Why do so many people tell mothers that they need to wake up early if they want to be able to get things done? No…no you don't. Stop depriving yourself of sleep in the name of boosting productivity and trying to get more done. It's not necessary and, more than that, it's probably hurting you more than helping.
Hi there!! Welcome to episode five of The Geeky Mompreneur – the podcast especially for work at home mothers. My name is Naomi Nakashima. I am a blogger over at helpmenaomi.com and, as you may have guessed, your host. And today we are going to talk about a really hot topic that seems to hit work at home mothers right in the gut.
Or, right in the sleep, as the case may be.
One question I'm asked all the time is “how do you get so much done?”
“How can you do so much, especially with two kids at home?”
Now, I'm not a magician. I don't have any more hours in my day than anyone else. And to be honest, I have never really felt like I get any more done than other work at home mothers. I struggle just like any other work at home mom trying to balance it all, get it all done, and make my deadlines.
I've just been doing it for so long now that I've managed to build up my routines, get systems into place that help me save time, and let me breathe a little bit without feeling like I'm going to lose every little bit of progress I've made.
Now, it wasn't always that way. When I first started working from home, those systems didn't really matter to me. Who cares what your schedule is if you're a single person working from home without kids or spouses to work around? So it never dawned on me that I might need to set some of those things up and get them working.
Until I got married. Then things got a little fun.
For the most part, I just worked whenever my new husband was at work. And even that little change affected my business. Many of the emails that came in after he came home got missed or put off. A lot of work nights got put off for date nights.
And even though these small changes affected my business, I started losing business, I started losing clients, it still didn't dawn on me to change or implement any systems right away. If an email came in and I had to take care of, I went to work and he played video games or something. I never set a system up.
Then came the first child. Now, if anything is going to mess up your work at home routine, a child is it. And it seemed like I could never get caught up. Every time I felt like I started to get a routine together around her naps or her feeding schedule, her naps and her feeding schedule changed.
Talk about frustrating.
And when the second child came? There were times I would wake up in the morning with tears already in my eyes because I had only gotten 35 minutes of sleep and now I was expected to go to work and rock it.
Not to mention taking care of my blog, getting the podcast running, and we still had to eat sometime that day.
So, yes, I did what every other work at home mother has done at some point, and I started searching online for time management tips and scheduling tips. And I read this article that absolutely changed my life.
In this article the author said, and I am paraphrasing a bit here, if you are a work at home mother and you want to be able to get work done… wake. up. early.
That's what she said. That was her sage advice. Get up before anyone else in the house gets up and get to work. And I thought…
What. A. Crock.
First of all…choosing to deprive yourself of some much-needed sleep is a quick road to burnout. And waking up early is a surefire way of depriving yourself of sleep.
Second…I seriously doubt this person had kids, because once you have kids you know there is no such thing as “waking up before they do.” Kids' wakeup times are unreliable…some days my daughter sleeps in until 9 or 10 in the morning, and those days are glorious. Other days she is up by 5:30. When should I wake up to find these magical hours of productivity? THree in the morning?
No thank you.
Third…for many of us, waking up early leaves us groggy, unable to focus, and just not at our best all the way around. Trying to sit down to work at that time makes it harder to get motivated and inspired, not easier.
Last but not least…by choosing to deprive yourself of sleep and waking up early just for the sake of getting work done, not only are you giving the impression that your job is more important than your health, but you are also giving your family the message that your work isn't important. Your job isn't important.
That everything they are doing is more important than your job. And that is not the message I want my family to get.
No… telling a work at home mother “you have to wake up early if you want to get anything done” is horrible advice.
Now, I'm not saying you can't get up to work in the morning if that's what works for you. If you happen to be a morning person who wakes up motivated and bright-eyed and can start working right then and there, by all means, please do so.
I am not against people working that early in the morning… I'm against the idea of telling mothers that they have to get up and work that early in the morning at the expense of their sleep.
If you really want to get things done and be productive while working from home, the most important thing for you to do is establish those systems I used to ignore, implement a routine, and help your family recognize and respect this routine.
If that routine means getting up early, then please get up early. If that routine means staying up late, then go ahead and stay up late. It's important that the routine works for you. If you are not a morning person, do not try to force yourself into working at five in the morning. You won't be happy, you're just going to be miserable, sleep deprived, and you'll burn yourself out.
For me, time-blocking has become my savior. I set it up using my Google Calendar so I could take advantage of the notifications popping up on my computer. And on Fridays, I time block out my week based on my deadlines and projects.
That way, I get a notice on my phone when it's almost time to start a new activity. Then, for that time, whether it's half an hour or an hour, I focus solely on that activity. About ten minutes before it ends, I get another notification so I know it's time to start wrapping things up and getting out of it.
I also leave 30-minute breaks between each of my blocks. This gives me a reminder to get up and stretch, check on the rest of the family, eat, or even just throw some laundry into the machine. Any activity that doesn't require being tied to my computer.
I adapted this system from the writing sprints I used to do for NaNoWriMo. It takes some getting used to, especially if you're used to just sitting down with a to-do list and working until you cross the items off your list.
But what I like about this system is that as you use it more and more, you get more proficient with it. Writing a blog post takes one half-hour block of time because I've trained myself that during that block of time I only concentrate on the writing – my blog research was all done during a different block of time.
This method not only helps me remember to take care of myself and other priorities around the house, but it also helps me make the mental transition away from one activity and prepare myself for the next activity. And the short breaks in between these activities helps cut down on the number of interruptions I receive while working.
As for system improvements, start with your email or messages. Setting up an autoresponder for my emails and private messages was a huge system improvement. Just one small piece of automation helped save time and saved both me and my clients headaches. Any of those backend systems, you know the ones I mean – those activities you have to get done but they're boring and time-consuming or tedious, see if you can find a tool that will either automate them or streamline them so they can take up less time.
Imagine for a moment how much easier your job would be, how much more time you would have, if you had a tool that automated invoices for you? Or cleaned up your database? Or carried out your new client onboarding process? And these are just some of the things I can think of off the top of my head that can, and likely should, be automated.
So, how do you get everything done? Not by depriving yourself of sleep or taking a back seat to everyone else… by building a routine that works for you, sticking with it, and then helping your family respect it.
And that brings this episode of The Geeky Mompreneur to a close. Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, I hope you will let me know by heading into iTunes and leaving me a review. Go ahead and rate and subscribe while you're there. Once again, I am Naomi Nakashima, and I hope you'll stop by over at my blog, helpmenaomi.com, to share with me some of your favorite time scheduling tips.