My 7 Best Time Management Tips for the Work from Home Mom with Littles at Home
I often get asked how I “do it all” by friends and acquaintances alike. Number one – I definitely DON’T do it all. There’s a lot I DON’T do well in order to do the things that matter most for me to do well in my business and life. (ie – meal planning! Don’t really do it and don’t really want to – But that’s for another post). Here’s my best time-saving and time-management tips as a work at home mom!
Let me first start by saying, what has “worked” for me has changed in every single season of having littles. What works now with an almost two year old and 3 year old would not have worked with a newborn and 19 month old.
So take this advice with a grain of salt and don’t feel bad if you know these wouldn’t work for you or your kids. If anything, you’ll see that I am by no means perfect and have to make constant trade-offs to do what I do running two businesses and raising two kids. Here’s my best tips for how I do that.
1. Wake up early to get your workout in
I used to be the girl who said I would NEVER get up at 5am to work out. I dare say I looked DOWN on people who were that fanatical about working out. But now I am one of them. Here’s why…
I have found that getting up early to get my work out in is the best solution for getting the most out of the rest of the day.
For several reasons:
- It gives you more energy for the rest of the day
- You don’t waste precious nap time or evening hours trying to get your workout in
- It gives you sanity and peace of mind which enables you to be more calm and patient throughout the day with your kids when, inevitably, things do not go the way you plan.
- It makes me a happier person, mom, wife and is ESSENTIAL me-time. One of the few things in my day I do solely for myself.
I wake up early (4:50am) to workout about 3 mornings/week. Another morning I’ll go to a later class at 6:30 and don’t have to wake til 5:50am. And lately I’ve been running with a friend from my neighborhood two days a week. We meet at the end of my street and run 4 or so miles at 5:15am. That enables me to be home by 6, showered and reading my bible/having time to pray before the girls wake up at 7:30am. Then, two other mornings a week, I’ll go to a Fusion class that starts between 5:30am and 6:30am. On those days, I can be home to shower by 6:30am or 7:30am, depending on which class I go to. So that amounts to 4 early wake-ups a week. On the other days I’ll sleep til 6-6:30, still getting up early enough to have time to read, drink my coffee and pray.
2. Clean when your kids are awake
Do NOT use nap time to clean or do laundry or pick up or make the bed. Those are things you can do when they’re awake. Yes it’s more annoying and you’ll be interrupted lots, but wasting even 30 minutes of nap time tidying the house is risky. What if a kid wakes up early? What if YOU wake them up?
I clean up lunch when they’re awake, I make the bed when they’re awake, switch laundry over, tidy the bathroom if I left it a mess in the morning, whatever. I make them help sometimes, depending how long I want it to take. But I do not clean when they’re asleep unless it will be therapeutic for me to do so and I’ve decided not to use naptime to work that day. That’s happened maybe five times in my life in the almost four years I’ve had kids.
3. Nap time is sacred: Use it wisely.
I do not – I repeat DO NOT – do anything during nap time except work. EVER.
If there is a huge mess from crafts, it can wait til they wake up. But generally, since I know this is my rule, I tidy up most of everything I need or want to while they’re still awake. Now, there have been a few days where we had a particularly hard morning and I needed to spend the first 15-30 minutes of the girls quiet time/nap time in prayer and shedding some tears before the Lord, lol. But generally, I do nothing but work during their nap/quiet time. 2 hours a day, 7 days a week. That right there? That’s 14 hours a week of work I get during naps!
My 23-month-old naps from 1-3pm generally and my 3.5 year old has quiet time at that time and stays in her room and plays quietly. If she “gets up” early for some reason (crying because she’s “done” or some other reason), I will let her watch a show on the iPad until her sister wakes up. Which brings me to my next point…
3. Screens are a tool
I am not one of those moms who thinks screens are evil. I don’t mind my older daughter watching up to a MAX of 2 hours of TV in any given day, as long as it’s not every single day and as long as her response when I say it’s time to turn it off is agreeable, and not throwing a fit. That would indicate to me there’s a heart issue there and we’d need to scale back. When I see that, I respond in kind and limit screen time more or make her do another activity. But guess what – when your kid is painting or coloring, it’s not as surefire of a way to be productive and get your mind focused as a show. Is anyone shocked? My work is very mind-intensive and requires my full attention and focus (web design or bridal accessories filling orders, invoicing clients, etc) so I can’t just hop in and out of it. I need to dig in for an hour to get any real value. I can respond to emails on the fly sometimes, but I try not to do this all day, because it results in looking at my phone in front of my kids way more than I want to.
Screens as a tool is part of the reality of being a work from home. Yes, my kids may watch more TV than a kid whose mom doesn’t work at all, but this is a trade off I’m willing to make to afford the lifestyle and blessing this work is to my family overall. The fact that they are with me rather than at daycare is a trade off a little screen time is worth to me. And 30 extra minutes of screen time a day is not going to hurt them. When I grew up, I watched Sesame Street THREE TIMES a day – at 9am, noon and 3pm. I then went on to get 1400-1500 scores on my SAT and a 32 on my ACT test. So, I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself if you use TV for productivity as well. Again, all things in moderation and watch their heart responses. We could all benefit from lightening up a bit, cutting ourselves a break and realizing a show or two will not ruin them when it means it will help you accomplish a task that MUST be done this moment or will give you ease of mind the rest of the day. It makes me a better mom to them when I’m not overwhelmed by a few nagging things that could be accomplished by a 30 minute show or two. I know I’m not alone in that 🙂
4. Have one slow morning a week.
Monday morning is one of my favorite mornings of the week. Why? Because we never have plans. This is intentional.
I think a lot of moms are afraid of space in the week that is unscheduled or not filled with some activity or to do. Friend, embrace the beauty of nothing to do. It can really actually help you be more productive, I have found. I love having open space because it allows my brain space to breathe and “catch up” to all the things I have neglected over the weekend. Whether that’s putting away laundry, organizing a closet or cleaning up the house and finishing up tasks from the weekend that got left undone.
My podcast Kindled comes out Monday morning so I have usually been up late the night before prepping the show to publish, scheduling posts and images for the week, updating the website and such. Monday morning is my time to finish up any tasks that weren’t completed the night before, like creating the sound clips I post on insta-stories for my podcast. I have come to really enjoy our slow mornings! The girls do art, listen to music, play outside, or whatever they ask to do while I do the things I mentioned.
5. Don’t be cheap: Pay for babysitters or pre-school
This is a big one. It’s an investment in your kids AND yourself.
I know not everyone reading this can afford a pre-school, so to that I would say, find a babysitter. A high-schooler who is affordable – who you can pay for a few hours a week at first to give you time to get some stuff in motion. You can also do a kid swap with a mom friend and take her kids + yours for a day, then trade so you each get a kid-free morning or afternoon.
But before all of you say “I can’t afford to…” to either of the above suggestions, ask yourself if you can afford to continue your lifestyle the way it is now. Many (if not all) of us have financial motivations for starting a business. We want to get to our goals more quickly. Perhaps pay off some debt, contribute to the monthly budget, afford a few luxuries, or afford plain old life! So if more money is the goal, we shouldn’t spend any money to get there, right? Wrong.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “It costs money to make money.” The same holds true here.
I am afraid too many moms are just cheap with our money and undervalue our time. We think it is not worth it to pay someone $10/hour to watch our kids without asking what potential profit we could create with $30 spent and 3 hours of focused work time gained. We think that we should be able to achieve more with the same amount of time as we have without a baby-sitter (which is next to none) and that is just not the case.
Paying for childcare is something I have done since early on as a mom. I have never felt guilt about it becuase I knew time away (even though it was only a few hours) was affording me ALL THAT TIME I was also spending WITH my daughter(s). When my oldest was a baby I had my mom around a lot to help, but I also paid for babysitters when she wasn’t available and I had a meeting or work to do that I couldn’t be interrupted in.
I am very thankful to be able to stay home with my kids and I wouldn’t trade it for any high-powered or high-paying career, no matter the salary. BUT (and this is a big but) to make the work from home thing work long term, you’re going to need some kid-free hours if they are not in school. You just are. Perhaps you have a husband who has some work flexibility and can give you some more time by leaving later a morning or two a week or coming home early in the afternoon. Perhaps in the beginning you just work during nap and night time and give all your evening hours to your business. But I promise you, that will not work forever or be healthy for your marriage in the long run. Eventually, you’ll need to gain some daytime productivity so you can still have a life outside working all hours of the evening/early morning.
6. Treat your husband like your partner.
When my oldest daughter was around one year old and I was pregnant with number two, I had just taken my bridal line The Yellow Peony to New York Bridal Market and signed on nine new bridal shops/stockists. That left me with a BUNCH of orders to fill and a lot of pieces to make for these stores, so they could start selling my line to brides.
I was trying to “do it all” by myself with a 1 year old who was crawling and getting into everything and very needy to be held a lot, and it was just NOT working. After several weeks of absolute overwhelm where I felt constantly pulled in every direction and that I wasn’t making any progress on the things I HAD to get done, I had a breakdown with my husband one evening after we had put my daughter to bed. I cried and said, “I just cannot do this at this pace anymore. It’s impossible. I don’t see how I’m supposed to do it.”
At the time he had a work from home job where he had some flexibility in his office hours, so that was key to the solution he thought up. But after seeing me as stressed and overloaded as i was with everything I had on my plate, he came up with a genius solution. He would block his calendar for 3 hours two mornings a week and watch our daughter while he did some of his more task-oriented work that he could do with her crawling around on the playroom floor. You see, my work was sewing veils and trim and rhinestones and making flowers, and that is not baby-friendly work. But reviewing resumes while the baby plays or eats? Very different.
He was so kind to offer this as a solution. It is crazy how I hadn’t even thought to ask for his help, but how when I did, the solution was so basic and also so effective. It made a HUGE huge different in my stress levels, and enabled me to regain some evening hours with him or just living life and not working.
I’m independent to a fault and hadn’t thought to ask for his brain to join me in finding a solution to this problem I had of not enough time, too much work.
Even if he hadn’t been able to offer the solution he did at the time, I’m confident he would have helped me find one. He’s just that kind of guy. And I’d bet that most of you who are married would find your husbands much more willing to assist in troubleshooting and brainstorming solutions if you’d just ask. Their brains work different than ours and we should take advantage of the fact that we have them as friends and partners in this. The burden is not all on your shoulders – he can and SHOULD bear the weight with you and partner with you to find a solution that works for the whole family.
7. Give yourself grace & Remember your WHY
No matter how well you plan or prepare, life happens. Kids wake up early, go to bed late, don’t sleep at all, meetings are moved and pre-school has a snow day. What’s been helpful for me in these times of possible frustration are to remember my WHY. WHY did I choose to build a business that would give me the lifestyle flexibility of staying home with my kids? Not so I could dread being with them and always scheming a way to get more time away. So I could really enjoy my time with them and these short years they are home with me. When I shift my perspective from one of frustration and “not enoughness” to one of gratitude that I have a job that allows me to weather those types of upsets and changes in plans relatively easily, it changes everything. I can close the laptop, head outside, and bead necklaces with them on the patio. I can cancel my plans for the day and we can go to open gym or the petting zoo.
I hope these tips will be helpful to you as you seek to find ways to make it happen for your family and your business!
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