"How do you DO it?!" If I had a dime for every time I heard that, I would be able to quit my home business.
Seriously, time management is a serious issue for work from home Moms. You want your home business to be a success, but you don't want the rest of your responsibilities to fall by the wayside... especially your children, who are the reason you chose to work from home in the first place.
While you're probably already doing some of the obvious things like taking advantage of naptimes and bedtime, I hope you find some additional ideas from the following time management tips to make things easier for you while working from home and caring for young children.
Time Management for your Home Business
Have a clear purpose when you go online
Whenever you go to your computer, have a definite purpose in mind. It helps to keep a notebook by your computer always with your goals and to-do lists in it, all in once place. This helps prevent you from aimlessly checking email or surfing the net and getting lost. Know what you need to accomplish, write it down, do it, and move on to the next activity.
Outsource as many tasks as you can afford Consider hiring a virtual assistant if you have a lot of administrative tasks. Or pay your kids to do things for you that are age appropriate. This can even be a tax deductible expense. Check with your accountant.
Analyze your activities
Think about the steps you engage yourself in with your business and see if those tasks are really paying off for you. A lot of work at home Moms do things like join safelists, traffic exchanges and other activities that most internet marketing experts agree are not the best use of your time. Ask people who are where you want to be in your business how they manage their time. Just because something is free doesn't mean you should be spending time doing it.
The best $20 you can spend on your business
That may be the money you spend hiring a Mommy's helper to come over and play with your children for several hours. It's amazing what you can get done during that time. Plus, your kids usually get worn out from all the fun and take longer naps. Everybody wins!
Think Assembly Line
In other words, group similar activities together. Don't check your email all day, check it two or 3 times a day (at most) and answer all the emails at the same time. When you want to make changes to your website, list them all and wait until you need to make several changes at once. When one child asks for a story gather them all around. Same thing for snacks. Run all your errands at once.
Get wireless internet and a laptop if at all possible. This can make a drastic improvement in your ability to work online around your children. You can sit on the front porch and work on your website while your kids play in the yard. Or you can drop them off at a friend's house and head to Starbucks and get online!
Use autoresponders, mailing lists and other resources to automate your business. If you find yourself typing out answers to the same questions over and over again, add pages to your website or create an ecourse or downloadable report that addresses those topics and refer your customers or downline or whomever to those.
Household time management
Simplify meal preparation and shopping
That doesn't mean you spend a lot of extra money on convenience foods that aren't good for you. But do make simple meals that even your children can help you prepare. Use your crock pot. Collect recipes that require few ingredients and no elaborate preparation.
Have a good routine for making menus and shopping. In the long run, extra trips to the store for that missing ingredient is costing you time and money. Most families eat the same 10 or so favorite dishes over and over. Enlist the help of your family to figure out what those favorites are, print up the ingredients into a shopping list, and take that to the store. Have the list posted on the fridge to mark things off as they're used up.
Get your kids to help out around the house more. Here are more work from home Mom house cleaning tips
General Mom time management tips
Identify time wasters in your day
It's a different thing for everyone. Maybe it's the TV, maybe it's friends calling to chat in the middle of the day. Maybe it's activities that seem necessary but that really aren't productive, like posting a lot in message forums. Whatever it is, identify it and eliminate it if possible, or at least manage it. Use your voicemail, and call people back when it's a better time for you. Figure out if watching Oprah or the Apprentice is really adding value to your life or just wasting your time.
Make a timer your best friend
A timer has so many uses. You can set it to tell your child when you'll be available for them. Young children have difficulty comprehending time, and the timer will set them at ease so they won't bug for you that entire period.
It also keeps you on track and helps you finish up tasks more quickly. Use it when you're reading email, cleaning house, whenever you want to accomplish something fast.
Have a Routine
Having a routine for your household chores and business activities can really help Moms with time management. When you have a good routine, you can do things without thinking, and they always take up less time that way. Keep your routines written down until they're memorized. Use an organizing calender or digital system...whatever works best for you. Make sure everyone else in your household knows the basics of your routine so that things flow more smoothly.
No one person can do everything. Your time and energy is valuable and you need to be firm in setting limits on how you spend it. Don't commit to things that you can't reasonably accomplish. Get enough rest. Learn to say No. Avoid negative people who like to whine.
As Moms we're constantly working on time management, but with creativity and good routines, we can have a thriving business and a balanced life.
About the author: Carrie Lauth publishes a "no fluff" newsletter for work from home Moms. Get your free copy plus extra subscriber goodies at: http://www.business-moms-expo.com/newsletter.html