One certainty in life is that time is limited.
Everyone has the same 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year to dream, plan, set goals and complete tasks. But when you’re a work-at-home mom, it can feel like those 24 hours a day just aren’t enough! Are there time management secrets for work-at-home moms?
It might seem like some people are just better at time management than others, but that’s not always true. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of knowing some tricks to managing your time properly. So while there aren’t secrets, really, there are some tricks that work-at-home moms can use to manage their time better.
First, create a time budget.
One of the most commonly forgotten time management secrets for work-at-home moms is to track your time. We have plans for how we spend money, but too often we don’t have plans on how to spend our time. Creating a time budget gives you greater control over your time, just like creating a budget for your money helps you control your money.
It all starts by tracking your time. Being aware of how long you’re spending on doing certain activities will help you determine how well you’re spending your time. You might be surprised by how long it actually takes you to do some things.
For example, when I started tracking my time, I realized that certain chores I was avoiding – like washing dishes – didn’t take nearly as long as I thought. That made it easier to do them, because I knew it would only be a few minutes, instead of the 30 or 40 minutes I had thought. I stopped procrastinating on those chores, and that freed up a ton of time — and energy — later.
Second, set priorities.
There are really only four choices for your tasks:
- Most important
- Most urgent
- Least important
- Least urgent
When you identify tasks and set your priorities carefully by what is important over not important, as well as avoid having issues of urgency each day, you can get a handle on your time in ways that you never thought possible.
Third, learn the power of the word “No”.
Saying no is probably one of the most important things you’ll ever learn to say. The problem is that it can be so hard to say! Whether it’s a desire to please, or a fear of missing out, or maybe you’re just not used to saying no (blame your parents? lol!), it’s time to learn how to say no again.
If something is not right for you, is too “urgent”, causes you stress, or you just do not want to do it and it doesn’t fit in with meeting your goals, say no.
It helps to know what your goals are and what your priorities are. It’s also easier to say no when you have a good budget for your time. When you know what matters to you, and what makes you happy, healthy and productive, it’s much easier to say no to the things that don’t line up — so you leave room for the things you want to say yes to!
Saying no will free up untold amounts of time to focus on your priorities. It’s not about disappointing people, but about being the best you can be for the areas you are talented in. Isn’t it worth recognizing your value? Saying no to things that don’t fit means you’ll have time for where you can make the biggest difference.
Fourth, disconnect from technology.
Unplug the phone, turn off email notifications, and for goodness’ sake, get off Facebook.
If you’ve not completed the most important tasks on your daily list, you have no business messing around with technology. The idea of multitasking is overrated, so unplug and tune in to the tasks at hand. You’ll work faster, smarter, and gain the time you need for other things.
It can be difficult to concentrate on what you’re doing when it’s so tempting to just take a peak at your email or Facebook notifications. And before you know it, 30 minutes have gone by, and you’ve got not much to show for it.
If you’re finding it difficult to disconnect and focus, use technology to help you disconnect from technology. Yes, I know that’s ironic, but it works. Things like Freedom or RescueTime might be just the tools you need to help you focus. Or if you prefer a more in-person approach, try something like FocusMate.
Fifth, schedule everything.
Your priorities, goals, tasks and events need to be added to your calendar. Everything from the 15 minutes you need to use social media for marketing purposes, to the one hour you take your kids to the park, needs to be put into your calendar. You can also use some time management techniques like time blocking, if you don’t want to schedule every little thing on your list.
If you have a project due in a week, you should have five days of scheduled time to work on the project prior to the due date. This helps avoid those emergencies mentioned earlier. If you have that dr’s appointment finally booked, put it in the calendar right away, and don’t forget to schedule in the travel time and some extra time in case there’s an unexpected interruption.
No matter what you do, you need to put it onto a calendar. That will help you see you goals more clearly, and make sure your priorities are reflected in what you do every day. It’s also easier to say no, when you can see at a glance what you’ve already said yes to. And it’s a heck of a lot easier to focus, when you know you’re going to get to that other task later!
And don’t forget to schedule in downtime too!
Sixth, ignore interruptions.
Unless the house is on fire or a child is bleeding, the telephone ringing and the knocks on your office door are not important. They are interruptions.
Interruptions are just that. They disrupt the flow of your work, making it harder to get and stay productive. Determine what’s absolutely important for you to pay attention to, and block everything out that you can.
Check your email at scheduled times during the day. Put your phone on “do not disturb” (except for those important calls, like your child’s school or daycare). Explain to your children, spouse and family when you are working. And put a sign on the door that you’ll ignore the door bell ringing.
If you didn’t schedule it, you don’t need it.
Whether it’s the housework, cooking, or customer service, it’s important to outsource what you can afford to outsource. There are huge payoffs to outsourcing the things that are simply time suckers from your day. It’s one of the biggest time management secrets for work-at-home moms.
And before you determine what you can afford to outsource, first determine your own hourly rate. Then figure out how much time you spend on those tasks you’re looking to outsource. Can you find someone else to do it cheaper?
For me, I can pay for someone else to clean my house, cheaper than my hourly rate. So it’s not worth my time to do that task! Even though I’m a single work-at-home mom, I hire a cleaner, because I can’t afford NOT to.
If you truly can’t afford to outsource, your kitchen will not explode if a few dishes pile up, and everyone can do with eating a salad for dinner.
Don’t forget to automate what you can, like having an automatic reply email for inquiries.
Eight, once… and you’re done!
Multitasking is not really a bastion of efficiency. As moms, we tend to fall into multitasking, largely because we don’t have a choice. Dinner, helping a child with homework and cleaning up from a toddler’s playtime all tend to need to be done simultaneously. So we default to multitasking, even when we sit down to work.
Instead, try to touch each task only once and finish it. For example, when you check the mail immediately throw out the trash, schedule bills to be paid, and deal with any issues that came up with a letter – right then. Or if you check your email, scan quickly and delete or file the irrelevant emails right away.
Of course, your mail or email time should be scheduled as well so that you can stay on track.
Bonus — check your schedule!
At least twice a day, set out the time to check your schedule. Usually the morning is good and at the end of the day is good. Ensure that you have your priorities in order, add anything new to your schedule that needs to be added, and remind yourself of what is expected the next day.
At the beginning of the day, I often will set out my top three priorities. These are the things that I know if I get them done, I’ll feel like I’ve actually done something today. And at the end of the day, I can update my lists, check my menu, and generally prepare for a smoother day.
When I don’t follow this routine, my day usually ends up with me running around putting out metaphorical fires, without actually doing anything that moves any of my projects forward. And that leaves me tired, frustrated and overwhelmed.
But when I check my schedule regularly, my day, my week and on just work better. And I’m a happier, more productive version of me.
Schedules are the key to time management secrets for work-at-home moms.
It’s important to be very serious about following your schedule and calendar. Use technology to help such as Google Calendar or Outlook, synced to your smartphone to help you remember what it is that you should be doing now, and next. It may seem geeky to be so serious about a schedule, but it’s this one factor that makes these surprising time management tips work.
Schedules are to your time what a budget is to your money. The experts tell us that when we use a zero-based budget — putting every single dollar in your income to work — you’re more in control of your money. Using a schedule to put every minute of your time to work puts you in control of your time, the same way.
Like in zero-based budgeting, this doesn’t mean there’s isn’t room for fun. There is! You just plan for it! In a budget, you put aside “fun money” to use on a coffee, a treat or any other “spontaneous” purchase. In your schedule, you block off time for that book you want to read, or that hobby you’ve been meaning to try, or just for staring off into space. And knowing that it’s there will encourage you to use it, which in turn helps you to relax.
How do you manage your time?
Are you a spur-of-the-moment person? Or more laid-back and tend to procrastination? Or maybe you stress more and fall into rushing, even when you don’t really need to? Whatever your time management style, you can use these tricks to help you gain control over your schedule. Track it, set priorities, stay focused, ignore the interruptions, say no, and outsource it. And above all, schedule it.