7 Action Steps For Staying Productive As A Work From Home Mom
Staying on task as a work from home mom can be a real challenge. There are SO many distractions within the walls of your own home. Cleaning, laundry, cooking, children, refrigerator (snacks, ahem), Netflix, Facebook - you get it!
Working from home is a beautiful thing, but it can get ugly fast if you do not have a system for staying productive.
Over the course of the past two years I have essentially worked two jobs. By weekday, a registered nurse, by weekend and evenings, a creative business mom/photographer. I KNOW the pain of trying to get things done when you have so many items on your "to-do" list or the only think you can focus on is the thought of curling up on the couch with a good book.
I also know how important my productivity is to my success and still having quality time to dedicate to my family and personal life. Time is a VERY valuable resource for any business owner. I may be a bit biased but I think it is even more important for working mom's to figure this one out as EARLY as possible.
As a mom, the earlier you can check off your to-do list, the earlier you can run outside and play with your little ones. But it's more than that. While we all know that spending time with your kiddos is essential, we often forget how much they are WATCHING us. Create a system for staying productive so that you can model and teach your children how to do the same.
We live in a world of technology and it is a wonderful tool that helps us to achieve more and reach our goals. However, technology can also be a big time wasting black hole if we let it. Use the seven action steps to boost your productivity as a work from home mom. Make 2017 the year you get stuff done!
Write out your schedule
There is absolute magic in writing things down. No really, there is! The NUMBER ONE thing that is stopping your productivity is not having a game plan. How can you accomplish anything in a day if you don't know what you are supposed to be doing?
- Buy a planner (monthly AND daily)
- Outline your monthly schedule - be sure to include work and all activities, parties, extracurriculars, etc.
- Create a rotating cleaning schedule
- Weekly: Mondays - bedrooms, Tuesdays - bathrooms, Wednesdays - sweep/mop, Thursdays - dust, Fridays - outdoor clean up
- Daily: Wipe off counters, one load of laundry (wash/dry/fold)
- Outline your daily schedule accordingly
- Write down all activities for that day
- Write down your cleaning task for that day
- Write down your business task for that day
- Schedule every item during a specific part of the day
- Block off personal/family time
Want to see how I realistically create my schedule? It all starts by "defining" your time and understanding how much time each task takes throughout the day. I've created a 12 page workbook so that you can work through your day to day activities and realistically plan out your days, weeks and months ahead!
Do a nightly clean-up
I am a morning person - I always have been, always will be. The reason I LOVE mornings so much is because it is a fresh start to a new day. It is also my mommy time for some peace, quiet and a good cup of coffee. I know that by starting my morning on a positive note, my day will flow better. On the flip side, I also know what it means for my day to wake up to a messy house and dirty kitchen. Not a happy or well prepared mommy. While a nightly clean-up doesn't always happen in this house, it is definitely on a my goals list for this year because I have seen the positive impact it has on my productivity.
- Start planning for dinner in the afternoon so that you can have an early clean up
- Clean up the kitchen as you cook
- Enlist the help of your kids/spouse while cooking/cleaning counters/loading the dishwasher
- Have/help kids put away toys
- Do a walk through of each room and put away items that belong in that room
- Place all other items on the kitchen table
- Clear the kitchen table and move all items to their designated area
Wake up early
OK night owls, you won't love me for this and I won't argue with your midnight happy hearts. But there IS something to waking up early and let's face it - as a mom it's usually a must. For the first three years of my nursing career I worked night shift and I STRUGGLED, hard. I worked three nights per week and often continued to sleep in on my days off. My body was trying to adjust to the off-shift schedule but my head wanted me to wake up and be productive. So I understand if this is the situation for you and sometimes you just do what you have to do.
However, if you are working from home and both you and your spouse have a pretty typical day shift schedule then you shouldn't have any reasons that this isn't a possibility. Here is MY perspective on waking up early as a work from home mom. When I am working outside of the home, I need to wake up by 5:00 AM each morning to be dressed, ready and have my little one ready to head out the door. Working from home should not be any different. Your work is your work - regardless if that is at home, or 10 miles down the road. Get ready, show up, and be prepared for a productive and successful day.
- Make a plan for what you want to accomplish BEFORE your kids wake up
- Example: 30 minute devotional, 30 minute workout, breakfast, shower & get ready
- Determine exactly how much time you will need for each task
- 30 minute devotional and breakfast can be planned together - 30 minutes
- 30 minute workout - time to get dressed, turn on DVD, warm up & cool down - 40 minutes
- Shower & get ready - 60 minutes
- Total - 130 minutes
- Set your alarm early enough to accomplish all of these tasks before your little ones wake up
- My daughter wakes up around 7:30 each morning, I can plan to set my alarm for 5:00 AM and should have plenty of time to accomplish everything, even if she wakes up a little early
- Set ONE alarm and wake up the first time
- Move your alarm to an area where you have to get out of bed to turn it off
- Be realistic with your plan - if you have a newborn at home, it's OK to be flexible with your schedule and your time. Adjust your plans to the season of life that you're in. Work to make it a daily goal and be flexible with your expectations.
Designate a work space
Even as I write this, I am sitting at my own kitchen counter and sipping a fresh cup of coffee.
Three years ago, when my husband and I bought our home, I knew which room of the house would eventually be my office but it just hasn't happened yet. I am excited to say that it's FINALLY in the works and two months from now you can check back with me on that. However, for the time being, my kitchen counter is my designated work area. My clean, freshly wiped down kitchen counter with my bright and cheery view of the sunny (but cold) day outside.
Not my bedroom, tucked under the covers with my comfy pillow and most recent book as a distraction. Not my couch, where the last movie I bought on PPV is begging me to watch it again. But my kitchen, my clearly designated area where I sit every day to accomplish the task at hand. My kitchen, where my brain knows that when my computer is open this is the time to work and accomplish dreams.
- Designate a distraction free area of your home as your work space (office, kitchen, sitting room, etc.)
- Take one day and organize your space to create a productive work environment
- Set-up binders/folders/filing cabinets as needed
- Organize your computer to easily access all business files and websites
- Include cleaning this work area as part of your weekly schedule (don't forget to write it down!)
In step one, you purchased your beautiful, shiny new planner and over the past week you have been writing out your monthly and daily schedule. Now, write out a task such as "Clean the bathroom." Then, with the same pen, paper and line write out another task directly over top of the first such as "Fold the laundry." How does that look? Like a jumbled up mess?
Yep. That is EXACTLY what we look like while attempting to multi-task.
Oh, I know - there are super ladies who will tell you they are the queens of multi-tasking. And I would tell them they can keep dreaming. We are NOT meant to multi-task. Now stop reading, write this down, and make it your mantra for the next week.
"I WAS NOT CREATED TO MULTI-TASK. I WAS CREATED TO WORK ON ONE TASK AT A TIME. I WAS CREATED TO BE PRODUCTIVE, TO REACH MY GOALS, AND TO BE AN EFFECTIVE AND EFFICIENT MOM AND BUSINESS OWNER. THIS IS MY PROMISE TO MYSELF TO STOP MULTI-TASKING."
Girl, if you think I'm joking I'm not. If I could call you up every day and make sure you are saying that mantra to yourself I would. Stop hurting yourself, your personal life and your business by multi-tasking. It's the sad, sad story of "busyness" in our current society and we can make it stop!
- Use your daily schedule to identify which task you should be working on and when
- Start that time specific task and if something distracts you such as a child, phone call, etc - then stop and return to it when you are finished
- If you do not finish your task during that specific time frame, put it back on your calendar - do not continue that task and attempt to start a new one
Distractions and multi-tasking go hand in hand. We have social media at our finger tips, our best friend is only a text message away, and binge watching Netflix is as normal today as going outside for a walk.
Over the past two years, I have stopped watching any and all TV during day time hours. It is absolutely the BEST decision I have ever made for myself and my business. I have a three year old, my TV is on and off throughout the day, with Mickey Mouse or a post-nap episode of Sofia. But I am honestly, happy to say it is off less than it is on.
TV, internet and social media are three of the biggest distractors while working from home. And unfortunately, if this is the the normal in your daily routine, it may be a difficult habit to break. When you live and work in an isolated environment, we learn to provide socialization by creating "noise" rather than actually socializing. Technology is the quickest and most effective way to create some noise.
- Turn off wi-fi during your designated personal/family/cleaning time
- During business time, open ONE internet browser at a time
- Sign out of Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest as a reminder not to use those sites while working
- Work only in your designated work space, away from the TV and any other distractors
- Turn your phone to vibrate
- Schedule social events/activities outside of work hours to break up the isolation
Schedule business hours
Your morning has been productive - your night time clean-up and early wake-up prepared you well. Your monthly/daily schedule has you well prepared for what you will be working on that day and you are free to be productive in a distraction free, designated work area where you KNOW you will be focusing on one task at a time.
Now - the final step is to clearly identify the lines between work and play. As a work from home mom, your schedule may not be black and white. I completely understand that grey areas happen, especially if you have a little one at home.
However, you should be able to identify to yourself and to your clients some sort of reproducable and consistent business hours.
- Stick to your schedule for business and personal tasks
- Block off time for business work ONLY
- Do not start multi-tasking, if you are not able to accomplish your business tasks during the designated time, re-evaluate your schedule
- Find child-care as needed, even if it's just a few hours per day
Whether you are a work from home mom, a stay at home mom, a work outside the home mom - you are still super woman. You have so many items on your to-do list and I completely understand, those items never go away. They just continue to accumulate and pile on. But now is the time to stop telling yourself you can do them all at once. You can't - no one can! The tasks may continue to climb, but they'll just have to find a spot on the schedule like everything else.
It is time to say NO to busy and YES to productive. It is time to STOP feeling like that hamster on a wheel and time to START feeling like the accomplished, amazing woman that you are.