GUEST POST from Suzanne Brown of Mompowerment
I’m a working mom and, as if that isn’t already a challenge, I’m a part-time working mom. I admit that productivity happens to be one of my hot buttons. As I worked more on my book (launching in early fall 2017), I realized that productivity is actually a big part of working part-time. I work about 25-30 hours each week, which includes time in the evening as necessary.
My perspective on productivity is that I try to make the most of my work hours, so that I have more time to do what I want. For me, that mean time with my young boys, once they’re home from school. For you, it could be hanging out with family or friends, learning a new skill, or even starting a new business.
Here are 5 tips that help keep me on track when it comes to productivity and time management. They might be small changes or, for some, they could be big shifts. See what applies to your situation.
Pre-Planning the Night Before
The night before is so important when you’re trying to be productive. Remember, you can look at productivity from many angles; it’s not only in the moment when you’re working.
Professionally speaking, I use the night before to plan what I’m working on the next day, especially since my prime work time is in the morning. I might grab bullet points for blogs I’m planning on writing or jot down a few ideas for an email response to a client. You get the idea. Use the night before to gather what you need and prepare, so you can hit the ground running the next day.
If you have kids, you can use the night before in many ways like getting kids to pick their outfits or packing the baby bag for daycare. Some moms make lunches for kids the night before. I don’t do that, but I do things like wash fruit for my kids’ lunches, put snacks that don’t need refrigeration into backpacks, etc. Do whatever will help you be quicker in the morning. You can also use the time to pick out your clothes, especially if you have a meeting or presentation. Don’t wait to do that until the morning of. What happens if you can’t find the skirt that goes with a jacket you want to wear or you realize there is a spot on the shirt you had selected in your head?
Batch Your Time
Batch your time. Instead of going back and forth between activities in your business, do things in blocks of time. You spend a lot of mental energy going back and forth between business activities such as writing, answering emails, and answering calls, etc. I get into a zone on what I’m doing and it helps me be more efficient with my time.
The batching also helps you schedule time for the things in your business. For example, have time you dedicate to working on your client’s business or times of the day you work on and respond to email. Even schedule time to talk to clients or potential clients. Some people I interviewed for my book dedicate specific days for some of these activities. If you want to start implementing this, especially the dedicated days to specific activities, it might take some retraining of your clients’ expectations.
I also use Pomodoro technique to make the most of my batching. I work for 25 minutes and then I take a five-minute break. I’ve done it for so long that I naturally stop about 25 minutes into something. And I make the most of those 5 minutes — check social media, put load of laundry for the washer. The key is that whatever the 5-minute task is, I have it ready to go. I’ve already sorted the laundry or maybe that’s a 5-minute task. I already know what I’m posting on social media. It might take practice to figure out what you can fit into 5-minute windows.
Work on Top Priorities First
When you have a long to do list, it can feel good to check several things off. Don’t do it, though. Focus on what you need to focus on first. Prioritize your list and get to must do’s before your general to do list. That way, if nothing else gets done because your priority took longer to do than expected, it’s still done. This might be a shift in how you think, but part of productivity is being efficient with your time and making sure key projects, goals, etc. are done.
Have 3-5 Specific Goals for the Day
Don’t try to achieve too much and feel disappointed when you don’t. Having 3-5 specific goals for a day, including a top goal or priority, is reasonable. But those goals can’t be large, such as redo website. Each of those 3-5 goals is a bigger goal, broken into more bite-sized chunks. That way it’s more reasonable and more likely to be something you can complete. It’s even better if you can clearly show how multiple tasks keep moving your forward and don’t forget to prioritize your goals.
Self-care Helps with Productivity
It’s really hard to be at your most productive when you’re not taking care of yourself and making sure to meet your own needs. Especially if you’re a working mom, you might be working on everyone else’s needs and forgetting your own.
Self-care doesn’t have to be a daily or weekly visit to the spa. It can be making sure you have healthy food choices for your lunch and snacks (not only for your family), taking time to exercise, and getting enough water and sleep. If you want to include a daily moment, my trick is to do it before I get out of bed. I do a daily check, while I’m still in bed to see how I’m feeling. I can make any adjustments almost immediately. And, honestly, there are days when I need to do a quick meditation to get into the right mindset. My favorite tool for this is www.calm.com.
Is there an aspect of being productive that you struggle with? Do you have any easy-to-implement tips that work for you in the area of productivity? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.
Suzanne Brown is a wife and mother to two young boys. She works as a strategic marketing and business consultant. In addition to her consulting, her current passion project is writing a book, which will be out in September 2017. As research for her book, she interviewed more than 110 professional part-time working moms and the book is sprinkled with their insights, advice, and stories. Suzanne blogs weekly about topics related to work, family, time management, productivity, networking, and work-life balance at www.mompowerment.com.