This is part of the Work from Home Series I started in response to questions I get about how I manage my time and obligations with my family life and businesses. Today’s post is a guest post from Sharon a busy mom of 6 who shares ideas for moms on getting your household organized, using a family calendar, hosting at-home birthday parties, and creating meals that kids will eat on her blog Momof6. With 6 kids (ages 7-12) she has experience and a unique perspective on getting it all done. You can find her on Facebook, twitter, and pinterest.
Previous posts include:
- Working from Home: Money Advice for Self-Employed
- Work at Home: My Typical Day
- Work at Home: Productivity Tools
- Work at Home: Save Money & Energy
One of the greatest things about working from home is your ability to multi-task your life… to be there if one of your kids needs to stay home from school or has a mid-day doctor’s appointment, and it provides the ability to work odd-hours- at 5am before the kids are up or after 9pm when the kids are asleep. But this is also one of the toughest things about working from home… the ability to multi-task your life! Having work always just a few steps away, calling out for your attention makes it especially challenging to find a balance between your work life and your “real” life. But I believe that by being organized, setting goals, and knowing when to say “No” can help you do a better job of achieving this dual-life balance. Here are a few things that really work for me:
Write Down Your Goals
Take a few minutes to envision what would make you feel successful this year- both in work and in your personal life. Be specific and make sure your goal is measureable. So for me, while it is my “ultimate goal” to “raise my 6 kids to become healthy, happy, and self-fulfilling adults”- that’s not a goal that I am going to achieve this year, nor is it easily measureable. So my personal goals for this year are to get my younger three kids to master their math facts, to get caught up on scrapbooking, and to exercise 3 times a week. My work goals are to complete my DIY blog makeover, increase my social media interactions (I have specific numeric targets), and to achieve a specific $ of income from my blog and freelance work. If I can achieve these 6 goals I will consider this year to be a “slam dunk!”
Align Your Daily Priorities to Meet Those Goals
Anyone else around here a notorious overcommit-er? Yeah- that’s what I thought. There’s a saying that if you need something done, give it to the busiest person in the room. And that’s why so many of us work-at-home Moms are also the ones to sign up to send in brownies for the bake sale, volunteer to chaperone the school field trip, and offer our services to the 5th grade yearbook committee. But if we take a moment to review our personal and work goals before making those commitments we would see that these things do not lead us down the path towards the goals we set. In fact, they take time away that we need to work on the things we said were important to us.
When we are writing down our “to-do” list for the day/week/month… how many items are on that to-do list that having nothing to do with achieving our goals? If you use your goals as your guidepost- how many of the other items really should come off of the list? Or at least move further down the list? An example from my own life…. Enhancing my “pin it” button on my blog aligns nicely with my blog makeover goal, but spending an hour this morning pinning new recipes to my pinterest board? Not so much.
Keep Separate Lists But Just One Calendar
One organizational tip that has really helped me was to separate my work to-do list from my home to-do list. If I am allowing myself 3 hours of time dedicated to work, I want to be able to focus just on the tasks I need to move forward related to my business. I don’t want to get distracted by that reminder that I need to book a doctor’s appointment for my daughter.
But when it comes to an appointment calendar- I highly recommend having one place where you can see your entire schedule. Sure, you can color-code your personal appointments vs. your work-related ones, but you need to know if you’ve already made a commitment for 2pm next Tuesday before you schedule that conference call!
Know When To Outsource and When to Say “No”
You can’t do it all. And achieving balance doesn’t mean juggling more balls. So embrace the idea that sometimes it will make sense to “outsource” things- such as housecleaning help or web design work. To evaluate whether or not it is time to outsource, I do a quick comparison of money and time. For example, I can spend 4 hours this week cleaning my home myself- or I can pay someone $100 to do it and use those 4 hours to write 2 freelance articles allowing me to earn $200. In this case, the money/time assessment works out, because I was able to secure those writing jobs, but sometimes it doesn’t and it makes more sense for me to clean myself.
I also have really come to embrace the power of a polite “I’m sorry, but I can’t.” and can now deliver it without any guilty feelings on my end. There are only so many work hours and personal hours in my week… and if the thing you are asking me to do doesn’t align with my goals, or give me some sort of personal pleasure (like my book club meeting for instance), then I’ll have to pass for now.
It helps to understand that the idea of what feels in balance may change from season-to-season. For instance, this time of year I have my weekends available to get more personal things done, so I can stretch my work hours during the week, but come soccer season in the spring, that changes. So I get a lot less personal stuff done during that season. You have to adjust!
Assign Roles to Blocks of Time
Each morning I spend a few minutes deciding on how I am going to spend the hours of my day- which ones will be work hours and which ones will be personal hours. A typical day might look like this:
5-6:30: Work time
6:30-8:30: Personal- get kids off to school
8:30-10:30: Work time
10:30-11:30: Personal time (clean the house, laundry, return calls)
11:30-3:00: Work time
3:00-8:00: Personal time dedicated to focusing on my family- getting homework done, cooking dinner, running to practices, etc.
8:00-9:30pm: Work time
I find it so important to be clear with yourself what your time is currently dedicated to. Too often we try to multi-task which leads to low productivity on everything you are trying to do and high Mommy-guilt that you aren’t getting it done!
I would love to hear your tips on achieving work-at-home and “real life” balance, so please leave a comment and share your thoughts.
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