Being a work at home mom is more challenging than many people imagine. Sure, you can always be there for your kids, but then again, you’re ALWAYS there for your kids. It can get in the way of being productive. How do you find that balance that makes a kickass work at home mom schedule happen?
It’s not always easy. A kid gets sick, the fridge breaks down, and will the phone ever stop ringing? What is that smell? And when the kids are little, there’s always something more they need. When they get bigger, they give you new worries.
But for normal work at home days, you need to set up a routine. Something that helps you be productive at work as well and lets you be a mom when you need to be.
Sometimes your work at home mom schedule will be set for you by your employer. If they say you have to work 9-5 every day, that’s pretty much going to be your schedule. Do your best to be productive during your official work hours and teach your family to respect that.
But if you have more flexibility open to you, setting up your schedule can be more challenging. More flexibility leaves you with more room for procrastination. That can destroy your productivity and keep you from being a good employee or running a successful home business.
So how do you set up your work at home mom schedule?
Figure Out Your Best Working Hours
The first thing you need to do is figure out what your best working hours will be. This may take experimentation or may be set by the needs of your employer. Here are some of the things you should consider as you pick your hours if it’s up to you:
- When does your family need you most?
- When do you feel you will be most productive?
- How many hours do you need to work each day?
- Do you prefer early mornings, late nights, or daytime work hours?
- Split shift or work straight through with occasional breaks?
- When will someone else be available to the kids?
- When do the kids need to be picked up from school or activities? Is that your responsibility?
- Are weekends for work or for the family?
These are all very important considerations. Having someone else available to the kids, for example, can help cut down on how often they interrupt you as you work. This is vital if you aren’t allowed to have background noise when you’re on the phone. But even if background noise doesn’t matter, it helps a lot if you can keep the kids from being distractions in general.
This is not a “set once and forget it” kind of deal. You will want to review your schedule regularly. Sometimes you’ll find that your most productive hours aren’t when you thought they would be. Other times you’ll come to realize that the needs of your family have changed so much that your schedule isn’t working anymore. Be open to change as necessary. If your daily schedule is kicking your ass rather than helping you be amazingly productive, there’s a problem.
Set Your Office Hours
Whether you have a home office with a door you can close or you work on the couch, set your office hours. Make sure your family understands what you expect from them when you’re working.
The better you stick to your office hours, the better most people will be about respecting them. If you constantly allow the kids, friends, or your spouse interrupt you when they know you’re supposed to be working, they’ll learn that your office hours aren’t firm.
Plan Your Work Day
Having a plan for every work day is a huge help to productivity. You’ll lose much less time to indecision if you have a plan in mind.
Some people prefer to plan out their next work day at the end of the previous one. This works because you know exactly where you are with what you were doing. Hopefully, you also know what needs to be done next.
Others will plan things a week or more in advance. This is a huge help when you have a project that needs to be done by a deadline. Take some time to figure out where you need to be on the project each day and avoid a scramble to get it all done at the end.
You can mix these up, of course. You can have a plan laid out for a week or more, but make changes as needed if you fall behind, get ahead of schedule or realize something needs to be added in.
Don’t Avoid The Jobs You Dread
As you work at home, you may find that some parts of what you do just aren’t fun. In fact, you may even hate them, even if they’re important to your overall success.
The key to succeeding with these is to get them done first, according to Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time. If you get the difficult things out of the way, the things you enjoy doing more are all that are left. This can make for a much more productive work at home day.
If you’re running a home business, of course, another option is to hire a virtual assistant to handle some of the jobs you dread. Then you don’t have to avoid them – you just have to assign them. The money it costs can be well worth it if you become more productive as a result.
Set Up Efficient Routines And Systems
Having efficient routines and systems can make a huge difference in your life. They can keep you from having to worry about a lot of little things. Here are some of the things you can do:
- Set bills on autopay.
- Use appropriate automation for social media.
- Choose the best day of the week for running errands.
- Schedule chores so everyone knows when they need to do their share.
Plan For More Than Just Work
One of the problems with working at home is how easy it is to work too many hours. Your work is always right there, in easy reach. If you don’t plan for more than just your work, you may find that you’re neglecting yourself and your family.
Some of these plans may be things you want to do daily. You may want to put aside time to play with the kids or to make meals, for example. Sure, they sound like things that should just come naturally, but if they aren’t happening and you want them to, find a way to make them happen.
Exercise is another good item to put into your plans. Keeping fit is a generally good idea, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. You don’t even have to get a gym membership, although there are advantages if you can afford one.
Plan for a family walk around the block each day, for example. You get exercise and family time all in one shot that way.
If a local playground is close enough, you can make that a part of the routine as well. You can exercise while the kids play.
Make Time For Sleep
If you’re like me, your least productive days are when you’re tired. For one reason or another, you didn’t get enough sleep the night before.
Maybe you stayed up too late on social media. Maybe one of the kids woke up sick in the middle of the night. It might even be your spouse’s fault (wink).
Whatever the reason, you didn’t get enough sleep and you are tired!
If this happens once in a while (and it probably will), that’s just the way life goes. But if you’re tired from lack of sleep every day, you need to do something about it.
Helping your kids get enough sleep can help you get more work and more sleep. When your kids are napping age, that’s a great time for you to be productive. You might need those naps in the early days for a little nap yourself (babies are exhausting!), but otherwise, take advantage and work. It’s one less excuse to stay up late at night.
Plan Your Chores
Odds are good that you will do at least some chores during the day when you work at home, especially if your hours are flexible. It’s so hard to put them off.
The key is to keep them from taking up too much of your workday. Consider this situation:
You’re about to start your workday when you realize last night’s dishes weren’t done, so you empty and reload the dishwasher.
This leads to the realization that the countertops are filthy. So you clean them.
Are you… yes, you are. You are completely out of dishwasher detergent. A quick run to the store won’t take that long, will it?
Home again after buying far more than dishwasher detergent (why waste a trip, after all?), you put the groceries away. Can’t leave that job halfway done.
As you can see, it doesn’t take much for small chores to pile up into something that eats up an hour or more of what should have been productive working time. The whole situation quickly becomes an “If You Give A Mouse A Muffin” kind of situation some days.
Sure, your home and family benefit, but when you need the money, you need the work hours.
You’re far better off if you plan out your chores in advance so that you know how much time you’re giving up to chores.
Ideally, most chores should be divided among family members as appropriate. Your kids and spouse should do their shares. Do your share of the housework outside of your working hours. That’s what you’d do if you worked outside the home, after all. It should be just as possible to do that when you work at home in most cases.
Of course, crises happen. When my fridge broke down, I lost a big chunk of work time figuring out what was safe to keep, what had to be tossed, and moving the safe stuff into the other fridge. Thank goodness for that second fridge, or I would have had to toss a lot more! But that was not a chore I could put off until a more convenient time unless I was willing to give the food more time to go bad.
Don’t Waste Time During Work Hours
It is so easy to waste time when you should be working. There’s so much you can do that isn’t productive but is far more fun. Video games, streaming services, and social media are major culprits.
The best way to avoid these is to not use them, or use them as little as possible during your work hours. Sure, there may be times when you need to go on social media as a part of your job, but it’s up to you to keep focused and not fall into the distraction vortex when you should be working.
This can be challenging if you aren’t in a space where you can close the door while you work. If the kids are watching a show while you’re working on your laptop in the kitchen or living room, odds are you’re going to pay a little attention to it. This is especially true as they get older and their tastes in shows get better.
I won’t even mention how bad it can get if you start binge watching a favorite show. You know that part already.
Sample Work At Home Schedule
Here’s a general idea as to how your work at home schedule may go. I’ve made up a printable version for if you want something you can print. Change it around to suit yourself, of course. If you’re an early bird, start early. If you prefer to work at night, work at night. And if your job requires certain hours, plug them in.
I don’t have to plan time for the kids during much of the day because mine are all in school. If you have children at home with you all day, you have to plan around their needs as well, of course.
Get up, take a shower, eat, and get the kids off to school. All this stuff takes a lot of time. The older and more independent the kids get, the easier the first part of your day will go.
If you have a small amount of extra time, this is a good part of the day to drop a chore or so into. Nothing that takes a lot of time, but getting those breakfast dishes into the dishwasher keeps them from distracting you later.
You can do a little work if there are quick blog or business tasks you can perform. If I have extra time in the morning, for example, I may find and post a few job leads. It’s something I can start quickly, and stop just as easily when I need to.
This is the part of the day when I like to run errands or exercise at the gym. I’m already out and about because I dropped the kids off at school. Both the gym and the grocery store aren’t far off that route, so it’s a very convenient time to do these things.
If you don’t want to go to the gym, you can exercise at home, of course. There are lots of great exercise videos on YouTube to help you get started.
9 a.m. – noon
Time to get serious about working. Posting job leads, managing my social media and planning blog posts. I only occasionally write in the morning because I rarely have a solid block of time to focus on it and I hate having my train of thought interrupted when I’m writing.
Noon – 1 p.m.
Lunchtime. Time to eat and take a brain break. If I watch a show, it’s something that won’t tempt me to keep watching when I should be working after lunch.
An hour is longer than it usually takes me to make a quick lunch and eat, of course. Breaks are important when you work at home, and you should give yourself appropriate breaks as you work. You will probably be more productive.
This is also a good time for those quick chores you want to get done. Don’t only do chores during your breaks most days. Sometimes everything will be a mess and it’s necessary, but you deserve a real break just as much as someone who works outside the home.
Time to focus on writing. Some days it’s easy to finish an entire blog post in this time. Other days there’s too much writing and thinking to be done.
I like to get as much done as possible before it’s time to get the kids from school. How I miss the days when we lived walking distance to the school!
Help kids with homework as necessary. Usually only my youngest needs help anymore, and her needs can run anywhere from a few minutes to more than an hour. It depends on how well she understands the subject and how cooperative she’s feeling. If she’s tired, it won’t go well. This is why I’m open to having her take a nap if she’s too tired for homework. It will go so much faster if she isn’t exhausted.
If no homework help is needed, I work. The kids go off and play.
With any luck at all, I can continue working for a time before making dinner.
Time to make dinner, eat dinner, and have some family time. How long that all takes depends on what I’m making, how much homework the kids have to do, and what we feel like doing as a family.
If we’re being really good, this time often includes a family walk around the block. It’s some light exercise as the day cools down. Summer heat tends to break this habit, but fall can bring it back.
8 p.m. onward
The kids are ready to do their own thing by this point most evenings, so I work on making images for blog posts and social media. It takes how long it takes.
Depending on my plans and mood, I may kick back and relax after, keep working, or try to learn something new for my business.
Be Ready To Change
The times in this schedule are really not as solid as they may look. The whole thing depends on how long each activity really takes, as I am in charge of my own time.
Getting the kids to and from school are the most solid things on here, although I skipped the part about how their activities can change when I pick them up after school. There are days when I have to make an extra trip out to deal with the differing schedules.
Some days I’ll have a late lunch. Sometimes errands take more of the day than I want them to. And some days it seems like almost nothing goes right. You just have to deal with it all as it comes.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you set up your own work at home mom schedule and then it doesn’t work out. If you’re in charge of your own schedule, take advantage of that fact to figure out what works for you.
The whole point of setting up a schedule is to give your day more structure and to help you be productive. If it’s not doing that, it’s not working. Figure out why your schedule isn’t working, and make changes until it does. You’ll be more productive once you have these things figured out.