How To Be A Productive Work From Home Mummy
Many of us dream of being able to work from home and spend more precious time with our babies. But we’re not always prepared for how hard this can be. To help you here’s my top tips on how to be a productive work from home mummy.
I read somewhere once that you can’t use your kids as a reason to want to work from home, and then say they’re the reason you can’t get any work done.
This view resonated with me because it described my life exactly.
I do most of my work from home. And I’ve got two full-on, hyper girls with boundless energy. I love them both, but they can be hard work!
My list of things to do was (is) always crazy long and yet it’s my work that usually got pushed back while I tended to everyone else’s needs.
It was extremely frustrating. And I just couldn’t seem to get anything finished.
I’d have blog posts half-written and then abandoned. And photos taken but not edited. I’d have keywords listed out but not researched. And I’d waste time posting to Instagram with no real plan or direction.
What made it worse was that I felt crap about everything. I felt like a crap mummy, a crap blogger, a crap teacher and a crap partner.
I was busy doing everything and yet productive at nothing.
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How Are Other Work From Home Mummies Productive?
Feeling increasingly frustrated with my lack of productivity I did what most stressed out mamas do. I turned to Google for the answers.
Surely I couldn’t be the only stressed out, over-worked, under-productive mummy in the world.
There must be other work from home mummies in the same situation as me!
So I searched and I searched.
But the advice I found was always the same:
- work when your kids nap
- ask grandparents to babysit while you work
- do your work at weekends when your partner is home
- get up crazy early to work before everyone else gets up
While these tips may work for some people, they definitely were NOT helpful to me because:
- my girls don’t nap
- their grandparents live hundreds of miles away
- my partner works pretty much 7 days a week
- if I woke up at 4am my kids would wake up at 4am!
Much of the advice I found assumed our children are babies, or school age.
But my eldest is seven and my youngest is two.
One’s at school, so I have two school runs to factor into my day. And the other is a toddler who doesn’t nap during the day!
How Can I Be A Productive Work From Home Mummy?
I realised that much of my problem stemmed from my own mindset.
You see, pre-kids I could sit and work in my home office from the minute I woke up until the moment I went to sleep again if I wanted.
And I did that. A lot.
I’d have a plan of what I wanted to achieve and I wouldn’t stop working until I’d reached my goal.
And that’s totally fine when you’re not a parent.
BUT, my work mindset is still tuned to that all-or-nothing method of working, even though I’ve been a mummy for nearly eight years now.
If I’ve set myself a task, I want to see it through to the end in one go. And that’s where I’ve been going wrong.
I was still trying to complete massive tasks – all in one go – and being unreasonably grumpy about not being able to do that with two kids.
So how am I able to be a productive work from home mummy now?
I’ve found doing these things really helps my productivity:
- plan ahead
- time block tasks
- stay focused
- set the kids activities to do
- be flexible
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Of course there are times throughout the working week when I’m able to work. But, to be productive during those moments, I need to know ahead of time what I’m going to work on.
At the end of each weekend I plan out what I want to achieve during the following week. I call these my ACHIEVABLES.
I plan out what I’m going to achieve during that week. Most importantly, I make sure my achievables are actually achievable.
The absolute worst thing I can do is set myself unrealistic goals and then stress myself out because I can’t achieve them.
So maybe I plan to write one blog post, create ten new Pinterest pins, take and edit five photos for Instagram. All of this is totally achievable in a week.
And I know ahead of time what I need to have finished by the end of the week, so I can plan out my time around my other commitments.
Time Block Tasks
Some people use the “chunking method” of productivity. You essentially chunk out large slots of your day where you work on a particular task.
It’s very effective when it’s done properly. But can be less effective with the frequent interruptions that working at home with kids in the house brings.
So I’ve slightly adapted the “chunking method” to suit my daily routine.
I time block my tasks.
FYI – I’m not the only one to use this method. Time blocking is a time management method used by Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Cal Newport.
Whereas people like Elon Musk plan out their day in 5-minute slots, this doesn’t work for me. Especially when I’m working from home with my kids.
What I do instead is to time block tasks. I’ll have my anchor points throughout the day. You know, the everyday things that have to happen at a particular time: school run, dinner, children’s bedtime and so on.
I then plan out the other things that have to be done during the day, but can be a little more flexible: the food shop, household chores, trips out with my girls etc.
Then I’ll time slot in the things I want to do: maybe watch my favourite TV show, go for a run, creative projects, talk to my mum on the phone.
The blanks that are left are my working time. These time slots might be short. Or inconsistent. But they are my dedicated work time.
This is where I break down my achievables into smaller tasks that can be spread across my working time blocks.
This is possibly the most important strategy for being a productive work from home mummy.
It’s also the hardest!
Research suggests that it takes on average 23 minutes to regain concentration after a distraction.
That’s almost 25 minutes! And that could be pretty much your entire dedicated time block of work for a given day.
Imagine you’ve blocked out 40 minutes to draft out your next blog post. After 10 minutes you check your emails, or just pop onto Instagram for a quick scroll, or you check your phone to see who’s just pinged you a message.
You might only be distracted for a couple of minutes. And yet it could take you another 23 minutes to get back into the swing of work. You’re just hitting your stride again and, bam, your 40 minutes are up.
How much of that blog post have you drafted? Not much. And how crap do you feel about not hitting your achievable goal? Quite a lot.
So, busy mummy, when you plan out your dedicated working time slots, make sure you focus on the task you’ve set yourself.
Only check your emails if checking your emails is the work task you’ve set yourself. Just like you should only head over to Instagram if commenting and replying to comments / DMs is the work task you’re planning to do.
It takes a lot of practice and self-discipline.
But you will get better at staying focused. And you’ll soon realise just how much you can achieve in relatively small amounts of time.
Set The Kids Activities To Do
It’s impossible to stay focused if you’re constantly being interrupted by your beautiful (but sometimes needy) kiddos.
Have you ever noticed how your kids are just fine until they notice you’re busy and then they want ALL your attention.
So the way to remedy this, is to plan things to do with them that gives them ALL your attention right before you get to work.
Fill them up with all the mama-joy-feelings they could possibly need for the next 30 minutes. Then set them something they can get on with by themselves, close to where you’re going to do some work.
Again this will take a little planning beforehand.
Remember my youngest child is two. She gets up to all the toddler mischief you’d expect from a two-year-old.
And yet I know I can have a clear 30 minutes of uninterrupted work time, even when there’s just me and her at home together.
Typically, I make sure the activity I want her to do by herself builds from the one we’ve been doing together.
For example, we may spend a few minutes sorting wooden beads into colour order. And then size order. Then I might thread the beads in a pattern and ask her to copy it. When she’s done it, she’ll get a big high five and a massive cuddle. I’ll then ask her if she can make up her own patterns.
It’s a great toddler activity. We’ve spent some lovely time together. And then she gets to practise a fun new skill while I get on with a little bit of work.
I know she’ll get bored by about half-an-hour, sometimes less, so I make sure the work tasks I’ve set are short and don’t need a whole lot of concentration. I might plan to make a few different Pinterest pins during this time, rather than try to write anything.
If she stays occupied doing her activity I might work a little longer. Or if she gets bored earlier, I’ll stop what I’m doing and give her some more attention.
And so that brings me to my last tip. Be flexible.
Being a productive work from home mummy means that you have to be able to adapt.
Yes work is important. And yes it has to get done. But how and when you do it is up to you.
You build your schedule around your commitments, and your family’s commitments. But even the best laid plans will probably need to change.
What if your kid gets sick and can’t go to school. Or your baby’s teething and is inconsolable. Or maybe your toddler is transitioning from a crib to their first big-girl-bed and you’ve only had two hours sleep.
All these scenarios are likely to happen at some point in your working from home career.
But you can plan in work-arounds.
Maybe you can’t do your 20 minute planned keyword research on Tuesday at 1:30pm after all. Perhaps you’ll need to reschedule for later that evening and record your fave TV show to watch later.
The best thing about being a work from home mummy is that you’re in control of your schedule.
You might not always be able to do the work you’d planned to do when you’d planned to do it. But you can reschedule. And you can be flexible.
The work will get done. And you can feel good about being a productive work from home mummy.
I’d love it if you joined my Facebook community of busy mummies just like you who want to start a blog.
Or if Instagram is where you prefer to hang out, you can find me there too!
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