Have you ever wondered how working moms do it?
I’ve just recently entered my twentieth year (yes, 20!) as a work at home mom. When I started working from home back in early 2000, resources for helping juggle babies and business at the same time were hard to find.
I have read many time management books in a continuous search for the perfect work at home mom schedule. I’ve spent years trying to hone in on some magical solution that shows me how to make life easier for working moms.
There’s been a lot of trial and error. I would be willing to bet every work at home mom has experienced this to some degree. I didn’t understand there would be such a huge learning curve! Because the needs and demands of our families change on a regular basis, we have to be flexible to change with it. This isn’t easy when you’re trying to chase your dreams and get an edible dinner on the table!
Working Mom Hacks
Needless to say, I’ve learned a lot about how to get more done in less time. Here are twelve of my top productivity tips to hopefully help make your work at home mom life just a little easier:
1. Time blocking
There’s been a lot of buzz in recent years about time blocking so I’m sure you’re familiar with the basic concept. The one thing I figured out quickly was that my time blocks won’t look like someone else’s. Everyone’s household and lives are different. There’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” schedule. Throughout all the ages and stages with my family, I tweaked and planned and tweaked some more before I finally came up with a time block schedule that actually works with my current life. It gives me just enough structure to know tasks are not being forgotten while at the same time giving me the flexibility to move them from block to block if need be. This is a fluid process that changes as your kids grow and become more independent.
2. Task batching
In conjunction with time blocking, task batching has been a game changer for me. I can make phone calls, send emails, pay bills, file, process mail, and run errands in a very efficient way. Saving those administrative tasks to do all at once helps sharpen my focus, get them out of the way quickly, and allows me to move on to being creative.
3. Keep a work journal
I’m a firm believer in self-reflection. Keeping a work journal has helped me to process the events of my work day. It allows me space to vent my frustrations, track daily goals, and focus in on what my next best course of action should be. I keep mine in just a simple notebook so I can carry it with me and it’s easily accessible. A digital option that I use for my personal journal is penzu.com. I like it because it has a password feature and pictures can be added to document special moments in my life.
4. Make good use of your first hour
Studies have shown that the first hours of our day can be our most productive. This is when energy and focus are at their highest. This is true whether you consider yourself a morning person or not. I’ve heard of women who get up at 4 am and get crazy amounts of work done before their families wake up. I typically get up around 5 am (even on weekends) and have my first hour of self-care while the house is still quiet. This includes stretching, personal journaling, devotions, and art. There’s just something rejuvenating about having that time to myself before the chaos of the day creeps in.
5. Stop searching for planner peace
It just doesn’t exist. My life is ever-changing. For most of us with kids, we don’t have a chance to settle into a stage for too long before we’re onto the next. I’m a big fan of a paper planner. I’ve been keeping one since 2000 when we had a new baby, bought a business, and built a house all in the same year. In recent years, the planner industry has exploded with options. Women have built successful businesses around our need for a planner. For me personally, I’ve searched extensively and just never found one that was a perfect fit. Several years ago, I decided to design my own. I use just a spiral bound, grid paper notebook with colored sections. I carry a pen in the spiral so I always have one handy. I draw my own calendars and weekly pages. I have pages for meal planning, a fasting tracker, and pages in the back for my packing lists, blog post ideas, mind mapping, and notes. It’s inexpensive, small, and travels well.
6. No tech after 9 pm
I make it a policy to “cut the cord” after 9 pm. Even though I rarely watch TV, I love YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu! We have so many awesome entertainment options available right at our fingertips that it can be easy to want to wind down at the end of the day with a screen in front of your face. Recent studies have shown that the light from the screen has a significant impact on our sleep. It interferes with our circadian rhythms and natural ability to produce melatonin. We know that, over time, lack of sleep can cause some serious health issues.
7. Take advantage of small pockets of time
Most of us usually have a few spare minutes here or there sprinkled throughout our day. Those minutes don’t seem like they amount to much until you start to use them in a strategic way. In our minds, tasks usually take much longer than they do in reality. That’s why I’ve implemented the Ten-Minute Tidy. I made a list of tasks that would take me no longer than ten minutes. These range from cleaning the trash out of the car to wiping down the washer and dryer to walking a mile on the treadmill. I’ve been surprised at what I’ve been able to accomplish and what a difference it has made in my overall feeling of control.
8. Make self-care a priority
Self care for moms is one of the most overlooked areas for becoming more productive. I struggled for years with feeling burned out and depleted. I was nurturing everyone but myself. After a breakdown (you might even call it a breakthrough) a couple years ago, I began to prioritize self-care in a major way. I now spend the first and last hour of every day doing the things that nourish me. This includes devotions, journaling, reading, stretching, and creating art. I can’t tell you the difference this has made in my overall health and outlook. I have more energy and focus than I’ve had in my entire life!
SELF CARE TIPS: Create a mom self care schedule. Write down things that you would like to do each month and then schedule those into your month. Life is so busy with work and kids, scheduling time to take care of you will help you make it more of a priority!
9. Invest in personal development
I have grown tremendously as a Christian, mother, and business owner as a result of reading/listening to personal development books and podcasts. When I’m reading a physical book, I take notes in my planner to refer back to later. I love going back and reading those notes from years past. I listen to audiobooks and podcasts while I’m driving alone, cooking, cleaning, and exercising. There is now a podcast for every conceivable interest and I find they have been so valuable in helping reset my focus when I get off track.
10. Have a weekly check-in with your spouse and kids
On Sunday, talk about upcoming weekly events and appointments. Coordinate pick-up days and times with your husband (yes, he needs to help with this!). Make sure all items have been added to your calendar and you have a plan mapped out in your daily time blocks.
11. Communicate with your family about what you need
This goes back to the point I made about understanding that your needs are important too. This can be especially challenging when you have young kids underfoot while trying to get work done. When my girls were young, I made the mistake of never asking for help. Don’t do this to yourself. Explain to your husband that you need the space to work and be creative. Ask him to help you brainstorm ideas and you may be surprised at the awesome solutions he proposes!
12. Seek out support systems
There’s no worse feeling for a work at home mom than the feeling of isolation, especially if you’re the only one in your close circle of friends and family that has this work arrangement. Even for an introvert like me, it’s been important to have a like-minded community for support. Seek out mentors (either online or in person), local meetups, and Facebook groups. In recent months, I found a fellow blogger just a few minutes away from me. We’ve been meeting on a regular basis to report in on our progress and encourage each other. She just recently had a baby and we’ve been doing Zoom meetings instead of meeting in person. It’s been great for both of us!
Being a work at home mom has been such a tremendous blessing for myself and my family. It really is the best of both worlds. I want to advocate for those moms who have a desire to come home to work. I’ve been present for so many milestones in my girls’ lives. There really is nothing like it!
If you’d like to learn more working mom tips for surviving the work at home mom life, check out my Daily Dozen.
LaDonna Gosnell lives on a farm with her husband (and construction business partner) and two amazing teenage daughters. She is surrounded by the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina and an everchanging number of cattle, dogs, goats, and chickens. She blogs at onebizzymama.com and soon-to-be graphpapermandalas.com. Visit her on Instagram at @onebizzymamablog and @graphpapermandalas.