Tips for making the most of your working hours as a WAHM

Mother_And_Baby_With_LaptopOne of your primary reasons for starting out as a work at home mum (WAHM) be because you want to have more time to spend with your family. Unfortunately, when starting out in self-employment, you may find that you’re spending even less time with them than you were before, simply because there’s so much to do. It can all be a bit overwhelming – but luckily there are a few ways you can streamline your business processes to make your working day a little bit easier.

Office Efficiency

Keep a clear desk. A tidy working area – or at least one where you can physically see the surface – psychologically puts you in an ‘uncluttered’ frame of mind. Before you stop work for the day, spend five minutes tidying up.

Colour code files and folders – use colours that you associate with specific emotions to help you decide: i.e. you might have a green folder for marketing activities (green for growth) and perhaps a black folder for the dreaded tax return!

Disable the new email notification so you won’t be distracted by it popping up on screen. Better still, only check your email at set times of the day: first thing, last thing and lunchtime can work. If you’re worried about being out of the loop, set an autoresponder that will tell people that this is what you’re doing and they won’t expect an instant response.

The trick to keeping on top of the paperwork is to deal with it as it arrives. If you don’t have time to do this, you need to set a time aside daily or even weekly to go through your in-tray. Try sorting it into four categories: Action, File, Bin/Recycle, Shred.

Automate what you can

Use an email service provider (ESP) to send out email newsletters. If you’re collecting email addresses to add to your mailing list you should be using an ESP anyway, to have a ‘double opt in’ mailing list. This ensures that only people who want to receive your newsletter will get it delivered to their inbox. You can write your newsletters and set the time for their release, days or weeks into the future.

If you use a WordPress blog, did you know you can preschedule your blog posts? If you write a month’s worth of blog posts in one go, you can then schedule them to be posted at whatever date and interval you like.

Software applications like Hootsuite can also preschedule your Tweets so you can write them and then schedule them to be Tweeted at whatever time you want.

You can buy software which will automatically send your articles to hundreds of different article directories across the web. Most are available on a month by month basis, so if you’re planning a big article marketing campaign, it might be worth signing up for a month or two.

A lot of marketing can be done at anti-social hours, particularly on-line marketing, which is brilliant as it means you can crack on with it when the children are asleep. As well as automating your Tweets, you can also use inbuilt buttons on your blog and website to automatically link up your new blog posts to your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts.

As a business owner and a parent, your time is doubly precious. Don’t waste it – streamline your business processes and start enjoying more of the work/life balance you promised yourself when you started out as an entrepreneur.

Celina Lucas is author of   How to Run a Work from Home Business When You Have Small Children: The Secret to Achieving the Work/Life Balance You’ve Dreamed OfHow To Be A Virtual Assistant,  and  How to Start a Business When You’ve Got No Time (or Money)

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How a little tool called Workflowy can save your sanity

Today I’m introducing a new guest blogger to Business Plus Baby – Christelle Donaldson of The Handy Marketer. Over to you Christelle!

When it comes to work, I am a very organized person and I make the most out of the tools available at hand. I plan my week, I plan my day, I set reminders, I block time on my own to work on key projects, nothing escapes me. But at home, it can be a different story. I forget to pick up the mail, to put the trash out on the right day, to call my parents when I said I would and worst, to pay bills in time. My husband keeps getting frustrated with me and told me once: “don’t you have a whole army of tools that you use at work? Can’t you use them at home too?” Good question.

I tried a few options: Evernote, Google Tasks, Teux Deux, Reminders, Remember the Milk.  All these fancy apps that can do wonders, if only you stick with them long enough. But that was always the problem, getting used to the app, finding how best to use it and building a habit of looking at my tasks regularly. I found all these tools to be too sophisticated, offering too many options, needing too many clicks to update them.

And then I learned about Workflowy. I instantly fell in love with it and started using it seamlessly at work and at home.

Workflowy is an online tool for taking notes and making lists. It works quite differently from other applications in the way that you simply write lists and keep adding new lists or sub-categories. You can also zoom on a list, collapse or expand items, mark them as complete, use hash tags and search through your lists, making the tool very powerful yet simple to use.

Here is why I love Workflowy:

  • It’s simple: You don’t need to learn how to use it, it’s almost like writing on paper. In fact the help menu is very small since it is so easy to use.
  • There are no distractions: the interface is very minimalist so there are no distractions around. You just write on the page and do nothing else. Workflowy doesn’t offer the option of formatting your text, so you don’t fiddle around.
  • It’s online and mobile: Workflowy is a cloud based tool so you can access it anywhere as long as you can find a browser and an internet connection. This is why I love it, because I can use it at the office and at home without having to install a new software on my computer. The mobile application is also very practical and can work offline.
  • It’s printable: you can choose to print any part of your lists, whether big or small, and make it a full page document. Very practical for shopping lists!
  • It’s beautiful: this might not be important to you, but I look at my list all day so I’d rather have something pretty to look at.
  • It’s free: with a free account you can create hundreds of items per month. So far I never reached the limit, and I know that I can increase it if I need.

I encourage you to have a look at the tool and try it for yourself. And if you are still wondering what you can use it for, I’ll give you a sneak peek into the way I organize it, just from a task management perspective (you could use it for much more):

Workflowy-setup-1

What about you, what tool do you use to stay organized?

Christelle Donaldson is a busy mom working as a professional marketer and blogging at The Handy Marketer. She offers practical marketing tips and is the author of Business Blogging for Beginners.

What to do when ‘flexible working’ means you have no time to work

Last Monday, over 4000 schools in the UK were closed because of safety concerns after a heavy snowfall. That will have been a major headache for working parents across the country.

As work-at-home-mums we’re lucky in that we can work more flexibly than most. But it’s easy for virtually all your work time to be swallowed up by family commitments, and that’s a big is a problem. Here are a few tips from me about surviving those times when family life gets in the way of your business:


Note: No small furry animals were harmed in the making of my hat 🙂

Don’t miss a thing here at Business Plus Baby   Click here to get my newsletter and  I’ll also send you a copy of  my e-book Running a business around a family: 9 steps to success.

Top time management tips from real business women

Ready for some tried-and-tested time management tips from real women in business?

Last week at The Likeminded Network, we had a ‘Your Business Dilemmas Solved’ session where we all sat around a big table and had our pressing business questions answered by the rest of the group. This was a simple but brilliant idea, not just because we were pooling the combined experience of around twenty women in business, but because it was a great way to get to know one another.

As most of us are on our second or third career, there was a heck of a lot of expertise in the room.

My question was on time management – what tips did people have for getting everything done? Here’s what they said:

  • Work in fifteen minute blocks. – Claire Land, Save Our Sanity
  • Accept that you’ll never get to the end of your to do list! – Emma Perry of Shabby Rock Chic
  • Put down how long you spend on everything in an Excel spreadsheet, then at the end of the month create a graph so you can see exactly where you are spending your time. – Penny Norton of PNPR
  • Turn off Facebook, Twitter and close your email while you’re working. Then check them once or twice a day at set times, otherwise it’s too distracting. Anna Brim of Aloha Photography and others!
  • If you’ve got a task that you don’t want to do, spend just ten minutes on it then give yourself ten minutes of something more fun or creative as a reward. Mary Mansfield, Cambridge Interiors
  • Do similar tasks together. For example, do all your invoices once a month in a block so you’ve got all the right paperwork and files open at the same time. Anna Brim of Aloha Photography
  • Set up email folders according to priority, then put your emails in the appropriate folder as they arrive. Then you can deal with all the urgent ones first, the less urgent ones later and so on. Otherwise you end up dealing with them in the order that they arrive, which isn’t the best use of time. – Chrissy Brown of Crafty Monkey Pottery Painting Studio
  • Don’t read your emails or make phone calls in the first hour of the day as this puts you in a reactive frame of mind for the rest of the day. Get into a proactive mindset by focusing your first hour on the task that’s going to bring in the money. Use that hour to work on your business rather than in it. – I’m not sure of this person’s name, please leave a comment if it was you and I’ll add you!

Hope those are helpful!

If you want to make sure you don’t miss a thing here at Business Plus Baby you can sign up to the the mailing list here.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This is why your tasks take longer than you expected…

Introducing new Business Plus Baby guest blogger Alison Bradford of www.alisonbradford.com

Do you ever have a morning when you’re up really early but still late for the school / nursery run? The morning started so well – you were feeling relaxed and in control and then before you knew it there’s a last minute dash to get coats and shoes on, bags together and out of the door. How did that happen?

Or the other way round and the kids were up late (I wish! doesn’t happen often in my house!) but you still managed to get them fed, washed, dressed and out of the door at the same time?

This is Parkinson’s Law in action – a task will expand to fill the time you allow you for it.

So, roughly translated, if you allow two hours to get ready in the morning it will take two hours. If you allow half an hour it will take half an hour.

It’s like when you have a new baby and you cannot imagine being able to leave the house with both of you dressed before midday. Then you join a baby class that starts at 10am and somehow you manage to get out of the house for 10am. Then you go back to work and (by a miracle some days, I know) you manage to get your baby to nursery for 8am. (I’m not saying it’s not stressful getting out earlier by the way!)

The same principle applies to work tasks too.

When you’re running your own business it can be easy to keep going with a task and not set yourself deadlines.  You don’t have a boss hovering over you wanting that report by 5pm and you can easily start to be busy taking your time over things.

Maybe you want something to be perfect and spend too long trying to get it so.

Maybe it’s something you don’t enjoy doing and keep getting distracted from.

Whatever the reason that means something is taking too long to get done – start setting yourself deadlines for completing tasks.

This may mean that something isn’t perfect (haven’t you heard that good enough is the new perfect?) It may also mean that you need to start making decisions more quickly. Both of these are great habits to get into when running your own business.

If you don’t have enough time to get everything done then you either need to not do some stuff or to start getting stuff done more quickly. By setting deadlines for even the smallest of things you really can start to get things done more quickly – just remember those late mornings when you still make school or nursery on time and think of Parkinson’s Law.

Biography:

If you want to get more tips, advice and inspiration for being a Mum running a business then visit www.alisonbradford.com and sign up for the free newsletter.

Alison works as a Business Coach and Life Coach with Mums who are running a small business from home and want to make more money in their business and have more balance in their life. To find out more please visit www.alisonbradford.com/about

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