Many stay-at-home moms out there are making an income from home. You might be wondering if it's really possible for you to have your own work-from-home business. After all, anyone who has taken care of a baby or toddler knows that blocks of extra time are rare. But with some simple time management, work-from-home moms like you can thrive.
Why do you need to read this post? Well, does any of this sound familiar?
You've been home all day with babies or toddlers. Then someone – your partner, a relative, a friend – asks, “So what did you do today?”
You don't exactly know, but you know it took all day and every bit of energy you had and then some!
Long before you got the little ones down for a nap, you were worn out, and even then, you were still on call, checking in on the breathing, braced for someone to get up and need something from you, trying to figure out what to make for dinner or how the house got into a state of complete chaos in the space of a few hours.
Does this sound like your life? Do you want something more? This article can help you make the best use of your available time and energy. And that means that you can use these time management tips for work-from-home moms to create your own business, little by little.
There are plenty of moms who find a way to make this work, even with very small children. They probably wouldn't tell you it's easy. But it's definitely possible.
So please read on… we've got your lifeline!
Time management for work-from-home moms: What's the key to making it work?
When you're working from home with a family, it's almost inevitable that you'll feel pulled in many different directions, all at once.
You have the household chores to take care of, the kids to take care of, and then you have your workload to handle. Making progress on all fronts requires you to manage your time effectively in each area, and that's where work-from-home mom time management is vital if you want to keep all the parts of your life in good shape.
Learning how to maximize the time you have throughout the day, and cutting out the non-essential time clutter, is the key to making everything work together.
There's no doubt; it's a challenge, especially when you have very young children at home. At first, it will seem like it takes a huge amount of your time and energy. But if you can stick with it, and take one of these tips at a time, you'll find that eventually things smooth out.
Also, kids get older. Babies become toddlers become preschoolers, and so on. And while each stage brings new challenges, it also brings new maturity and independence in your children.
The time management tips for work-from-home moms in this article can make a difference for anyone who uses them consistently, and they can be practiced and built upon over time. And that means you can grow these skills – and your business – as your children grow up.
1. Make work-from-home time management a priority by planning out every single day
It may feel counter-productive; you only have so much time. Shouldn't you be getting right to that endless to-do list in your head?
But first, get that list out of your head and into print where you can see it. The planning time will be worth it. Snag a cup of coffee or tea and a few precious quiet minutes to yourself for this process.
As a work-from-home mom, purposeful time management will help keep your life in balance (or as in balance as it can be with littles!). Whether you have a block of time to work or only a few minutes, you need to know exactly what it is you're going to do, and which tasks on your list will make the biggest impact.
Otherwise, it's easy to use those little pockets of free time scrolling through social media in avoidance. Or you might end up staring at a blank screen with no idea what you should do first. You could exhaust yourself with busy work that won't really help you achieve your goals. That's likely to leave you overwhelmed and cranky. And that, in turn, will affect your family – and your business.
Quarterly planning, monthly planning, weekly planning, and daily planning are all important. So start with a quick daily to-do list. Choose a format that you feel comfortable enough with to use every day. Maybe even get a few friends together so you can be accountability partners. Resources like Slack will let you keep lists and chat with one another for encouragement. Better yet, you can use a lot of options for free.
Once you've mastered daily work-from-home time management to-dos, move on to the weekly planning, and so on.
Action step: Set aside a few minutes each morning to create a simple to-do list.
2. Set a weekly schedule to manage your time on a larger scale
Writing down your weekly schedule is more than worth the time it takes to do it.
It helps you to:
- Be realistic about the amount of time you have for working
- Take advantage of time blocking
- Finish specific tasks within a set period of time
When you think you have more time for your work than you actually do, it's easy to get really frustrated. You'll end up either giving up or trying to cram it all in. Filling out a weekly plan sheet makes it easier to see if you're trying to fit in an impossible workload. You'll also start to see where the gap in your day are hiding. From there, you can fit in blocks of time for specific tasks.
For example, you can create blocks of time to handle emails once or twice a day. You can have a block for deep cleaning once a week, blocks for focused work time – and days off, too.
Action Step: Track your activities for a few weeks. Then identify a few time blocks during the week you can use for your business.
3. Prioritizing most important tasks (MITs) is a great time management tip for work-from-home moms
When I was ramping up my business, the needle started moving when I learned how to prioritize the right tasks. I used a simple mindset shift, prioritizing based on the “big win” for the day. There wasn't very much time to work with, so doing the very most important thing and celebrating its achievement was very important.
I've since learned that there is an actual productivity term for this: MITs (most important tasks). These are the tasks that will help you reach your big goals. But we often put them off in favor of easy and urgent tasks that don't really matter much.
Setting really clear goals will help you to set the most effective MITs.
Action Step: Set specific, measurable goals with deadlines for achievement. Use these for determining your MITs (big wins!) when you do your daily planning.
4. Be prepared to record your ideas whenever they strike
Have you ever noticed that sometimes you have your best ideas when you're in the middle of cooking dinner or washing dishes, driving, at the park with the kids, or in the shower?
Then, when you sit down to work, you know you had an incredible idea, or an important task to add to the to-do list. But you can't remember what on earth it was.
If you have a set way to record those ideas, you won't lose track of them. You could keep a notebook handy, or use a notebook app on your phone. You could dictate to Otter or another speech-to-text app, so you can get those thoughts out of your head even when your hands aren't free.
Whatever way you choose, the important thing is that you're not driving yourself up the wall trying to remember that fantastic idea you had while changing a diaper that solves three different problems in your business all at once.
Action Step: Experiment with a few different methods of tracking your random great ideas, and keep what works for you.
5. Keep a master to-do list
Once you have found your favorite ways to catch your ideas before they fly away, you can use it to fill in your master to-do list. This is an ongoing list where you write down anything and everything that needs to get done. Just the act of writing tasks down, and knowing you can refer to them when you prioritize, reduces the overwhelming feelings that decrease productivity.
Take some time to break this master list down into categories once you have offloaded everything you can think of. That makes easier to find things that carry your business forward when you're setting up your MITs and daily to-do lists.
Action Step: Create a Google Doc or Word document, get a notebook, or experiment with organizational apps like Trello and Asana. Create and categorize your master to-do list.
6. Create focused work time as often as possible
Recognize that multitasking isn't the most efficient way to operate. And let it go (as much as any mom can anyway!)
If you're trying to cook dinner, clean up the toys, complete your work, answer the phone, and check your email, you're just going to end up frustrated. You'll also have a whole bunch of unfinished tasks haunting you.
Instead, make work time a time for focusing and finishing.
There are some distractions that are out of your control. But when you evaluate, you may realize how much distraction you actually allow into your work time. From wandering off into your own thoughts, to checking social media, to stopping workflow to clean the fingerprints you just noticed on the window…. (They will be there again in five minutes. They can wait!)
Here are some helpful tips for creating focused work time:
- Set a timer: Don't do anything else unnecessary during that time
- Practice self-care: A rested, well-fed brain is much more productive
- Explore child-care options: Trade babysitting with a friend, schedule a visit with grandma or another relative, or have dad take the kids for an afternoon adventure
- Turn off all notifications: Don't take any calls or check emails during work time (There are even apps that block social media to keep you on track).
Action step: Take note of where you're multitasking over the next week or two. Try an app to increase your focus.
7. Simplify your task list
There are going to be days when you're exhausted, or there simply isn't focused time available. This tip will come in especially handy on those days.
When you do your daily planning, break your MITs down into smaller steps. Make them as simple as possible. Whenever you have five minutes to spare: while you're waiting for dinner to cook, or sitting in the waiting room, you can make a little bit of progress toward your goals.
This is “rule-breaking” with regards to multitasking, and it's not the most efficient route. Focused work is better, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do. And you can get a surprising amount done a little bit at a time, if you know exactly which next tiny step to take toward your MIT.
Action Step: Break down your MITs into simple steps that can be done a bit at a time.
8. Quit trying to do it all
If my husband ever reads this, he is going to laugh out loud at this one – like, rolling on the floor laughing.
Because it's the one I struggle with the most. I want to write the articles, do the grocery shopping, mow the lawn, take care of the bills … all in the same day.
And the quickest way to get a pile of dishes done around my house is for my husband to start to do them. I will jump in and finish them regardless of what I'm doing.
I think a lot of moms can relate to thinking they can and should do it all. But we only have so many hours in the day.
Which of these could you apply in your life?
- Accept help when it's offered
- Delegate tasks to other family members
- Outsource jobs
- Cut the non-essential
- Learn to say no
Action Step: Make a commitment to let go of some control. Decide on one specific area to start with and follow through.
Next time my hubby goes to do the dishes, I think I'll tell him, ‘Thank you,' instead of feeling guilty they weren't already done 😉
Conclusion: Time Management Makes Being a Work-From-Home Mom Easier
I'm not going to lie. Even with solid time management, being a work-from-home mom isn't always (or maybe even often) going to be easy. Especially in the season when you have young children, you may feel you're juggling too many plates too much of the time.
But picking even a few of these tips and incorporating them into your life will give you more time for your business, without sacrificing your family time or your own well-being.
If you found these useful, you might also enjoy 3 Busy Moms Share Their Secrets to Getting Things Done or 18 More Actionable Time Management Tips for Work-at-home Moms.
(Originally written by Stefanie Williams, mother of six ,then member of AAC team and recently updated by Robin Mc Carroll.)
Which of the eight actionable time management tips for work-from-home moms do you most want to try? Do you have other tips for us? Please share your experiences and go-to time-savers in the comments below – you never know how they might help another mom!