Run your own home business? Here’s five tips to help you manage your time

Do you work for yourself? And if so, are you struggling to balance your work and home life? Read five tips to help you manage your time. 

When you’re working for a demanding employer on their terms, it’s tempting to dream about running your own business from home.

But those of us who’ve trod that path know, it’s not always as easy as it can appear from the outside. Without someone else setting your schedule and ensuring you have everything you need to work, it’s all-too easy to let distractions derail your attempts at productivity.

And if you’re working from home around the needs of your family, that challenge can get even harder!

Five tips to help you manage your time

If you find yourself struggling to complete everything you hope to achieve every day, then maybe it’s time to try out a few new tips for dividing and conquering your hectic schedule. Here are five to help you get started.

1) Maximise your productive hours

The first thing you need to do is take some time to get reacquainted with yourself – step back and objectively analyse the conditions that help you do your best work.

We all have certain times of day when we feel like we could accomplish almost anything, and other periods when we’d rather just take a nap. So work out when your ideal work times are, then arrange your work flow so that you’ll be tackling the most challenging tasks when you’re most likely to be energetic and industrious.

This is one of the major advantages of working from home: being able to adjust your work day according to what’s best for you. Don’t squander this benefit by trying to tackle work-related projects when you’re not on top form.

2) Establish a solid schedule

Most mums have at least a dozen things vying for their time and attention throughout the day. And unless you use your time management skills to carve out time for work (and stick to it), you’ll fall further and further behind.

But that’s not to say you need to completely ignore any non-work tasks and commitments. Instead you need to plan for them.

So take stock of all your personal and business commitments, and estimate how much time each will consume. Then create a fully fleshed-out schedule that will allow you to spend enough time on your job without neglecting other parts of your life.

It might be prudent to designate a specific room in your home as your ‘office’. This way, you won’t be tempted to engage in work tasks when you’re scheduled for personal time. You’ll also find it easier to prevent your personal life from drifting into your workplace.

3) Avoid toxic influences

We all have our favourite time-wasting and procrastination habits – from making a coffee, to watching soap operas or checking Facebook every hour. And these are fine in moderation. But it’s all too easy to become preoccupied by distractions, only to discover that you’ve been wasting hours while important work has been piling up unattended.

So if you find yourself using them as an excuse to put off work, or they start eating into productive work time, it’s time for them to go.

Some people can also be unhelpful when you’re trying to work. If you have friends or relatives who don’t support you or interfere with your productivity, then you may want to consider reducing the time you spend interacting with them.

Or, more drastically, cutting them from your life altogether – especially if they start displaying any of these toxic traits!

4) Use technology wisely

As distracting as technology can be when you’re trying to work, it also more than gives back. There’s an ever-growing choice of tools and apps designed to help you better manage your time online.

You can use online software to create and edit to-do lists, schedules, notes and other time-saving documents. The free Intuition app for iPhone was created expressly with the needs of mothers in mind. It contains calendar, list making and project planning features that are intended to help you use your time more efficiently.

Personal digital assistants and voice-controlled products like Amazon’s Echo also allow you to interface with your computing devices, simply by speaking your commands aloud. They’re great if you’re already occupied with something else and want to find a piece of information, or adjust your home environment without interrupting your task.

5) Be flexible (and don’t stress!)

It doesn’t matter how carefully you plan your working day – parenthood is an inherently unpredictable affair. So you need to be prepared to drop everything on occasion to deal with family emergencies.

Equally, there may be times when an urgent work project means that you’ll need to temporarily work at the expense of quality time with your children.

The best advice we can offer in these scenarios is to try not to stress, and go easy on yourself. Feeling guilty at letting a client, work or your children down won’t help anyone. Instead, stay calm and make the best decision in the moment – then make peace with it. That’s all anyone can ask of you.

As long as you generally manage a healthy balance between work and your family in the long run (by ‘healthy’ we mean one that works for you and your family), you’ll be fine.

Accept that, when you work from home, you’re going to feel pulled in a hundred different directions at the same time and will need to make compromises occasionally (or even daily!) and go with the flow as much as you can. There’s no such thing as a perfect mother or life. Just do your best.