I have struggled the last few weeks to get any writing done. I have found myself crawling into bed at the end of the day, without turning my computer on or picking up a pen. This is no way to get my novel finished! Let alone client work.
I guess I can be excused at the moment, with a baby and toddler to look after. These excuses will only last so long though.
So I asked myself, how can I manage my time better?
How can I manage my time better as a work-at-home-mum?
For starters, I had to be kinder to myself. After all I do have a baby and a toddler, nursing shifts and running a household to consider. I have to stop putting so much pressure on myself to do everything.
Next thing I need to re-evaluate the tight time constraints that I impose on myself.
Can I really keep blogging twice a week on top of everything else? How often can I blog to maintain an online presence and meet all my other deadlines? I have to say my blog posting has suffered. It has been put on the back burner as I prioritised paying client work and motherhood!
How do I manage my time?
It used to be that on a Sunday evening I would sit down and plan out my week, almost to the hour. When I was at work, when I would exercise, when I would write, complete housework, shop, cook, catch up with friends etc.
When I left my regular nursing job for 12 months of maternity leave, I thought “Great, now I will have more time for writing”. Ha Ha! What was I thinking?
It is hard to fit in everything with a toddler and newborn. Housework, exercise, personal hygiene, shopping, walking the dog. Not to mention the day to day care of your children. The list goes on.
So how do I plan my time?
Instead of planning what times I want to do everything as I used to, I set myself a priority task to complete each day. Be that as much as writing a whole chapter, or as small as one scene, planning a blog or my next writing project, or some basic client work. Whatever the task, I make sure that I can achieve it in the limited time each day I have for my freelance writing business.
I set completion dates for each task and project so that I have to work to a deadline, which helps to keep me motivated and moving forward. My trick from now will be to ensure I don’t set unreachable deadlines; to give myself extra time to complete tasks. I have learnt that I need to be more realistic with timeframes, and from now on I am sure that pressure will ease off somewhat.
Another essential aspect to managing your time is to learn how to say NO!
No, I cannot take on that project at this point in time, however I have time available at a future date.
I will not fold that basket of laundry right now as I have to finish up this blog.
No, I cannot meet you for coffee right now as I have to finish up client work.
No, I cannot write that proposal. My baby needs me!
The important thing for me is whenever I get some spare time during the day I write.
I also set aside an hour each night where I can dedicate my time and energy to bashing out some words without all the distractions of motherhood, day job and chores. I may not get as much done as quickly as I used to, but I am still working at something I love and turning it into a career.
During this hour or so I have set aside to write I make sure I have no distractions. No TV or social media. I have my cup of tea, water and snacks at hand, then simply focus on what needs to be done for that hour.
I have also recently started “batching” my tasks. Batching is a relatively new concept to me (I think I am late to the party), but I absolutely love it. I find I am more productive and achieve a lot more by batching.
If you don’t know what batching is, you should look into it! It is where you group the same tasks together, tick them off and then move onto the next group of tasks. So instead of coming up with a blog idea, outlining that blog, then researching, writing, creating images, editing and then scheduling it all in the same block of time, I work on several blogs at once. I set aside time to come up with several blog ideas and outline them all. Then the next day may be researching. My next block of time will be writing them all. Etcetera.
By batching like tasks it keeps my brain from having to jump from different things, it keeps me focused on similar tasks for that block of time. I am much less scattered and can create so many more good quality pieces.
I think it is also a great practice for work-at-home-mums. Rather then getting frustrated over the fact that we couldn’t get one whole blog post finished in the short hour we had allocated to work, you feel like you have ticked more off the to-do list as you may outline 6 blog posts in that hour.
Another recent change I have made is how we do our grocery shopping.
Living in the city we have the amazing ability to have our groceries delivered or to order online and someone grabs it off the shelf for you. All you have to do is rock up at the supermarket and your groceries are ready to go. Doing this has been a huge time saver, not to mention I hate grocery shopping.
I am forced to be super organized with cleaning and laundry so it actually gets done. My toddler attends childcare twice a week. On one of those days I block out the morning to give the whole house a thorough clean (usually a Tuesday morning). Between feeds, nappy changes and baby cuddles I run around the house like a madwoman to get the cleaning done. So many people have said to me, just leave the housework. Don’t do it. But I find that I can concentrate on writing better in a clean house. And I just cannot stand dirty floors and bathrooms. I have to have them clean.
To give you an idea of how I plan my week:
- Meal plan and order groceries for delivery or pick up on Monday.
- Plan out the week in my diary.
- Write out To-Do lists.
- Set priority tasks that MUST be completed each day.
Non childcare days (Monday, Wednesday, Friday):
6am – 7am:
- Unstack dishwasher
- Put on washing machine
- Check and respond to emails and other social media.
7am – 8am:
- breakfast with the kids.
- get dressed for the day.
- hang washing.
8am – 12md:
- Walk and park if weather permits.
- Grocery delivery.
- Baking and cooking for the week.
- (My daughter usually has a morning nap from 9-11).
12md – 2pm:
- Settle and nap.
- (My daughter usually sleeps from 1 -3, my 3 year old son is dropping his so it is usually “quiet time”)
WORK FOR AN HOUR OR SO (nap time permitting)
2pm – 5:30pm:
- Play outside.
- Baking/meal prep/dinner prep.
5:30pm – 8pm:
- Story time
- Settle to sleep (fingers crossed by 7:30pm)
- Quick tidy up and sweep floors (yes I generally do this every night).
- Get outfit and childcare bag ready for the next day.
- Throw some clothes in the washing machine ready for the morning.
Childcare days (Tuesday and Thursday):
I generally still start off my mornings the same (Coffee! Unstacking the dishwasher and throwing on a load of washing)
I block the morning out to clean. From lunch I work during baby naps and then enjoy her awake time with playtime and cuddles.
I have PT for an hour in the morning, so around that I WORK. Lunchtime I try catch up with friends and then the afternoon I will do some more WORK.
For each hour that I have to work I “batch tasks”. For example:
plan, outline and research blogs and content for clients.
write blogs and content.
graphics for blogs and social media posts.
Edit, review and add images to blogs and content.
Final review of blogs and content. Schedule to be posted. Send off to clients.
Sunday is planning day.
At the moment I also use Sundays to plan out content for social media and blog posts for the next week. Eventually I will build up enough that I have outlined a month, thereby only having big planning sessions monthly. Trying to find the time to schedule a month ahead is hard at the moment given the small chunks of time I have available to work in.
This is a rough idea of how my weeks are planned. It is a fluid process that changes according to how much work I have on, how my children are and what they need from me at that point in time. I am sure this will change completely as my children grow up, especially my youngest who is still having between 2-3 naps a day.
How do you plan your time as a freelancer, blogger or work-at-home-mum? What does your schedule look like? Do you use a planner? I would love to hear how you juggle it all in the comments below.
Rachel specialises in writing for small businesses in the health, fitness, pregnancy and parenthood industries. She is a mum to 2 beautiful (and highly energetic) children and a registered nurse. She advocates for all women and mums and is passionate about building community and solid networks.