When you’re working from home with a family, there are so many moving parts to keep together. Whether you have babies, toddlers, teens, or a mix (and regardless how many you have), working from home requires an interesting balancing act.
Having an arsenal of time management tips for the home front will help you keep things on track while working from home.
Working from home as a mom of six
I have six kids, from preschooler to teen. There is never a dull moment around my house. I’ve experimented with a variety of ways to add to the family finances over the years, working outside the home, working solely from home, and right now, a combo of the two.
I can’t possibly tell you with a straight face that I have it all together. (Who really does!?)
But over the last several years, I’ve developed strategies that help me streamline life’s processes so there’s more time to focus on work.
And more time to enjoy family life. That’s the whole point, after all, isn’t it?
I’ve learned most of these tips the hard way. When I don’t follow through on them, life gets much harder, things start to fall apart, and working from home starts to feel like it isn’t possible.
When I do take the time to implement these simple tips, home life and work life run much smoother.
Basic areas of life to streamline
There are some basic areas of household life we all need to manage: food, chores, and the schedule. We often complicate them unnecessarily. But if we learn to simplify and manage our time more effectively, there is more time available in the day for working and living. The more steps you can cut and the more things you can get running on ‘auto-pilot,’ the better.
Here are some simple ways to make life run a little smoother as a work-from-home mom:
In the kitchen
1. Make feeding everyone (including you) the top priority!
You don’t need anybody ‘hangry’ while you’re trying to get your work done. If meals and snacks are covered, everything else can fall into place.
2. Think basic
What makes a basic meal for your family may be different depending on your family’s nutritional needs and preferences, but for us, the basic building blocks for dinner include a protein and a vegetable.
Throw some chicken legs into the oven and steam-in-the-bag veggies into the microwave, and we have an easy and (inexpensive) base for dinner. For an even quicker protein, fish is a great option.
When planning a meal, take each element and make it as simple as possible. Instead of peeling and mashing, bake your potatoes. Instead of making rolls from scratch, go ahead and buy them, or skip the carbs altogether 😉
For easy snacks, opt for grab-and-go fresh fruits and vegetables like apples, bananas, baby carrots, or nuts.
3. Schedule a regular time for meal planning, shopping, and prep
The longer you can make your meal plan for, the better. We’ve been doing our meal planning weekly on Saturdays, and then grocery shopping and food prepping on Sunday. Lisa Tanner, freelance writer, virtual assistant, and mom to eight creates an annual meal plan for her family. Now that’s impressive!
Some people outsource and use a service like E-meals to do their planning. I’ve never tried it, but if meal planning is something you don’t like to do, it might be worth the time savings.
4. Always buy (and make) extra
Better to have too much than too little. Nothing wastes time like not knowing what’s for dinner or having to run back to the store. Yet, if you’re frugal, you may struggle with this like I do. When I get off course in the food department, it’s usually because I tried to shave money off the grocery bill and end up having to run back out, spending more money anyway.
How much extra you need depends on your family, but keep in mind that leftovers are your best friend. Making extra when you cook and then making use of leftovers will not only save you money (bonus!), it will save you so much time.
Some people have great success with making a bunch of meals in one day and freezing them. What works for me is doubling or tripling simple things when I make them for dinner, like taco meat, and then freezing it for next time. Also, freezing leftovers in individual-sized containers makes a great lunch for another day.
5. Use a slow cooker or counter top grill
Start your meal before your work-time even begins with a slow cooker. Look for throw and go recipes when you’re doing your planning. Find out your family’s favorites and rotate. No need to reinvent the wheel. If something doesn’t get thrown in the slow cooker, a counter-top grill is a quick option for last minute.
Action Step: Schedule a regular time for meal planning and grocery shopping into your planner. When planning time comes, decide what changes will work to simplify meal-time for your family.
6. Prioritze your chore list
All chores are not equal. Some things can wait. Others, not so much. If the dishes are undone, that’s a recipe for instant overwhelm. Make sure the order you’re working on chores makes sense.
7. Keep cleaning supplies handy in each bathroom and in the kitchen.
Having supplies right where you need them makes it a breeze to quickly tidy up as you go.
8. Create a quick daily cleaning routine
Although it’s not for everyone, if you struggle in this area, Flylady has a great system for building quick cleaning routines into daily life.
9. Do at least one load of laundry everyday
Staying on top of the laundry by doing a load a day keeps the mountain from piling up.
This is one area that I’m decent at delegating. (You can read about trying to do it all in 8 Actionable Time Management Tips for Work-at-Home Moms). My oldest kids wash their own laundry and often help with the rest. Then everyone puts away their own clothes. How they do it – well, that’s up to them.
10. Pick one or two key ‘clean-up’ times per day.
Decide the most important ‘pick-up’ times. Don’t feel like you need to pick up the baby’s toys every half hour. You’ll be exhausted. I promise; I’ve done it. Late afternoon before dinner and evening before bed works best around here.
11. Get rid of the excess
The fewer things you have (toys, clothes, dishes, knick-knacks) the easier it will be to keep your home clean. Think about getting down to the essentials.
12. Outsource or delegate whenever you are able
- Can you hire someone to mow the lawn, or someone to deep clean once a week?
- Are your kids old enough to have chores?
- Is it time to re-negotiate who does what chores with hubby? Sometimes all it takes is asking.
If it doesn’t have to be done by you, consider how you might hand the reins to someone else.
Action Step: Evaluate a typical week of chores in your home and identify any area there is a breakdown occuring. Decide how to conquer it.
13. Block time for errands
Try to schedule appointments and extra running for a certain day of the week, or batch errands when you already have to run out.
Making carpool connections with other parents saves so much time. Take the intiative and start a carpool to and from school or any practices your kids have.
15. Order online whenever possible
If you can save yourself a trip to the store and order online, do it. Consider signing up for Amazon Prime for the time savings and simplicity if you haven’t already.
16. Clear the schedule
Sometimes we simply need to say no more often. We don’t need to attend every event, volunteer for everything, or have our kids participate in thirty-two activities. Be very deliberate about what you say ‘yes’ to.
Action Steps: Decide which day works best as your ‘errand day.’ Next time you are feeling overwhelmed by the schedule, evaluate why. What changes can you make?
17. Let go of perfectionism and focus on self-care instead
You can’t do it all, all the time. Give yourself a break when you need it. Sometimes you’ll have to make hard choices about your time.
I used to make my own cleaning products, coupon, and cook from scratch. It’s not possible anymore. And while the microwave may not be my favorite thing in the world, it makes my life easier, so for this season of life, I’m giving myself a break.
How can you make it easier on yourself?
- Steam-in-the-bag veggies?
- Pre-cut veggies or fruit?
- Paper plates occasionally?
- Pizza night?
Go ahead; it’ll be okay.
18. Keep looking for new ways to optimize
Always be on the look out for new ways to simplify life. For example, I’m looking for ways to eliminate those time-wasting extra trips to the store. My plan is to create a list of items that I would run out to the store for because I couldn’t do without them. Those are the items I am going to stock up on from now on. Toothpaste, toilet paper, shampoo, soap, trash bags. (Um…coffee, chocolate. Stuff like that.)
And of course, keep on learning from other moms! There is a wealth of information in this Q & A with three moms who have a proven track record of running their businesses from home.
Do you have any time management tips that keep things running smoothly at your house? Let’s share and optimize those systems!