Ok, so I’m someone who thrives in disorder. (I think the nice way to say it is that I enjoy spontaneity, but that’s not 100% honest!) When you work at home, though, the disorder can kill your creativity, and believe me, that’s a problem whether you are a programmer OR a creative writer. But you need to cut through the chaos and that’s why I’m sharing these 5 productivity tips for busy moms, like you and me!
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This year, I’m trying some new things to stay focused and productive and make progress on the week’s goals – and so far, I’ve been successful. Here are 5 things that I’m doing to ensure that I stay on task with my heavy workload this year:
5 Productivity Tips for Busy Moms
1. Make a space that inspires.
I moved into this house in January 2007 and about 2 weeks later, my kids and 2 other kids created some images on our walls. Want to see?
Sad, isn’t it? No wonder I’m uninspired. Yea, that’s been there since I moved in and, yes, this room has always been my office, even when I had a full-time job. I suffer from a SERIOUS case of “mama puts herself last.” But no more! Even as I wrote, hubby is painting it with no-VOC paint (bless you Sherwin-Williams and HGTV Home), so the redecorating has begun! It’s also been stalled by the whole “I can’t decide on paints!” So we grabbed coupons that I got in the paper, hoofed it to our local Sherwin Williams (5 minutes away) and started browsing. My hubby helped me pick porcelain and a violet, so I’m going to shabby chic my space. I still need a new desk, but I have some decorative items already. I need cost-effective window treatments and some closet organization too.
2. Get a serious planner and any other organizational systems you need
A great tool that has helped is my Autism Planning Workbook. These downloadable worksheets that I created have helped me organize my kids, with everything from IEP planning and follow up to protocol and special diet tracking. Learn more at the page, or feel free to email me to ask me anything about it!
Things I need to work on this year: clearing ancient, outdated paperwork (it can be kept in the basement, if I need it), and creating filing systems of what I need. I’m also VERY big on Outlook, my phone calendar, and Evernote – plus daily paper lists. And God forbid I don’t have multiple notebooks on my desk! Find a system that works for you even if you need multiple ones. This is the sort of organizational system I’d like for my closet:
3. Create a time plan.
You can’t improve work at home productivity with a time plan. Different from an organizational chart, a time plan is your way to effectively block out time to get it all done. For example, if you are crafting a blog post, you should not be on Facebook or Pinterest at the same time. If you are expunging emails, limit the time you spend working on your inbox daily. If you are doing research for an article, give yourself a time limit – say, 30, 40 minutes, depending on topic and billing rate. (Yes, I said billing rate. I’ll discuss why that’s important in next week’s post!) Make sure you have time for silence and quiet – this is especially critical for those who are married to someone else who works at home or has children home for part of their workday. You need to set firm boundaries. I love my husband and I love lunch breaks but he has been known to step into my office at 10 AM when I am knee deep doing client research to plan lunch! Now I block out time when he cannot disturb me and when I can help him with family stuff on the days he’s home. As far as that “family stuff,” when you work at home, you usually figure you’ll have time for these administrative tasks. Beware! This can be a black hole time event that can tank your entire day. (Think to fix a health insurance billing issue.) Again, block out the time or set aside a morning to get them out of the way.
4. Get painful tasks out of the way.
I’m amazing at procrastination. I’m sure I could win a gold medal, if only it were an event! But this year, I’ve decided to prioritize my boring tasks in order of PAINFULNESS. That’s why a good portion of this year’s health and admin paperwork is already out of the way. It helped that I had to do this sort of thing the first week of the year to get the kids into Special Olympics swim training, but that painful task led me on a mission to get through all the other painful tasks that included things like insurance and doctors. They are nearly out of the way – many of the for the year – and now I can focus on changing things for my family and my blog, as I want to!
5. Stop multitasking.
The only way to get your focus back is to stop doing multiple things at the same time. Kid time is kid time. Email time is email time. Writing time is writing time. Here’s a tip on how to keep that going properly if you’re very Type A, like me: keep a pad next to you and write down the ideas, brainstorms and things you “must check out!” that come to you while working. Trust me, that “amazing idea for a blog post” or “great idea for getting kids to do homework” WILL vanish unless you jot it down. Once you do, forget about it so you can back to work. Instead, schedule a regular time, perhaps once a week, to review those great ideas, must-see sites and things to research. Some will seem not so great anymore and you can skip right over, but you’ll find gems in the bunch that are amazing. Meanwhile, stay on task for a period long enough not to let your mind wander too much and you’ll find that your work at home productivity will improve.
Do you have more productivity tips for busy moms? Comment with your tips!