I was originally going to call this post “Time Management for Busy Work-at-Home Moms”, but let’s face it – we’re all busy. Beyond belief busy. A better title would probably be “My Best Tips and Tricks for Juggling 700 Tasks Every Day While Trying to Stay Sane and Keep Your Child Alive”. Most days, it feels like an uphill battle. You’ve probably thrown your hands in the air in frustration more than once. We’ve all been there. I’ve been there, too. Here’s what helped me make it through, and come out stronger on the other side.
My very best tips on time management for work-at-home moms:
• Start by making a list of the top five things that you do that earn you the most money.
Bust out a notepad, your calendar, or write them on the back of your grocery list. What do you do that are your most income producing activities? Literally, the tasks that result in dollars coming into your business. We aren’t going to do anything with these five tasks (yet), but we need to identify them and be almost constantly aware of them in order to move forward. For me, those income producing activities include things like: customer follow up, booking events, reaching out to local small businesses, Facebook live videos, and interacting with customers during sales and parties. What are yours?
• Now make a list of the top five things that take up the majority of your time during the day.
See where I’m going with this? Be brutally honest with yourself here! We all have things that take up our precious minutes (or hours) during the day, whether they are daily household chores or unnecessary time-suckers. For me, Facebook is a huge time suck. I often attempt to justify the amount of time I spend on social media with “But I run an online business!”. But remember how I said to be brutally honest with yourself on this one? The truth is that I spend a lot more time scrolling my various newsfeeds than I really need to. Other things that take up the majority of my time include cleaning – vacuuming, dishes, laundry – tidying up after a toddler tornado and generally keeping him occupied (“child care”), running errands, and appointments.
• Now, do any of those things on your two lists overlap?
If you’re anything like the majority of work-at-home moms, the answer is probably no. So what do we do about it?
• Decide which tasks from the second list can be eliminated.
No, I’m not telling you to just ignore the laundry and stop caring for your children, that would be crazy. But the Instagram scrolling? That can definitely go. If you’re like me and find yourself mindlessly reading status update after status update on Facebook and before you know it ten minutes have gone past, that’s definitely a time-suck that can be eliminated. What about other things that you spend a lot of time on that don’t produce income? Can any of those tasks be “farmed out” to someone else? Many people will find that by having someone come in and scrub the toilets, mop the kitchen, and dust the dining room it eliminates not only those tasks from their to-do list, but a lot of the stress of keeping up with housework every single day. This is why I like to call time management “self management”, because it is truly more about managing myself; where I am allowing my focus to go and how I am choosing to spend my hours.
This is where I like to tell people that I have my son in daycare 4 days a week for 4 hours each day. Child care is pretty high up on my list of things I spend the most time on. But I cannot be expected to work from home if I have a spider monkey crawling all over me 10 hours a day. The thing about working from home is that you need to actually be working. I wouldn’t be expected to work at my old 7 am to 5 pm job while simultaneously watching a two-year-old. Also, no work means no income. And I can get a lot more work done in those four hours that my son is in daycare – plus feel better about spending the rest of the day with him after he comes home – than I could if he were in my care 24/7. I know daycare isn’t for everyone, so do what works for your situation. Consider what non-income-producing tasks you can hire out or eliminate, and go from there.
• Work in “time chunks”.
For me, this is a big one. If I sit down at my desk without a clear plan of what I’m doing for the next half hour, I’ll undoubtedly glance out into the dining room at some point and notice a pile of mail that needs to be sorted. So I’ll get up and head out to sort the mail, and on my way there I’ll notice my son’s stuffed animal laying in the hall. I’d better pick that up, so I go over to do it, and when I reach down I notice how badly the floor needs to be swept. And if I’m going to sweep, I might as well vacuum too. Do you get my point here? There is always something else that needs to be done. Always always always. So I need to give myself orders, like “for the next twenty minutes, you’re going to sit here and respond to customer emails”. Or I’ll set a timer on my phone and say “until this timer goes off, you will not leave this office. You will put your inventory numbers into this spreadsheet like you said you would two weeks ago”. Yes, using a stern voice with myself always helps.
• Don’t be afraid to delete your apps.
I know when you hover your finger over those little shaking icons on your iPhone, sometimes it’s tough to pull the trigger. But deleting your Facebook Messenger app every night during dinner time can be extremely liberating. You can always re-download it after the kids are in bed.
• Schedule everything that can be scheduled, including personal time.
This is especially important when it comes to making sure you’re still allowing yourself time for things that aren’t work related. When we are our own bosses and our offices are right next to our kitchens, it is infinitely harder to separate your work and your home life, because the two feel interconnected. One and the same. But if you allow your home-based business to completely swallow you, I can promise that you will burn out in a matter of months. Make sure there is one night a week you’re not working at all after 4 pm so you can have dinner and family time. If you’re married or have a significant other, put a monthly date night on the calendar, and hire your babysitter at least two weeks in advance. Better yet, tell her to block off the second Tuesday of every month for your date night so you never have to miss it. Take time for yourself, too. Get your hair colored or your toes done every once in a while, or go to a new yoga class. Self care is extremely important, and just because you’re not rushing back and for to an office every day doesn’t mean you don’t need a break sometimes.
I hope these tips have given you some ideas on how to better manage yourself and your time during the workday! What other time management tips do you have? I’d love to hear about them!