Becoming a work at home mom was the absolute best decision I have ever made. I get the best of both worlds- staying home with my kids and providing for my family. However, there are many unique challenges that come with being in this position. I hear one question over and over again from overwhelmed moms. “When on earth can I actually find the time to work?!?!”
In addition to working, I am also the main caretaker for my home and children. The time I actually have available for work is limited. In order to make sure I am meeting the expectations of my job, I needed to learn how to maximize my productivity. This allows me to get more done in less time so that I have more time available for my family, my home and myself.
Over the years, I have tried a number of different techniques to improve my efficiency. I have shared my ideas with other moms as well. I am sure that if you adopt these techniques, you will find your days running a lot smoother.
Find Your Peak Time
Everyone has a time of the day when they are at their sharpest. This is what I call “Peak Time”. You may even notice that you have more than one peak in a day. I tend to peak from 6am-9am and then again from 1pm – 3pm. I know that I am at my best and can work efficiently during these times.Try to do most of your work at your peak times so your productivity will be at its best.
Implement A Work Schedule
Now that you have determined your peak times, you can arrange a schedule that works for you. Treat this schedule as sacred and stick to it. Set your work hours during your peak times as much as possible. When I first started working from home, I had absolutely no structure to my work. I would just try to fit it in whenever I had a spare moment. There were many days that I was not able to get as much done as I had hoped. I often found myself playing catch-up later in the week or on the weekend when I would much rather be spending time with my family. I have found that creating a schedule has actually allowed me more freedom and made life much less stressful as I can now focus completely on my work during my scheduled time.
Keep The Kids Entertained
Nothing stifles my productivity more than having to stop what I am doing to help the kids with something. Keeping the kids entertained can be tricky, but it doesn’t always have to be super complicated or involve elaborate activities and crafts. If you only have a small amount of work that needs to get done (30 minutes or less) it can just be sitting in the playroom and working on your laptop while the kids play. If you have to work for several hours in a row, you may want to get a babysitter. When I have a long day of work, I will usually have my parents or mother-in-law watch the kids while I work. This works great for all of us. I get to focus on work (and get free childcare) and they get to spend time with the kids (win-win!). If you don’t have someone to watch the kids, work during naps and at bedtime. If you still need more time, the occasional TV show or movie while you work won’t permanently damage them.
Complete Most Important Tasks First
The most important tasks are also usually the most time consuming. You will also want to be sure that you are giving these items the attention that they deserve. By finishing your most important tasks first, you are ensuring that they are done well and that you will not have to rush to complete them. Rushing these lead to poor quality work and decline in work performance.
When you are working, make sure your sole focus is on your work. Don’t try to start a load of laundry or clean the dishes while on a conference call. Additionally, make sure you are only focusing on one task at a time. Multitasking can make your productivity drop by as much as 40%. Devote all of your attention to one item and stay with it until it is finished. Do not move on to another task until it is complete.
Plan Your Work Day The Night Before
Taking time to plan your work day allows you to stay on task. To do this, make a list of everything that you need to get done. From that list, select the three most important things that you need to complete that day. Those three items will be your main focus. If you finish those items with time to spare, you can move on to other tasks.
Implement A Homemaking Schedule
One of the problems I had when I first started out was actually carving out time to work. There simply never seemed to be enough time after taking care of the kids and the home. There was always another chore that needed to be done. Setting up a cleaning schedule for my home made all the difference. It made it so that I knew when all the chores would be done. I didn’t have to stress about having a messy bathroom on Monday because on Tuesday all the bathrooms get cleaned. Not stressing about getting all my housework done at once allowed me to carve out more time to spend on my work.
In addition to setting up a housekeeping schedule, I also take a bit of time to plan my meals for the week. This is just another way to eliminate distractions and maximize my productivity while I am working. By meal planning, I already know what we are having for dinner on any particular day. This also allows me to prep meals ahead of time so that on busy days I can throw everything together quickly. I don’t have to stop what I’m doing to decide what we are having for dinner and then spend an hour or more cooking.
Practice Regular Self-Care
Making sure that you are taking good care of your body, mind and soul is essential. If you are working and taking care of the kids, the house and your husband and neglecting yourself, you are eventually going to burn out. I have burned out a few times and the results were not pretty. I let my home get out of control, was grouchy and irritable with my children and husband and did not perform well at work. Once I got into this state, it was incredibly hard to get out of, sometimes taking a few months or more. I strongly encourage you to make yourself a priority so that this does not happen to you.
As work at home mom’s we are not only responsible for our work, but also for managing our household. Putting these tips into practice has made all the difference in my productivity. I have been able to cut my work time in half and spend more of my time with my family, which was the main reason I chose to work from home in the first place.
If you are working so much that you don’t have time for anything else, then you are defeating the purpose. You need to be sure that you have time and energy left for engaging with your family and truly being present with them.