It’s all well and good deciding you want to be a freelancer or start a business from home, but where are you supposed to find the time to do it?
Sandwiched between school runs or childcare drop-offs (that’s if you’re even apart from your children in the day) is a preciously small amount of time in which you need to accomplish all your everyday chores. Some days, just drinking a mug of tea while it’s still warm is an achievement.
But actually, you’ll be surprised at how much time you can find in your day with a bit of help. With some clever strategic planning and elimination of time-wasters, you can find and maximise enough time to start making your career dreams a reality.
Learn to love lists
Our first tip is to learn to love lists. Lists are your friend – they allow you to calmly identify everything you need to achieve and create a workable plan that you can stick to. With some clever planning, you can allocate key tasks to specific chunks of time, for example when your child has a nap, or straight after the school run when you’re feeling energised.
To maximise the impact of lists, each morning note down everything you need or want to get done that day, and tick tasks off as you complete them. Not only will this help to focus your energies, but it will give you a sense of achievement as you get things done, spurring you on.
Give up time-wasters
If we’re honest, most of us can name one or two things we do in our day that don’t get us any further towards our goal. It may be checking in on Facebook, ebay or reading news or magazine websites, a ‘quick’ post-school run coffee with a friend or catching up with your favourite soap in the daytime. We say we’ll spend ‘just five minutes’ on it before we start work, but invariably we’ll still be there in an hour’s time!
By giving up these habits and getting stuck straight into work you can save a surprising amount of time each week. If you want, you can always use these guilty pleasures as rewards once you’ve achieved your goal, but you may find that once you get into the habit of working you won’t miss them after all.
Split tasks into smaller chunks
As a working mum, it’s not always easy to set aside the huge chunks of time needed to get started as a freelancer or launch your own business. It can seem daunting looking at the mountain of things you need to achieve to get anywhere. But don’t take that as a sign to give up!
By breaking big goals into smaller, more achievable tasks that can be squeezed into time slots grabbed here and there, you can confidently work towards your aims.
To get started, plan out everything you need to do, then break each task down into smaller tasks, and tick these off a list as you get them done. The sense of satisfaction and control you get from achieving these small steps will have the added bonus of motivating you to do even more, and you’ll probably find that you’ll soon start accomplishing even more in those precious slots – inching you ever closer to your dream.
Find your pace and stick to it
Some people are like whirlwinds, rising at 4am to sneak in three hours work before the kids get out of bed, before rushing around doing housework and working without ever seeming to get tired. Others of us are slower and more considered, preferring to ease into work after several coffees.
The trick is to find the pace of work that suits you and stick to it. If you try to achieve too much too soon, you’ll quickly burn out and feel disheartened – and may risk giving up. Instead by finding the right pace, you can work steadily and confidently towards your goal.
Create a schedule
Find the times you like to and can work, and create a schedule or timetable for your work. This way you can plan your week around your work, and be strict with yourself about knuckling down when you need to.
It also makes it easier to say ‘no’ to spur of the moment invitations for coffee with friends (although you can work in planned catch-ups with your friends later on as a reward for having worked hard). You know what you can realistically achieve in a set amount of time and, having booked this time out for work, it’s easier to concentrate and get it done.
Plan a weekly menu
How many minutes do we waste every day blankly staring at an open fridge or freezer, wondering what we’re going to cook for dinner tonight? By planning your family’s meals each week in advance, you can save precious time every evening hunting around your cupboards looking for inspiration.
Or you could go one better and cook meals in advance in a Sunday evening ready to pop in the oven in the week. Family favourites like lasagne, fish pie and meatballs can easily be made up in advance. Or you can choose healthy ready meals from the shops, like those by Mrs Tinks.
Get up one hour early
If you’re a night owl this thought may fill you with horror (and probably isn’t the best suggestion for you) but the easiest way to gain an extra hour a day is to set your alarm clock an hour early.
You’ll be surprised at how much you can achieve in that precious extra hour (after a strong tea or coffee to get you started!) when the house is silent. Plus you can start the day feeling satisfied that you’ve already accomplished something.
Take a break
If you find you’re feeling a bit jaded or are stuck on something, take a break. A quick walk around the corner (or even just round the garden) away from work can reinvigorate you so when you go back you’re energised and ready to work at a faster pace. Plus the change of scenery and exercise may give you a fresh perspective that allows you to solve a nagging problem.
Before you sit down to work take a few minutes to make sure you have everything you’re likely to need to hand. Also try to make sure there’s nothing that you will need to get up for, such as taking food out of the oven or unloading a washing machine. This will stop you needing to break off mid-task, losing your concentration and wasting precious minutes looking for things.
Group tasks together
Every time we start a new task we need to break concentration and refocus our thoughts. That’s why it makes much more sense to group similar tasks together, saving us time in switching between skills or mindsets and engaging different parts of our brain.
So look at the tasks you need to do to get your business or freelance career started, and put them into groups – for example, marketing, social media, planning, finances etc. Then allocate a chunk of time to one group of tasks. With your head already in ‘the zone’ you’ll find it quicker and easier to find and act on solutions, getting more done.
It’s also a good idea to devote set time for checking your emails, say once an hour. This stops you getting distracted from a task by reading every email as it comes through and composing a reply.
And finally, if you really, really want to get something done, you’ll find a way to make it happen. Ask any successful woman who has launched a thriving business or freelance career while raising children how she did and she’ll probably say she was determined to make it work. Extra hours in the day don’t just magically appear – you need to make them happen and make the most of them.
Do you have any time-saving tips that have helped you to build a successful freelance career or start a business? Share them on our LinkedIn group – and get tips from other members!Hannah Martin