When my daughter started kindergarten, I thought that I’d have so much more time for myself and my business. But what I quickly found out is, that between pick up and drop off, Girl Scouts, PTO, volunteering, regular exercise class, additional work hours, and homework, is that I somehow have less free time, than I did when my daughter was at home with me full-time.
Being busy is part of being a work-at-home mom – you learn how to employ different time management strategies, and you remain flexible because things are always changing as your child and business grow.
Yet – it still seems difficult to manage it all.
Fortunately, there are some easy and simple things that you can do daily, to help you add more time to your day.
1. Get Ahead of Schedule
Have you ever needed cash (for a fundraiser, field trip, PTA, book fair, teacher gift, etc.) and then not had any, so you had to make a special trip to the bank? This sort of thing happens to me all of the time, but not only with cash. I’ll be driving around, and I’ll look down at my gas gauge, only to find out that I’m on empty. Again, I’ll have to drive out of my way to get to the nearest gas station, so that I don’t end up stalled out on the side of the road.
All of these unplanned trips and errands cost us valuable time. Learn to get ahead of schedule, by making stops when you’re nearby a gas station, bank, or post office. Even if you’re good on cash, make another withdrawal, so that you’ve never having to make an unnecessary trip.
2. Change Your Coffee Routine
I love coffee, who doesn’t, right?! So every morning my coffee routine would be … Add water to the coffee maker, put the filter in, grind the beans, add the freshly ground coffee to the maker, wait for it to brew, pour myself a cup, wash out the carafe, empty the filter in the garbage, and then finally enjoy my coffee. Or worse yet, I drop my daughter off at school, stand in line at my local coffee shop, pay, wait for them to make it, and then drive home. Simplify this morning routine by purchasing a signal cup brewer. You simply add the water reservoir once a week, pop in your coffee pod, press brew, and within 30 – 60 seconds you have a freshly brewed cup of coffee. No prep, no cleanup – easy peasy!
3. Meal Assistance
If you really think about it, the idea of having to plan and prepare seven nightly meals a week, or 365 evening meals a year, makes dinner one of the largest time-consuming tasks for work-at-home moms. Throw in lunches and breakfast – that’s a lot of time spent in the kitchen! While I can’t afford a personal chef, I can afford to lighten the load by having my husband pick up take out, I can have healthy meals delivered, and I can feed my husband and daughter “hot lunch” so that I don’t have to make and pack them. You may feel guilty about this option, but don’t, there are many establishments that offer healthy meals at affordable prices. Sign up for some daily deal sites and watch for coupons – they always have them.
Related Content: Menu Planning for Moms Who Hate to Cook
4. Buy Time, Not Things
Stop purchasing stuff and start buying some time! What tasks on your to-do list can be delegated to someone else? Housecleaning, laundry, childcare, cooking, yard work, and administrative tasks take up a huge chunk of your time! Hire a house cleaning service to come to your home a couple of times a month, or outsource some of your business tasks. As Carson Tate, author of Work Simply says, “Time is a commodity. You can never get it back. But you can always earn more money.”
Related Content: How to Outsource Tasks When You’re on a Budget
5. Prep Ahead
I love waking up, opening up the refrigerator and having breakfast, snacks, lunches, and dinner all prepped and ready to go. It makes my day run so much smoother and creates less tension and stress for me. There are tons of great recipes that can be prepared ahead of time (like these egg and bacon cups, or these baked oatmeal cups) so that you can just grab and go. Do the same for snacks, and prep dinners so they can be popped into the oven when you get home.
Prepping ahead also works great for business related items. For instance, if I know I’m going to be writing a post on tech tools, I can do the research the night before, and then when I go to write the article I already have a head start.
6. Know Where Your Time is Going
Have you ever told yourself, “I don’t have any time?” I’m guilty of saying this. The truth is we need to figure out where our time is being spent, and once we have that figured out, we can re-prioritize and readjust our schedules to fit our needs. Use this equation to figure out where your time is going.
168 hours a week – sleep (56 hours) – work (40 hours) – personal (24 hours) – commuting (10 hours) = 38 extra hours.
Once you have the equation figured out, look at where those “extra hours” are going. Is it watching TV? Talking on the phone? Surfing the Internet? You may need to use an online tool like toggl to help you track where your time is going.
7. Become Disciplined
After doing the exercise in number six, you can see why it is so important to become disciplined. As humans, we are great squanderers of time. Tasks like email, texting, surfing the Internet, social media, playing online games and watching TV, all steal precious time away from activities that really matter. While there are different theories on discipline and how to achieve it, the bottom line is we need to be conscious of what we want to do, and where we want to spend our time. Once you focus on these aspects, you'll have greater control over managing your time.
Related Content: Ways to Stay Focused When You’re a Mom Entrepreneur
8. Wait No More
We spend a lot of time waiting. Waiting to see the dentist or doctor, waiting in the car line to pick up our kids from school. Waiting at the airport or at a restaurant to eat. Waiting for maintenance or service providers to fix our stuff. Instead of letting this time slip through your fingers, use it to your advantage. Always keep reading material with you, as well as a notebook, so that you can create to-do lists, menu plans or make appointments. With the advances in technology, many individuals can work from their smartphones, answering emails, checking stats, and sending out social media updates.
9. Simplify Your Life
The more we advance with technology, the more bogged down we are with gadgets and applications. And the more gadgets and applications that we use, the less efficient we become. Pick and choose which applications, tools, and updates add value to your life, then unsubscribe, delete, and turn off the rest. Nobody needs to be alerted to when they have a new friend request on Facebook, or that someone mentioned them on Twitter. And do you really need that app, that makes it look like you’re lighting a lighter?
10. Streamline Processes
There are so many time-consuming tasks that we do over, and over again, every-single-month. Regain back this time by streamlining processes in your life. Put all of your bills on automatic bill pay to your credit card, so that you’re only writing one check a month. Create a FAQ for your business, so that you’re not having to answer the same questions over and over again. Create auto-responders and email signatures that convey important information, again saving you time responding to queries. Are you always making trips to the grocery store? Use a food delivery service like Imperfect Produce, where you can get seasonal fruits and veggies delivered to your house weekly.
11. Cut Out the TV
Television can be a nice escape from reality, but nobody needs more than a few hours a week. In fact, it is estimated that the average American watches almost 4 hours of TV a day, that’s around 112 hours a month! Make time for your favorite programs and then turn it off. Use that extra time to work on projects, read, or spend quality face-to-face time with your family. Another way to drastically cut down on your TV time is to get rid of cable. When you limit your viewing options, you'll choose to keep the TV off because there's nothing to watch — allowing you to focus your time elsewhere. And this saves a ton of money!
12. Batch Your Errands
Cut down on wasted travel time by designating one day each week to run errands. For me, this day is Tuesday. After I pick up my daughter up from school, we run to the gas station, grocery store, bank, dry cleaners, and then usually Target and Starbucks. I take my batching one step further by creating a list each month of all the birthdays, anniversaries, and upcoming holidays. This way I can purchase all of the gifts and cards that are needed for the month in one easy trip. Batching also works well for household chores, laundry, administrative tasks, and cooking.
If you'd like to know more about batching, check out The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss — he gives a ton of great tips for making the most of your time.
13. Quit Multitasking and Start Single-Tasking
For most of our lives we have been taught to multi-task, and in some situations, it is called for, but the majority of the time it ends up being inefficient. By single-tasking, you can fully focus on the task at hand and complete it without interruptions. Give yourself a block of time to complete each task, and stop trying to watch the news, catch up on email, and answer phone calls all at the same time — you’ll be surprised at how much more efficient you’ll become.
Related Content: Increase Your Productivity with Block Scheduling
It doesn't take big changes, to create big results. By making a few simple tweaks to your daily routine, you can easily add more time to your day.
What tips do you have for adding more hours to your day?
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Originally published October 19, 2012. Content updated March 13, 2019.
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