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Being a Work-at-Home Mom is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you have all of the flexibility of setting your own hours and spending time with your children. On the other hand, you are juggling so many responsibilities that managing your time can be a bit of a balancing act.
We know exactly what you’re dealing with. Not only do many of us run our own businesses and work from home, but we are all trying to find time here and there to write for Daily Mom. While not exactly experts, we’ve found that today’s time management tips have helped us move one step away from chaos and one step closer to productivity.
1. COMMIT TO A SCHEDULE
Working from home for many women means squeezing “work” into a much broader schedule. Heck, most of us don’t even realize how much we do. Between the kids and chores, a lot has to happen before you can close your eyes at night, and it’s important to identify everything that needs to be done, so that it can get done.
With that in mind, find some time in your day in which you can be distraction-free. Then, sit down and write a master schedule that includes everything that needs to be accomplished. What is written, gets done. So, document every detail, even if it seems insignificant.
2. PLAN THE WORK. WORK THE PLAN.
While we say “write it down,” we recognize that everyone has a preferred medium for tracking their work. Whether it’s a yellow notepad, sticky notes, a digital to-do list or a calendar, find a system that works for you and USE IT!
Only when you know what work needs to be done can you work through it. We like to think of it as planning the work and then working the plan. A little pre-work planning goes a long way and will save you time in the long run.
3. KNOCK OUT THE BIG STUFF IN ONE DAY
Identify tasks that you only touch on a monthly basis, and tackle those tasks in a single day. Those tasks might include paying the bills, sending invoices, monthly planning, scheduling resources, etc.
Don’t plan to do anything else on that day, but those tasks. We tend to use either the last day of the month or the first day of the month.
4. SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
Be realistic about how much time you have available and how much you have to accomplish in that time frame. Your boss or customers will always push you to do more, but we’ve found that if you can set reasonable expectations, everyone wins.
In fact, try under-promising the amount of work you’ll deliver within a certain time frame. Even add buffer time to allow for interruptions or family needs to creep in. Then, use daily goals to keep you on track. For example, if you’ve promised an assignment to be complete within two weeks, deliver it within one week. Under-promise, over-deliver!
5. WORK WHEN YOU’RE MOST PRODUCTIVE
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth repeating. As we said in the first point, you’ve got a lot to accomplish before you can close your eyes at night, so it’s important to make the most of the time you have available. Even better if that time coincides with your most productive hours.
For us, we find that the hours our children are in school, nap time and after bedtime are the most likely candidates for getting work done. You may be an early bird who rises before the rest of your family. If that’s the case, grab a cup of coffee and get to work! Or, if you’re more alert after lunch, then save your most difficult tasks for the afternoon. If you need to, coordinate your schedule with your partner (or hired help) so that you can get work done during your most productive hours without being interrupted.
6. DESIGNATE TIME TO CHECK EMAIL
One of the greatest ways to waste time is to get sucked into e-mail. So many people think email has the same urgency as a text message or phone call. However, you can re-train those people by not responding immediately. In fact, designate specific times to check email and voicemail. However, do yourself a favor and don’t check your email at the beginning of your “work day.”
For example, while you’re fresh and free of distraction, focus on assignments that require the most brain energy. Let’s say your day starts at 9 am after the kids have gone to school. For the next two hours, focus on your daily goals. Then at 11 am, check email and return voicemail. Once you’ve worked through your task list, you can check email and re-prioritize your remaining time.
7. TURN OFF NOTIFICATIONS
On a similar note, turn off the audible notifications on your phone, tablet and computer. Go ahead and turn off the email notification for email on your desktop as well. The chirping and ringing sounds are not only annoying, but they will tempt you to lose focus.
8. RACE THE CLOCK
A great way to work within a specific time frame is to use a timer. If you work while your child takes a nap, your child’s nap time is a great natural timer. If you’re working while your children are awake (and you don’t have the luxury of hiring someone else to watch them), then think of ways to occupy your kids for reasonable amounts of time and then utilize those chunks of time to knock out small tasks. You can literally use a timer to manage the time.
9. TAKE BREAKS
Very few people can work 6 or 8 or 10 hours a day without taking a break, and when you’re a work at home mom, taking breaks is even more important.
For one, part of the reason you are working from home is to spend time with your kids, so taking periodic breaks will allow you to do just that. On the other hand,taking a break will allow you to clear your head and reset your focus. When you come back from the break, you may find that you’re even ore productive.
On a similar note, when you are working from home, it’s very easy to lose track of time and to allow work to consume every free moment you have. If it gets to be a problem, you probably need to establish some office hours (beyond our previous note about email).
Finally, at the end of every day (and there should be an end), feel good about what you were able to accomplish and celebrate. There will always be more work to do so don’t fret about what you weren’t able to complete. Simply clear your desk and prepare for the next day.
Remember that you own your time. Don’t let anyone else steal it away from you. Just focus on the big picture and we’ve found that usually, the details fall right into place.