Ever feel like there aren't enough hours in one day? I get you. I totally do. Time management is a tricky thing. When I started on my work-at-home journey, the biggest struggle I had was time management. I don't have regular working hours. Sure, I don't have to commute, but being a work-at-home mom means I am also in charge of keeping the household running while keeping my business up and running at the same time.
For the first few months it was hard. I would start working when my husband, my mother, and my son took off, only to get interrupted when my daughter would wake up and I needed to give her breakfast and get her day started. Before I knew it, my son would come home from school and the kids would want a snack. Then the time came to make dinner and before I knew it was 6 PM and I had a feeling like I haven't done anything.
It took me a while to come up with a system and make changes. And let me tell you, it has made a world of difference. One thing I learned while I was experimenting is that time management is more of a habit than a science. It is a habit that you nurture, build on, tweak and play with. Studies show that for a habit to become a habit it takes 21 days. I’d suggest you pick any one of the time management tips in this post and practice it for 21 days at a stretch.
Time Management Tips
Credit: Jamie in Bytown.
1. Set Your Alarm for 15 minutes Earlier Than Usual
I used to scoff at this idea thinking how is 15 minutes extra going to help me at all. Until I tried it. Whether it's to check my to do list, or just spend some time to myself in peace and quiet (and we all know moms can use some peace and quiet from time to time!), those extra 15 minutes really do make a difference!
2. Use a Timer
A timer is a great way to keep you on track and motivate you to work faster. But there is no point in setting the timer for any amount of time until you know how much time you actually need to complete a task. So experiment for a few days, and then get down to business, divide your task into Heavy, Big, and Small and set your timer accordingly. You can also try the Pomodoro technique and variations of it.
3. Learn to Focus
Sometimes your biggest distraction can be you! If you are working, whether it's writing a blog post or coming up with a product, resist the temptation to check your Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest. I found it hard to work on a project and constantly check my email. The timer comes in handy; if you set it for 45 minutes to work on your blog post, don't do anything else in those 45 minutes. You'll be surprised how often you find yourself finishing the task even before the time is up.
4. Practice Smart Multi-tasking
I am a HUGE fan of just doing the one thing at a time. However, smart multi-tasking can be possible and can make your life so much simpler, especially when dealing with distractions that involve other people or household chores. The idea is to make multitasking intentional and purposeful and not leave you feeling overwhelmed.
5. Expect The Unexpected
As a work-at-home mom, I quickly learned that there will be distractions. I've come to know what can happen and what to expect so I learned to plan accordingly. You CAN do the same. In fact, you have to. For the next week, pay attention to your most common distractions and then over the weekend, brainstorm ways to handle those distractions.
6. Divide And Delegate
Think about everything you need to do in one day. If need be, write it all down on one massive TO DO list. Now be brutally honest: Which of these things can be done by someone else? If you have kids, are there any easy chores that they can do? Picking up toys, or even laundry can be done by kids, even younger ones. For parents of tweens, they can help you out by sweeping the floors or even dusting and vacuuming—at least their room, or taking out the trash. Can your husband make the bed in the morning? You don't have to be a wonder woman to be a great mom and wife.
7. Get Organized the Night Before
Want an easy, stress-free morning?
- Lay out clothes for yourself and the kids.
- Check homework and projects to see everything is completed and in the backpack.
- Place backpacks near the door.
- Plan lunchbox menu and if possible, pack lunches and put in the refrigerator.
- Check fuel in the car.
- Prepare the kitchen table for breakfast—set up your coffee maker, put out plates and cups, cereal, pancake mix. That way the only thing you have to grab is milk and eggs from the fridge in the morning.
8. Go to Bed on Time
Part of why I stress going to bed on time is that I also stress waking up early. While there are many benefits to waking up early, the most important for me during school days is that I get a head start on both chores and work well before it is time for my daughter to wake up.
9. Play Some Feel Good Music
Music can cheer you up. Don't argue with me on this one! So, go find some upbeat happy music that brings a smile to your face and put it on!
10. Give Short, Specific Instructions
Young kids don't do so hot when you rattle off long sentences or complicated instructions. So, make it easier and happier for everyone by giving short, specific instructions. Not only will your kiddos understand more, they’ll also benefit from the more positive messages as compared to the ones filled with “don’ts.”
11. Eat Breakfast
No matter what, don’t skip your breakfast. No, coffee is not breakfast.
12. Do A Quick Clean Up In The Evening
I hate waking up to a cluttered and untidy room. Since I work in the dining room, I make sure that I clear up the living room and the dining area each night before I go to bed. Make it fun by engaging your kids to help you.
13. Clear Your Head
It’s easy to spend 10 to 15 minutes each evening to jot down your to-do list for the next day. Clearing your head will help you sleep better, and you won't have to waste time in the morning trying to remember things to do and errands to run.
14. Create an Errand Central
If you have a list of errands to run the next day, keep everything you need to carry out with you in one place. So, if you have trip to the doctor, library, and grocery store on your to-do list, keep your medical paperwork, library books, and grocery list all in one place. That way, you’ll save time in the morning looking for things you need.
15. Unwind And Establish A Bed Time Routine
Spend time doing what you love as you get ready for bed. Whether it is snuggling with your kids as you read bedtime stories, an evening walk or run, having a heart-to-heart with your spouse, watching a favorite TV show/movie, or reading a good book, do it. Remove all make up from your face and wash it gently with your favorite facial cleanser.
16. Set Your Alarm
Before your head hits the pillow, set the alarm. And yes, keep it away from bed, so that you’ll have to get out of the cozy warmth of your bed in the morning. It’s all too easy to reach for the phone, turn off the alarm, turn over and go right back to sleep. Been there, done that, got the badge!
17. Learn To Say “No”
It's easy to say yes all the time to everything. Learn to say no and focus on what's most important to your family. Don't be afraid to reject an invitation to a party or coffee if you don't have the time for it. Instead see if you can schedule it on a less busy day.
18. Invest In A Day Planner
It doesn't matter if you are a work-at-home mom or stay-at-home mom—everyone can benefit from a daily planner. You can go all fancy and buy a shiny new Filofax or Moleskine, or you can even make your own or visit Etsy to find some gorgeous affordable daily planners. (Shameless plug: Or download our printable new Daily Planner! )
19. Plan for Vacation and Family Time in Advance
Don’t wait until November or late June to inform clients about your family vacation. You know you’ll be away well before that so, let them know at least a month in advance so that they can plan accordingly. I usually do double duty and schedule everything in advance before I head out for vacation and no-phone-internet-time. Also, do the same for your blog. Either write your posts in advance and schedule them or get guest posts for that time.
20. Cut Back on Unnecessary Distractions
Do you spend an hour on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest each day? Cut it down to 30 minutes. And spend that extra 30 minutes on time with your family. Scale back wherever you can.
21. Schedule Your Blog Posts In Advance
Set aside time at the beginning of each month and plan out your articles. I like to pull out my calendar and jot down the article ideas and headlines for the entire month, then I batch write the articles. Sometimes I write articles two weeks ahead, sometimes a week in advance. If you think that's too much work, it's okay if you write down just the outlines. It really does save time.
22. Create a Photos Folder Or A Resource Folder
Make a special folder with all the photos you will use in your blog posts with a simple text document that lists the caption or title, name of photographer, and the URL to the photo. Now each time I upload an article, I open the folder, choose a photo, upload it, add the credit details from the text file and bam! I am done. Bonus points if you set it up with Dropbox or Google Drive so you have a back up of all the blog photos! Do the same for any links or research material: your affiliate links, products, references etc.
23. Create an Editorial Calendar
An editorial calendar will help you plan the content and stay on track for any posts, link ups or special occasions posts that you need to write.
How to Create an Editorial Calendar
You can use an Excel/ Google Docs Spreadsheet or use Google Calendar. There are even a few WordPress plugins that allow you to have an editorial calendar right in your dashboard.
24. Use THE BEST Resources to Manage Your Time
What are your time management tips? How do you handle your busy day? Share in the comments!
Ana Lynn Amelio, blogger at Our Blended Marriage
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