What is your productivity ritual?

A productivity ritual is a way to tell your body and mind that it is time to work. In an office, this might be entering the building, ascending in a lift and sitting down at your desk. It could be the smell of “work coffee” (which is somehow subtly different to home coffee). Or it might be the sound of Sheryl from Accounting’s voice as she greets you.

When working from home, you have the freedom to create your own productivity rituals. Without them, however, you will struggle to feel in the “right headspace” to work. Sound familiar? It happens to all of us, but productivity rituals for working from home minimize how distractible you are.

As a mummypreneur, separating my work life from my mothering life is impossible. The two are as intertwined as the word “mummypreneur”. It’s an impossible dichotomy.

To clear my mind and focus on my work, I make space amidst the mental chatter by using my tea ritual. I go to the kettle, boil it, prepare the teapot and make myself a cup of herbal tea which I pour into my cup.

Chamomile percolates through the air and relaxes me, lifting my desire to solve every problem all at once, and helping me to focus.

My teapot and cup and saucer are things that remind me why I’m working so hard to create a business. They are Wedgwood Jasperware, antiques bought from ebay. The teapot has a small chip on the spout. Together, the teapot, cup and saucer cost about £30. Brand new, when they were first released, in today’s money they would have been about £500 for the three items. They remind me of my grandma and my upbringing, a handful of miles away from the Wedgwood factory in Etruria, Stoke-on-Trent. When I need to ground myself, I remove the cup from the saucer. I turn the tiny plate over and read “Wedgwood: Made in England.”

The cost is irrelevant. They make me feel pulled-together. The blue-and-white colours are neat and somehow they feel just right. Some people have nail polish or a favourite work shirt. I have my Wedgwood teapot. When I hit my next success target, I will treat myself to another Wedgwood item.

If you don’t have a ritual, yet, how can you incorporate something you love into your daily routine, so it transports you to that perfect state where the ideas flow, problems solve themselves and work happens?

Ideas for a work ritual:

Putting on your favourite music

Finding a new genre of music such as classical, progressive rock or drum and bass that gives you stillness from the mundane world and energy for your business. Put it on in the background while you blitz through work-related tasks.

Music has been shown to help some people concentrate, but avoid putting on bangers that you want to dance or sing to, as this will actually reduce your concentration, instead! There are entire Youtube channels dedicated to extremely long musical videos which claim to aid concentration, and there’s also nonstop cafe music and back-to-back classical songs on there, all of which are free for anyone to use.

If working in absolute silence is more your jive, there are a wide range of noise-reducing earplugs available online which you might prefer, although, obviously if you’re working from home and in charge of a baby, be sure they can get your attention when they need it.

Have a “work outfit”

Dress for success. This is especially good if your work includes Zoom or Skype meetings, because you will make a good impression on your clients or coworkers. Have fun choosing something that, when you wear it, makes you feel like you are your best, professional self. You could even pick a pair of shoes; no one else will see them, so they’re a nice touch to remind yourself that you’re dressing like this for you.

If you’re in a more creative industry, you might not like the idea of putting on a suit or a shirt. There are an infinity of clothing styles out there, find a “work scarf” or “work jumper” and use that instead. Or if the idea of associating clothing with work is too abhorrent, simply pick a different productivity ritual on or off this list! The sky is not the limit, darling!

Having a lunch area and leave your phone there

Constantly checking your phone in case anything has changed is a problem many people have. Resisting temptation is very hard, especially for those who used to go on Facebook regularly during dull, empty days at the office while waiting for a big print job to finish. Working from home, the only person you are cheating is yourself when you get stuck in an app on your phone. Turn it off, put it on silent, or physically remove it from your workspace and put it in a lunchtime area where you now always go for a break.

Physically moving when it’s time for a break means you will feel more replenished when you return to your work space. When I had no table as the shops were closed during lockdown, I put my plate on the floor, sat down with it and ate there. The advantage of moving and changing positions is it also reduces the risk of deep vein thrombosis from inactivity. Leaving your phone somewhere away from your workspace (unless you need it for work) will improve your productivity as you will be less distracted.

If you are still struggling to break away from your phone apps, leave your phone by the toilet and only check it mid-wee. As soon as the flow stops, put the phone down immediately and move on with life safe in the knowledge that nothing interesting at all happened online while you were working.

Working elsewhere

Put your little one in their pushchair, pop to the nearest cafe, order coffee and set up camp at a table. Everywhere’s closed? Make a travel mug of coffee, put little one in their car seat, drive to the nearest place where you can park, and set up camp in your car, instead.

This is a powerful way to blast through the cobwebs, especially if your little one is demanding a lot of attention in the house while you’re trying to work. Soft play (for them) and some headphones (for you) might be a bit extreme for some, but if it works, it works!

I’ve even been known to just open my front door and work on my doorstep for a change of scene a few times, when I couldn’t reasonably get away to anywhere else. I have also worked in the bathroom, both on the bathroom floor and in the (empty) bath.

When I was a student, when things got too noisy, I would open my Victorian sash window and sit on the windowledge with my legs dangling down. It isn’t the best thing to model to children, but my point is, when you need space, you find it.

Making Scents

When you need a quick mood-switching idea, choose a perfume or essential oil. Make that your work scent. Use it in a diffuser or spray it on your wrists or a piece of paper. Inhale the aroma. That’s the smell of success, and of productivity.

Studies have shown we can encode and retrieve information using scent memories, so when you smell a perfume or other fragrance, you remember how you felt and what you were doing at a time that you associated with that smell.

As mummypreneurs, we can use this to program our brains into the right flow state for work to happen. Use the scent whenever you are working. Don’t use it the rest of the time. Your subconscious will soon know what to expect when it notices that scent.

Productivity hairstyles

Do you feel more engaged with work when your hair is up or down? Do you need to feel the swish of a ponytail against your shoulders as you work? Do you work best when your ears are covered with hair or uncovered? Little changes like these can make a difference in your work output and ability to concentrate, so next time you are in your workspace, tune into what’s working and not working and make changes until you have the perfect hairstyle to get things done! Of course, first you need to track down where all your hairbands have gone or decide to buy some more.

To sum up, rituals can be powerful ways to significantly improve your productivity, especially when working from home as a mompreneur. There are so many rituals to choose from, and you are in control. You might use one ritual, or several, either at the same time or separately. It all depends on what works best for you. There’s no one way to work from home, and you can customize your environment to suit your needs.

Do you have a favourite ritual already? Do rituals help your productivity when you are working from home? Let me know in the comments!

Starting a side hustle for stay at home mums

Starting a side-hustle can seem impossible when you spend your day working small miracles and solving big problems for tiny people. This guide will show you exactly how to start a business you can run from home, and how to fit it around milk and nap times. This is the first in a weekly series of business advice for stay-at-home mums that will update on Tuesdays.

Choose your business

First, find what you want to do. This can be the hardest part or the easiest, depending on whether you’re turning a hobby into a fully-monetized business or if you’re still trying to figure out what you love.

It doesn’t have to be the one and only thing that clicks with you, sometimes, a business that makes you some good money is the next best thing!

Check out next week’s post, 180+ businesses you can start at home today, for some inspo, or keep reading if you already have an idea in mind.

Set up a website

There are many different options for setting up a website. Are you technical? Do you want to learn how to take control of your own site and customize it down to the last applet? Or does the idea of learning HTML make you balk? Most of us fall somewhere in between the two extremes. I love custom sites but I don’t have time to hand-code my own site. And that’s okay. I did a full HTML site once, and now I always use a WordPress installation (five successful sites and counting…).

These days, there are website options for every technical ability, and every budget. If you’re flat broke, or unsure whether your business idea has any mileage in it, you can even start a website for free using a site such as Blogger or WordPress.com (not to be confused with WordPress.org which is a whole different kettle of fish).

A basic website only needs four pages: Homepage, About Me (where you talk about your experience in your chosen side hustle), Examples of work (e.g. you’d call this “Books” if you’re an author) and Contact Me, so people can connect with you and give you money!

A four-page website works fine if your site isn’t your main source of business, for example, if you’re an author or offering offline services such as plastering or cake design, however, it will never reach its true potential unless you set up a blog and commit to posting weekly. Your time is finite, so choose wisely.

If you’re setting up a digital side-hustle, you’ll need a more sophisticated online presence. Getting your site to rank in Google is a whole separate topic on which there’s already boatloads of information (rule number 1 of entrepreneurship is never re-invent the wheel, you don’t have time), but the main thing you’ll need is content. Lots and lots of content. You need to write relevant blog posts at least weekly, or Google will think you’re not updating your site regularly, but these don’t need to be complicated posts. Check out my Guide to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to learn more.

If your side hustle is blogging, you literally need to blog every day! Until your site has about 100 well-written articles, you won’t rank in Google. I have a successful blog which has been going since 2014, so I know a thing or two about how to get a blog off the ground. You also need killer photos, a sleek and on-topic website design and social media hookups. The only way to do this job justice is to get a WordPress site, but many people these days use Blogger. Some people also wear T-shirts to job interviews. I wouldn’t recommend that, either.

Choose your social media wisely

Once you have set up your website, it’s time to set up social media. Do you need to be active on every social media platform? Absolutely not! Just go for the one that is best for your industry. Food writer/food business? Pinterest! Beauty blog? Instagram. Author? Facebook.

Knowing your audience is key to a successful side hustle. Each social media outlet attracts a different crowd. Younger people are on Instagram and Youtube. Mommies are on Pinterest and Instagram. Businessmen are on Twitter and Linkedin. Everyone is on Facebook, but most people aren’t using it effectively for their business and it can become a liability, fast.

Making physical products as a side hustle

One of my many businesses is soapmaking and handmade cosmetics. It’s really empowering to work with real ingredients and transform them into finished cosmetics. I find it a great activity for the end of a long day of baby-wrangling, when my mind isn’t in the right place to do books.

Making physical products has some different considerations to other types of side-hustles. You need a space to make things, and it has to be far away from small children who love to put things in their mouths.

Some people will tell you the market is over-saturated for certain homemade products, like jewellery, but that’s not true. I mean, there’s evidence that people have been making jewellery since the palaeolithic period and Tiffany & Co still managed to gain a foothold when they launched.

From a sales point of view, all you need is a strong brand, a really good product (good, not unique), some stunning photography and canny social media marketing and you too can succeed at making physical products.

When setting up a homemade company, you do need to stay on the right side of the law. There are laws on food hygiene, trading standards, how to deal with defective products and more. You may need to register with your local council in the UK, depending on what you sell. You also need to comply with Distance Selling Regulations which state that customers have 14 days to cancel an order or return a product without needing a reason, if they bought online.

The other way to run a business involving physical products is to sell them offline. You could get a regular market stall, hire a table at craft fairs and maker’s markets, or even book a stall for a Christmas market at a major city like Edinburgh or Manchester. That eliminates the need to deal with postage.

If you have lots of capital to invest before you get a return, or if you’re running a business that can get a loan, you could even open your own shop or office for consultations. If you’re doing this with borrowed money, either a business loan or investment in exchange for a percentage of the profits, you’ll need a cast-iron business plan and financial forecasts.

Writing books as a side hustle

Busy mums can also write books. Maybe you’re a voracious romance or mystery fan? Or perhaps you did a degree in English Literature before the job market told you that wasn’t good enough for [insert crappy desk job here]. I stopped doing English at age 16 and did science degrees before I became a successful romance author, writing via four different publishers before striking out into self-publishing. An English degree would have been an advantage but I had a library card and work experience in academic publishing where I learned a lot of the same things on the job.

The biggest challenges for writing books is that you basically have to do three times as much work as any other entrepreneur.

You have to write the book, which takes time (I had this down to 2 weeks before I had a baby, now I need at least 1 month).

Then you have to edit the book. Even if you pay an editor, you still have to go back through your work after they’ve sent it back, and make the recommended changes and improvements to your work. If you’re going through a publishing house, you may have to do this four or five times before it’s where they want it to be (and they want it to be near-perfect to start with, or they won’t take you on).

After that, you’re at the same point as mummypreneurs in every other area of business, and you need to set to work on marketing, blogging on your author site etc, to spread the word about your book.

Authoring can be rewarding, but being a SAHM to young children, it’s definitely not the optimum career choice and I found baby brain zapped me of inspiration to write a book for about 9 months. Your release schedule will never be as prolific as younger or older people with no dependents.

That’s not to say you can’t be an author and a SAHM, and some people say it fits well around their mom life, but I suspect there’s no pressure on those people to be main breadwinners in their house. Or even to break even on their Facebook Adspend.

Selling Digital Services/Products as a side hustle

This is a tried and tested way to make money online, and the best way to do it is to structure your business from day 1 with the three-tier system.

Tier 1: A free “taster” product, e.g. a five-day Facebook challenge or a 4-piece course, or a free short how-to book that’s designed for your ideal audience. In the author world, this is called a newsletter magnet. That’s because you would usually use this one to build your mailing list so you have a pool of fans who love your stuff and want to buy your book.

Tier 2: A book. This is your entry-level product that lots of people will buy, but the profit margin is fairly low. For most industries, this will be a how-to book or other nonfiction.

NOTE: No one wants your autobiography until you have a million followers (for doing something other than talking about yourself), so put that aside and plan to deliver quality information in a book that helps people (no, reading your life story really, truly, honestly doesn’t help people even if you stopped drinking/gambling/eating squirrels. Put on your business hat and take the personal down a notch).

Tier 3: A comprehensive online course or personal consulting. This is your big-ticket item. Far fewer people will go for this (until you’re a mummy mogul with people beating a path to your inbox) but it will make a lot more money.

Your goal is to get as many people as possible from tier 1 to tier 3. This is called a sales funnel and works for basically every industry that is monetized online. The really hard part is crafting top-quality products that appeal to your ideal audience, completely solve their problems and make them eager for more.

Write a Press Release

Whatever industry you’re in, writing a press release to bring media attention to a new product or service can be worthwhile.

If you’re an introvert, you might prefer to just join HARO (Help A Reporter Out) and respond to direct queries about your industry to get media coverage. Extroverts should join here, too. 

Writing a press release needs to hit the right notes to get the attention of a journalist. I’d suggest doing some Googling beforehand to get your pitch spot on.

Monetize, Monetize, Monetize There are a ton of other ways to monetize your site. Affiliate links and advertising are two of the most popular. The goal is to create a passive income, i.e. money that keeps rolling in even while you sleep. You still have to work on your business but it means there are more avenues for money to find you.

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