You feel like you can’t get anything done working from home? Your children constantly beg for your attention. Something in the house breaks. It never ends. While we have no control over some events, these working from home tips will win you a more successful work day.
As a mom who works from home, it’s very hard to separate your work life from home life. It’s one in the same, right? You can roll out of bed in your pajama pants and walk a few steps to your office. Your workday can start in less than 30 seconds.
And while that’s a blessing, it’s also a little bit of a curse too. There is absolutely no separation.
My four-year-old son can trot into my office anytime he likes and start asking me a zillion questions – from the funny thing a friend said at recess (“Hey mom, guess how Troy counts to 20. He goes… 20. Hehehehe”) to asking what’s for dinner. Then he tells me he doesn’t like what’s for dinner and can’t I make something else?
You keep thinking that wouldn’t a peanut butter and jelly sandwich be so yummy right now. What’s stopping you from going down to the kitchen and make one?
Or, oh my gosh… I need to watch last night’s episode of Scandal before my kids get home.
How in the world does any work at home mom get anything done?
I’m totally with you there. These tips have helped me transform my day from a multi-tasking mess into a productive day where I feel accomplished at the end.
You can get there too. Use just one of these tips and see how much more productive you can be.
For your convenience, I’ve included a few affiliate links to products you see in this post. If you choose to purchase from my link, it costs you nothing extra but I will receive a small commission. I love and recommend all the of the items in this post!
High Performance Habits by Brendan Bouchard
Set your intentions for the day
First, you need to get clear. Brendan Bouchard has researched the habits of high performing individuals for years. In his book High Performance Habits, he says that “high performers have more clarity on who they are, what they want, how to get it and what they find meaningful and fulfilling. Clarity is not a personality trait that some are blessed to “have” and others are not. You generate your reality.”
That may sound awesome, but how in the world do you “generate reality”?
It’s actually really simple. Ask yourself the question, “What do you want?”
In my best life, what is happening and what kind of person am I? At the end of the day, what will I need to complete to feel successful?
I think about this every day. Each morning, I choose my one thing. The task that I need to focus on first to feel the most accomplished. I also define what a successful day looks like and how I’ll reward myself for a job well done.
Usually, I’m the happiest when I stay focused and see that one thing through.
Try it right now. What is one thing you want to accomplish by the end of today?
Plan your time out
Now, how are you are going to accomplish that one thing?
I must admit, that I used to do goals completely wrong. A lot of people do. Are you like me? Have you ever set a goal and thought that just setting that goal was enough to achieve it?
Ya, me too. But honestly, I didn’t know how to do things any differently.
One of my favorite recent binge watches on Netflix was the series Girl Boss. It’s the story loosely based on Sophia Amoroso’s book of the same name where she went from a woman who could barely hold down a job to CEO of her own multi-million dollar company.
One scene stuck out in particular.
Sophia was walking down a street in San Francisco. She had recently discovered that she could find jackets and other clothing at thrift shops and sell them on eBay for a huge profit. As she was walking, she looked down and consulted her phone calendar as to what she needed to do next. But it wasn’t a to-do list. It was a time, scheduled exactly like an appointment on her calendar.
Hmmm, I thought, I don’t do that each day. In fact, my to-do list always gets interrupted because I think of something else more pressing that needs done – like laundry or fixing my descriptions on Pinterest.
Then I learned about time blocking.
At the beginning of the week, you plan out your priorities and then block out the time you need to accomplish them. It looks a little something like this:
I’m writing this on a Monday and I already have my entire week planned out based on the hours I’ve chosen to dedicate to my business. As you can see, my week is full – which makes the next tip even easier to implement.
Use “NO” as often as possible
Many of my work at home friends say the same thing – people think that when you work from home your schedule is super flexible and everyone feels free to ask you to volunteer in your child’s classroom or pick them up when their car is in the shop because you have the “free time.”
It’s hard to say no. But, when you time block, you can easily see where you want to devote your time this week. This makes no a very easy word to say.
Now, I’m not suggesting you say No to everything. One of the things I love about my job is my ability to be flexible – to help friends when they need it. But, in order to get my stuff done, I use NO very liberally for the tasks I really don’t want to do.. i.e. volunteering for the PTO’s fall carnival.
Create a system to organize Your Documents
How much time do you spend looking for something you need?
I would set a bill on my desk, knew I needed to take care of it and then forgot about it under a stack of papers.
The problem was…I had no system! Hell, once I didn’t pay our mortgage for two months because it was buried under the pile of papers on my desk.
Personally, I recommend two systems to help you organize documents
- A folder to organize “in-progress” items
- A filing cabinet to keep the rest
In progress items
That pile still exists on my desk, but now I use a sectional portfolio to organize it all. Instead of bills interspersed between lesson plans for my Girl Scout Troop and my vain attempts to stick to a budget, I have them readily organized into sections.
Best of all, I can stand this folder up so it clears more workspace on my desk.
Items You Need to Keep Long-Term
My filing cabinet is one of the most important places in our house. I never have to ransack the house looking for an important paper because I’ve created a habit of filing everything away.
If you are new to filing, I suggest you start with the Vitals folder. Make one for each member of your family. In it, I keep each family members passport, shot record, birth certificate.. .you name it. Then, when that family member has other items, I add another folder. Just for me, I have:
- JoAnn Education
- JoAnn Medical
- JoAnn Mementos
- JoAnn Vitals
- JoAnn Whimsicle
They are alphabetized first under my name and then under the category. 9 times out of 10, I can usually find what I need immediately.
Use this hack to organize notes
I don’t know about you, but I used to have dozens of notebooks I used on a daily basis – a journal, a planner, a notebook for taking notes during an online course, and a different notebook for reflections.
Then came the printouts and notes I wrote on those printouts which I started stuffing into binders.
It never ended.
Now, I use Google Drive to store all of my important stuff. I organize it in folders based on class or topic and then store the electronic files in there.
But, what about those pages you need to take physical notes on? How can you do that without printing them out and writing on them. Oh man, do I have the free hack for you:
Schedule tasks like a Project Manager
Are you doing your most important tasks first? When time is your most precious asset, the way you use it determines how successful you will be.
But how in the world can you tell which tasks should be your priority?
It comes down to working your time according to your goals.
Here’s how I do it. This is using a free website called Trello.
First, determine your goals for a specific time period. I like planning by quarters. It’s enough time to accomplish some great feats, but not too long that I procrastinate.
I start with three goals and color code those goals. Then, I write down all the tasks that I need to meet that goal and I color code those accordingly.
Each week, I move the tasks I’m working on to my weekly sprint column. My only focus that week is to get those tasks done first.
This is how you can determine if you are working on the most important goals in your business.
Stop the Multi-tasking
Many women claim they are excellent at multi-tasking. But let me tell you, multi-tasking is killing your productivity.
Why? Because multitasking doesn’t exist! We may think we are doing two things at once, but in actuality, we’re task switching.
Out of the numerous studies done on the topic, one published in 2001 showed that when adults switched between different tasks such as solving math problems or classifying objects, they actually lost time. As the tasks became more complex, they lost more time.
Instead of multitasking, try focusing on only one task at a time. That means:
- close all browser windows not related to what you are doing
- turn off the notifications on your phone. Even better, put your cell phone in a different room
- Turn off your Facebook news feed. I use a Chrome extension called Kill News Feed that I love! I’m no longer tempted by Facebook because every time I visit, there is nothing for me to see.
Check Your Email Only…
I admit, many times I check my email every 20 minutes because I’m working on a challenging task that I hate. Do you ever feel that way?
I learned from one of Michael Hyatt’s webinars, that he only checks his email 4 times a day: once in the morning, once before lunch, again after lunch and then as he ends his day.
Checking your email repeatedly has the same effect as multitasking. It breaks your focus.
That’s it. That’s how to guarantee that your work time at home is as productive possible.
Even though your kids may distract you and you may not have enough dedicated work hours in a day, you’ll find that you can get heaps more done by just relying on these tricks. Are they simple? No way. I would be lying if I said that. They take repeated practice to get right. But, they are definitely effective.
We can’t control whether our preschoolers will be happy with Paw Patrol one afternoon or our fourth grader won’t need us to help with a school project. Heck, we can’t even count on our baby to nap! But we can take control of these and have a much more successful work day.