Mums who work from home need to manage deadlines, respond to e-mails and contact people, even as we deal with household chores and our children’s constant demand for attention.
You can attempt to do all this by yourself. I tried to when I first started my business as I felt that I shouldn’t be spending any money when I didn’t have any income. So, I did everything myself ― I built my own website, answered each and every e-mail, even designed my own logo and posted Pinterest-worthy images. I wasn’t only the first to wake up, I also worked late into the night. Sadly, my efforts didn’t produce results.
What I earned was negligible. Yet, l refused to consider leaving my kids at home so that I could return to full-time work. I knew I had to try something different because I want to spend time with the kids while they are young. So, I invested in myself by attending seminars, reading books and spending thousands of dollars I hadn’t yet earned to upgrade myself as a work-from-home entrepreneur. While I can’t apply every lesson from those courses, here are several things work-from-home mums can do to boost their productivity:
Make a list of every tiny annoyance in your day and schedule in time to fix each of them.
Tip #1: Start the day with a to-do list
Before you do anything, sit down and write down everything you absolutely need to get done before the day’s over. This means including only the musts and skipping all those things you’d like to see happen. Schedule these tasks into your calendar, so that you don’t forget them. I use Google calendar, which is also synced to my phone.
A to-do list cuts out any guess work. When you find yourself with a biggish chunk of time (10 to 20 minutes), focus on these tasks and drop everything else (like doing the dishes). These are your day’s priorities.
Tip #2: Purge the tiny things that take up time
The daily annoyances in our lives actually take up a lot of our time. For example, thanks to an unorganised wardrobe, you might have to walk back and forth between two chests of drawers just to find a pair of jeans, or struggle to find matching socks for kids. While these things don’t seem to take much time, add them up and they can take up many hours of your day. They also drain your mental reservoir.
So, how do you deal with this? Make a list of every tiny annoyance in your day and schedule in time to fix each of them. Put an actual appointment on your calendar to reorganise your wardrobe, or buy multiples of each sock style, so that you don’t have to play the matching games. You’ll be amazed at how your day changes when small problems vanish.
Keep clicking to find three more time-management tricks…
Tip #3: Set a timer
Before you start on a task, calculate how much time you should be spending on each task, so that you’ll complete everything by day’s end. Stick to your budget. Set a timer, so that you don’t go over your allotted time. Forget watching the clock ― a timer that counts down somehow inspires us to work harder and faster.
If you work while your child takes a nap, your tot’s nap time makes a great natural timer. You’ll be motivated to work harder to get a job done when you know that you have to finish the job before junior wakes up.
If you can afford it, consider hiring help. A part-time cleaner who comes in for several hours a day can do wonders for your sanity.
Tip #4: Don’t check your e-mail constantly
The average person checks his or her e-mail dozens of times a day. A quick glance at your phone may only take a few seconds, but it all adds up, and most e-mails aren’t so urgent that you need to respond to them immediately. Designate a time to clear your e-mail. Save your energy when you’re fresh and free of distractions for your most important tasks. Once you’ve worked through your task list, you can check your e-mail and re-prioritise your remaining time.
Tip #5: Make a decision and move on
Save your brain power for major decisions. Stop wasting time mulling over minor decisions that will have no meaningful impact on your life. Small things ― what to eat for dinner, what to wear and what to buy ― are not life-changing. Pick something, then move on. Save your thinking for the things that really count.
I promised only five tips, so consider this a bonus. If you can afford it, consider hiring help. A part-time cleaner who comes in for several hours a day can do wonders for your sanity. I now have a full-time helper at home, as well as an assistant who helps me with my e-mails, scheduling and also sees to my client’s needs when I’m tied up with my children.
Remember that you are juggling multiple tasks at once as a work-from-home parent. But it is possible to work at home, care for your family and complete household tasks at the same time. You just need to prioritise, be organised and also learn to say no to superfluous tasks.
Mother of three Michelle Hon, who blogs at The Chill Mom, is a business owner who works from home.
Photos: Michelle Hon