Imagine sitting at your desk, attempting to get work done, only to be interrupted by your miniature-sized boss every 5-10 minutes asking for food, a drink, to play, etc. Pretty miserable right? That’s essentially my day-to-day as a work-at-home mama (WAHM). When I decided to become a SAHM full-time and work as a freelance writer (and now also a blogger) on the side, I had no idea what to expect. In fact, looking up “How to Work At Home With a Baby” was my number one search on Pinterest for the past two years. And while I have yet to stumble upon the “magic formula” for doing it all, I can confidently say that I know how to manage my time better and be more productive. Here, my top 6 hacks for getting things done.
Hack #1: Embrace the uncertainty
Ok, I’ll admit that this isn’t really a hack, but I believe that this is one of the most crucial steps in maintaining some type of routine throughout the day. At the beginning of my WAHM journey, I literally made myself insane trying to find a way to “do it all” while watching my son full-time. I tried implementing a strict routine that allowed me to work at the same time every day, but I quickly found that doing so was nearly impossible when raising a toddler. I’ve since learned to appreciate the flexibility of being a WAHM. I’m not stuck in an office all day, essentially forced to stare a screen for hours on end and pump out work. Yes, my “working hours” are constantly changing, but I’ve learned that I just have to make the most of the times when I can sit down and work, and be present with my son during the rest of my day.
Hack #2: Carve out realistic “working hours”
When I first had Liam, I thought I could get work done while he played right beside me. Maybe that works for some moms, but my son wants a lot of attention; he’s constantly asking me to sit on the floor and play with him. I attempted to wake up super early and work super late, but realistically, I was so tired from staying up until midnight working, that I was literally useless during the morning hours. There was no way I could write with my brain trying to function on 4-5 hours of sleep. Now I know that my guaranteed working hours are during nap time (usually 1-1.5 hours) and nighttime (typically 2-3 hours), so if I am diligent about my time, I can get 3-4.5 hours of work done a day and about 15-20.5 hours a week at a minimum. (I’m also lucky that my family and my husband’s family help out a ton, so I can usually pull more hours than that!)
Hack #3: Batch similar tasks
“Batching” is huge amongst professionals around the globe, and with good reason—it allows you to make the most of your time. So what is batching exactly? Essentially,
Hack #4: Always have a few distractions on hand
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had an interview for a story scheduled (during nap time, of course) only for it to be pushed back to a time when my son is awake. If you’ve ever had a business call of any kind, then you know that it’s absolutely unprofessional to have a toddler chanting “Mama” multiple times during the conversation. For that reason, I’ve developed a few strategies for distracting my toddler for 10-20 minutes at a time:
Distraction #1: Containment + Snacks
This one is definitely my go-to move. If I have to take a call or get an assignment out quickly before my deadline, I will strap Liam into his high chair and give him a couple snacks, a book and/or a toy, put on his favorite show, then quietly sneak out of the room. Works literally every time!
Distraction #2: Go outside
While this one doesn’t always go as smoothly as Distraction #1, it usually does the trick. I’ll put a few of my son’s favorite toys together (his water table, his playhouse, his easel, etc.), once again leave out a couple of snacks, then do my thing on my laptop on the opposite side of the yard. I am still able to watch him, but, because we’re outside, he’s more likely to play on his own for a little bit.
Distraction #3: Enlist a relative for help
If you’re lucky enough to have family/friends/a babysitter close by, use them! It’s far better to enlist someone to watch your child for a couple of hours than to attempt to watch your child and get work done at the same time. (Neither work nor your kid gets your full attention!)
Hack #6: Commit to productivity
Multi-tasking may be effective in some cases, but, most of the time, it compromises the quality of work. During my working hours, I commit to my assignments and nothing else. As tempting as it may be to fold laundry, clean the house or work out, I force myself to stay on track and get my work done during the allotted time. It’s not easy at all—the thought of leaving dirty dishes in the sink literally makes me anxious—but it does help me stay focused. I can get my cleaning done when my son is awake– I can’t edit an assignment when he’s running around the house. Keeping that in the back of my mind allows me to sit down and remained zeroed in on the task at hand.
What are some of your biggest tips for staying productive at home? Share below!