Before the productivity tips, a little back-story…
“You Work Too Much”
My husband told me that today…
“You’re overdoing it”.
He said it critically, it seemed.
Now I don’t usually blow up on him, but the reason he was saying this was because I hadn’t emptied the dishwasher, so then he wasn’t able to load up the dirty dishes.
So I felt very unappreciated at that moment, because I work my ass off to be my best at everything, even if he hadn’t meant it that way (he just wanted to load the dishwasher)…
So after I was done blowing up about how I enjoy working hard towards my/our goals, and how I didn’t understand how he could criticize me for working hard to be a great mom, a great entrepreneur, how I wasn’t ok settling for mediocrity, etc…
If “You Work Too Much” (but get nothing done) sounds familiar, then this article is for you.
He explained what he meant,
and I thought it was worth sharing.
He said; “What I mean by working too much is; you’re juggling all these balls, but be careful not to juggle too many, because you end up dropping them.”
This is not news to me…
It is something I know I struggle with.
I have too much on my plate for a lot of reasons, mainly just having a full time job, AND a business, AND a family, but that’s the situation I’m in currently.
So I’m doing my best to get things done, and be a great mom. I have to choose which balls to drop and which ones to keep in the air.
Although I have a lot of strategies and solutions I want to try, to turn it around… Unfortunately they are all things that take time.
In other words, there are a lot of balls in the air.
All the time.
And a few on the floor.
But I’ve learned a HUGE amount from the whole experience.
I’ve gained a TON of knowledge about business, bookkeeping, accounting, Amazon, SEO, digital marketing, social media, and a lot more that I’m not thinking of at the moment.
In all of my mistakes and failures, these are some of the most important things I’ve learned, especially as a mother… They are not technical, but they are VITAL.
So here are my top tips on how to stay productive as a mom working from home… to optimize your time better and help you to accomplish more in your work time.
I have to remind myself about these rules all the time, and never let them drop, because my productivity drops with them.
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Take Notes, ALL. THE. TIME.
I find as a mom (I’ve heard this is typical), that I have my attention units on MANY things at once, all the time.
From kids, feeding them, their schedules, activities, homeschooling, laundry, dishes, did they get to go outside? Did I work out today? How many days ago did I shower?…
I know you know what I’m talking about.
No, you will not remember that amazing idea later… I know, it was amazing! But no, you will not remember it.
I fail to write things down all the time.
I always think I’ll remember.
Then I sit down at my laptop, sometimes only ten minutes later, and mom brain happens…
I know, you know what I mean.
Actually, I’ve heard that studies have been done that show, even the action of physically writing the thing down will help you remember it later.
Keep a To-Do List
Every night before bed, without fail, write down your to-do list for the next day. Include everything on your mind, that you might need to remember in the morning,
Some people find a productivity planner is handy (here is my favorite one on Amazon), but some people simply like using a journal or notebook (looooove this one), or a google sheet. There are also programs that you can use (Trello, for example), but personally this became too confusing for me and difficult to prioritize.
Personally, I use google sheets for:
- My master lists of things that might take many days
- Big tasks with deadlines
- Tasks I need to remember to do later
- Daily stuff that isn’t super important, but I don’t want to forget.
And I use my planner for my daily list.
But whatever method you use, make sure you know what is the MOST IMPORTANT task to get done that day.
I like to prioritize my list like this:
- List my top 3-5 work tasks
- My top 3-5 mom tasks
- My daily goals (The MOST important things I must get done today)
- A list of everything else I need to get done, even if it seems trivial.
Why? Because getting that trivial stuff out of your head will help you sleep better, de-stress, and not always worry about forgetting something.
For real. Try it.
For big tasks, be specific. You can break it up into smaller sections, but you need to know exactly how much of it you expect to get done. And if your task requires multiple parts, list them! Check them off as you get them done.
If you get started on a task, and you run into something else stopping you from finishing it that must be done before completing the original task, then write the new thing down, complete it, and check it off before returning to thing #1 and completing that.
Schedule Your Time, and Stick to it!
Have a schedule, seriously. Plan it out with the husband, babysitter, or whoever will watch your kids while you’re working.
Have your time blocked off, and make sure it is very clear that you are not to be disturbed during your work time, unless it is to nurse a baby or the house is burning down.
Use your to-do list to write town an approximate amount of time you will take to do each thing, and be strict about being prepared to start your tasks right away.
It’s ok if it’s not exactly right, but this will help you not to schedule a 2 hour task in a 1 hour block.
If you don’t keep a schedule, you will always be on “mom call”. Your attention will be on your kids, and trust me, they WILL pull your attention away for whatever reason they can think of…
Where’s my sock?
I don’t want to wear pants to the park! (seriously, that one is real)
Which leads me to…
Work behind CLOSED DOORS
Wear headphones and listen to music if you need to.
Sound proof your room if you need to.
It’s not enough to use duct tape over your kids mouths… the little devils will get it off; they’re quite resourceful.
I’m joking… a little.
Seriously though, find a distraction free area to work in, where you will not be interrupted unless it’s an emergency.
TURN OFF YOUR PHONE
This one is particularly hard for me.
That’s why it’s in all caps.
It’s a freaking trap, ladies…
Especially if you do any social media marketing or posting for work like I do, it’s VERY easy to get distracted and sidetracked. So here are my tips:
- Make sure that the tasks you need to do on your phone are on your to-do list
- Write the copy for your post ahead of time
- Copy and paste it in
- Complete the task
- Turn your phone back off, or onto airplane mode.
I also highly recommend turning off your desktop notifications for emails, etc. for the same reason… They are so distracting, and IMO super annoying.
If you do need to handle emails, DON’T get sucked into the non-essential marketing emails, webinars, and the like, because at least for me, I know I can easily waste an hour or two clearing out my email box, and getting exactly zero done.
Multi-Task Very Selectively
I think it is written into the genes of mothers to multi-task.
We are always doing dishes, while cooking, answering 5 different questions about “where is my backpack” or “can I have pizza for breakfast?”, while thinking about the day’s schedule, breaking up a fistfight, remembering to move the laundry to the dryer… and the list keeps going.
Moms are amazing at jumping back and forth from task to task, but as an entrepreneur or employee working from home, I find that style is not very efficient at getting the job done.
There are always those few simple tasks that can be done easily, without a lot of brain power, and I like to use that time to learn from lectures or YouTube videos at the same time, to kill 2 birds with one stone.
That being said… Don’t try to multi task on the bigger tasks. It will cause you to lose track of what you’re doing, and not actually get anything done.
So the last and most important tip is…
Everything else in this post, in the end, is meant to allow you to do this.
Do ONE thing, until it’s done.
Don’t let your mind wander.
Staying focused is really the only way you will complete anything of importance in a timely fashion.
If you implement these tips, I think you will be surprised at how much you can get done in your work time, whether it be 1 hour or 8 hours.
Staying focused doesn’t just apply at home, but is especially essential when your kids are around, or when you have all of your chores and “home stuff” staring you in the face.
Oh, I almost forgot one…
Go to Bed On Time and Wake up Early
I was raised to be a night owl.
It is VERY easy for me to stay up until 2, 3, 4 in the morning working on projects. Actually, sometimes I seem to do my best work late at night.
The problem is the aftermath the next day. I’m grouchy, and actually, in the long run I NEED MORE SLEEP.
That’s right, when I go to bed at 11 pm (very difficult for me), and wake up at 7 am, work out, and then take care of the kids needs, not only do I feel happier and more awake, but I only need 8 hours of sleep.
Oh, and I also feel much less rushed with the kids, which means more patience, better parenting, and happier kids.
When I go to bed at 2, I can easily sleep until 11, and then I sometimes get headaches, I feel like I’ve wasted my day, I’m a less cool mom, I feel all day like I need to take a nap, I miss my workout, and I eat more. So essentially I need 9-11 hours of sleep, and the quality of my day sucks in comparison.
Is it hard going to sleep early? Yes.
Is it a struggle making myself do it? Every day.
But in the end, I’m sticking with it as much as I can, because it gives me more TIME. And I know you all understand how valuable your time is.
So I hope you’ve enjoyed my list of productivity tips for work-at-home mamas! If this was helpful for you at all, share this post and please leave your thoughts in the comments below!