I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who didn’t want to figure out how to be more productive at home.
I’ve met people who wanted to learn how to stop drinking so much Coca Cola, or how to stop having anxiety in their relationship. But I’ve never met anyone who’s like “yep.. That’s enough efficiency in my work day”. You know why? Because we’re busy little bees.
We live in a Beyonce world. It’s hustle culture, baby. With more and more of us working from home and lots of mothers returning to the workforce as remote workers (something that isn’t just a trend), good time management skills isn’t just something you write on your CV anymore. It’s a skill needed to thrive.
This blog is going to (hopefully!) serve as your ultimate guide to how to start being productive.
How to have a productive day
The benefits of telecommuting are pretty obvious…more family time, no commute time (duh), more autonomy. With the level of independence can come some hiccups though. Luckily, productivity can be improved by these 5 tips.
- Get dressed in actual clothes (this means no pyjamas, sorry. Dress as though you have the intention to leave the house, even if you don’t. Falling into the trap of slobb-ing around can drain your energy massively.
- Include breaks in your schedule and plan what that break will be. I’ll admit this is my least favourite tip. I routinely have to force myself to do this. To eat, to go for a drive, to stretch. It’s better than burning out though.
- If you work best in bursts, use that. Maybe your schedule looks different to others and that’s okay. Figure out your system.
- Figure out meals and snacks the night or morning before (bonus points if you cook and meal prep ahead of time).
- Have a finish time each day. Or a finishing activity to signal to your brain that work has “ended”. This is so important to switch off especially if you’re working in your home.
Time Management For Moms
Mothers are known as some of the most innovative and resourceful people on the planet. We have to be! Whether you’re a stay at home mum or a working mum, you’ve got a bunch on your plate.
Keeping sane (4 Tips)
1# Wunderlist – If you haven’t heard of this little app, let me introduce you. I discovered the list-making app late last year in the middle of a stressful move. You can share your lists with others and they can check off projects and common goals. It seems like a small thing… right?
Will it sound dramatic if I say it’s marriage changing! All those little nagging thoughts and reminders? Put them on the list All the birthdays coming up, groceries to buy, doctors appointments, things that are buzzing around that feel like they’re *you’re* responsibility to remember? Put them on the list!
Which brings me point #2 for our productivity tips for how to be productive at home (as a stay at home or working mom)
#2 Click and Collect Groceries– Now I’m not sure if this service is called the same thing in the US and the UK as it in Australia. I’m sure it’s fairly simple. Basically have your groceries delivered or order them and pick them up. We spent the first 10 months of our daughter’s life still going to the physical store
I don’t know about you, but as someone who experiences high social anxiety, the supermarket is not my favourite place to be. Most trips would result in a panic attack and the fact that our trips took place on a weekend kind sucked too. Now, however? FREE WEEKENDS! NO SUPERMARKETS!
3# Work on Mindset– I was going to title this tip “take a nap” but I thought I could hear readers laughing at me already. Hear me out though? Sometimes I become so utterly focused on a task that I don’t care how I get it accomplished.
I have the house perfectly clean, meals prepped in advance, but my attitude is poor and I feel like a bit of a Grinch. I’m working on lowering expectations of myself, maybe doing less of what I thought I’d get done but giving myself time to practice mindfulness and practising some self-care as well.
4# Find Your Hours – I had a velcro baby. Stuck to me like glue. These babies and children are tricky to entertain sometimes and have trouble with independent play. I want you to know that this is totally developmentally normal. I know that doesn’t help when you have a mile long list of things to do.
Unless you have help, or a family member close by to watch them for a while, it’s just you and your kid(s) navigating this time together. This is where you have to find your hours. If your baby has a set nap time then that’s pretty much figured out for you, work when they sleep (or sleep when they sleep!)
If they don’t, perhaps you notice they get sleepy after outside time, meals or rough play. Maybe parallel activities will interest your little one. I’ve found success before in setting up my daughter with books and a toy laptop so she could be “like mummy”.
How to stay productive
You did it! You’re in the zone, you’re doing the thing, whatever that is for you. Remaining focused and maintaining productivity though, that’s like catching sand, isn’t it? Yeah, a bit. Here are three of my favourite tips for how to stay productive.
1# Consider a Digital Detox
It doesn’t have to be a month-long thing. Just from set hours (set by you), have blue light switch off at a set time and say goodnight to phone usage. I’ve spoken about being overloaded with phone notifications before and not even realising in this blog on how to mentally cleanse. It affected how productive I was at home when working and how I was acting around my family.
A digital detox for productivity could be something to consider if you’re finding you’re having trouble “switching off.”
If a detox just isn’t going to happen, at least pinky swear you’ll try this next tip? Limit push notifications. On all your apps. You don’t need to know that your lives have refreshed in PocketMine (I had an addiction, shuddup). If it’s truly important, you’ll see it. Good time management skills are about streamlining and making things as simple as possible. Checking your email and phone less, setting up auto-replies if applicable, automating systems that you do all the time.
There’s a great podcast I listened to recently with Pete McPherson from Do You Even Blog and Suzi Whitford of Start a Mom Blog where they discussed her past as an engineer and how that comes into play with how to be productive at home and developing time management goals and systems.
Pete has a way of getting the greatest nuggets of info out of his podcast guests and I really recommend this episode to anyone looking for ways to be more efficient, not just bloggers.
Basically, as I said earlier, good time management skills are about grouping things together and making things as simple as possible. Using Google Docs or Google Keep to keep notes. Trello boards and mind mapping to do brain dumps. Even voice to text dictation when you’re pressed for time (or you’re wanting to be hands-free).
3# Don’t split your attention
In any blog about productivity, you’ll see tips about multitasking. It’s just a given. Now things like chucking a load of washing in the machine while you mop the floor- I can get on board with. That’s smart multitasking. Having two browsers open trying to write two articles at once? Designing multiple logos in Photoshop while making lunch?
Not so much.
Multitasking inhibits creative thinking, productivity flow as well as having a negative impact on short term memory. This 2011 study found that multitasking negatively impacts your “working memory”.
Constantly pulling focus never allows us to be in the “zone”. Whether that’s when we’re parenting, coding a website, driving a car or writing a blog. If you ask anyone to pause and divide their time, the primary task won’t be performed as well as if the secondary task never existed.
Don’t overload yourself if you’re trying to remain focused!
Set S.M.A.R.T Time Management goals
We’ve all got that relative or friend who’s been going to do the thing for the past 10 years. The declare the thing every New Year, generally as a resolution. And we cheer them on… because we’re supportive and not a jerk. And each year, they don’t get around to it.
Life happens, we understand. Not everyone has the willpower or drive.
Is it about willpower and drive though?
Perhaps their goals weren’t clearly defined. Maybe all you want to be doing in your day is clear the sink and send off some client invoices, not to lose 15lbs or hike up a mountain. The principles are the same though.
Here’s a video explaining smart goals:
You want your goals to be Specific, Measurable. Attainable, Relevant and Time Based
I’ve mentioned before about procrastination and productivity that you want to break things down into bite-sized chunks so that they become more manageable.
A trick I’ve seen outlined in countless time management strategy blogs is a WiP List.
“What’s a WiP List?” I hear you thinking.
If you aren’t old enough to understand that gif reference then just move along kid, we’ll get to it.
A work in progress list is what it sounds like. You write out your tasks from highest priority to lowest, it’s perfect for working with a spreadsheet if it’s professional work or a piece of paper if it’s household stuff.
An example below.
|Task||Start Date||To Be Completed|
|Organisation blog||Feb 27th||Feb 29th|
Seems straight forward enough, right? What if you have a bunch of tasks ahead of you?
Colour co-ordinate to see, at-a-glance what is a “go”, what is almost finished and what needs the most work.
Effective time management strategies
I don’t know about you but for me, a classic reason I can’t get started on projects or stall on tasks is that my brain likes to bounce between activities and ideas. This is where the next two strategies work. If you need to put yourself on autopilot and just get it done.
Assign different tasks to different days
This works especially well for “evergreen” tasks in life that you know will come up again and again. It’s the basis of The Organised Mum Method. It works not only for household chores but if you’re working from home.
Example schedule for a P/T Freelance
Monday: Research /Outreach
Tuesday: Content creation batched
Wednesday: Social Channel Promotion/ Improving old content
The Pomodoro Technique
I’m like 80% sure that you’ve heard of the Pomodoro technique before. Here’s an awesome infographic to explain if you’re wondering how it works.
3 time management activities the pros use
1#-Time blocking is exactly what it sounds like and is one of those concepts that is easy on paper. Basically if from between 7-715 you say you’ll be cleaning up your inbox then you better be in there devoting your attention to clearing it. (Not reading old emails or getting side-tracked). It leads on to the next activity which is..
2#-Batching tasks. If I’m writing content, that means I’ve 1) found the time to do so and 2) found the inspiration. I want to harness that productivity! So while I’m writing a blog post or article for a client, I’ll batch my work. Meaning I’m likely to set aside time to keep doing whatever I’m “on a roll” with. The same goes for creating graphics in Canva, keyword research and lots of behind the scenes things.
This is true for home life as well. I often (not so much now my husband cooks a lot more than me) get so caught up in cooking that I find myself meal prepping for the week ahead without intending to.
3#-Grouping your to-do’s together usually means you won’t have to open that browser or lug out those ingredients more than once, it’s just more efficient.
Personal productivity isn’t a competition
You clicked on this post to find out more ways for how to be productive at home, and hopefully, you’ve learned some. Whether you’re a stay at home mom, working from home or just wanting to get organised. You can read all of the productivity tips in the world but at the end of the day it really comes down to motivation and reason. Why should you do all these things anyway?
The message I’m wanting to leave you with is one that you are doing enough. Hustle culture is a real thing and comparison is a thief of joy. I believe in bettering yourself and self-improvement but never pushing yourself too far to fit in and be “Pinterest Perfect”.
This Anxious Mum