As a mom and business owner, productivity is important. I must get things done and I can’t take forever to do them. With three kids, a relationship, a house, and the business, being able to move from one thing to the next quickly and easily is paramount.
There are several things I do to make my days as productive as possible. I hope they’ll help you as much as they help me.
Prior day planning
The first thing I do to keep my productivity up is to plan tomorrow today (or in the case of Monday, I plan on Friday).
I take a few minutes at the end of my work day, whether that’s at noon or 6PM, to go over what I need to do the next day. I then add that to my Daily Tasks list in Trello so that the next morning, I already know what needs to be done.
In the event of several days off, like a long holiday weekend (such as Christmas!) or a vacation, I still go ahead and get this list prepped as far as possible so that the transition back into work is as smooth as possible.
What about tasks that aren’t routine or that a client adds at the last minute? That’s ok! That’s why I make this list. It allows me to see what I need to do, which enables me to tell a client if I can’t fit a task in that day.
I do the same thing at the end of the day before bed for personal tasks. I confirm whether the kids have activities that I need to prep for the next day. I check in with my partner to see what he’ll be doing and if there’s anything we’re supposed to do together.
Even when my day is packed full, by going over everything the day before, I feel better prepared and ready to tackle it all.
When I first started working as a VA, I would work through one client, then the next, and so on. I did this out of fear of making mistakes, mixing things up and losing clients. It also seemed, at the time, to be the most logical way to work.
With time and experience, however, I’ve learned that it works better if I batch tasks that go together, even if they’re for different clients.
So for example, I do all my social media management for clients at the same time. Within that, I will work on one client at a time, but I work on social media from the time I start until whatever time I finish for all clients that I do social media management for.
I have a specific day set aside on which I do all my writing for clients.
I’m much more productive when I’m able to get into flow, and that’s so much easier when I batch tasks.
Does this mean that I never do something outside of its batch? Of course not!
If a client needs something written on a Thursday that can’t wait, or they ask me to make a social media post after I’ve already done that for the day, I’ll happily do it. But batching allows me to find the flow, stay focused, and get more done so that I have more time to fit in those requests.
In addition to planning out the next day and batching similar tasks, I also do block scheduling.
My block scheduling is a bit unique, as it’s a combination of a few different techniques.
In my block schedule, I create blocks that allow me to see my week at a glance. Within these blocks, there is no set schedule, but there are tasks to be done.
An example would be my morning “Get Things Done” block. This block is from 9:30AM-1:00PM. During this block, I run any errands that need to be run outside the house (this can include grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments, a school run if necessary, etc.), and start working. I also eat lunch during this block.
Then I have a second block from 1PM-4PM that I call the “Work/Recreation” block. This block is where I continue and/or finish any work that didn’t get done in the morning, or schedule things like meeting friends, activities for the kids, etc.
Why big blocks with tasks within them instead of scheduling individual tasks?
There’s a couple of reasons behind this decision.
First is the fact that when I scheduled each individual task, I ended up feeling massively overwhelmed. I would look at all those things I had to get done, filling up the calendar with all these words and different colors, and I would think there was just no way I could get it all done.
Second was the fact that I always ended up over- or underestimating how long things would take. If I underestimated, I ended up behind all the time. If I overestimated, I could always move on to the next task – unless the next task was an appointment of some sort. I didn’t batch tasks at that point, either, so to pick another task from another point in the day was difficult.
With the block schedule, my calendar looks cleaner and less overwhelming. With a three, four or five hour window, I don’t have to know exactly how long something will take. I can roughly estimate.
And if I do have an appointment, I just drop it in the list of tasks. I can also still schedule it for its actual time and I still have a cleaner schedule.
Bounce between easy and hard
Some people believe they are most productive if they start with the easiest tasks and work their way through to the hardest or vice versa. Personally, I find I’m most productive if I go back and forth a bit.
I always start off with one or two easy tasks, because getting a couple of things checked off quickly makes me instantly feel more motivated and productive. Then I knock off one or two more difficult tasks, because getting them behind me gives me a sense of relief that fuels me.
This also gives me the flexibility to choose easier, quicker tasks when I’ve got a limited amount of time before a meeting or breaking for lunch, so I can be productive even when I’m in a time crunch. This eliminates wasting 5-20 minutes two or three times a day because I’ve got an appointment and all the work I can do will take too long.
A clean cutoff at the end of the day
When you run your own business, it’s tempting to work as often as possible. Working from home prevents an easy distinction between work and home. The desire to become profitable, to grow and thrive, as quickly as possible can push you to want to work all hours of the day and night.
I resist that urge. For the most part, I cut my day off at 4PM. I start at 9:30AM and at 4PM, I’m done. This allows me ample time for making dinner, helping the kids with anything they need, spending time with my partner, and some ‘me time’ for relaxation.
Of course, there are exceptions. If a client has an emergency and desperately needs my help, or if we need to schedule an evening meeting or if there’s a specific activity that has to be done in the evening, I’m happy to do it. I just make sure that this is the exception rather than the rule.
The same applies to working weekends.
For others, this might look more like working weekends and taking off Tuesdays and Wednesdays instead. Or it might be working only two days a week because those are the only ones that you have a sitter for or that your partner can take care of the kids.
Whatever your schedule looks like, you should embrace it and stick with it. It might not look like anyone else’s and it might not even look like the schedule you wanted. But if you embrace it and stick to it, you’ll find that it makes you much more productive than feeling guilty and trying to force yourself to work differently.
It also ensures that you have time for taking care of yourself – a critical component both being a mom and being a business owner. You can’t bring the best of yourself to your family or your business if you never engage in some self-care.
Balancing work and family requires productivity
In order to feel fully present when I spend time with my family, I need to feel that I had a productive day so I’m not thinking of what was left undone. At the same time, when I’m working, I need to know that I’m clear on my family’s needs and have made sure they’re met.
By using the ideas I outlined above, I ensure that when I walk away from my desk at the end of the day, I can leave work behind me and be there with my family. I also ensure that when I sit down at that desk, I’m fully there for my clients and meeting their needs.
FYI: If you want to learn more about the base of my block scheduling, check out this YouTube video. She created the foundation that I use for my block scheduling, and it is amazing.