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Many people tell me they would love to work from home but don’t think they have the discipline. They have visions of getting distracted on Facebook, running errands all day or spending time cooking, cleaning or gardening instead of working. And some of my clients who are stay-at-home moms often have a difficult time adjusting to the home business world because they already have a full plate. They can’t figure out how to squeeze in time for work.
For me, the daily life of working from home is more appealing than challenging. I think it’s because I’ve been doing it for 18 years and have worked out a few systems to ensure things go smoothly. The Christian business owners and mom entrepreneurs I work with have adopted these strategies and they’re starting to notice big results! They’re more productive and efficient. They have more passion for their business. And – most importantly – they are able to be more fully present at home and at work.
Ready to learn our secrets? Here are some of my favorite tips for balancing family and a home business.
Time Management and Productivity Tips for Home Based Business Owners
1. Create a Schedule. If you’re a creative mom, you may have an aversion to schedules and deadlines. But do yourself a favor and try it for a week. Set aside a specific time slot for your business instead of working only when you feel inspired, or if you have the energy, or while the kids are napping.
Even if you can only devote an hour a day to your business, it’s important to know exactly when that hour is and what you intend to do with it. You can accomplish a great deal in 60 minutes of focused work. But if you try to steal five minutes here and ten minutes there, you’ll likely find yourself stuck in the same place for weeks.
2. Establish Boundaries. This is where most home based business owners struggle. They flow back and forth from mom to entrepreneur all day, never sure which role they should be playing. You know what I’m talking about – you’re working on a project and your child wants you to play a game of Go Fish, so you try to do both at the same time. Or, you make empty promises that Mommy will play the game in ten more minutes.
When you set boundaries, like designated work space and specific office hours, it gives you the freedom to concentrate fully on the task at hand – whether at work or play. But you have to honor those boundaries – by not taking personal calls or answering personal emails while you are working, and by putting your phone out of reach when it’s time to be with your children. Your family will appreciate the boundaries- they’ll learn to recognize when Mommy is working and when she is available, rather than constantly having to compete for your attention.
3. Find Reliable Childcare. I remember when my oldest son was a baby and I was working from home on a writing assignment for a large law firm. I had it planned out perfectly. I would have two hours a day to write – during naptime. All of a sudden, my perfect napper decided not to sleep every afternoon. So after weeks of frustration and misplaced anger (sorry, Andrew!), I ended up writing while my son watched TV – a decision I still regret.
So if your children are not yet in school, and you have a home based business, find a consistent and reliable form of childcare – even if it means swapping playdates with a friend.
4. Let Go of Something. Chances are you were a busy mom even before you started your business. Or maybe you were a busy entrepreneur before you became a mom. Either way, when you add a new responsibility, you’ve got to let go of something else. Nobody is going to do this for you. You have to be the one to reprioritize and cut back on the activities and obligations that no longer seem to fit.
5. Don’t Compromise Sleep. Remember when your baby was born and the doctor told you to be sure to take naps whenever the baby slept? Of course you were thinking of all the dirty laundry that need to be washed and the fact that you hadn’t taken a shower all day. But if you were smart, you took a nap. Because you knew that a cranky Mommy is no good to anyone.
The same thing holds true now. If you’re burning the midnight oil because you can only work on your business while the kids are asleep, stop right now. The lack of sleep will catch up with you and you’ll find yourself sick and unhappy. I can tell you from experience – it isn’t worth it. You’ll be a much better mompreneur if you are sleeping well.
6. Hold a Weekly Planning Meeting. Ever have one of those days when you were busy all day but you have no idea what you did? This happens when we are not clear on our priorities. We bounce from one thing to the next without completing anything. And we get distracted on a seemingly worthwhile task (like cleaning out the fridge) only to avoid doing what really needs to be done (like completing a project for a client).
The solution? A weekly planning meeting – one of the best productivity tips for mompreneurs. Take 30 minutes at the beginning of the week to establish your top priorities for the week. This is not about writing a “to do” list. This is a chance for you to focus on your goals for your business, your family and even yourself. Make a list of all the recurring activities you do – such as marketing, content creation, phone calls, errands, meal preparation, house cleaning, errands, carpools, paying bills, etc. Then go through the list each week and identify your goals and tasks for the week so you can schedule them on the calendar.
7. Get Out of the House. This is difficult for many moms with small children. After all, one of the reasons we choose a home business is because we want to be home with our families. But when you are running a business in a vacuum, it can get a bit lonely.
One of my mentors says, “An hour in front of an audience is worth six months behind the desk.” While there is a lot of connecting that begins online, the real relationships are still developing in person. So make it a part of your regular schedule to attend local networking meetings, conferences or events where you can meet clients, colleagues and mentors to support you on your journey. Not only will you make new friends, but the fresh air and change of scenery will be good for you!
What are your favorite tips for working from home?