and schedule those tasks on those days. On those days, focus solely on the weekly tasks. Should these days fall on the day you have set up to be a monthly tasks day, move it accordingly. Do not try to take care of your weekly tasks and your monthly tasks on the same days.
- Finally, all that's left to do is to set time during the rest of the week to take care of your daily tasks.
- Take advantage of apps and services that will schedule your tasks to consolidate your schedule. If writing blog posts is on your weekly list, why not get them written in a day and use your blog's scheduler to publish them? Doing this may even let you move this task to a monthly list. And in most cases, your readers will never know whether or not that post you published on the 15th was written that morning or 2 weeks ago. Additionally, writing them ahead of time and scheduling them to be published will allow you to take advantage of the best times for publishing no matter what time of day you sit down to write. Using a social media scheduler like AgoraPulse or Hootsuite to schedule your posts to these networks will also free up a lot of your time.
- Automate some of your workflow wherever possible. Using as many apps and services as you can to cut down the number of steps you have to take is essential. Services like IFTTT, Integromat, and Zapier will help tremendously with this. By setting certain tasks to work themselves out behind the scenes, you will free up a lot of your time. Things like moving names from when people sign up for your newsletter directly onto a spreadsheet, for example.
- Leave your business on social media for last. Checking your posts on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Pinterest, Email, and Instagram might be a necessity — but they are also time sucking vortexes. A task that you may think should take 10 minutes to complete may end up taking longer than an hour simply because of the distractions that often come into play. And while it is possible to will-power your way through those distractions and get out faster, saving these tasks for last is easier to control the time you spend there.
- Keep your first two or three items on your daily list directly related to your ultimate goals. Like I wrote in my post about goal-based to-do lists, putting together a list of tasks that you need to get done to take care of business is not the same thing as working toward your ultimate goals. A lot of times, the tasks that would lead to your ultimate goal are not urgent, not time sensitive, and not big money-makers. They tend to be the set up tasks – the tasks that will eventually lead you to where you want to be. For example, one of your goals may be to get your business set up so that you only need to work one day a week and the rest of the time have it run on auto pilot. That goal requires a high level of automation, planning, and scheduling. That means learning new softwares, testing them out and choosing the ones that work best for you. And that level of learning requires hours and hours of studying, researching, and learning — all of which will go unpaid and none of which will lead to immediate results.
- Once your plan is in motion, work it. Stick to that plan and do not deviate. This is harder than it might seem, especially at the beginning. During the first couple days, you will feel a sense of anxiety because you will not know what to do with the free time you've created. Particularly if you are able to get your blog posts and social media posts written and scheduled — you'll find yourself with (easily) a couple of free hours every day to start. And the more you work the plan, the more apps and schedulers you put to work for you, the more you set yourself up, the more free time you will find. Don't go filling up this time with other things. Keep to the plan. Believe me, the feelings that you should be doing more will pass.
- Use micro-sprints. I can tell you right now, micro-sprints are your friend. Here's how it works: set aside a five minute block of time (eventually you can try for longer, but 5 minutes is good to start). Decide what you're going to do and get prepared. Distract the kids, go to the bathroom, set yourself up with something to drink — close out all distractions. Once you're ready, sit down, set a timer, and go. Five minutes. Write and don't stop writing. Or whatever the task is that you've set up — graphics creation, post scheduling, editing, invoicing. Work for 5 minutes straight and don't stop until that timer goes off. Then, step away. Get up, stretch, check on the kids, brew some coffee. When you're up for it, set up another sprint.
- Take breaks. Real breaks. One of the hardest parts about being a work at home mother is that we never take a real break. When we're in the shower, we're thinking about invoicing. When we're walking with our children at the park, we're dwelling on whether or not our website is still up or if it went down. And while we're folding our laundry, we're really rehearsing what we're going to say on our follow up email. These aren't breaks. Getting away from work only really works if we stop thinking about work. Take a break and do something that will distract your thoughts. If you're baking a cake — bake the cake. Don't bake the cake and think about work.
- Last but not least, take a moment to celebrate the end of the day. And yes — there needs to be an end to your day. If you stop working at 9PM, don't hop back onto your laptop to double check your email one last time right before bed at 11PM. End your day on time, stretch, and celebrate everything you finished over the course of the day. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done and start your routine to wind down.
Work at home mothers are a special breed. We work tirelessly under immense pressure and under the watchful eyes of our families. Thankfully, there is a way to relieve some of that pressure, and it starts with organizing our time better so we can be more efficient and productive without giving up the best parts about working from home.
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