This is a post by columnist Martine de Luna
I’ve been working at home for around four years now. I can say that I’ve found my rhythm, concerning the “work-life juggle” that we WAHMs are so familiar with. It’s not been easy, but through time I’ve been able to —
- create an award-winning blog (and write for other award-winning websites, too, like this, this and this);
- get hired as a copywriter for a digital media firm halfway around the world;
- leave that copywriting job and start my own business in small biz & blog branding
- grow my “tribe” of work-at-home women, even doing monthly workshops;
- grow my community of “blissmakers”, women who believe in meaningful blogging & living (and hold retreats and workshops for these, too);
- homeschool my 4 year-old boy;
- run our household full-time, with occasional hired help.
I’ve gotten used to managing all of these aspects of my life, but not without practice. I had to find systems that could help me achieve maximum productivity, so that I could (1) spend more time with my family, and (2) deliver excellent service to my clients. And that’s not easy, not when you have a young child to care for, a house to manage, and food to prepare!
Through time, the following tips have helped me greatly, especially when I need to, say, free up my time for the unexpected.
1. Find your “productivity windows”. “Productivity windows” are those moments in the day when we have a gap between. Lifehack describes these as “productivity windows,” because they are measured in gaps comprising minutes. These are increments within your day when you have the most energy to complete specific tasks.
To find your “work pockets” (a.k.a productivity windows), here’s what Lifehack recommends:
- Open up a spreadsheet program and make a weekly planner spreadsheet. Put the days along the top, and the times along the left, in 15 – 30 minute increments.
- Make several copies of several of these, so you can take one along with you, keep one at your desk, in your dresser, etc.
- This is NOT to be used as a plan, though. Instead, just write the fields per increment (1) what you’re doing and (2) use a number to describe how productive you feel, (10 being extremely productive and 0 being asleep.)
- After a couple of weeks, study the numbers and levels of productivity, so that you can know when during the day your productivity is high (check for high numbers in certain time slots) and when it’s low (check for low numbers in the time slots).
TIP: I also recommend The Mom Writes’ Productivity 2.0
2. After finding your productive windows of time, identify your optimal work hours. Don’t be pressured to work a 9 to 5 shift. You’re working at home, so you’re entitled to some flexibility! It’s all about identifying the hours when we’re most productive concerning a specific task. This is different for everyone, so learn to find your rhythm and flow.
3. Be comfortable with editing your to-do list several times a day. Sometimes we overwhelm ourselves with too many tasks on our to-do lists. The result? Often, it’s the frustration of not getting all of those to-do’s checked off!
The solution is simple, but it might take a bit of letting go (which isn’t always easy for moms who want to be in control!).
- Around mid-morning (say, just before lunch), review the rest of your to-do’s for the day.
- If your child needs you for a less than normal reason (one that can’t be solved by games or independent activities), or something at home winds up going wrong and needs your attention, be prepared to let go of your lesser-priority tasks. These could mean checking emails, checking blog comments and responding to them, or taking phone calls, which are tasks that can be easily deferred to another time.
- Take three things out of your to-do list — and move them to three other days.
Sometimes simply editing our to-do lists means taking a break from it all. Don’t be afraid to wind down, take a ten-minute power nap and shut yourself off for a time. These can often increase your productivity. With me, for instance, “sanity breaks” are necessary. (Marie Forleo fondly brands this under a “nunya clause,” wherein if people ask, “Why are you on Facebook or Instagram when you’re suppsed to be working,” we can reply with, “It’s nunya business. I’m taking a break!”
In the end, it’s “each to her own.” Find your most productive moments, adjust them when the unexpected strikes, and don’t panic. It’s really the key to getting things done, isn’t it?
How do you carve out your most productive times, even when the unexpected happens? Let’s share our strategies in the comments below.
About Martine de Luna
Martine de Luna is a wife, a mother and lifestyle design advocate who has crafted a business that marries her passions for speaking, blogging, and making a home. She is the founder of makeitblissful.com, a blog community dedicated to meaningful living; the director of the WAHMderful Wokrshops, a series of learning events for work-at-home moms. Martine also runs a blog coaching business on martinedeluna.com, where she helps women-owned businesses and solopreneurs leverage blogging & community-building towards their brands.
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