Time management is something I constantly battle with. As a new working from home Mom I’ve had my struggles with trying to juggle mommy-hood and business-woman-hood and everything else thrown at me. It is incredibly hard to manage my time around kids’ schedules. But I love both these vital aspects of my life and I don’t mind constantly trying to maintain a balance.
Creating a Schedule is essential for time management
I know how much I loathe a routine on the days I feel low on energy. There a few such days every few weeks where I want to break the shackles and be free.
To be honest, the days after are worse. Because in the “need to break free” I mess up my routine making me fall way behind schedule. These are just like the times when I “hate going to the gym” or “hate brushing my teeth”. No wonder my girls also have such days.
It is nice to have a plan and see things unfold according to this plan. Makes progress tracking easy and helps when I need to figure how to make any improvements. So despite my dislike for routine I have one and I make it a point to stick to it 85% of the time. And just so I do not feel I’ve been shackled to a routine I have scheduled breaks and free time. This helps my anxious personality to not feel the restlessness when I can’t stick to it strictly. And also keeps me from feeling burned out.
What is in my Schedule?
I first made a list of the most important things. Anything and everything I consider I must do had to be on the list.
For me they were:
- My girls come first, so
- At least 1 hour play time with my girls
- At least 1 hours of outdoor activities
To be able to give them my full attention there are some things I absolutely need. So that Made the list next
- Sleep for at least 7-8 hours
- Short Breaks after big activities in the day. I decided to have 6 10 minute breaks
- Time to cook, Clean etc
- Exercise for me
Once I had made this, I could allocate the remaining time appropriately to working. I was left with a good 4 hours a day at least.
Granted it isn’t in a single big chunk as I prefer, but it is what it is. And I am very grateful that I have this much time to devote to something that I am passionate about.
Break down tasks into groups
This I have applied to my work and not to personal life. Life with two little girls is not tamable. Any time I try to reign it in, I am reminded how boring it can soon turn for all of us.
I wrote down exactly what are my tasks. For example, a blog post often comes down to
- Research on my current topic
- Graphics creations
So I try to group my tasks so I can feel accomplished when I sit and work on 1 small and 1 time consuming task. The feeling that I checked off 2 things is so amazing. I can combine tasks like
- Graphics creation and promotion on social media into a 1 activity
- Research and outlining the post into 1 activity
- Creating a draft and SEO planning goes into 1 activity
and so on that sort of go hand in hand.
I still have the scrol- facebook-feed-endlessly/read other blogs kind of hours. But I snap back as sooner as I use timers
This doesn’t work the best when I’m doing a more creativity intense task like Logo creation. But the breaks let me stretch my legs. Especially the times when I feel stuck with a concept the break helps me regroup myself.
This is a Big one for me. Every time I sat down to work and my girls wanted me to play with them I’d have this guilty pang that may be I am not giving them enough time.
And when playing with them I would have this list of things that I still need to do.
I was not able to be 100% present anywhere. This was affecting me. And I had to put an end to it.
I decided to prioritize what I needed to do on a daily basis. I would make a note of things to be taken care of the next day. This helped tremendously with staying on a schedule and not fretting about things that still needed to get done.
The most important way that prioritization helped me in was to be able to be mindful of the task I was doing or be fully present for my girls.
I cannot express enough how this changed my girls’ attitude towards me. They grew more tolerant of mommy taking time off from them to work.
This is still a work in progress but I can certainly say that it is a blessing to know exactly what you need in this moment.
Try to work in short bursts of time and turn off all distractions
It so happens that every time I sit to research a topic I get sucked in by the internet of information and hop from topic to topic. This was consuming a lot of time.
I decided to turn on a pomodoro clock that I coded myself during a coding refresher I was taking. I often grouped tasks which spans 2 timer slots and then take a break from working to either do the household chores or to play with my children, if they’re up to it.
Since I started using the timer my endless browsing has reduced a lot. The timer is often a reminder to stop scrolling through social media or to bookmark the blog.
But as I’m still fairly new to the entire self employment aspect, I still have a lot of time spent in learning the tricks and trades.
There certainly are a lot of amazing paid courses. But the free ones are certainly making the expectations from paid courses rise higher and higher.
Utilize tools to your advantage – trello, asana, toggl, google calendar, evernote
My phone is getting overloaded with all the apps. There’s certainly an app to do-just-that. And as much as I’d like to not rely on yet another app, I will be honest and admit that a lot of these help a lot with streamlining and automating my work. Which is good because it gives me more time. And a mom understands how precious her time is.
Some of the apps that help with time management are:
Evernote: I’ve been using evernote to make notes anytime and anywhere. I note my post ideas, my, instant outline for posts, recipes, questions related to appointments and more in evernote.
Asana & Trello: These two are amazing Project Management apps that I use. I use trello mostly for personal use and Asana for client work. I know having two is cumbersome but I prefer to keep my personal work separate. And both of the apps are free.
Toggl: Sometimes I like knowing how much time I spend on certain tasks. Especially when I start working on some new technique or process. It helps to know how time consuming a task is so I can plan better. Toggl does this for free.
Google: I know it’s no secret how helpful google is just as a search engine. But I rely heavily on the Docs to compose my posts, Drive to gather client documents and the email of course.
There are a few other apps like Zapier – automation, lastpass – store passwords and other work related apps. But that’s another post in itself.
Take breaks and add them to your schedule
This! This is such an important one. And as a one person team soon it can seem as if I’m the ringleader in a circus.
I read on a blog sometime how it is very important to schedule break time into your calendar along with other tasks. It may seem a little absurd but I know how often I forget to take a break or even work through breaks. The end result has always been consistent. I feel burned out.
So I have made it a conscious decision to take breaks not only throughout the day but block days in a week where work is not priority. It has helped tremendously with my health and my spirits.
Do not multitask for best time management
Who’d say that to a mom, isn’t it? We survive and thrive on being able to multi-task.
Ever since I’ve tried to be more mindful of the task at hand my focus has increased. And I’ve been able to complete the task as hand better and quicker.
There are times when I multi-task. But work related tasks usually are best when I make time just for one task at a time. It’s just better utilization of my time and effort.
Also the times I’ve had to review and rework has come down by 50%. That’s a lot of time I could use elsewhere.
Something I wish I could do more. Finances may not always make it easy to hire someone to watch your child. But if you can get help of family and friends then you won’t be feeling as stressed or guilty for taking time away.
I have a friend who loves teaching pre-schoolers and she’s offered to take mine as a student along with her twins every time the twins are home. I’m grateful I even have this option.
If you can do make it a routine rather than random times so your little one knows it’s a part of the regular schedule.
Schedule sleep and exercise
This I fail miserably at as of now. But I do see that I’m a much better person when I have had 8 hours of sleep and been able to spend at least 30 minutes in some activity that raises my heartrate.
I hope to make it a routine sometime soon. It is not only good for me but also demonstrates to my children how important self care is.
Outsource and delegate so you get more time to do what you do best
We as moms are superwomen. We efficiently run a business, take care of every need of our children, run the house without too many hiccups and make time for family and friends. We may not always feel like it but we can conquer the world.
But there are somethings that we’re just not good at. For me it is book keeping and handling the legalities of running a business. There’s a good reason to delegate these and everything else that falls out of our expertize.
It’ll make sure that things get done as they should and leave us with time to do things that we’re actually best at doing.
These are some of the things that have helped me be more productive. What works for you?