In the years leading up to when my youngest child started school, one of my goals was to slowly create paid work opportunities for myself I could do primarily from home. My husband works long hours and I am the default parent. It’s the way it works for our family. I’ve found it better to find paid work I can do from home instead of entering back into the external work force.
When I started this blog, back in 2009, I didn’t even think it would become an income source, but opportunities opened up in that area and I capitalised on that. This blog isn’t my only source of income (through advertising, content creation and sponsored posts), I also find work outside the blog through these other avenues:
- Run monthly small business networking group called Good Conversations with Ngaire from Brisbane Kids.
- Write freelance articles for various online websites (outside of this blog)
- Manage Social Media for pages and provide social media strategy consulting
- Run workshops
- Develop creative content for brands
Freelancing from home is a dream, and yet I also find it challenging. Like most things, it’s a juggle. Below are seven tips I’ve used over the years to help productivity while managing the house, the family and my freelancing work:
My priority is to be a good Mum. And I often remind myself of this. That doesn’t mean that I always drop everything to be with my kids all the time, but there’s a focus there. I’ve learnt to pull myself up if I hear myself constantly saying “just a minute” and take the time to stop when I need to. You work from home. You have kids. It’s never going to be conducive to perfect working conditions but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a positive thing. It’s important for me to dedicate time to spend with my children and family without distractions or I always am caught up with writing “just one more email”.
2. Establish a work area (even if it’s in your head)
For the entirety of 2010, I had no designated work space. It was pretty much me and my laptop wherever I could find a bit of space. I’m blessed with a relatively large family so I don’t have a spare room, however I have created a small work space in a corner. This has been important for my productivity because everything I need is there where I need it, and I can pick up from where I left off at any time. I still work from my laptop anywhere and everywhere, but having a go-to station is important (even if it’s a small hall table with pens).
3. Do a little housework first
If I don’t do 30 minutes of housework before I do other jobs, the house doesn’t function well and, after a while, it impacts on the family. I’m not talking about a few busy days when you let the house go, but the commitment to running a harmonious family. And in the end, a harmonious family is helpful for my productivity anyway. I work best when I can focus without the I-haven’t-hung-out-the-washing weight hanging over me. So I throw myself into 20- 30 minutes of dedicated housework most days before other work so I can keep the house running.
4. Find your window of inspiration
This discovery has been huge asset to my productivity. You know when everything comes together and you get so much done? That’s your window of inspiration. Usually these sorts of bursts are few in far between. And for me, work is generally comprised of 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. Depressing? Maybe. But there is good news. Over the years, I’ve noticed a pattern when I’m most productive and have learnt to capitalise on these times. I usually work my best mid-morning to just after lunch. About 10:00 am -1:00 pm. This is when work comes most naturally to me (after coffee has kicked in and tiredness hasn’t). It would make sense for me to work at night, after the kids are in bed, and I do, but I’m weary and – especially in terms of writing – I find it hard to think and put articles and posts together at night. So, I do the bones of my writing in my window of inspiration, and do other tasks when I’m not so fresh.
5. When do to what
Establishing my window of inspiration was the first step in being more productive. I then slotted tasks into my day. There are three steps to determine this:
Step 1: List all tasks and work out what tasks take up the most brain space. Brain space for me is a very precious thing!
Step 2: Categorise (and colour code) the tasks into three groups in relation to how much brain space is needed and an extra category for the general every day running of a household. When I’m at my best is when I plan to do my hardest (and often most important) work. This is a sketch of what it looks like:
Step 3: Then I break up my day into time slots in relation to my productivity and regular family. The example I have included below is from my weekday structure a few years ago when I still had my son at home with me. Now, it’s a little different but I still use the same principals to create a productivity skeleton.
Note: This is ONLY a loose skeleton, it never ran beautifully to plan, and none of it was fixed. It was about giving my day a little structure and choosing when to do what. Most of the work areas marked were interrupted…but mentally I prepared myself for those times to different types of work and made sure my son had an activity to do close by. Some days I wouldn’t work at all, and other days, when my son was at pre-prep, I worked longer and more solidly. It’s all a juggle and developing a general guide on how to structure my day helped me to be more productive.
Note 2: I have to research for Social Media and schedule posts as part of my job, so that is a clarification on those time slots.
Out of the 17 hours I’m awake, I have a window of 2 hours when I’m most productive. So during that time, I write. And focus. And push other jobs out the way.
Understand: I use this schedule as a general guide. Life never runs to schedule so I always stay flexible. However, having this system in place gives me confidence and freedom to find the time to invest in certain types of work when I need to. For example, if I have a deadline looming, I need to ensure I organise my day to take advantage of my window of inspiration. This means I may have to say no to a catch up with a friend or reshuffle an appointment so I can restructure my day.
6. Social Media Downtime/Stop Multi-Tasking
Facebook, Pinterest and other social media outlets are killers of productivity (unless social media is the work I’m focusing on). In my window of inspiration, I close down all social media channels so I’m not distracted. I call this Social Media Downtime. It’s done wonders for productivity. Another advantage of having a productivity schedule is to avoid multi-tasking during the peek working time and focus intensely on one task at a time.
7. Get out
One of the challenges about creating paid work opportunities from home is it’s always, always, always, always there! For me, this can make it hard to switch off. That is part of the reason why Ngaire and I run a networking group because it’s important to get outside of your own space, mix with other like minded people and share information and ideas.
I gain a lot of satisfaction from creating work opportunities from home, and it’s certainly worth the juggle for me. Having a productivity system has helped!