I am a work-at-home mom. Every time I mention my work situation to family or friends, they say, “You are so lucky! You can stay at home and earn money. I wish I could be a work-at-home mom and earn my salary sitting in the comfort of my home.” Well, I agree. Staying home, earning money, and watching my kid grow is a blessing. But I also tell my family and friends, my work-at-home situation isn’t a bed of roses…work-at-home moms have to be really smart and disciplined to save their sanity.
When I was working in my corporate job, we were encouraged to follow Eisenhower Decision Matrix, which is a very effective tool to help you identify and prioritize tasks that are truly important and/or urgent. To this day, I use it to manage my day-to-day responsibilities and especially work-related ones.
Today, I want to share with you the process I have devised for myself based on this wonderful time management tool. As with me, I am sure other work-at-home moms can also greatly benefit from it. Without further ado, let me show how you can adapt the Eisenhower Decision Matrix to make your day more productive as a work-at-home mom.
Step 1: Identify the Time Suckers
This is the number 1 tip for work-at-home moms to be a more productive professional or businessperson–identify the time suckers.
Before anything else, identify the time suckers in your day. From your To-Do list, which tasks are neither important nor urgent? Ask yourself, is it really necessary to check your personal Facebook profile during your work hours? Or, do you need to sort through your email spam folder every day? These kind of tasks are simply unnecessary–and going by the Eisenhower Decision Matrix, are neither important nor urgent. These are simply time suckers. They do nothing but distract you and pull you down. Do yourself a favor and eliminate these time suckers from your To-Do list. That, my friend, is the first step towards eliminating overwhelm and being productive.
Step 2: Prioritize Tasks
After you have identified and eliminated the time suckers, it’s time to work on the remaining tasks. First, you want to identify tasks the tasks that are urgent but not important. These are tasks that are due soon but do not contribute significantly towards your long-term work goal. For example, maybe you have to go for a conference two weeks from now. Now, you could spend one hour trying to find the best deal, or you could hire or request someone to do this for you. And you, on the other hand, can use the one hour you just freed up to work on something important. In other words, you need to delegate tasks that are urgent but not important.
Step 3: Schedule Your Day
Now you are left with two types of tasks–those that are important but not urgent, and those that are important and urgent. I am sure you know the difference between the two terms, but just to reiterate for clarity sake:
- Urgent tasks are those that help you achieve your long-term work goal, and are due on an immediate basis. Not addressing these tasks immediately may result in missed deadlines or lost customers.
- Important tasks are the other tasks that help you achieve your long-term work goal, but is not due immediately.
It is essential that you clearly distinguish between the two, otherwise, you can misconstrue an ‘important’ task as ‘urgent,’ which will eat into your hours. So what’s the solution? Schedule the ‘important’ tasks in your calendar for a more appropriate later time while the urgent tasks take up the more immediate calendar space. For example, if you need to email your project status to your client, it is an important task but not usually urgent. You can schedule a time in your day when you can draft and send an email to your client with the requested updates. Maybe that time is 2 PM every day. On the other hand, an article that is due today is an important and urgent task that you should address before taking up other ‘important’ tasks.
Step 4: Hold Your Work Hours Sacred
So, now you know how to follow Eisenhower Decision Matrix to design your work day to be more productive. The matrix can help you achieve your short- and long-term goals and make your day more productive.
In addition, I recommend establishing routines in and around your work hours. There is no denying that routines help bring semblance to your day. For a work-at-home mom, it is important to distinguish work hours from non-work hours. When your day begins and ends within the same four walls, it’s easy to lose the distinction. But if you design routines that will help you ease in and out of your work day, it will bring more satisfaction and fewer frustrations. So ensure that you hold your work hours sacred.
Decide which hours of the day you will work, and stick to those hours. Do not be distracted by any personal chores or whims during these hours. It may take some trial and error before you can settle on your best hours for working, but when you find that sweet spot, stick to it. For example, perhaps your best time to work is while your children are away in school. Use those hours to complete your work tasks. Do not get sucked into the social media whirlpool or picking the grocery. Remember, everything in its own time.
Step 5: Set Aside Time for Self-Care
Lastly, in a previous post, I mentioned how, as moms, we don’t take the time for self-care. How many times have you used your work break to run an errand? You might say “I am a busy mom. I do not have another time to run these errands!” I understand, and it may even be true for some of you on certain days. But if you don’t use the break to nourish your mind, body, and soul, you will soon run out of the motivation. Say to yourself, “I am already a super mom. I do not need to pack in more into my day.” You know what I say to myself though? “I may not be a supermom or best mom. But I am a good-enough mom. And that’s okay!”
Remember this: You are doing a wonderful job raising your child. And boy! You also work-from-home. Like others say, “it’s the best of both world.” But it’s easy for this world to fall apart without the necessary discipline. I wish for you a fruitful and blessed personal and work life.
I would love if you can share some of your tips as a work-at-home mom.