If there’s one thing that I think just about every mom could agree on, it’s that we all could use more time in our days.
Between changing diapers, overseeing homework (or, in my case, schoolwork), and shuttling to soccer practice and piano lessons, how is there ever any time to work?
When you think about caring for the kids and adding in other responsibilities like keeping up with the housework and cooking dinner, the thought of starting your own work from home business can be overwhelming.
If you’re feeling a little lost at how you’ll manage to do it all, I’m here to tell you that it can be done. Against the seemingly impossible odds, I’ve been able to earn money online while working from home for the past 9 years.
When I’m not working, I’m homeschooling and caring for my 4 children. And I’m not alone. Countless other mothers are also making it work each and every day.
While there’s no magic formula or secret to work-from-home success, there are free time management tools and tips you can use to make better use of your time.
Apps to Help You Stay Focused
These time management apps are some of the best ways to make the best use of your time. They’re all easy to use and they can all help you get a better handle of how to work from home without losing your mind.
You won’t need all of these apps since some of them essentially do the same thing. My advice is to take a look at all of them and then choose what looks best for your situation. It’s my hope that implementing at least one of these practices can lead you to greater productivity.
Think of Toggl as your virtual timesheet. If you’re a freelancer, this is an excellent way to track your time.
Even if you aren’t doing client work, I find Toggl extremely valuable.
Use it for a week or two to track everything you’re doing, from cleaning the kitchen to playing with the kids (to spending time scrolling the Internet). Tracking what you’re working on – and not working on – during the day can be a very eye-opening experience. It’s a good way to see those wasted moments throughout the day that you could put to better use.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a work from home mom, it’s that multitasking is not the solution to getting stuff done.
Focus Booster works exactly as advertised, helping you to focus on the task at hand – and only the task at hand. It does this using the Pomodoro Technique, which separates actions into certain chunks of time. If you work on the task at hand without getting sidetracked during the allotted time period, you’ll get a lot more done in the long run.
If you struggle with procrastination or have difficulty tuning out distractions and attending to the things that you need to do, Focus Booster is a must for your productivity. With the free version, you get 20 sessions a month.
Trello is the platform I use to keep track of just about everything related to my work. It’s a platform that allows you to keep track of very organized to-do lists. I also use the Chrome Web Extension, which allows me to quickly and easily copy webpages and save them to a certain board, or list.
Trello helps me make the most of my time because it allows me to see exactly what I need to be doing to move forward in my business.
Remember the Milk
Remember the Milk is another way to manage all the to-do lists and tasks for your home or business. Organize all of your tasks into lists, add labels, and sync them across all of your devices.
This would be a great app to use if you’re constantly jotting down notes in a notebook or on post-its. Rather than leave these scraps of paper lying all over the place, use this to keep your thoughts organized.
Rescue Time is another time-tracking app that logs what you’re doing when you’re at your computer. This is software that you install on your computer, so you don’t need to worry about the hassle of turning it on and off when you want to track your time.
There are several paid plans available, but the free version is enough to get you started.
I had honestly never heard of this app until I was researching for this article, but now it’s one of my favorites!
Have you ever found yourself scrambling for a piece of paper to jot down a note or idea that strikes you at the most inopportune time? If you’re anything like me, you may find yourself waking up at 4 am with just the right idea for that big project you’ve been working on.
Once you have Evernote, you’ll no longer need to waste time looking for (and then losing!) a post-it note.
Evernote is a platform that captures all those random thoughts and ideas you have for your business. Use it to save images, capture web pages, record meetings or interviews, create lists, and more. Install the app on your phone and then sync it with your desktop to keep yourself organized on the go.
Tips for Being More Efficient with Your Time
While technology is great, it isn’t the only way you can better manage your time. In fact, some of these free time management tools are better for you in the long run, because they involve you changing your habits rather than relying on an outside device.
Start Time Blocking
Time blocking is a way you can structure your day in order to get the most done.
In order to do it, you schedule out your entire day in blocks of time, from the moment you wake up to the time you go to bed at night. The key here is to make sure you block off personal time, as well as work time.
Be realistic about what you need to accomplish for the week work-wise, but don’t forget about your other obligations. Everything from cooking dinner to walking the dog should have its place in your schedule.
I’m going to be honest here – while I love the time blocking idea, the method is not always practical for a mom with kids at home.
You and I both know that kids aren’t exactly going to follow the schedule we’ve laid out for the day, especially if they’re young. Problems happen. Accidents come up. Fights break out. The list goes on.
Anything and everything could disrupt your time blocking plans, but I don’t think that’s a reason to ditch this method altogether. I’ve found that just implementing time blocking to the best of my abilities, even if those abilities are imperfect, is much better for me than not doing it at all.
Batch Your Tasks
Batching is when you lump a group of similar tasks together and then work only on that task.
For example, if you’re a writer and you have several articles to write, you could focus only on outlining all your articles at once and then do research during another time block.
Doing things this way instead of each article (or task) piece by piece saves time and increases your productivity since you aren’t moving from one task to another as often.
Do the Hardest Thing First
Most people are most productive in the morning (after coffee, of course). Since that’s when your brain is freshest, it makes sense to tackle your most difficult tasks during these hours.
If we have an off day from school (which means I’m not responsible for homeschooling that day), I definitely use my morning hours to get my big tasks out of the way.
If we do have school, like most days, I’m up and at ’em early so that I can get a bit of writing in before the day’s tasks take over.
A Note About Time Management
Do you have any time management tricks up your sleeve? I’d love to hear them!
After all, while it’s easy for me to give advice, living out that advice isn’t always a walk in the park.
In all honesty, working from home while caring for my four children definitely comes with its challenges. But, it’s a life that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
With the use of some of these tools, I’m always striving to improve the systems I have in place as I juggle all my balls. In the end, my goal is to become better at managing my work and my family life, and I’ve found that some of these tips help me to do just that.