What if a few simple time management tips could change the way your work-from-home life flows? How would that improve your life? Your family's? Your clients'?
When you're working from home with a family, there are 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. This is where having a toolbox full of time management tips can keep everything from crashing down around you.
Want to read my previous list of ways to save time by planning?
Today, I've got 18 more ways to save time and effort in your work-from-home life. This collection focuses on the home front and how to keep it running smoothly, even when you're juggling work-from-home, family, and caring for the home you work and live in.
Time Management Tips From a Work-From Home Mom of Six
I have six kids, from toddler to teen, so 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. I've worked outside the home, worked from home, and done a combo of the two.
I can't possibly tell you that I have it all together. (Who really does!?)
But over the last several years, I've developed strategies that help me simplify life's processes so there is more time to focus on work.
And, better yet, more time to enjoy family life. That's the whole point after all, isn't it?
When I don't follow through on these time management tips, things fall apart and working from home feels almost impossible. When I do take the time to implement them, home life and work life run much more smoothly.
And, of course, that makes for a happier family, happier clients – and a less-stressed-out me!
Basic Areas of Life You Can Streamline with Time Management
There are some basic areas of household life we all need to deal with: food, chores, and the schedule (all those errands, appointments, and kids' extracurriculars). It's easy to complicate them unnecessarily. And, of course, that can lead to overwhelm and chaos that cost time and family peace.
With these time management tips for work-from-home moms (or dads!), you can manage your time and energy more effectively. You'll reduce the time it takes to complete tasks, minimize transition time, and eliminate non-essentials. That translates to more time in your days to focus on working – and enjoying life with your family.
Easy Time Management for Meals and Snacks
1. Make feeding everyone (including you!) fed a top priority
This may not seem like a time management tip… but have you ever tried to keep on schedule when someone (or everyone!) is “hangry”? It just doesn't work, and the frustrations that go along with it will probably use up a lot of extra time and energy.
“What's there to eat?” is the most common question in my house. (Three teenage boys, 'nuff said). If there isn't quick food ready to go, that's a guaranteed loss of productive work-time, but if meals and snacks are covered, everything else falls into place.
So make sure there's plenty of food available that meets the nutritional needs and tastes of your family. A little time each week devoted to this goal will save you plenty over time. Bonus? You'll have a happier family, rather than a crew of vultures ready to descend on you for their next snack!
While you're feeding people, don't forget yourself. Many moms have a habit of eating on the go while doing many other things, or just skipping meals. You may be a super mom, but you're still human, and you need nourishing food, too. Take care of your own nutritional needs the same way you do the rest of your family, and you might find you have super concentration and an amazing new ability to get things done!
2. Schedule regular times for meal planning, shopping, and prep
Even if you live in a family that values spontaneity, having a plan for how people are going to get fed can save you time. And, especially for older kids and partners, knowing what food is in the house can help people fend for themselves better when you are busy elsewhere.
This can be an elaborate, long-term plan, or as simple as a templated grocery list you adapt each week to meet every family member's needs. The specifics are less important than that what you do works for your family. And, if it doesn't, that you are willing to tweak things until it does.
We meal-plan on Saturday, and then grocery shop and food prep on Sunday afternoons.
Lisa Tanner, freelance writer, virtual assistant, and mom to eight, creates an annual meal plan for her family. Now that's impressive! She uses meal rotation, and it's much simpler than you might think. (Following her method is on my to-do list).
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, I think it would be worth the time savings.
Don't forget to take your list with you to the store! I did that last week. (Bags full of cereal and snacks; three days worth of meals). Just don't do it. There are many apps that allow you to plan meals and carry your grocery list on your phone. Taking a bit of time to find one that works for you can save a lot of time and frustration later.
3. Think basic and quick
Here's a time management tip that doesn't take much extra effort to set up – and will save you a lot. When you're doing your meal planning, simplify your food choices. I think of it as reducing it to the lowest common denominator.
An example: if you're planning potatoes as a side, what's the easiest method of preparing them? Mashed potatoes require scrubbing, peeling, boiling, mashing, dirtying a cutting board and a pot; baked potatoes are scrubbed, stuck with a fork, and microwaved. Save mashed potatoes for special occasions, and you also save time and effort on regular work-from-home days.
What makes a basic meal for your family? For us, the basic building blocks of a dinner are a protein and a vegetable. Throw some chicken legs in the oven and steam-in-the-bag vegetables into the microwave, and there is an easy base for dinner. Fish is an even quicker option for the protein.
Look at what the basic building blocks of meals are in your family. You could keep some ready rice or pasta handy for tossing chopped or frozen veggies and a protein into, and have a meal in minutes when needed.
4. Always buy (and make) extra
It's better to have too much than too little, yet this one can be a struggle if you're really frugal. Nothing wastes time like having to run back to the store.
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.
Making extra gives you leftovers, which are your new best friend. They will save you time and money (bonus!). Learn to appreciate them! If they're not eaten in a day or two, freeze them in individual-size containers, and you'll have easy lunches and dinners on the fly.
Some people make a ton of extra using one day a month to make freezer meals. In theory, I love the idea, but it was too overwhelming for me when I tried it. What does work for me is doubling, tripling, or even quadrupling something like taco meat when I'm making it for dinner, then freezing the extra for future use. It's a more painless way to build up a stockpile of ready-to-use meals and meal components.
5. Use a pressure or slow cooker, air fryer, or counter-top grill
You can use a slow cooker or pressure cooker with a throw and go recipe, and check dinner off the to-do list before you even start your work day. Or use a modern electric programmable pressure cooker to cook almost anything. There are many sites where you can find excellent recipes that fit any family's tastes. This one categorizes recipes in several ways, so you'll even save time while planning.
If you're derailed and the slow cooker doesn't get started in the morning, a counter-top grill or air fryer makes another great option. Nothing is easier, or quicker, than throwing chicken, pork chops, or burgers on the grill or into the air fryer.
Action Step: Schedule regular time for meal planning and grocery shopping into your planner. Don't re-invent the wheel; rotate favorite basic meals instead.
Time-Saving Ideas for Getting Through Household Chores
6. Prioritize your chore list
An axiom of time management tips is that not all chores are created equal. Some things can be let go when things get hectic. Others deserve priority attention. If having piles of undone dishes are a recipe for instant overwhelm, but unmade beds don't bother you, make sure you get the dishes done first. You'll feel better and be more relaxed, even if the beds don't get made that day.
Make sure you're doing chores in an order that makes sense for you and your life. That way, even if you run out of “chore time” before everything is done, or you have a work priority that needs to come first, your house will be under control. And when your house is under control, you can attend to your work-from-home duties without feeling as though you're being pulled to take care of an endless list of housework.
7. Keep cleaning supplies handy in the kitchen and each bathroom
Having supplies right where you need them makes it a breeze to tidy up as you go, instead of it being an ordeal. Contain them in a bucket or basket, and keep them stocked. Will you need rags, sponges, gloves, or other specialized items in that area? Make sure you have what you need on hand. That way, whether your cleaning style is a dedicated deep clean or a quick swipe-and-wipe in passing, you'll know where to find the supplies you need to get the job done without a fuss, and still have time for the rest of your life.
8. Create a quick daily cleaning routine
Building cleaning routines into daily life comes naturally to some people. For some of us, it's a struggle. If that's you, experiment until you find a system that suits your needs. Many moms swear by Flylady. But if you find yourself tempted to swear at that system, there are others, such as this one.
What's most important is that whatever system you use or create works for you, rather than you working for it. The goal is for it to make your work-from-home mom life easier and save time while doing it.
9. Do at least one load of laundry every day
Staying on top of the laundry by doing a load every day keeps the mountain from piling up; delegate to share the workload if you can.
Laundry is one chore I'm decent at delegating. (You can read about trying to do it all yourself in the first time-management post). My oldest kids either wash their own, or at least help with daily laundry.
Then everyone puts away their own clothes. It's up to them if they fold it, which they don't. Hubby is the only one unwrinkled around here, because he folds, hangs up, and irons when necessary.
The rest of us are slightly wrinkled, but clean.
10. Pick one or two key “clean-up times per day
Instead of picking up recurring messes over and over again, like toys, dirty dishes, or after-school chaos, choose “clean-up” times. Before lunch, before dad gets home from work, before bed, whatever works for your family.
Otherwise, you're just creating extra work for yourself. Worse, piles of clutter tend to attract more, and, before you know it, it's a mountain range that can feel insurmountable!
11. Get rid of the excess
The fewer things you have: toys, clothes, dishes, knick-knacks, etc, the less time it takes to keep your house clean.
Think about getting down to the essentials. Rachel Jones of Nourishing Minimalism has an awesome chart for decluttering.
12. Outsource or delegate
Take a look at your to-do list. What jobs don't have to be done by you, specifically? If others can do that task, try to figure out a way to let go of the reins and share the workload.
- Can you hire someone to mow the lawn, or someone to deep clean your home once a week?
- Are you kids old enough for chores?
- Is it time to re-negotiate the chores with your husband? Sometimes all it takes is asking.
Action Step: Evaluate a typical week of chores in your home, and identify any areas with room for improvement. Write down a plan for improvements.
Keep Your Schedule/Errands on Track
13. Block out time for errands
Try to schedule all of your family's appointments and extra running around for a certain day of the week, or batch errands for times when you already have to run out. This saves time and makes it less likely that you'll forget something important that happens at an unusual time.
14. Carpool whenever possible
Start a carpool to and from school and any practices your kids have.
Connections with other parents can save you, and them, so much time! Having a network of supportive parents you can trade favors with, like the carpool, can make a huge difference in how your life flows.
15. Order online as much as is plausible
If you can save yourself a trip to the store and order online instead, do it! Consider signing up for Amazon Prime for the time savings and simplicity if you haven't already.
Since 2020, many (maybe even most, depending on where you are) businesses have online ordering options. You can save even more time by choosing delivery, or pick up curbside or in the store. Each of these options can be real time-savers!
16. Clear your schedule
Sometimes we simply need to say no more often. It's not necessary to attend every event, volunteer for everything, take on every potential client, or have the kids participate in every activity. Be very deliberate with what you say yes to, and you and your family will have more free time to enjoy or use for other things.
Action Steps: Decide on a day for “errand day.” Also, take note of the times you feel overwhelmed by the schedule, and evaluate what could have been done differently.
Adopt a Time Management Mindset
17. Let go of perfectionism and focus on self-care
You're trying to do a lot, mama! You can't do it all, all the time. You'll need rest and support from others in the family.
Give yourself a break when you need it.
Sometimes you will need to make hard choices about your time. I used to make all my own cleaning products, coupon, and do all the cooking from scratch. It's not possible anymore.
It may not be ideal, but 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 fruit or veggies?
- Paper plates?
- Pizza night?
It'll be okay. Opt for self-care instead of perfection.
18. Keep on the lookout for new ways to optimize your time and systems
Always be on the lookout for ways to optimize your systems by:
- Reducing the need to make decisions (and the resulting decision fatigue)
Right now, I'm on the lookout for ways to eliminate the extra trips to the store.
I choose not to fill up my house with random excess, extreme coupon-style, but I am going to create a list of the things I can't do without, the items I find myself running to the store for if we run out. Toothpaste, toilet paper, shampoo, soap, trash bags. (Um … coffee, chocolate. Stuff like that).
Those are the items I'm going to stock up on from now on. The rest can wait for the weekly trip.
Conclusion: Time Management Tips Don't Need to Be Complicated
Did you find ideas you can use among these 18 tips? My goal was to make them accessible and simple. If there are tips that don't work for you, no need to try to force them. Maybe some aren't right for you as they are, but are a good jumping-off point for new ideas that are perfect for you and your family.
Just use what you can to streamline your life and feed your work-from-home/life balance.
(Originally written by Stefanie Williams, mother of six ,then member of AAC team. Recently updated by Robin Mc Carroll.)
Did you try any of these time management tips? Are there some you plan to try in the next few weeks? Do you have any other simple time management tips to keep things running on the home front so you get more work done? Please share your experiences, so we can optimize our systems together!