The past year and a half have really put our time management skills to the test. Trying to micromanage working from home, taking care of kids, AND taking care of ourselves at the same time is proving to be absolutely as difficult as one would imagine.
However, I have found a few tricks that help me juggle my schedule and (mostly) keep from losing my mind trying to run my freelance copywriting business, and take care of my toddler (omghe’satoddleralreadyIcan’tevenhandleit) full time. Take a look below in case you might find them helpful.
Number 1: Prepare the night before
One of the most important actionable measures I take to improve time management is preparing the night before. I do my best to get things done like cleaning up the house (you don’t need to tidy your house if you don’t want to, I just think and feel better that way).
Now that Jake’s(my toddler) older, I don’t have to worry about prepping bottles and such ahead of time, so that’s definitely a big help, but I always make sure to eliminate as many distractions the night before.
Number 2: I focus on tasks, not time
A massively important mindset shift I made was laying out my tasks and focusing on the action, not the time invested. This is especially true for freelancers/solopreneurs. It’s so important to write down what needs to be done because it becomes too overwhelming to lock up inside your head.
And, quite frankly… when you lay out the GENUINELY important tasks (I select only 3 MAJOR tasks to focus on a day), it usually isn’t nearly as insurmountable as you think. Most of us only have about 3-4 hours of “deep work” time before our brain’s are all like “Look, squirrel!”
If we learn how to recognize our good brain time, and find ways to protect it, we can get a LOT done in those handful of hours.
And never forget: 8-hour workdays were a product of capitalism, not productivity…
Number 3: Count on digital calendars and productivity apps
I’ve accepted that I can be a scatterbrain, so I never keep any “to-dos” in my head. I make sure all projects/meetings/etc are immediately laid out in writing. I put them in my favorite productivity app, Notion, and also add deadlines and the like to my Google Calendar.
Knowing I have everything scheduled, and thus won’t forget anything, ELIMINATES hours of wasted brain time stressing out, and prevents me from making errors.
Number 4: I work in time chunks
As a full-time mom, being able to sit down and complete all of my work in one long-stretch just isn’t possible at this point. My toddler is incredibly patient with me, but when he needs my full attention, he lets me know and I switch gears.
This used to be VERY stressful for me, but I’ve learned how to combat this by working in chunks.
I usually get up 1.5 hours before my son wakes up to tackle my first chunk of “light-brain” work (AKA: tasks that don’t require a lot of brainpower like answering emails, planning out my day, journaling).
Then I get him up, let him play, eat breakfast, hang out a bit. This usually takes around an hour or so, and then he’ll usually play and watch Puppy Dog Pals while I cram in another 1-2 hours of work.
Then I break again to take him on a walk, eat lunch, and lay him down for a nap. His naptime is REALLY critical time for me, as that’s when most of my “deep work” takes place. So I invest the time to set him up for success.
Does it always work out? No, of course not… but most of the time it does.
During his nap (which can stretch anywhere from 1.5-3 hours), I try to finish up the rest of my work for the day. I find that I’m usually done by around 3PM.
If, for any reason, I’m unable to finish up straggling work for the day, we have our family time until it’s Jake’s bedtime, and then I’ll pop back on the computer and finish up. Again, I focus on task completion, not time… so my actual working hours (excluding parenting and domestic work) range anywhere from 4-6 hours a day.
Number 5: Accept Reality
While this trick isn’t so much about time-management, I wouldn’t be able to implement the other 4 strategies without this one. I just have to accept our new reality. I accept that things will not always go the way I planned. I accept that I may not get all of my tasks done that I set out to do that day.
Even though my perfectionist tendencies cringe at the thought of not “maxing out on accomplishments” (and I’m not trying to humblebrag, it’s a genuinely toxic trait that weakens me as an individual and I’m trying to overcome it)… it’s critical that I just take a deep breath and, well… get over it.
In the scheme of things, I try to remember what matters most is time with Jake, and making sure he’s well-adjusted, happy, and prepared for a very different world than what most of us grew up in.
Hopefully, it’ll be a better one, but I’ll make sure he’s contributing positively no matter what.
You are genuinely doing amazing… even if it doesn’t always feel like it
While I have no doubt more parents will be adopting a form of permanent work-from-home situation, it isn’t easy, and you’re not alone if you feel overwhelmed or frustrated.
Whether you’re working 9-5 or running your own freelance business (REGARDLESS of what stage you’re in)…
Whether you have children, or don’t have children…
This shit is fucking HARD.
Stop and celebrate how well your doing today, and remember that time is a societal construct and the number of emails we reply to won’t mean jack-shit at the end lol.