Organization can be a great challenge for some work at home moms (WAHMs). For others, it comes naturally. Still others wish they could be more organized but don’t know where to begin. Regardless, getting organized can really help you run an effective business from home. Here are some tips. The Calendar.
Your calendar can be a simple notebook, an online calendar, or a business day planner from an office supply store. Some WAHMs like a big desk calendar; others prefer an hourly rather than a daily or weekly approach. Choose what works for you – if you have trouble organizing yourself, a more hourly approach may help in the beginning. If you are naturally task oriented and ordered, a weekly calendar might work better for you.
The calendar is where you divvy up your time. It’s where you prioritize the urgent tasks and separate them from the less urgent ones. Your calendar is also where you note the time it takes for repeated tasks – making meals, running errands, doing laundry, bedtime routine with the kids, etc. It can really help to go ahead and write those things in just so you can realistically see how many hours you have to devote to work. Quick Meals.
Meal preparation can take some time, especially if you are concerned about your family eating fresh, whole foods made from scratch. However, you can cut corners on time and not necessarily on health. Here are some ideas for taking a load off of meal prep:
Have someone in the family go to the store for you. Keep your list specific and easy to read.
Divide up meal preparation among family members (this depends on the age and number of people in your family, of course, and does not apply to everyone). Let everyone in the family choose a day when he or she makes dinner, or helps make dinner.
Delegate clean-up to other family members as well.
Food does not have to be elaborate to be healthy. Pasta tossed with steamed veggies is quick and healthy, and lean meats like turkey can be popped in the oven and baked while you work. Save the gourmet experiments for the weekends.
This is one of those questions that work at home moms (WAHMs) often ask themselves – in fact, it’s often something potential WAHMs ask before they even begin working from home: how are you going to balance work, home and family? No one is perfect at this, and no one has the perfect formula. But, there are some good tips out there on how to balance these important elements of your life. Here are some of those tips. Organize Your Time.
As a mom, it can sometimes seem like everyone wants a piece of your time and attention every minute. It helps to look at time as a big pie – if you take out a piece now, that’s one less piece that you’ll have later. So, divide up the pie.
You can make a pie chart of your day if you want to, but a day planner or online calendar will work just fine. This might work best if you do it weekly rather than daily. And it does not have to be done in this order – just because business tasks are listed first here does not mean they are the most important. If family time is a bigger priority for you, then list it first.
First, list everything you need to do for your business that week, dividing it up into urgent priorities and not-so-urgent ones. Then estimate the hours that the urgent ones will take, and plug those hours into your work week. Those are the non-optional work hours. Then, plug in the less-urgent business activities – maybe using a different color – so you know those are not absolutely vital.
After that, make a list of household chores for that week – laundry, meals, errands, etc. Divide those up among the non-work hours. Take into consideration thinkgs like weekly events (religious activities, soccer games, etc.) that will require more laundry. If possible, set this weekly household task list up to repeat each week so these things will be on autopilot and won’t require re-scheduling each week. There’s no need to re-invent the wheel every week!
Make another list of family time. Do your kids go to school? Do you homeschool? What about family dinners and game nights together? What about a date with your spouse, or if your single, a date with a friend? Schedule in these social things into your calendar too, and rearrange accordingly. Maybe a non-vital business task can be set aside to spend some extra time with your kids this week. Give yourself time off.
People who work in an office get weekends off. While you may not be able to spare two whole days every week, set aside time one day a week where you can rest and spend time with family. Organizing your time is fine, but a little down time can be therapeutic…even if you have to schedule it in! Consider a mother’s helper.
Mother’s helpers can be such a help for busy WAHMs. Mother’s helpers come to your house rather than you having to drop your kids off with them. They are cheaper than a babysitter, and your kids still stay at home with you present. The mother’s helper can help out around the house, entertain the kids or even run a short errand. Julianne Alvarez-Wish is a military wife, mother, business owner, professional writer, blogger and legislative advocate. She is the Director of Communications for Our Milk Money, the Colorado State Leader for the National Association for Moms in Business and the owner of Buy By Mom and Buy By Mom Blog. She is the Colorado Springs Stay-at-Home Mom Examiner for Examiner.com. She also blogs at A Wishful Thought. Her passion, purpose and goal is to help parents work from home so they can be home with their children.
Having a planner – whether it be paper or electronic – is the first step to getting yourself organized. However, just having a planner in your possession isn’t enough – you need to use it and maximize it to make it work for you.
Size. This is largely a matter of personal preference. Some people prefer large 8 1/2 x 11 planner while others may prefer a slim electronic version. It should comfortably fit in your purse or pocket.
Views. You planner should have different views so you can look – at a glance – at a day, week, month, etc.
Location. Always have it with you. It won’t help you if you always leave it somewhere.
Recording. Write everything in your planner. Your planner should be the first place an event gets recorded. If you follow this your planner will be up-to-date and a good central reference for you.
Access. Use a tab or paperclip to ‘today’ so you can quickly reference your schedule. Many electronic PDAs have this feature.
Lists. Have ‘to-do-‘ lists and daily action plans. ‘To-do’ lists should be categorized. For example, home, family, social, business. Items from your ‘to-do’ list will will become items on your daily action plan so you can work toward accomplishing your ‘to-do’ lists.
Time. Learn to estimate time. When you add ‘to-to’ list items to you daily action plan you need to determine how long they will take to accomplish. If you’re like most people, you underestimate how long this take. Be realistic.
Color code. This is one of my favorites. Not only does color coding make you planner visually appealing, it makes it easy to see – at a glance – what your day, week, month is bringing. Use general topics for colors: family, finance, health, personal, spiritual, etc. Use a different color for each topic. Use highlighters for paper planners and different color fonts/highlights on your PDA.
Contingency Planning. Take into account ‘what-ifs’ when planning. Things pop up – phone calls, traffic, long lines. Don’t pack your day so full that you cannot possibly get your list accomplished. When scheduling appointments, allow enough time in between for travel, meals, etc.
Changes. Changes are OK! You have the right to change plans and priorities. Your planner works for you!
Your planner is not rigid. Be realistic – your planner works for you – not the other way around. Your planner should be a tool to help you achieve your goals.