One of the biggest things I struggled with as a new work from home mom was figuring out how to manage my time. Essentially I only have until about 13h30 to get work done before I have to start fetching children. Trying to figure out how to get everything I needed to get done in that time was a struggle. For months it felt like I was constantly one step behind.
As a result I spent a lot of time working on weekends and early in the morning. When you start your own business it does take extra hours in the beginning but the ultimate goal is to not have to work constantly, for me personally, it defeated the point of working from home. If you have a job that you can do from home, you also don’t really want to be doing it after hours.
The good news is you don’t have to. My business has grown a lot, I have a pretty long to do list but my weekend work is now the exception not the norm.
How do I manage it?
Planning planning planning. You need a plan that works for you. This will look different for everyone. I use a big printed calendar, a good old fashioned note book and diary. This works for me but there are some apps that you can use. You need to know what you need to do and you need to then prioritize that list. Some things need to be done daily, some weekly and some monthly. Once you have a clear idea of where each task fits, you can plan your day, your week and your month.
Every Friday I have a networking meeting that ends at 9h00, Kiara ends at 13h00, Cameron at 13h30 and then he needs to be back at swimming at 14h45. This means my Fridays are pretty much write offs. I know this though and I plan for it. I can’t afford to take the day off but I use my Friday’s to tie up projects, blog or other “easy” tasks.
Once you have a plan set realistic time boundaries. I work in Social Media and can get caught up very quickly in researching for clients or browsing Facebook or Instagram (for work :-p). So I set time limits for tasks each day. I know what I can get through in a day so if for example I need to get x number of clients content scheduled, I know I can achieve it. Setting unrealistic time frames adds to your stress and you will probably get even less done.
If you have a child at home, plan for down time with them. It makes it easier for both of you if you “schedule” time with them. Obviously this depends on the age of the child but it can work with any age. Let them watch a movie and then once the movie is finished spend 30 minutes with them. Or get them to complete a puzzle/game/drawing and then go for a 10 minute walk outside. Trying to fight against your child for time doesn’t work, embrace that they are there and plan for it.
Remove distractions or ignore them. Working from home as a mom can be super distracting. My office is right next to the kitchen. I look over and see dishes that need to be washed or a floor that needs to be swept. Then I walk to the loo through the lounge and there are toys on the floor, clothes that need to be folded. It can be hard to avoid these things but every little distraction adds up and eats at your productivity. I am fortunate enough to have Jane 3 times a week so I can “ignore” certain things. But on the days she isn’t here I set specific times to tidy up. While I am getting kids ready in the morning I do a quick tidy up. When Jack gets home I do another quick tidy up if need be. But once everyone is at school and my work time starts I ignore the washing, dishes, garden and anything else that could distract me.
All my kids are on holiday now and this is a big distraction because they watch TV or play video games. Ear phones are essential during this time.
Schedule breaks. Your productive time might be limited but don’t forget to take a break now and then. It doesn’t have to be a long break, make some coffee or hang up a load of washing or just sit and be still for 10 minutes.
My biggest tip is to be realistic. Life with children is unpredictable most days. If you have a baby at home, some days are tougher than others. Be realistic about your time and what you can take on and if you feel you have reached your limit for now, say no.
What are some of your time management tips if you work from home?