Do you work-from-home but feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day?
I hear you! Like a lot of mamas, I decided I wanted to work-from-home when my first baby was born. It was tough, but I took it slow and made it work somehow. Now, though, I have two kids at home, and because I’m obviously insane (kids will do that!), I’ve taken on more clients than ever.
When I started setting my alarm for 4 a.m., finding myself at my desk at midnight, and then tossing and turning for half the night because I was overstimulated ‒ I knew I had to make some major changes. I love my work, and I love my kids, but I feel like the latter is suffering because of the former. I’ll admit that I’ve snapped at my kids more than I’d like and have often been mentally distracted.
The words overwhelmed, drowning, and exhausted have been big players in my new vocabulary. I certainly have no time for me. Why do we always put ourselves last?
I know I’m not alone, whether you have kids or not. Surely there’s a way to work from home without driving yourself into the ground? To find out where to start, I went and stalked (in a very non-creepy way) several online groups and asked successful work-at-home women for their best productivity tips, hacks, tools, and sanity-savers. I know I need all the help I can get to work more effectively!
Here are 10 effective productivity tips directly from the women who are nailing it:
I create a weekly plan on Monday or Sunday, with all the activities I can predict (I also have some new client tasks that pop up during the week). I then set weekly objectives. From that, I’ll create a daily plan each morning before the start of work, giving them a rating of 1-5 for priorities. I also make sure that EVERYTHING for that week is handled before I log off for the weekend. – Eva, Freelance Copywriter
I write a plan. Seeing the hours on paper makes it easier to visualize and commit. Oddly, there’ll be a lot more hours on paper than you think. – Andrea, Online Store Owner
2. Pomodoro Technique
Definitely check out the Pomodoro Technique. Research shows that our brains are more productive during periods of work with short breaks. I love it to keep me on track for productivity. There are numerous apps available or a Chrome extension. I use the Chrome extension, and a window pops up and says, “Time for a 5-minute break,” and then another window, “Time to start focusing.” It’s the best! – Tamara, Massage Therapy Business Owner
3. Outsource Tasks
I’m actually a VA, but I hired someone to take on all my client’s social media (creating the graphics and posting them), and I just give them the content based on what my client’s say, or tell them to use their initiative if I have complete control. It saved me. – Krista, Virtual Assistant
Related Content: How to Outsource Tasks When You’re on a Budget
4. Use Apps
I use Trello (the free version) to keep track of everything and make sure I have deadlines for EVERYthing in there. It keeps me organized. – Krystal, Freelance Magazine Editor
I just yesterday discovered Franz, which is a platform that holds all of your messaging systems in one dashboard. Email, Slack, Messenger, Skype, and loads more. This is a game-changer for me! – Sonya, Social Media Manager
Related Content: Three Ways to Boost Your Productivity With Everyday Technology
5. Paper Diary
Very old fashioned but effective: When I’m working at my desk, I map out my day in a paper diary – a day to a page. I list tasks to be done. A needs to be done today; B can wait; Prioritize A1, A2, A3, and so on. And then I estimate the time needed, entering it into the diary. I’m easily distracted, but the joy of ticking the As off drives me. If I do anything else that’s not listed, I list it and tick it! Self-labeling as an achiever is essential; People can only achieve up to their level of belief in themselves. I’m committed to business with love, not fear. – Catherine, Business Advisory and Leadership Mentoring
A bullet journal helps me plan my day and organize tasks in order of importance. There are a lot of resources online to show you different ways of making them. – Kathryn, Educational Consultant
6. Distract the Kids
I try to do craft time with my 4 and 2-year-olds and sit with them while I’m doing paperwork or editing photos – things from which I can easily look up. Anything is better than nothing, and as long as you’re there with them, they’re happy. – Andrea, Online Store Owner
I get the most done outside. My boy loves exploring outside, so I set up a water/mud area, with rocks for the diggers. We also do a lot of activities I found on Pinterest for inside. But you definitely don’t get as much done in one go as when they are not around. – Tenille, Blogger
I have three kids (6, 4, and 2), and it gets easier when they go to school. I make sure we play every morning, and I give them my undivided attention. It fills up their cup, and then I can walk away and get a few jobs done while they continue to play. I move their play around the house and yard to wherever I’m working, or I get them to help me with little jobs. – Melissa, Children’s Toy Maker
7. Self Care
I recently started getting up at 5 a.m. I’m not a morning person, please bear in mind! I joined a local gym, so I go and work out, get mindset and planning for the day underway, and then I’m back for my baby’s 7 a.m. feed. I feel as though it gives me a head start. You can also put your bub into daycare there during the day for an hour or two and go to the cafe to get work done. You don’t even necessarily have to go to the gym! – Aoife, Tech Founder
Related Content: How to Practice Self-Care and Get More Me Time
8. Wing it!
My productivity tip would be to keep away from your phone and personal social media distractions. And then wing it! – Sonia, Virtual Assistant
I have three kids under 5 with a husband who works away, so when someone offers to help – take it! Otherwise, I wing it Every. Single. Day. – Breena, Online Store Owner
I take two hours each week to look at the week and see what’s taking the most time and what to make better (monthly here is fine as well, in my opinion). – Gina, Website Developer
I write out some repetitive tasks and try to find hacks to handle them faster (an example is text expanders or canned replies) or write out processes so that I have a better handle on them (for example, onboarding new clients) and it’s a clean process. – Sarah, Project Manager
10. Set the Scene
I use good music and try to switch off from everything else that could distract me when working from home. This means that I use caller ID to ignore certain phone calls and switch off from social media. However, I also believe setting priorities between your professional and home life is essential, and I have managed to find a way to still get everything done. For example, I allow myself two hours to work, and then I force myself to take a break to hang washing out or vacuum the floor; then I do the next two hours of work. I find this helps me handle the ‘mommy guilt’ better and keeps me productive because I know I have a break coming up. If I have kids at home, I have shown them how important it is to allow me to work in peace. So, they leave me alone in the mornings, and then we do things together after lunch. – Katrina, Freelance Writer
I love all of these productivity tips from amazing work-from-home women. What tip do you think you’ll try first? I know my initial battle will be to actually find the time to implement and trial some of these suggestions, but it will be worth it in the long-run. I need to come up for air and find a little more headspace. I owe it to myself to have some more ‘me time’, and I owe it to my kids to be more patient and present while I work-from-home.
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Kara Wilson is a mama, parenting writer, and early childhood consultant. If she had some spare time, you would find her either cooking, reading, daydreaming about traveling, or sleeping. You can check out her other published articles at Kara-Wilson.com.