Staying focused and productive as a work at home mom is an ongoing struggle for me. I'm the queen of distraction! I love to stop what I'm what doing and read emails and check Facebook. And sometimes I'll get caught up doing housework, cooking, and cleaning instead of working.
Those things are definitely important, but the fact they're tasks I need to complete during working hours means I haven't been managing my time efficiently.
I know I'm not the only person with time management struggles, so today I made a list of ways to manage time efficiently while working at home. I think if we all take even a little of the advice below, it will make an amazing difference in how much we get done during our work days.
Top 10 Ways To Manage Your Time When You Work at Home
#1 – Get house work done before you start working.
For you, this may mean tidying up just before you go to bed, or first thing in the morning before you even open your computer and sit down to work. I don't know about you, but my focus is greatly improved when I'm not staring at a sink full of dirty dishes and mess strewn about when I'm trying to concentrate on work!
#2 – Close those open computer tabs!
In the past, I would work in one tab and keep my email and Facebook open in another. And predictably, when I saw a new email or Facebook notification light up in any of the open tabs, curiosity got the better of me and I'd go see what's up. And sometimes whatever the notification was for would take me away from work for quite a while, depending on who I ended up emailing back and forth, or who I'd chat with on Facebook.
Needless to say, I've been much more productive only keeping the tab I'm working in open while I'm working.
Remember that it whatever it is can almost always wait. I figure if it's a real emergency, the people who need to call know my home phone number.
#3 – Stay away from your email and Facebook altogether if possible.
Check it when you wake up in the morning, again if you take a lunch break, and then don't bother to open it again until you're done working for the day. Trust me, you will get so much more done!
#4 – Turn off notifications on your phone.
Even if you've closed your tabs, you may find it too hard to resist checking your email and Facebook on your phone if it's lighting up with notifications every few minutes. Just go into your settings and make it so your phone doesn't alert you every time someone has messaged you or emailed you.
#5 – Allow only a certain amount of time for your breaks.
Sometimes my “breaks” end up taking so long that I just never get back to work for the day. It's a good idea to make a plan in advance on how long you're going to allow yourself to “break” during non-work times, and then make that a hard and fast rule.
If necessary, use a timer to time your breaks.
#6 – Speaking of breaks, try the Pomodoro Technique.
I actually wrote about the Pomodoro Technique a long time ago here. But basically, it's just a way of working in blocks of about 25 minutes, taking short breaks in between. It's very effective because it gives your brain much needed time to rest, and many people find they get a lot more done when they use it.
Note these short breaks in between your blocks of working aren't the same as the breaks I mentioned above when you're actually not working. These are just five minute breaks to let your brain rest while you're in the process of working.
#7 – Be firm with your family when it comes to your working hours.
Your family and friends are well-meaning, but it can be hard to get them used to the idea that working at home still means work.
You may find that people will continue to call and drop in just as they always have, regardless of whether you're working or not. They will assume you can just stop what you're doing and hang out with them since your job is at home, but we know this isn't the case!
Let your family and friends know from the beginning that you have “office hours” and you will not be available during certain times. They will get used to it eventually, but it's best to make it clear from the start and be firm but polite about it.
#8 – Schedule out your work days.
I have found that if I don't schedule the weekdays out, lots of times they slip away from me without much to show for them in regard to productivity. The schedule I've shared with you below is not reality all the time because life just doesn't allow for everything to follow an exact timeline day in and day out, but it's ideal for me and what I strive for:
- 6 am – Wake up, have coffee, try to get myself awake enough to get the kids ready for school.
- 7 am – Get the kids up and ready for school.
- 7:45 am – Take kids to school.
- 8:00 am – Back home, have breakfast.
- 8:30 am – Start working.
- 12 pm – Have lunch (about 30 minutes) then back to work.
- 2:40 pm – Leave to go pick kids up from school.
- 3:45 pm – Kids are back at home, stop working and do after school snacks and start prepping for supper.
- 5 pm – Eat supper.
- 6 pm – Kids do homework if they have any, then we all enjoy some family or TV time.
- 9 pm – Getting kids ready for bed, showers, laying clothes and school stuff out for the next day, tidying up the house.
- 10:30 or 11 pm – Bedtime for me (usually).
Now, I wish it always went exactly like that, but it doesn't. Lots of times I'm doing housework while I'm working, or I just don't even get housework done at all. My husband does help out quite a bit with things as well. But that's the schedule I always have in mind that I try to go by.
Your ideal schedule will vary from mine just depending on what work you do from home and the schedules of everyone else in your house.
#9 – Use time management apps.
There are a ton of great apps out now that will help you manage your time if you struggle with trying to make yourself do it. Some good ones are TeuxDeux, and Wunderlist. And Google Calendar is basically priceless if you're on the computer a lot and don't want to forget things you need to do.
While this is not exactly a “time management” app or site, I am pretty obsessed with Workflowy, and I use it to basically organize everything inside my head, including my daily to-do list. It's pretty much a site where you can make lists, and then create sub-lists (endlessly) for every list and sub-list. I've been using it for two years and have become very dependent on it. I love it! It has a free and also a paid version. I found it worth it to upgrade to paid because I can make endless lists with it.
#10 – Make a meal plan.
I admit I don't always do this either, but when I do, I'm amazed at how it simplifies things!
Without a meal plan, I waste a lot of time in the evening just trying to figure out what's for supper. It's a lifesaver when I plan it out on Saturday or Sunday, write it down, and stick it on the fridge so when that time of day rolls around, I know what I'm doing.
Please don't beat yourself up and feel like a failure if you simply cannot always manage time efficiently. Realistically, no one can make it work all the time because life just gets in the way. All you can do is make the effort, but know going in that you will never always be successful because life never follows a perfect timeline.
Do you need more time management help and tips?
I recently read Time Management in 20 Minutes a Day by fellow work at home blogger, Holly Hanna. I highly recommend this if you are really struggling with getting enough done or wondering where the time went by the end of each day.
After implementing some of the advice I got from this book (which goes well beyond the basic tips I've listed above), I've found that my to-do list is almost always checked off. And not only that, but there is somehow time in the evenings for me to relax and have “me” time or do things with my family without feeling guilty about it because I didn't get “fill in the blank” task done.
So if you're looking to seriously get a handle on your days, get the book! It's a quick, no-fluff read that gets right down to business so you can start taking immediate action to gain back control over your time.
Post originally published on August 25, 2015. Updated and republished on July 24, 2019.