Joining the work at home moms club may look like fun.
And on the surface, as a long time member of this club, I can say it is. But it’s also tough. Confusing at times. And can even make you feel a bit guilty. Like very guilty.
On top of being a work a home mom, I also chose to belong to another club that has a group all on its own. The work at home moms who are starting a business club.
This club is even more demanding on time, life and finances. But it’s also one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.
One thing that took me awhile to understand when I joined the work at home moms club was the “mom” part. I had the work at home piece down.
As a teacher without kids, I had been pursuing my entrepreneurial side hustles every summer for years. Freelance writing. Photography. Vintage seller. Crafter. Graphic designer.
It never seemed a problem to fill my free summer hours with lots of “me” focused business ideas that I loved.
When I decided to become a work at home mom after having my first little, I figured I would continue working on my business ideas and the little would be, well, a little. Never the two shall meet.
Not sure what I was thinking.
Once I had a baby at home, finding time to work on my business dreams vanished. Gone were the hours of free time to do what I liked. They were instead replaced with diaper changes, nursing and playtime.
You see, the reality was that the new little one who gave me the reason I felt that I needed to work from home in the first place (and avoid all those funny stares from family and friends that couldn’t believe I would ever leave teaching) was also the reason I suddenly had no time to spend on my business.
Taking care of a baby is a full time job. And without a huge paycheck coming in from my start up, there was no extra money at first to pay for childcare. Turns out childcare is extremely expensive too.
What is a mommy entrepreneur to do?
Become a productivity queen. And I’m not talking about using the television as a babysitter. Building the business of your dreams is not about the amount of childcare you have. It’s about how you utilize the hours that you do have in the day. One minute at a time.
Here are my 5 favorite ways to be the most productive as a work at home mom. But no matter which of these you try, take it slow. Eventually, your business and mommyhood will come together. Promise.
One. Keep a Short To Do List
One of the reasons I found staying productive with littles at home difficult was because I could never get through my to do list. Forget getting through my entire to do list – I never really crossed off more than one or two items. Talk about defeating.
The best way to get tasks completed is to limit how many tasks you have in the first place.
To create a to do list that fits your mommyhood reality, go through a day without one. Instead of crossing tasks off of a list, write the tasks down that you do as you complete them. At the end of the day, review the list to see how many tasks you were able to complete. That is your golden number of tasks for your daily to do list.
By making your to do list more manageable, you’ll be able to actually complete the tasks on the list. It’s a win win strategy to feeling accomplished.
Two. Carve Out Kid-Free Work Time
Oh, the joys of kid free work time. But how? You love being a mom and don’t want to miss any part of it.
Also, childcare is expensive no matter where you live these days. And most start up businesses don’t bring in money for at least the first few months.
I’ve been there. Especially those days when I felt particularly guilty because I’ve said one to many times “in a minute”. It makes me second guess my work at home mom decision altogether.
The reality is if you don’t have kid free time to focus on your business, your business will always struggle to grow (or even just get started).
And if you don’t find some kid free hours, you will eventually be facing the dreaded question of “when are you going back to work?” as you drop them off for Kindergarten.
To avoid answering this question, make a promise to yourself to work on your business every day. Even if you can only complete little tasks.
There are many ways to carve out kid-free work time without too much expense. You just need to figure out which way works best for you. Some ideas include:
- Early mornings
- Late evenings
- Exchange childcare with a neighbor
- Work during an extracurricular activity
- Preschool classes
You’ll probably find it takes a combination of a few of childcare options to create a schedule with enough kid-free hours to make your business soar. Just make sure you create a solution that works for you.
And note, choose to work in the time that you will be most productive. If you’re not a night owl, don’t work until midnight. Same goes for a night owl trying to work in the morning. That is a great way to be unproductive and sleep deprived!
Three. Batch your Most Demanding Tasks
When I grew up, running errands was my mom’s favorite pastime. No, really. Actually going to the mall and spending afternoons “browsing” was how she would describe it.
I promised my kids from the beginning that they would spend a minimal amount of their childhood at the mall. So grateful for the invention of the Internet.
When I do need to run errands, I find it’s most efficient to run them in batches instead of individually.
Group errands together based on location. For example, if the supermarket is near the dry cleaners, complete these two at the same time instead of making two seperate trips.
Aim for only two or three times a week to run errands, if that often. Choose a specific date and time to get them done.
I try to run errands one afternoon every two weeks. This frees up more time to work on my business and have fun with my littles – my two biggest priorities.
Since you’re now batching errands, why not try grouping together your business tasks?
You can be more productive by batching like tasks together. For example, complete all of your product creation, blog writing, email and social media scheduling in time blocks.
You could even work on one set of tasks each day of the week. I guarantee that you’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish by Friday.
Four. Keep Play Dates and Extracurricular Activities to a Minimum
Kids have busy schedules. It’s the number one complaint I’ve discovered when talking with other work at home moms.
Not surprisingly, over scheduling your kids has a profound effect on your business productivity. When your children are at home, depending on what they are doing, you have an opportunity to get something done too. Even if it is a small task, at least it’s one less thing to do later.
But when you’re spending your time driving to multiple activities, play dates and church activities, your personal and business productivity goes down.
I used to schedule our kids for lots of extra curricular activities. I thought it kept them busier. But, busier is not always better.
By having less to do, you free up space in your brain to think, be creative and relax.
Playing a game or doing art with my kids is much less stressful than trying to make ballet class at 4:30 and sitting in rush hour on the way home.
Once you remove the stress of over scheduling, you’ll find yourself with more time to think, plan and dream about your business. And a lot more time to spend with your family.
Five. Create Age Appropriate Independent Activities
By the age of two, many children can entertain themselves for short periods of time.
You can prepare activities for them to do independently ahead of time. Although some assistance might be needed, most kids are happy to do art projects, read books or even play with sensory bins. These small pockets of busy time allows you time for to get business tasks accomplished and be more productive.
When creating your weekly schedule, add in “independent” playtime. This block of time can be scheduled at a point when you know you need to get tasks done (such as checking email, reviewing orders or getting back to customers at a specific point during the day) or simply need a break from being mom to work on your business.
Some independent play activities that you can create for your child include:
- play dough (find my favorite play dough recipe here)
- busy books/boxes
- stacking and filling activities
Check out this wonderful list of independent play activities for toddlers from Extremely Good Parenting. One of my favorite ideas is creating layers of masking tape on a cookie sheet and having your child remove them one by one. Depending on the age of your child, I think this might take awhile. You could create something similar with larger sized stickers too.
Trust me. There’s lots of activities that you can plan for your kids that will increase your productivity and develop their fine motor skills at the same time.
Six. Arrange your Work Space around where the Kids Play
When we were pregnant with our second little, I decided that my stationery business needed more space. So, we moved.
The extra space was fantastic. I finally had my own office/studio all to myself.
Unfortunately, after about 6 months, I realized that I barely had a chance to use it.
I was too busy chasing after a toddler and taking care of a newborn all day. As the kids started to grow, the extra space actually made my productivity go down. Everything I needed to get done was in the studio space upstairs, but the kids play space was downstairs.
After a year of battling with too much space, we decided to return to our small condo. Crazy, I know.
But after living in a space that was too spread out, it made complete sense to me. We moved the studio into a corner of the living room.
The kids played in the middle of the living room and did projects on the dining room table. When I cooked in the kitchen, I could keep an eye on what was going on in the living room and the dining room. It was perfect.
My productivity has grown ten fold by having my work space in a place where I can also keep an eye on the kids. It helps me accomplish small tasks on my to do list and gives me a chance to spend time with them even when I’m working.
I’m sure you probably have no interest in downsizing to a small apartment too (we joke that this was our tiny house experiment). It’s okay. I understand.
I do recommend, though, creating a work space where your children primarily play. Whether in the basement, play room or family room, set up a small desk area where you can put your laptop and some other business essentials.
Then when the kids are playing and exploring their imaginations, seize the opportunity to check off a few of your smaller to do list items and regain some productivity.
Congratulations on joining the work at moms club. Working at home is such a fantastic life balance arrangement.
But if you have littles at home too, you might find it difficult to be productive. And in order to run a successful business, being productive as a work at home mom is essential.
As a work at home mom, you need to create a routine that let’s everyone get stuff done. Find independent activities your littles can do, batch your work tasks and make sure you have work time each day.
Most importantly, remember to keep your efforts up. Increased productivity does not just happen over night. Over time, though, you’ll get your business and productivity where you want them to be!