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Ideally, our WAHM routine would make life cupcakes and rainbows. We’d have everything streamlined, and planned out. And everything would run smoothly.
But, life isn’t like that. Nothing runs perfectly all the time. So it’s important to occasionally spend time thinking through our routines and deciding if there are better ways to do things, and looking for bottlenecks.
When my husband was in college studying business, one of his textbooks talked about bottlenecks. Though it was talking specifically about a manufacturing environments, bottlenecks are everywhere.
They are areas that slow everything else down; those messy areas you’ve got to figure out before you can streamline and take control of your time.
There are bottlenecks in everyone’s routine. The goal is to identify them, and brainstorm ways to eliminate them.
How to Identify Bottlenecks
To find bottlenecks, you’ve got to be looking for them. Otherwise they’ll pile up right in front of you, but you won’t really notice. You’ll just jump through the hoops you always do to manage and not really think about it.
So make it a priority to think through your days. Close your eyes and play through the day in your mind at night. Or go on a walk in the evening and reflect about what’s happened so far.
As you reflect, think through these questions/prompts:
- What activities are the most stressful? Why are they stressful?
- Do any activities take a lot more time than I think they should?
- If I could eliminate __________, I would be a lot more productive.
- Were there any times during the day when I felt out of control/not in control of my emotions?
- If so, what events lead up to that?
- Are there any activities I could streamline to free up more of my time/sanity/resources?
Talk to Your Kids
Kids are fabulous at helping identify problem areas in our routines. About once a week, I sit down with my kids and discuss what’s going well, and what’s not.
They provide honest feedback, and I’ve learned a lot just by taking time to listen to them.
Talk to Your Spouse
If your married, your spouse can also help you identify bottlenecks. If they see you struggling with the same area, or having one task seem to take all your time, they can point it out. Just be sure to not get mad at their answer if you ask for their opinion.
After doing some self-reflection and discussion with others, you should be able to identify bottlenecks in your WAHM routine.
Four of My Bottlenecks
Over the years, I’ve used the questions above to identify several bottlenecks in my life. Here are four examples. Later in this post, I’ll share how I eliminated these.
Meal planning used to take so much of my time. Or I wouldn’t do it, so the actual cooking process took way too long. That’s because half the time was spent rummaging through cupboards trying to figure out what to make.
With only one of me, and eight kids, I’m definitely outnumbered. And though I work towards independent learning, each of my kids have subjects they need my help in.
When they’re waiting for me, it used to be a definite bottleneck. They’d just stop working until I was available to help them. And I felt ragged – going back and forth like a yo-yo trying to figure out who to help next.
I knew there had to be a better way!
Without a plan, cleaning can become a bottleneck! Especially if there are tasks dependent on you.
If you get behind, it seems like the whole house is falling apart.
Then to catch up, you spend an entire day cleaning.
Or at least that was the cycle I used to go through. Get busy, stop cleaning, realize I’m super behind and the house is disgusting, spend all day cleaning to get caught up, get busy, repeat…
It’s a crazy cycle you don’t want to be on!
For something so important to grow a business, social media sure can become a massive time waster. If you aren’t super focused when you jump on to quickly share something, before you know it an hour has passed.
Browsing on social media, without limits, can be dangerous to your time.
So can trying to post manually on every single platform you’re part of.
So much time…
How to Eliminate Bottlenecks in Your WAHM Routine
Have you identified any bottlenecks in your life?
I hope so. Because if you don’t know what they are, it’s impossible to eliminate them.
But, here’s a big secret. You can’t fix all your bottlenecks all at once.
It’ll become too overwhelming. So if you have more than one, prioritize them. Which one would free up the most time if you could solve it?
Then, start working the following steps on that one. Once you get into a new routine, and are comfortable with it, tackle another one.
Once you identify and remove your top bottlenecks, you’ll be more used to looking for them. And you’ll find more.
But, they won’t be so overwhelming since you’ll know how to tackle them.
Just don’t get discouraged. I still have bottlenecks I’m working on fixing. We will never actually “arrive” at a perfect WAHM routine. The goal is just to do better today than we did the day before.
Examine What Isn’t Working
Now that you have your first bottleneck to eliminate, it’s time to figure out what isn’t working.
Get out a piece of paper and brain dump. Talk to your kids about this specific area. Pray for guidance.
Your goal is to examine your bottleneck from every angle. Because once you figure out why it isn’t working, you’ll be better equipped to make changes that make it work.
But, don’t start randomly making changes hoping you find something better. To truly eliminate a bottleneck, you’ve got to give it thought. That way you don’t just create another bottleneck with your solutions.
Now that you know what isn’t working, it’s time to brainstorm. And remember, there are no bad ideas right now! Just get them down so you can think about them and analyze them later.
To help, here are some prompts:
- Could this activity be moved to a different time of day?
- Is there anyone else who could tackle this?
- Am I ready to outsource? (For either business – ie hire a ghostwriter, or personal – ie hire a house cleaner)
- Can I streamline this somehow? (Do it in advance/batch it)
- Does this actually need done?
- What ideas have I read online about this?
- Can I change the scope of this task?
- Would a schedule help?
- Can I premake any decisions about this task?
Analyze Your Ideas
What ideas jump out at you as possibilities? There are no right or wrong answers here, because it’s all dependent on you, your family, and your existing WAHM routine.
So, you have to look at your ideas and pick the ones you think are going to be the right solution for YOU. It doesn’t matter if everyone else would think you’re crazy for doing it this way. Sometimes the crazy solutions are the best ones.
Once you have an idea or two in mind to help eliminate your bottleneck, try it. See if it works. But, don’t just try it for a day and get discouraged if it doesn’t magically fix the problem.
If you’re working with kids, you’ve got to model consistency so they learn the new routine and get on board. You’ve got to give it time to work before you give up on it.
I recommend two weeks. That’s a good amount of time for you to see what’s working and what’s not.
Tweak As Needed
If your first solution didn’t work, think about it. Does it all need scrapped, or are parts of it working? Tweak what you need to, and keep that part. Then try another strategy.
You may need to think creatively, but there is a way to eliminate your bottleneck, or at least make it a lot less bothersome.
Examples of Eliminating Bottlenecks
Remember the four bottlenecks from my life I shared earlier? It’s time to walk through the way I eliminated each. Oh, I didn’t get rid of the tasks. I just found better ways of doing them so they don’t take as much of my limited time and energy.
A lot of people think I’m crazy for this one, but I have an annual meal plan now. It’s the best solution for us!
The kids thrive on the routine, and everyone always knows what they’re going to eat. I can memorize recipes and really streamline the cooking process because it’s a routine. I’m familiar with it.
And I only have to spend a couple of hours each July creating it.
Prior to this, I also tried weekly planning and monthly. Both drove me crazy. I just couldn’t find the time consistently to devote to this important task.
And then I was right back where I started. Behind and staring aimlessly at the contents of my cupboards while Googling “What can I make from canned beans, diced tomatoes, and cheese?”
And no one has time to do that three times a day, every single day.
This bottleneck is a work in progress around here! About the time we figure it out, another kid joins the homeschooling routine, and the subjects everyone needs help with change. 😀 But, by proactively thinking about it, I’m able to stay pretty well on top of it before it buries me in a feeling of overwhelm.
So, we have our group subjects, that everyone who is schooling (except my teen because she’s in high school and not the same level as the other kids) does together. Right now this is science, history, and art.
Then, I rotate the kids through working with me, working independently on subjects they can do, and doing a structured activity (coloring, word searches, play dough, etc.).
This way I can help everyone, and I don’t have to have everyone else standing around asking me when it’s their turn.
Our annual chore charts help tremendously! If we get behind, we just add in a couple of extra quick cleans into our day. With all of us working, 15 minutes goes a long way to restore order.
But, as part of our eliminating the bottleneck process, I had to slow down and teach the routines. I had to show my kids what unloading the dishwasher meant. And how to sweep.
It took a while to get this new routine rolling, but once it did, it helped eliminate a huge bottleneck. And I no longer felt like all the housework was resting on my shoulders.
I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been really good at eliminating bottlenecks and streamlining my personal life. But, not so much the business side.
Thus, I’ve let time get away from me and didn’t even realize there was a better way.But, now I’m learning.
I don’t have to constantly be working to grow my business.
Taking breaks is important and healthy!
So to help with my social media bottleneck, I’ve been implementing a variety of strategies:
- Using schedulers
- Outsourcing (I’ve had help creating a social media plan and images)
- Paying for photos (So much time wasted looking on the free sites, it’s worth paying for high quality photos!)
- Minimizing the platforms I’m active on, looking for highest engagement (Pinterest and Instagram currently.)
- Drop out of Facebook Groups that aren’t actually helping
This is an area I’m still working on. It’s still a bottleneck for me, mainly because of me. I don’t stick to the self-imposed limits I set on myself, and am always trying to do more to grow my traffic and engagement.
Make Your WAHM Routine Better
Each time you eliminate a bottleneck, you’re one step closer to improving your productivity. You are making your WAHM routine better.
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.