Friday, October 17, 2008

Using Time Wisely


Whether you telecommute to an employer, are an entrepreness, or just make a little cash on the side selling knitted hats on Etsy, time management is the ultimate tool. It can make you or break you (or drive you insane!).

Some days you get to the end and go, “What happened?!” Or your husband asks the most irritating question you can ask a WAHM, “What did you do all day?” “I survived, alright!?!”

Other days you get to the end and say, “I took you DOWN, to-do list! Take that! I own you!!! Boo-yah!!!” (What, boo-yah isn't part of your vernacular? Maybe it should be, because you kick serious ass!).

Working from home while enjoying your children and managing all the aspects of your life and home can feel impossible sometimes. Things can get out of control really easily. By staying focused, you can get what you want from your day!

Setting an alarm, getting up at the same reasonable time each day, and directly showering and dressing as though you were going to a regular job is essential. I’m sure you’ve heard this advice before, but it is the cornerstone of taking control of your day. You ARE going to work, so act like it. Just because you do your work while breastfeeding or in between loads of laundry doesn’t make it any less of a priority.

Write out a daily schedule for yourself (and your children – structure makes them feel secure). Leave room for organized chaos and spontaneity, but give yourself plenty of time to take care of business. Include a real lunch break to hang with your kids and rest your "business brain".

Involve your kids when you can. They’re curious about what you’re doing and want to be with you. My daughter is still tiny, but while she nurses I catch up on my business reading by reading it out loud to her. Maybe she doesn’t need to know about trends in kitchen cabinets or the right insurance plans for small businesses, but she likes to hear my voice and be part of what I’m doing. I have a tiny extra desk in my office which I’ll set up with art supplies and a play laptop when she’s bigger. She can be my “coworker”. I’m not delusional enough to expect her to sit there for long periods, but it will buy a little time.

Set timers. This is especially helpful for distractable types (ahem, me), or when first learning how to manage a work at home atmosphere. Say you expect that responding to business emails will take 30 minutes of focused work. Set a timer, and remembering you're on the clock will help you stay on task. Timers are even more helpful when you're choosing to take a little "playtime" or when telling children what to expect. "Mommy will help you find Barbie's shoes as soon as the timer goes off." "Okay, Mommy's taking a break until the timer buzzes!"

Keep a Must Do and Want To Do List. Even numbering them by priority can help in focusing your efforts. Write it at night so first thing in the morning you can get straight to it. Include time estimates for each task (and note how long it actually took so you can have a better estimate next time). Be realistic in your expectations of yourself. Yes, you are Wonder Woman, but that doesn’t mean you need to wear yourself out and leave no time for fun!

Beware of Time Vampires! Surfing the net, chatting on the phone, meeting friends for lunch, obsessively checking your MySpace, clicking around Etsy glorious Etsy, getting sidetracked by unimportant projects… It all seems harmless bit by bit, but things like this can swallow your whole day if you’re not careful (social upkeep is very important to your sanity, though, and we’ll discuss that in an upcoming post). Keep focused and remember your purpose. If you attack your work right away and kill your to-do list, then you’ll have time to go play with your kids or lunch with a friend.

Set “office hours”. When the "office" is closed, don't answer the phone, don't check emails. Your business is very important, but your children are what really matters in life. Give them your undivided attention for a set time every day.

The best system I've seen is the Entrepreneurial Time System. Basically, you select Free Days to do as you please; then Focus Days, which are days where you really put on your work boots and kick some serious booty! Then you choose your Buffer Days, where you take care of the little tasks that would distract you on Focus Days (cleaning, making phone calls, etc.).

Be ready to spot stagnation. If your brain starts to get fuzzy and you're sitting there going "think...think...work...come on brain", step away for a short time (this is a break, not giving up! Come right back!). Crank up the music and dance around the living room with the kids, take a walk, take a yoga break, whatever gets your blood pumping and your brain creating. Then tackle your tasks with new enthusiasm!

Those of us who are fortunate (or badassly talented and driven) enough to work from home should count our blessings every day. It is such a privilege to spend your days with your children and be a career woman at the same time!

Want more time management tips? Here are great articles from Entrepreneur.com, smallbusinessessentials.info, and carrieanddanielle.com.

3 comments:

Sarah Lynn said...

I love this entry! It is very helpful even for people who do not have kids. I love the buzzer idea because i get "in the zone" while doing things that I will look up and four hours have passed and I haven't tackled half of my to do list. I will try this out and keep you posted. Thanks for the motivation!

Michelle said...

I was cracking up reading this entry, and can SO relate!

I want to add that I use music as my "segmenter". I put on an upbeat CD when I want to get cleaning/dishes done. A soft soothing one goes on when I want to try and convince the little ones to chill out (ha!).

And of course, finding creative ways to multitask! I take my little "to do" notebook with me when we go outside for a walk. The baby is on my back for safety, and the older one runs on his own. And I get to clear my head about what will get done that day, in peace!

Our growing family said...

hey,
found your blog through a friend and loved this post!
I am a SAHM of 4 kiddos 5 and under and also started my own photog business! Just tonight I got a lot accomplished, but that is rare! I really found a lot of this information helpful! I think tomorrow I will try to actually get dressed and put on makeup right away...that is if the two year old doesn't wake us all up at 4am again! =)
Thanks for sharing your wisdom!
Tarena