When I left Macy’s and began Whimsy + Wellness, I did so with the intention of making a little side income, not working full time from home. I’m now 4 years into this and to my utter surprise I turned this into my full-time gig and brought my husband home from his corporate job where we run Whimsy + Wellness from our home office.
While a study indicates people are much more likely to love their job if they have the flexibility to work remotely, an out-of-office environment does present its own challenges. The ability to create a productive schedule is quite possibly at the top of that list, especially for parents who are splitting their time between home and work responsibilities.
I’m often asked what I do to combat some of the challenges as a work-from-home-mom and the short answer is, it changes. When I first started Whimsy + Wellness, it was just me, sitting in front of the TV putting roller bottles together. Since then, we have hired a fulfillment center to put most of the orders together, I’ve birthed 2 babies, and added on several team members. No sooner will I find a schedule and a system that works and the company will out-grow it, or Posey will decide 5:45am is her new wake-up time.
That being said, I’ve learned a few things about working from home through all the growing pains. I’ve compiled a list of things that help me set a schedule (and stick to it) when working from home. Whether you work remotely for a corporation through virtual meetings, have your own company, or are building a business through direct sales, I hope this gives you some ideas to really maximize those work hours so you can spend time with your loved ones when you shut that laptop!
Brain Dump Onto A List
I have a constant to-do list in the Notes app on my iPhone. I always have my iPhone on me and it syncs with my computer so everything is right in front of me.
I have 3 types of lists:
- A to-do list for the current day
- A to-do list for the current week
- A to-do list for the future
I actually have a horrible memory (mom brain anyone?), but as soon as I think of something I need to do, I put it into one of those 3 lists so it stays safe. I use the daily list for things I need to prioritize and get done that day. I then use the weekly list for things I know need to be done soon, but I have some flexibility in where I put it. I use the future list for ideas that pop into my head that I don’t want to lose. I have had ideas in my phone for months. I leave them there for when I have time to do something about them.
If you like checking things off, the Notes app lets you add checkmarks that you can click when you’ve completed something – so satisfying!
Work In Time Blocks
Research shows that multi-tasking is actually detrimental to your productivity. Instead, give yourself time blocks for how long you will work on a specific task on your list. I don’t have notifications on IG and FB, because I know I’ll be distracted by it. So, I go into those apps when I know I have 20-30 minutes to spend on everything in there. Otherwise, I don’t open it. I also know I get distracted a lot by email, so I will close the mail app on my computer so I don’t get a notification.
I schedule my mom to come watch the kids every day from 9-3, with a few changes here and there. Those hours are for focused work. I know not everybody can afford to hire someone, so you may have to get creative in this area! Waking up an hour earlier, getting a membership to the YMCA with 10 hours of weekly childcare, swapping drop-off playdates with a trusted friend, or hiring a high-schooler looking for some job experience at a reduced rate, are all unconventional, affordable options for some kid-free focused work.
Practical ideas for time-blocking:
- Time block the things most important to you first – don’t accept every invitation that comes your way without giving it some intentional thought about where it gets prioritized in your life
- Schedule your work in batches – the amount of time it takes to switch in and out of tasks is longer than if you spend a focused amount of time on the same type of work
- Schedule tasks in your digital calendar – 30 minutes 3 times a day for emails, 20 minutes to sweep through the house and straighten up, 10 minutes to update your budget, 60 minutes of research, etc.
- Schedule daily time to fill your own cup up – set your intentions for the day, read, meditate, journal, drink a cup of coffee uninterrupted with your partner
- Schedule your personal life – date night, girls night, exercise, or other things that align with your core values
- Set your phone down in another room when completing focused batch work
- Shut off notifications for Facebook and Instagram
- Block off a day a week where you schedule all of your appointments (dentist, eye exams, check-ups, shopping, errands) so you can make that commute time count
You’ll be amazed at how much quicker you will complete tasks when they are scheduled and capped!
Give Yourself A Change of Scenery
Changing the scenery is a little trick for giving yourself that feeling of “going to work”. When you get out of the house you’re less likely to be distracted by non-paying work, such as a load of laundry needing to be folded, or dishes that need washing. I used to think it was harmless to clean during focused work hours, but I’ve timed myself and what I thought was only taking me 15 minutes, would often take up an hour of my time.
I like to put on a little makeup to freshen up and hit up my favorite coffee shop. I’ve notices I’ll often feel more motivated to make the most of my time while I’m there. You could also schedule a meeting room at the library, or go for a walk around the neighborhood to mix things up and keep your brain fresh.
Use Your Calendar App for Everything!
I can’t do a paper planner. I know everybody has their die-hard-can’t-live-without-cute-paper-planners, but I just can’t do it. Good ole’ iCal syncs to my computer and I live by it! My phone is always with me, so before I set up anything I can take a quick look at my calendar and see if it will conflict with anything before scheduling it in.
Calendars are also wonderful for time-blocking and keeping yourself on track throughout the day. I set mine up to notify me when I need to leave to make it on time to an event. I can invite my husband to family events I’ve set up and need him to know about, or send invites to schedule meetings with people on my team. Seriously, become friends with iCalendar or Google Calendar and you will never look back!
Give Yourself Grace
Lastly, I always like to tell people that IT IS OKAY if your schedule isn’t perfect. I’ve learned so much from life unfolding in real time, trying things, messing up, picking back up again the next day, seeing what works for me and our family. Some seasons you’ll be working a lot more and other times you’ll be spending more time with your family. We’re all just trying to figure this whole thing out.
Give yourself grace.