The following guest post is from Annie at Sister Wisdom:
Everybody wants to be more productive, right? But if you’re a work-at-home mom, productivity isn’t just about setting priorities and maximizing your schedule. It’s about streamlining priorities, keeping your business going while you also keep the household going, and juggling the needs of your business, your kids, and yourself.
I have four kids under five and I work at home; these tips are my tried-and-true list.
1. Get laundry on a routine.
If you don’t keep laundry going, it will morph into a gigantic, hideous beast of dirty clothes that will eat you at your desk.
Throw a load in every morning, transfer it to the dryer at lunch time, and then fold and put it away at the end of the day. Keep it going, every single day, and you’ll keep up with one of the biggest time-eaters in the household.
2. Get your kids on a schedule.
Moms do better with routine. Kids do better with routine. Even if your kids are off at school or camp or you have some other sort of childcare set up for the bulk of your working hours, they’ll benefit from a regular morning and evening schedule. So will you.
Routines give everybody a familiar process for starting and ending the day, and save you from having to reinvent the wheel when you really just need them to get their pajamas on.
3. Use your kids’ great ideas.
When my kids approach with an idea that sounds messy or time-consuming, my first impulse is to say no. But that can be a mistake. If they want to get out the Play-dough, do an art project, or set up a tent in the backyard, why not?
You might need to help them get started, but they’ll have fun and, often, they’ll be more entertained by their own ideas than your lame suggestions (or is it just mine that are lame?). You could end up getting extra work time without whining kids hanging on you.
4. Invest in time-saving toys.
Time-saving toys have two key features that make them worthy of a place in your productive home. First, and most important, your kids will play with them. Second, they don’t require adult help (yours, in other words).
When you find toys and activities that have these features, invest in them. You can also rotate toy collections to keep your kids from getting bored with what you already have.
5. Multi-task wisely.
More and more research tells us that our brains aren’t capable of multi-tasking; we don’t actually do two things at once, we switch back and forth from one to the other incessantly, and it makes us less productive. This is true, in most cases: switching from your Twitter feed to your email to your article draft just keeps you from focusing and finishing.
But as a work-at-home Mom, some multi-tasking is inevitable. You can hold a child in your lap while you write an article draft (my four-year-old is in my lap right now, and you better believe this counts as snuggling); you can sit outside and make sure the kids don’t die on the Slip’n’Slide while you brainstorm marketing ideas or write up some outlines. Time when you can focus on one thing is great; when you have it, use it. When you don’t, consider smart multi-tasking.
6. Invest in childcare.
Though hypothetically I could do all the writing I do with a kid in my lap, it would take me fifteen times as long to get the writing done. Those kids: they’re cute, but they’re squirmy, and they like to talk. They also get (minor) injuries all the time. An important client call with a kid screaming in the background? Not so good.
Though I don’t see myself as an entertainment source for my kids, (I’m a Mom, not a birthday clown), I do want to have time to quit multi-tasking and focus on them. Childcare helps me get work done efficiently and sanely, so I can check off my list and get outside and get belly burns on the Slip’n’Slide too.
7. Set a minimum and maximum number of work hours.
Need help being realistic about your schedule? Sit down and make a list of all the tasks you MUST do in order to keep your business going from week to week. These are your maintenance items, kind of like the chores you must do daily to keep your household going.
How long does it take you, daily and weekly, to keep up with your maintenance work tasks? That’s your minimum for weekly work hours. Set your maximum as well; how much can you realistically work when you need to max out to finish a big project or meet a deadline?
Knowing those two numbers helps you to plan your day and week better. If you have a slower week, you can put in some extra fun stuff, but you can keep your minimum hours in mind so you don’t over-schedule. And knowing that you only have X amount of hours to do the work, whether it’s just maintenance or a big project, helps you to focus, put aside distractions, and get that important work done.
What are your best productivity hacks?
|Annie Mueller is a freelance writer and mom of 4 under 5. She writes about small business, productivity, and success for a variety of publications and blogs about building a better life at www.SisterWisdom.com.|