As an at-home mother of little ones as well as a writer, composer and flute/voice teacher who volunteers as choir director and natural family planning teacher, I have to be really smart with my time in order to accomplish anything at all. Here’s my take on maximizing time and productivity, based on my experience as a write-at-home mom.
1. Break down big tasks into small ones.
Working from home, interruption is part of the landscape. If all your tasks are big (“write article for ____.”), it’s going to be hard to get traction on them. Break them down into small parts that can be accomplished among the interruptions (“research sources;” “contact sources;” “research statistics; schedule interviews”). How do you keep track of such minutiae?
2. One word: lists.
Lists are our friends.
3. Schedule like a maniac.
Now that you have your tasks, set up hour-by-hour blocks, starting with the inflexible (lessons, pickup and dropoff, etc.) and working your way down to five-minute blocks. No block is without a dedicated purpose. Obviously, you have to be flexible. But it’s easier to alter a plan than to accomplish things without one. And don’t forget that your brain can always work, even when your hands can’t. You can brainstorm in the car driving from point A to point B.
You have a lot to do, but not all tasks are equal. An article approaching deadline ranks above housecleaning—unless you’re having house guests tonight.
5. Identify tasks that can withstand interruption.
Emailing and research, for instance, can usually be done piecemeal between interruptions—in other words, while the kids are awake. This post, for instance, was scribbled on the back of a coupon and typed into my computer at the grocery store, at the park, and at the table while negotiating bites of vegetable with my toddler.
6. Plan all tasks for maximum time efficiency.
If you have to go upstairs to change a diaper, make sure to change the laundry and carry a stack of kids’ books while you’re at it.
7. Be prepared for opportune moments.
Wherever you go, take something with you to work on, in case you happen to get 5 minutes while you’re waiting in the car, the grocery line, or the doctor’s office. You probably won’t, but be prepared anyway.
8. Sacrifice a guilty pleasure.
You can’t do everything, so you’re going to have to decide what you can do without. For me, that’s TV.
All the above tips help you make use of short bits of time. But sooner or later, you have to have a big block of uninterrupted time. Some projects and tasks can’t be completed without them. I’m sorry to break it to you: there’s no painless fix. I know of only two ways to create blocks of time where there aren’t any:
9. Get a babysitter.
10. Get up early or stay up late.
Sleeping in on the weekend is a luxury. Take it when you want to, but don’t make a habit of it!
So there you have it: my secret for doing it all. What time management tips do you find helpful?
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