What if you could balance your life and business like a time management genius?
Well, you can.
You just need the right mindset, the right tools, and the right schedule for you.
As Part 2 of the previous post on organizing your work-from-home schedule, here's a deeper exploration into building your own schedule, including step-by-step directions and a free workbook [with subscription].
Because, as a mompreneur, we have a lot relying on us:
Sure, you could totally pack up shop and be a stay-at-home mom, but that's not what you really want, is it?
I know. It's not what I want either.
I'm a better mom when I have my work in addition to my family.
But, it's tough to do both.
So, when I found a stellar way to set up my schedule, I had to share it with other mompreneurs. And that's where this post comes in...
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Take Action With 6 Step Per Day
If you find yourself with a mile long task list staring you in the face each day, you're going about daily planning all wrong.
Some may think I'm nuts for creating my own planning/planner system because I couldn't find anything that worked for me.
Later I found that others were interested in my creations, and since have turned it into a profitable business.
Whether you're as passionate as I am about planning and scheduling, we're all here for the same reason: to get and stay organized.
I found that if I schedule more than 6 tasks per day (including appointments or meetings) I'm stressed and pushing tasks onto the next day. Then the day after. And sometimes it just continued to fall like Dominoes.
Assigning no more than 6 tasks to each day will help you tackle a healthy chunk from your main to-do list every day.
Now, what if you're a work-from-home-parent with little to no help?
Break your 6 tasks into 2: 3 business-related tasks and 3 personal tasks.
I've found with this method that I'm rarely, if ever, pushing things off to the next day.
There have been plenty of times that I needed more than 3 tasks on the business side. In that case, you can simply borrow the extra task space from the personal side.
It's your schedule. It's up to you.
Break Up your day into 3's
Depending on your needs and the "severity" of your work-from-home-ness, you may want to use 2 time blocks for work and one for family. Or the other way around if you're just starting out or your business is more of a hobby.
For example, a professional friend of mine works in the morning and afternoon while her kids are at school and puts work down completely after her children are home by 3:00PM.
I'll probably work similarly after all my kids are in school, too.
Anyhow, she uses the first 2 parts of the day—the morning and afternoon—as her working time, and the late afternoon and evening are family time.
In my case, I work full-time with no active childcare right now. So I break my day up into sixths. Meaning I work in time chunks of 2 (plus) hours, 3 times a day—morning, afternoon, and evening.
Here's an infographic example:
Compartmentalize your schedule
As covered in the previous post and tickled in the above infographic, time boxing can launch your schedule into a functioning, actionable plan.
It's not easy to start. Especially if you start from zero to a minimally organized schedule.
But if you devote the time to breaking your day down into little pieces, it's much easier to digest the day as a whole.
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Got Your Scalpel? We're Going In
Okay, so I promised a dissection.
Assuming we're on the same page, I'll break down a random day in my schedule with explanations so you can take what you need before I stitch it back up.
5:00AM | Wake up. Briefly freshen up or fully get ready for the day.
5:15AM | Sit down to write. No less than 1,000 words. Goal is 5,000. This time in the morning is when the "serious" work gets done. It's 1 out of 2 of the longest uninterrupted chunks of time to work.
6:30AM | Either continue writing if I'm on a roll or stop to get at least 30 minutes of exercise in before waking the kids. Looking at me reveals that writing wins more often than not.
7:00AM | Wake the girls (if they're not already up). Get them breakfast, make sure Ava (the oldest) gets ready for school and the youngest 2 are briefed on the morning's activities.
8:00AM | Project Time.
9:00AM | Gym or outside play for 1 hour.
10:15AM | Snack time.
10:30AM | Morning movie or 2 educational TV shows to wind down and relax. Sometimes I work a bit during this time (on something that doesn't require a lot of intellect—like scanning through and organizing emails, designing a new graphic or image for a blog post or social media, or brainstorming ideas for future content, courses, and more). It all depends on the house's cleanliness or if the girls want to snuggle. I'll take those precious snuggles, hands-down, any day.
12:30PM | Lunch time.
1:00PM | Nap time. Generally, I expect to be disrupted during this time (my middle girl will be 4 in February, 2016—she doesn't always nap. If she doesn't, I'll set her up with a "project" at the dining table with me or a quiet movie in my bedroom). So I tend to focus on outlining, editing, responding to email, and so on. If the girls' are still sleeping by 2:30PM, I'll answer emails for 15 minutes.
[SOMETIMES] 2:45PM | Whenever my husband is out of town or on a call, I pick up our oldest from the bus stop. So by this time I'm getting the girls up and out the door. If he's able to get her, I let the younger girls sleep till 3:30PM and continue working. Otherwise:
3:10PM | Afternoon snack time.
3:30PM | Homework time for Ava. Workbooks or coloring for the youngest 2. I'll help Ava with homework and the younger girls with their activities, but I'll also take the time to get some extra work done, if possible.
4:30PM | Clean up time. The girls pick up their rooms, any toys from downstairs, and the upstairs play area. I'll tackle any dishes or leftover laundry at this time.
5:00PM | Dinner prep and the girls take showers.
6:00PM | Serve dinner. We spend an hour talking about our days and just hanging out as a family.
» Most Mondays - Wednesdays, sometimes Thursdays, after dinner I'll head out to the local Starbucks and work for about 3 hours. Otherwise:
7:00PM | 30 minutes of reading aloud for Ava.
7:30PM | Girls' bed time.
7:45PM | I take a shower.
8:00PM | I either finish/start outlining a blog post, course, or product to work on the next morning. Then after I finish up anything missed during the day, or spend time with my hubs.
10:30PM | I head into bed at this point and read for about 30 minutes or longer. Generally I try to be asleep before 11:30 so I'm not completely exhausted at 5:00AM the next morning.
On average, I work 8 to [sometimes] 10 hours a day, 5-6 days a week.
I, now, completely stop working when I'm with my family. No email, no phone, nothing.
Quality family and work times as a full-time work-from-home-mom is possible. When you balance it well.
Take Action On Your Schedule
Grab some index cards or sticky notes—something you can move around and segment—colored highlighters, and a pen or pencil.
- You can start by listing out all the daily activities you'll need for your kids, errands, socializing, exercising, to work, to contact people, and so on. List them separately on the cards or sticky notes. I suggest also estimating how much time it takes or how much allotted time you need to complete each activity on the card or note.
- Then create categories—like Personal, Family, Work, Errands. Maybe write these down with a Sharpie® so they stand out from the activities.
- After you've labeled your categories, set them up in line vertically across your dining table, coffee table or (cleared off) kitchen counter. Then start organizing the daily activities under the proper categories.
Although this specific example was the beginning outline for #OneWeekWebsite, it's still a visual for what I'm talking about:
The purple sticky notes on index cards across the top would signify your categories. And all the hot red-orange sticky notes would represent your daily activities organized within the categories.
See what I mean?
- Now, assign colors to the categories. To borrow the image I used in the last post, here's my color scheme as an example:
- Now write down your wake up time to sleep time on a piece of paper (or use the worksheets download at the bottom of this post). Make sure to split your time up by every 30 minutes instead of by hours. It'll give you a little more room to get specific.
And so on.
- You can start with planning out 1 day or plan out your whole week on paper before committing to your calendar app. I suggest focusing on 1 day at a time, but have separate sheets ready for each day so you can move things around.
- Fill in the personal obligations first. If you're working your own business as a hobby or have a full-time job outside of your business, block off that time in black so you know those time blocks are off limits to further scheduling.
- Now that you've got your obligatory chunks of time sectioned off, take your categories list and while thinking of what'll work best for you and your family, start popping in the time boxes where you need them.
Don't spend too much time trying to perfect the schedule before putting it into action. As you go, you'll realize that some time blocks will be easier at other times, or even on other days.
You'll never know until you put it into action.
For example, initially I had my middle daughter's gymnastics class on a Thursday afternoon. We'd also do our weekly outing after nap time.
I found that my girls were more difficult to communicate with and handle if we'd spend the morning at home, then out in the afternoon. So I switched all outings to morning and it was an immediate attitude fix.
From there, I adjusted the rest of the schedule to work with the outings switch.
It took several weeks to get it the way it is now. But when we were all satisfied with how things worked, I left the schedule alone.
Don't try to fix something that isn't broken.
Do you have a special strategy that helps your schedule and business run like a well-oiled machine?
Let me know @GoffCreative on Twitter!