Whether you work from home by choice, or whether you have found yourself working from home due to Covid, I wrote this article to help you stay productive as a work-at-home mama (WAHM).
For maximum productivity, I suggest you make yourself a cup of coffee. Let’s get started!
Productive WAHMs make planning a part of their routine
Managing your time takes practice. To be honest, this is not something I was ever good at, despite my type-A personality. It’s so easy to look at planning as something you just don’t want to do!
But trust me, planning pays off by saving you time later. Knowing what you need to do each day will help you take action towards your goals, whether work-related or not.
If you are new at planning, I suggest you start by journaling. I never did this, but it might help someone, so I want to mention it!
In order to get more organized, first you need to understand where you are currently spending all your time. Get a journal or a few pieces of draft paper or grab your phone or a papyrus, idk, whatever you have to write on. Start jotting down what you’re doing pretty much every minute of every day. Do this for a couple of days, a week maybe maximum.
Then take a step back and go through everything you wrote down. Are there areas where you seem less than productive? Are you binge-watching Netflix? Scrolling endlessly through Reddit? (Guilty, and guilty). I am sure there is room for improvement. This exercise will be super helpful for my next tip.
Do a mock schedule
I tend to skip the journaling and jump straight into a mock schedule.
Grab your journal and reread it again. Pull out the tasks you need to do daily and weekly, and then literally schedule them out hour by hour, Monday to Sunday. Looking at your schedule this way is like a budget—only it’s not for your wallet; it’s for your time.
This is not to say you must strictly adhere to this schedule. It’s a mock schedule, a way to see how you can better manage your time. Try it out anyway and see if it works for you.
I like to revisit my mock schedule after a few months to see what worked and what didn’t work, and make adjustments.
Set goals, then make a list of daily to-dos
I became more productive when I told myself that I needed to do x, y, and z every.single.day. If you already did the journaling and mock scheduling, you’ve identified x, y, and z for you.
Everyone’s list will look different. Some of you might have loads of housework on there. Others might schedule time with friends, family, or pets. Since this is an article for productive WAHMs, you also need to set goals for your work.
Let me give you an example. Right now, I’m juggling email management for my day job, freelancing gigs, and blogging. I set my goals at checking email twice per day, applying to 2 freelancing gigs per day, and writing 1 blog post per day.
This is not even my ideal schedule, ladies. I am required to do email management 6 days a week, otherwise I would have preferred to work in batches per day (such as, do email management all day Mondays, then do freelancing all day Tuesdays, and blogging all day Wednesdays… you get the idea).
If you can batch your work tasks per day, great. If not, no sweat. It’s important to keep checking in with yourself to see what’s working and what’s not.
Get an accountability partner
Even better, if you can get an accountability partner, go for it. This doesn’t need to be anything formal. A friend or family member will do. You could even find someone online, like in a Facebook group for example.
Right now, mine is my husband. He’s at home right now, too, due to Covid! Every day we have lunch together (which is so, so nice!) and we talk about the gigs I applied to in the morning. Just knowing I will be having that conversation with him at noon, halfway through my work-at-home day, is enough to motivate me to get those proposals in.
Of course, my regular boss is my accountability partner for my email management! Then for blogging, my accountability partner is myself at the moment. I love blogging, so it doesn’t feel like work at all! But there is always plenty to get done. Just knowing that I am showing up for myself every single day is the greatest motivator.
Productive WAHMs know how to juggle kids and work at home
How do you keep your kids busy while working from home? Either you can enlist help from someone outside the home, or you can get creative and manage your time with your kids at home all day.
Who says that a productive SAHM or a WAHM doesn’t still need childcare? I agonized over this for some time, but in the end, I decided that in order to really focus and concentrate (especially on proofreading!) I needed someone to watch my daughter.
There are a few options here in France, and I picked the one that was best for our family: hiring a nanny. C goes to her home just down the street. I thought I would feel so guilty, but it turned out to be such a good fit for us, that I didn’t need to feel guilty at all! I can see that C just loves going there. In exchange, I get a silent home to work in.
Looking back, I had been feeling so guilty about working at home when C was around, because I wanted to give her my full attention. This way, I can’t give her my attention, because she isn’t there, allowing me to fully focus on my work. Then, when I pick her up and take her home, I can be fully present with her. Compartmentalizing my life this way really worked for me.
Some mamas just prefer to care for their children full-time. If that’s you, I worship you. More power to you. Others might not be able to procure childcare, maybe for financial reasons. Still others have found themselves suddenly working remotely and without their usual childcare—thanks, Covid!
Whatever your situation, you’re going to need to plan and schedule time out of your day to get work and chores done. Go back to the beginning of this article and read about scheduling! Look for pockets of time in your day.
I get my email management done during naptime, and after my daughter’s bedtime, for example. At one point I was waking up an hour early to do freelance work. My husband also offers to watch our daughter for me for a few hours each day so that I can blog. How nice of him! (Is this technically childcare? Should I be paying him?)
No matter how old your children are, I highly suggest that you start making independent play a habit. Start in small increments—even just 5 minutes a day at first, then slowly build up. Explain to your kids that you need time to get x, y, and z done, and that you need them to do an activity on their own for x amount of time. Try this for babies, too! You are fostering the channels of communication. You are honoring your needs and respecting your kids enough to hold them to this responsibility. No matter what your situation, independent play will serve you in the long run.
My best tips for the work-life balance of productive WAHMs
When you work from home, all your responsibilities are blended together. You need to find a way to balance them so that your work still gets done, but it doesn’t take precedence too often over your house and family. How do you maintain your sanity and the sanctuary of your chez toi when you know your work is waiting for you right here at home?
Spend an hour in the morning doing something that makes you happy. Wake up early if you have to. Fill your cup first, so you have the right mindset and energy to fill your kids’ cups.
What do I do in this hour? First, I open my window and sit up in bed. I usually work on a dream board or watch a motivational video. Sometimes I try to include some positive affirmations. If I were really motivated, I might do some yoga.
The basic idea is to do something that gives you pleasure. I find that I can better handle the unpredictability and responsibilities of the daily “grind” when I know I have already taken time for myself. Conversely, if I were to wait until the end of the day to do something for myself, I’d spend all day grumpy! No one benefits from that.
Remember the schedule you made and adjusted till it worked for you? Stick to it! That means that if a friend invites you to lunch during the week, think about whether it really makes sense for your time management before you say yes.
When I started working from home 5 years ago, I fell into the trap of thinking that I had the ultimate flexible schedule. I would run errands whenever it pleased me, invite friends over, go out to lunch. But I wasn’t very productive.
You don’t need to cut your friends and other fun activities out of your life. What helped me was to create boundaries for myself, and to let everyone know. I decided to keep more or less a regular work schedule of getting the bulk of my work done on weekdays, in order to reserve weekends for fun.
It might look totally different for you, but stick to the schedule that works best for your life. If you find yourself not meeting your goals or not being productive, you might need more boundaries.
Oh, yeah—and productive WAHMs need coffee!
By now, you know that coffee is my go-to. But it’s less about the caffeine rush and more about taking a break during my day, just for myself. Taking 5 or 10 minutes to brew a cup of hot coffee is a little ritual I have, like a reward—a time to refocus.
You got this, boss mama!
For further reading, I would recommend you check out this post:
Jessica is an American expat living the dream in Normandy. She is wife to a French hubby and mama to a Franco-American daughter, born in 2018, and one whippet. Passionate about all stages of writing, this Francophile created her blog in 2020 to help others navigate motherhood with a focus on conscious parenting and bilingual parenting. Bonne lecture !
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