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There’s only so many hours in a day, so you need to make the most of them! That’s why it’s necessary to boost your productivity, eliminate things that aren’t important, and streamline what you can.
That way you aren’t wasting time and energy.
As a work at home mom, you didn’t start your business so you could be crazy busy with mindless tasks. You didn’t start it so you could spend all day working to never make an income.
No, I’m guessing you started a business for the same reason I did – to spend time with your kids WHILE helping to boost the household income. You really can do both.
Here are my favorite ways to boost your productivity. They’re all strategies I implement to grow my business while homeschooling nine kids.
1. Meal Plan
Seriously. Meal planning is a game changer. I went from standing and digging through cupboards hoping to be inspired to having an annual meal plan. Everyone knows what to expect. The kids no longer ask, “What’s for dinner” and I save a ton of time.
I know, annual meal planning doesn’t work for everyone. You may think it stifles your creativity. Or something like that.
The good news? Having a plan doesn’t mean you HAVE to stick to it every single day.
I’ve gotten a cooking bug before and spent all day making homemade potstickers with homemade wrappers for our Asian night. Usually though? I toss together a quick stir-fry or fried rice dish and call it good.
Having a plan gives you freedom. Don’t want to worry about what to cook? Stick to the plan. Have some extra time you want to devote in the kitchen? Make something new.
Bottom line? You don’t have to meal plan for the whole year to find benefits. It’s just the best way I’ve found to maximize the benefits. No matter what system you use, just plan what you’re going to eat. You’ll save time, money, and your sanity!
Want to know more about annual meal planning? Read these posts:
2. Make a Chore Chart
If your mind is like mine, you won’t be able to sit down and concentrate on your business when the house is a mess. There’s a minimum level of cleanliness I like, and if our house drops below that my productivity dips. I’m too busy worrying about the house and feeling guilty about its state that I don’t focus on the task at hand.
So the kids and I have a cleaning chart. Like our meal plan, we do this on an annual basis. It keeps me from having to constantly teach the kids how to do new chores. It also gives them a chance to perfect the skill they’re working on.
Just knowing that a certain part of the house will get cleaned gives me peace of mind. I can focus on my work, because I know that the playroom is going to be cleaned later in the week. I know that the bathroom sink will be cleaned in the morning.
If your kids aren’t helping you clean yet, teach them. It’s well worth the time investment and you’ll save so much time when they get proficient.
Want to know more about our chore chart? Read this post:
3. Get Rid of Stuff
The more stuff you have, the more stuff you have to worry about. With eleven people in one house, clutter can really multiply if we aren’t intentional. Give your kids their own space to be in charge of. For instance, each of my kids have a dresser drawer for their school things.
When their drawer gets full, it’s their job to sort through it. They decide what to keep, and what to toss. By giving them control of their space, it’s not me telling them to downsize. The drawer does that.
I don’t have to tell them what to toss – they decide on their own. It really helps them learn to make their own decisions about what to save and which one is more important.
A couple of my kids clean out their drawers weekly. Others only clean it out when it’s overflowing and it won’t shut properly anymore.
Neither of these are right or wrong. They’re just different. Let your kids do what works for them, without forcing your decluttering methods on them.
Make sure you declutter your spaces as well. Keep your desk in decent order and then you won’t have to waste time looking for lost things.
Want to know more about decluttering with kids? Here’s a guest post with additional information:
4. Find Your Time Wasters
We all have our time wasters. The key is to name yours and find ways to avoid them. Self-imposed limits are important.
For me, three big time wasters I’ve identified in the past year are reading comments online, searching for recipes, and social media (especially Facebook.)
To help, I made the following changes:
- I stopped scrolling to the comments section on recipes and news articles. Those suck me in so quickly!
- I challenged myself to use my cookbooks more. Remember those things? We all used them before Pinterest came around…
- I stopped checking my Facebook feed when the kids are awake. Just having “hours” for Facebook has helped tremendously. I still occasionally use my Facebook Pages during the day, but I don’t log into my profile to do so.
Think about what your time wasters are. What pulls you in and suddenly you realize thirty minutes have passed instead of the one or two you were planning on?
Once you’ve identified them, make a plan for imposing limits. Remove apps. Ask a close friend or your spouse to be your accountability partner. Ask your kids to let you know if they see you doing it.
It takes time to change, but change is definitely possible.
5. Identify Bottlenecks
What are the bottlenecks in your life? These are areas where everything is dependent on you doing something. They’re areas of life where progress slows to a halt because you’re waiting on one thing.
If you aren’t sure what they are, ask your kids. They’re usually pretty good at finding them.
I had several bottlenecks when it came to our homeschool. I also had them when it came to cooking, and cleaning.
Once you know what they are, how do you get rid of them?
Create a process.
Make a plan.
Want to know more about identifying and eliminating bottlenecks? Read this post:
6. Get Dressed
Staying in your pajamas tells your brain that you’re relaxing and ready for bed. That’s not the best mental outlook to have if you’re trying to get things done.
You don’t have to get fancied up. But putting real clothes on helps tell your brain it’s time to work.
It’s an easy way to boost your productivity!
7. Set Three Priorities for Your Day
Each day has a different set of events. You might have a doctor appointment this day, and a client post due that one. Your kids may have a ballgame. Or a test they need your help studying for.
You will never create a schedule that perfectly meets the needs of every day.
So, set yourself up for success by writing down three priorities for the day. You can do this the day before, or the morning of. Figure out what way works best for you.
I don’t recommend doing this weekly because things change.
Write down your three priorities and use your found time to make progress on them. Need to write a blog post by the end of the day? First thing in the morning review your topic. Draft a quick outline if you can. Then spend the day thinking about it.
When it comes time to write, you’ll be able to get it out much more quickly because you used think time during the day.
Why do I write down three priorities? I’ve found it’s a number I can consistently handle. There are definitely days when I’m more productive and I add to my list. But, even if I have to stay up late, I can almost always get my three things done. It’s a doable number for me.
Find your doable number and stick with it. If three is too much, pick two to start. Just be intentional with your time to make the biggest impact on your to-do list.
8. Get Your Kids Involved with the Schedule
Endless questions can take so much time. You have to think about the answer, give the answer, and try to get back to what you were doing. Questions like “What can I do when I’m done with my chores?” or “When are we eating lunch?” used to take so much of my time.
With this many kids, I often felt like all I did all day was field questions. And I didn’t like it. I sort of got grumpy about it.
So I found a way to change what wasn’t working. And I asked my kids to help plan each day.
Now we sit down as a family at breakfast. We talk through our day, and make a plan for the day. As a team, we discuss what needs to be done, what we want to do, and any outside obligations we have for the day.
Then we quickly piece together a plan. It’s not fancy. It’s not time-based. But, it keeps everyone on track.
Getting the kids involved gives them buy-in. They’re all on the same page.
And, it eliminated most of the questions about the flow of the day.
9. Give Your Kids a Day
In order to boost productivity, you’ve got to free up brain power. If you’re constantly trying to keep track of things or remember who did what last, your poor brain is going to go into overdrive.
One way I save my brain is by giving my kids a day.
On their day they:
- Got to pick the meals for our annual meal plan
- Get a 1/2 hour of special time with me
- Help me cook
- Get to pick what we do for family playtime
- Pick the song we sing during Bible time
- Pick the movie/TV episode watched in the evening
On their day, they get to make all the decisions I used to have to think about. I no longer have to worry about being “fair.” On their day, they pick. If it’s not their day, they don’t pick.
And even my four year old has it figured out. She can tell you who’s day it is, and when it’s her day again.
Want to know how giving your kids a day looks? Check out this blog post:
10. Use the Delay Feature
My dishwasher has a delay button.
My washing machine used to have a delay button (we downgraded when it broke to save money and this one doesn’t :()
I can put food in the oven or Instant Pot on delay.
Delay buttons save time. They also make it so you don’t have to try to remember to do something.
I want my dishwasher to run in the middle of the night. That’s especially important in the winter when I’m trying to keep my pipes from freezing.
But, I don’t want to have to remember to get up and start it. So I use the delay button.
What can you put on delay? It can really free up your brain power!
11. Make a Must-Do List
Everyone has things they have to do every day. These are non-negotiable items. Things like cooking breakfast and cleaning the toilet are must-dos. So is feeding the dog (or cows if you’re me!).
Your must-do list will be different than mine. But, you do have things you need to do daily. The things you need to do without really even thinking about them.
Write down your must-dos. Then look closely at your list. Is there a way to streamline? Is there a way to delegate?
Once you have your must-do figured out, decide when you’ll do each task. Then start making it a habit. It’ll take time, but pretty soon your must-dos will be second nature. That’s what you want.
You can’t add more to your day without getting in the groove of what you have to do.
Get your must-dos in order and see how much time you have left. That’s the time you can play with as you work to boost your productivity.
12. Batch Tasks
What can you do more of to get ahead? That’s the concept of batching.
You can do it in work and business. Cutting vegetables for dinner? Cut enough for tomorrow night too. You’ll only have to clean up the mess once and you’ll be a bit ahead for tomorrow.
Finding the perfect image for your posts? Find a couple and save them so you have them the next time you need them. (By the way, I recommend Pixistock!)
If you’re outlining, outline for a couple of posts instead of just one. Your brain is already in that mode, so it takes less time to do a second.
13. Prioritize Your To-Do List
Is your to-do list a mile long like mine is? You can’t do it all. That means you need to prioritize where you spend your time and effort.
Review your list frequently. Cross stuff off that you don’t really need to do. Focus on what matters the most.
Use colors or stars to help you pinpoint your priorities. Find what works for you and your brain.
And remember to put playtime on there – you need a break and your kids need you!
Want more info on prioritizing? Read these posts;
14. Streamline Meals
I know we already talked about planning meals. But, that’s not the only way to boost your productivity when it comes to mealtime.
Streamline what you eat. Don’t go for fancy. Stick to tried and true favorites that are easy.
And take time to review your meal plan each morning (or evening). That way you know if you need to take meat out of the freezer or cook some beans or anything.
Want more tips on streamlining meals? Check these posts out:
15. Lower Your Expectations
Are you constantly redoing what your kids do? Do you dream of having a perfectly cleaned house, a thriving business, and kids who never eat processed foods?
If your dreams are unrealistic, you may need to lower your expectations a bit. Let kid clean be good enough. Find healthy options for convenience food. Reduce the number of marketing threads you participate in.
You cannot do everything perfectly. Some balls will drop. Or at least need to sink a little bit lower before you catch them. Life’s a juggling act sometimes, so know when you lower your expectations in some areas.
Along these lines, you should also decide what you’re not going to compromise on. Know what you’re willing to fight for even when times are tough. If something isn’t on that list, it’s probably not the end of the world if you lower your expectations a bit.
16. Know When You Work Best
I’m not a night owl. I never have been.
When I stay up super late working on something, it’ll take me longer. So I try not to do that. (Of course, it doesn’t always happen – here it is 11:44 pm and I’m still writing this post…)
I’m much quicker in the mornings. My brain works better after some sleep.
But, not everyone is like me. Some people work really well at night and thrive when the house is quiet.
Figure out what works for you, and do it. You don’t have to be like everyone else.
17. Drink a Glass of Water
You can’t work as well with a foggy mind. Dehydration seriously impacts every area of your life. Do yourself a favor and go drink some water.
Then do this again. And again.
Find a water bottle you love (or use a mason jar) and keep drinking.
Eventually it’ll be a habit and your mind will thank you. (So will the rest of your body!)
18. Get Some Fresh Air
There’s nothing like some fresh air to get you moving. It clears your mind, and helps you come back to the task at hand with new vigor.
Make spending time outside each day a priority. It doesn’t have to be long. A quick walk to the end of the driveway. A quick race with your kids to the fence and back.
The fresh air will do you good.
Want ideas for getting outside more as a busy mom? Check out this post:
How to fit more outside time into your busy WAHM schedule
19. Set Your Phone Up for Productivity
How much time do you waste with your smartphone? A few simple changes can help you set it up for productivity.
Are there any games that you spend too much time on? Delete it. Or move it several screens back. Out of sight, out of mind…
Shut off your badges. Those are the little numbers in a red circle that call out, “Check me right now, you’re missing something!”
You don’t want your phone to tell you what you need to do. You want to tell yourself.
Since I shut off those badges, I check my email much less frequently. I don’t log into all the social networks each day. I haven’t been in LinkedIn for over a week!
Before, I used to log into everything just to see what the notification was. I was usually disappointed. And it took time away from what I was supposed to be doing.
I’m much more focused with those off.
Also, make sure you have the apps you need. I like the Facebook Pages app. It lets me post and manage my business pages without getting distracted by my feed. It boost my productivity!
Get rid of apps you don’t use. Make sure you have ones you do. And don’t bury them. Keep them accessible so you don’t waste time searching.
20. Have a Workspace
Your brain benefits from having routines. Creating a workspace will help you teach your brain that it’s time to work when you go there.
Keep what you need in your space. That way you ton’ have to run off looking for it. Teach your kids to leave your workspace materials alone. That way you don’t have to wonder if your pen got shoved down a furnace vent.
I have a roll-top desk. I like being able to close it.
But, I don’t usually work at the desk. I like the dining room table. It works for me and allows me to keep an eye on the kids at the same time.
Want more information on setting up a workspace that works for you as a WAHM? See this post:
Boost Your Productivity
Start small when you’re trying to boost your productivity. Make a small change. Then make another one. You won’t overwhelm yourself this way. Sustainable changes are what you’re going for.
Know a busy WAHM trying to boost her productivity? Please share this post with her! Thank you!
Lisa Tanner is a former teacher turned homeschooling mom with 11 kids. She's also a successful freelance writer. Lisa enjoys helping other busy moms find time to start and grow a side hustle of their own.