Time management as a mummypreneur

This article is going to discuss how to manage time. A lot of articles I read about “time management for business owners” leave me rolling on the floor laughing. I wonder why people can’t get things done. They don’t have a curious toddler on their hands.

Then I think about all the time I wasted before I had a baby. I was definitely about three times as productive when I was working from home by myself, with no one else to think about, but I know I wasn’t getting as much done as I probably could have. I have ADHD, which is one complication, and it was only diagnosed earlier this year after a lifelong struggle with focusing, organizing and timekeeping.

A lot of the problem is the online working environment is designed to distract you as much as is possible. Each website you visit is designed to keep you coming back for more. More scrolling. More clicking. More time for them to make money showing you adverts.

It’s a pretty good moneymaker for the sites involved, but you don’t want to drink the Kool Aid and start thinking any of that nonsense actually matters. Nothing bad will happen if you don’t check Twitter for a few hours. The world isn’t going to change drastically if you don’t see what news stories all your friends are outraged about today. They’ll be different tales tomorrow. And that’s what it all is. A big narrative that keeps us trapped in an ineffective, time-wasting spiral.

We need to break away from it.

Those social media sites are not your friend. And you don’t need to be on them all the time. It often feels like everyone else is constantly on Facebook etc, but no one needs to be. Just go online to check your messages or notifications once a day, don’t respond to anything that comes in while you’re online, and do the same the next day.

It’s mind over matter — those who mind how much time you spend online don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.

That’s the key to time management for anyone in our modern world.

For mums, the other time management issue is children. They demand attention at the most random moments and they don’t wait. They are too little to have any understanding of what you’re doing or how they’re affecting it.

However, it’s very easy for us to make excuses to ourselves about where our time has gone. Our brains are complicit in this, because a lot of the time, when you think really hard about it, you probably don’t remember exactly what you spent your time on, or you feel like you must have spent more time on your kids because you weren’t doing something productive or valuable for yourself. Right?

But what if you ditched social media or significantly cut back on it, moved away from all the gossip, politics and bitching of online groups, and focused on only what you and your immediate family needs? How would your timescape change? Would you have more time for your kids? For your work? Absolutely.

But let’s look at what you can do about your little ones.

You can’t control how much attention your child needs, any more than you can control how many nappies they use in a day or how much milk they drink. But you can control how you solve their problems.

Never do something for a child if they can do it themselves

Maria Montessori

For mommypreneurs, letting go of that sense that we alone are responsible for the happiness of our babies is hard to do. But we have to step back, while still being present for them in the moments when it matters, to help them grow into independent adults.

It takes time and repetition and persistence to teach children of any age to do things for themselves, especially if they’re not used to it, but they will reap the rewards for the rest of their lives.

Imagine you’re building a blueprint for them to follow when they grow up. Start small. My fifteen-month-old brings me nappies (diapers) for his changes. I say, “Could you bring me a nappy please?” He didn’t do it the first ten times. But the eleventh? Or the twentieth? He started going to the nappy table, and when I praised him for that consistently, eventually he started bringing me nappies for his nappy change.

That’s just one example. It takes a bit of time in the short run, but long term, they’ll do more for themselves which is more time you can spend doing the things you need to do.

What is your biggest challenge with time management? What are you doing to overcome it? Let me know in the comments!

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!

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