Productivity Tips for Stay At Home Mums
I published a book last year and have been doing a lot of promoting recently. When a friend of mine asked me for tips on how I get so much done on work stuff while being a stay at home mum, I realised I hadn't written anything about this for a long time!
*My first disclaimer is this: I am not earning a wage that could replace any sort of employed work. If you want to earn that sort of money working from home, you need one of three things: 1. To put your kids in daycare. 2. To have a full-time nanny. 3. To have a kid who sleeps all day/will play by themselves all day. It's pretty much impossible. I don't know any full time mums who also earn a full time wage.
*My second disclaimer is this: my toddler does not let me work while she is awake/around me. If she sees me on my phone or computer, she demands to see videos or press buttons. If she sees me reading she wants to turn the pages. If she sees me writing, she wants the pen and the paper. This happens even if I try to distract her for half an hour with a tv show. There is no room for negotiation with this kid. So while I am a 'work at home mum', I am actually a 'work at home when my kid isn't in the room mum'.
So, my tips.
- Use your motivation when you can. I will get bursts of motivation where I will write a few blog posts in one of my toddler's naps. This allows me to then not have to write for as long as I need to during other weeks.
- Work while your kid sleeps. This is basically the only time I get things done. I have learned to do other household jobs while my kid is awake - I include her in meal prep, housework, gardening, etc. I figure I can teach her 'life skills' by including her in those things, rather than doing them when she doesn't see.
- Don't have deadlines. This works for me, because it means I can get as much or as little done when I can, instead of feeling stressed and not really fitting work around my toddler. I commit to writing articles for websites who are happy to receive them when I write them, rather than giving me deadlines. I even choose short courses which are done 'in your own time' instead of with assignment deadlines. I don't commit to things unless I can work them around our normal routine without stress. When I do commit to things, I am honest - I will tell my clients I will not be able to do something until the following weekend, or will 'try to upload a post at some time tonight'. Plus I work with other mums now, so people understand. And when you're honest, they are ok with it.
- Be focused and disciplined. For me, this means doing work as the first thing when I put my toddler in bed. I commit to at least half an hour before I can make a cuppa or check Facebook. It also means I only do the one thing on my list instead of trying to multitask - whether that's writing a blog post, uploading a social media picture, or reading through a chapter of a course.
- Schedule social media. That means scheduling your blog so it automatically posts at the right time and having Facebook scheduled out for the week or month ahead. If you spend one hour scheduling FB posts, you can get a couple weeks of posting done! Easy. I apply this to toddler meals too… I might spend one day in the week making snacks we will eat for the rest of the week, so I don't have to worry about it the rest of the week.
- Get help when you can. My hubby often takes my daughter somewhere to play for an hour and I use the free time to do whatever's on my list, not the household's list. I don't clean, I read or edit or do a course. If I have a meeting or appointment, I check with my family's availability before committing to a date. Sometimes I just ask for an hour so I can go to a café and be able to concentrate. I do this pretty rarely, but it's an option.
- Turn mindless time into thoughtful time. When I'm hanging up the washing or playing in the yard with my toddler, I'll put a podcast on. This means I get to learn and stay up to date with things without sacrificing time with my kid. I also try to think through things while I'm doing mindless things with my kid - like eating lunch or watching her on the playground. I write down whatever I think of the moment I can - even if it's just a note in my phone when we get back in the car.
- Be flexible. I don't do work every day. To be honest I'm pretty relaxed about it all. I might have a week where I work during every day time nap, but then the following week I'm exhausted from my kid being sick, so I just read or nap myself when she has a rest. This flexibility gives me the space I need to be the best mum I can be while still having time 'for myself'. It means I can have some days where I plan activities to do with my kid, or bake something I don't want to bake with her. It means I don't have to work at nights if that's when my hubby and I need some time together. Whatever works, whatever pace, it's ok.
These tips can apply to whatever projects you want to do, not just work.
The truth is, there will always be more on the list that you would do if you had more time. Every time someone suggests a way for me to promote my book or make my website better, I laugh and tell them the other hundred ideas I already have, and that I will get to them one at a time.
When my baby was about 8 months old I tried getting back into professional freelance writing. I really struggled with the pressure of deadlines, even though I managed to meet them all. I was stressed and not really being the sort of mum I wanted to be. It was then that I decided (or accepted, finally) that my primary job was as a stay at home mother. That came first for me, so everything else had to come second. What that meant was my work-motherhood aspirations had to be readjusted. Basically now, if my work makes money, it's a bonus. We don't rely on my income. And I don't feel bad when I spend my days with my toddler instead of 'being productive'.
If I wanted to earn a steady income, and build a service-based business, I would have some care option organised for my kid. That is the truth of it.
I have decided to take work at my own pace for now, and build my 'career' later when my kids go to school. That’s my personal choice. I don't mind waiting a few years.
If you read my book, Rise and Shine, you will see how short the chapters are. This is proof I was writing them in half to one hour snippets while my baby slept!
I recently had about four months off from doing any sort of work. Not one person noticed. Perhaps that's why I look so busy all of a sudden. I am full of energy and putting posts out there, and people notice. The fact is, I published my book six months ago and I am only just promoting it properly now. That's pretty crazy in the world of publishing.
But it just goes to show, you can really get lots done when you're a full time parent, but not all at once and not really in the same time frame that you used to be able to do things. If it takes me a month to write a blog post, or one day, it really doesn't matter anymore, so long as I am happy and doing it at my family's pace. I will leave you with this quote I love:
If you want some more practical tips, here are my older posts on this topic:
I also recommend the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown.