Most of my friends have been asking me how I managed working from home while also taking care of my children on my own without any help at home — TA-DA!! Here’s some productivity tips for work at home mums (WAHM) of young children. By young children, I mean anywhere from newborns to 4 years old.
I can’t say that these tips will work for every WAHM but it worked for me and these are things that I’ve learned throughout my 4 years of working from home since I had my firstborn.
1. Work when your children are napping/sleeping
This is on the top of my list when my children were younger (newborn & 2 years old) because very young children requires more undivided attention during their waking hours. Once they are above 2 years old, this tip doesn’t need to be applied as much as they can already play on their own within your sight while you’re working. However, this is still the best time to work on something that requires a lot of deep thinking and focus. I save this time slot mostly for more important tasks and writing.
2. Create a routine
The next important thing in my daily life is routine. Create a routine for yourself and your children. Everyone is different. Some people are more productive in the morning, some later, and some night owls who likes working when everyone is asleep and the house is quiet. Identify the time when you will be the most productive and then work around your children’s timetable. If your baby isn’t on a regular routine yet, find his natural body rhythm and encourage a daily routine.
I am usually busy in the morning preparing my preschooler and sending him to the montessori. Then I come home to do house chores like doing the laundry and watering my garden etc. Fix the younger one his breakfast, check and reply emails, and start preparing to cook for lunch. Pick up the older one from the montessori and have lunch. Bath them and get them to nap… You know the drill. Then I get on with my work until my children are up and on good days (thank God it’s good most of the time!) when they can just play happily on their own without interrupting me, I will get to work until it’s time to cook dinner. Any leftover work from the day will be continued after my children went to sleep.
3. Be flexible and manage interruptions
Routine is great but there are days when everything just go against you. Learn to be flexible and not get frustrated. Expect interruptions but learn to manage them. Take a few seconds to quickly jot down your train of thoughts, save down all your work and leave it as it is so that it helps you to get back on track when you have the chance to return to your task. That little one needs your attention NOW and you won’t be able to get back to work until you give him whatever it is that he wants from you!
I stumbled upon this great idea last week on how to manage interruptions from your children while you work at home… not a bad idea at all eh? Maybe I should childproof my home office too!
Image by Unknown Source
4. Multitask and plan ahead of time
While we are more efficient when we do one thing at a time, we mothers know that multitasking is sometimes necessary. Combine tasks that require minimal attention and concentration and you’ll get more things done. For example, you could be reading and replying emails while waiting for the pasta to cook. I also like to plan my daily meals ahead of time. If I know I want to have black pepper fish steak for my lunch, I would have the fish already cleaned and left marinated in the fridge in the morning. I’ve a confession to make — I love cooking with my Philips Airfryer lately as I can totally leave the cooking and get down with work. That’s multitasking yo! As a mum who works from home, convenience + healthy cooking is a bonus!
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Image by Philips
5. Keep children happily busy when awake
Children can happily amuse themselves while mummy works. Setup a play corner or better yet, have a playroom near where you work with fun, safe toys that your children can play with for hours. You can also rotate the toys every few days or so to keep them interesting. Building blocks are fun and help develop their creativity and motor skills. My 4 years old preschooler loves playing with Play-Doh lately and my youngest 2 years old toddler loves drawing. They also love their Hot Wheels toy cars (they’ve about 80 or more of them! I’ve lost count!). These toys have always kept them busy for hours!
6. Keep your children happy and well-fed
You will want to shower your children with lots of undivided attention when you’re not busy with work. They will be more demanding and clingy if you’re always busy and distracted. If their basic need for attention is met, the more likely they’ll be happy to play by themselves. Make sure you respect your child’s need for sleep and healthy food. You’ll be rewarded with a happier, calmer child, making your whole life — including your work life — easier.
7. Make your work mobile
Invest in a laptop so that you can work anywhere — kitchen, backyard, playroom, baby’s room etc. You’ll be surprised how much you can get done by sneaking in bits and pieces of work when you can get away with it. Sometimes my youngest would not allow me to work on my desk and I had to bring my laptop over to the sofa to continue my work while he plays next to me. Imagine if I wasn’t using a laptop for work, I’m most likely to face a crying toddler next to me!
8. Keep your home organised
An organised home will demand less time for upkeep, while a cluttered home will require constant work, zap your energy, and bog down your mind. What I’ve found and had been helping me is the Konmari Method of decluttering and organising your home.
Image by Freshome
Be clear about your priorities in life and focus on them. Cut down on activities and obligations that don’t help with your priorities. This includes cutting down on TV watching, magazine reading, mindless Internet surfing, etc. Make every moment of your life count. Do only what helps you achieve your goals. It takes discipline and willpower, but you can do it!
10. Get help
If you can get help from someone, don’t be shy and just ask for their help. It is better than doing everything on your own. While I did not have anyone to help me at home and I take care of every household thing you can think of (because I just simply want and like to do things on my own), I do get help nowadays with heavy house chores like vacuuming and mopping the floor by hiring a weekly cleaner (since I’m heavily pregnant now). It sure saved me a lot more energy for work!