7 ways for work at home parents to have a more productive day

Working from home can seem like a bit of a dream, until you try it and realise how hard it can be to actually be productive and get your work done outside of the traditional office environment.  Throw a child or two into the mix and it gets even harder.

So for anyone out there who might be struggling, here are 7 ways for work at home mums and dads to have a more productive day.

7 ways for work at home parents to have a more productive day

Get a change of scenery.

Organisational psychologist Ron Friedman has found that a change in scenery can boost productivity.  He makes a really good point that “no single environment is effective for every task”.  So if you feel yourself flagging sitting at your desk/kitchen table/makeshift office at home, then try heading out to a local cafe for a bit to work there instead.

Even better, work out what tasks you can work on that don’t require internet access and go outside for some of your working day.  Friedman has noted that studies show that going outdoors can ‘replenish our mental resources’, which is great news for our productivity.

If you have your children home with you:

Take a notebook to the park with you to brainstorm ideas while your child plays.  Or take your laptop to the soft play centre and make use of their wifi while your little one goes exploring.

 

Get a buddy.

Team up with a friend who also works from home.  You can use each other to stay accountable for the things you need to get done.  Either daily or weekly, let each other know what your goals are and then periodically check in with each other to make sure you’re making progress.

This is also a great way to make sure you’re getting some human/adult conversation to stop you feeling isolated and going a bit stir crazy.  Having someone to bounce ideas can also really help you to stay productive.  If you’re stalling on a piece of work because you’re not sure of the best way to handle it, having a buddy to talk it over with can help you move forward much more quickly than trying to figure it all out alone.

If you have your children home with you:

Try and find another work at home parent to buddy up with.  They’ll have a better understanding of what you’re dealing with, trying to juggle a child and work.  You might even be able to set up an arrangement where you look after each other’s children for a few hours each week to allow the other person some completely child-free time to work.

 

Get dressed.

Dr Ben Dattner from the faculty of psychology at New York University, says that “sometimes getting dressed in business attire can make people feel like they’re more connected”.  So even if you know you won’t be leaving the house, don’t be tempted to just stay in your pyjamas all day.  You’ll be far more productive if you take a few minutes to get dressed properly.

If you have your children home with you:

If your children are still little, and you’re not at the stage yet of needing to get them dressed ready for school, then it can be so tempting to have days when you all just stay in your pyjamas.  But in order to be productive and get your work done it really is worth getting everyone up and dressed properly.  Save the pj days for the weekends.

 

Get your noise levels just right.

Take a bit of time to work out what kind of noise levels work for you.  As a general rule, high noise levels reduce our ability to process information and think creatively, and listening to conversations that start and stop can be really bad for productivity.  So think carefully before putting daytime tv on as background noise while you work!

If you’re going to be doing repetitive tasks then having some music on in the background can be a good way to stay motivated and can also reduce stress.  But if you need to really focus on what you’re doing then avoid music with lyrics because this can affect your concentration.  In fact, complete silence is the best option if you really need to concentrate on the task at hand.

On the flip side of this, if your work requires you to be more creative then low levels of background noise can help you to get the job done.  If I’m working on a blog post I quite often like to use coffitivity to give me some background noise as if I’m working in a coffee shop, which really works for me.

If you have children at home with you:

Having little ones around makes it really quite tricky to control the noises that are around you when you’re trying to work!  I think most of us struggle to concentrate with Peppa Pig on the tv and constant shouts and cries demanding our attention.

What you can do is try and work your tasks around the noise.  So save the jobs that require absolute concentration for naptime, or for the evenings when the children are in bed.  Or if it works better for you, get up earlier in the morning to crack on with them.  Then when you can buy yourself 20 minutes worktime courtesy of cbeebies then use that time to do the jobs that require a little less focused brain power.

 

Get focused.

So often we think we’re being productive when we multitask, but switching from one task to another all day long actually makes us so much less productive.  Our brains can only focus on one thing at a time, so trying to multitask just reduces our efficiency and performance.  Our brains don’t have the capacity to carry out both tasks successfully.

One of the best things you can do for your productivity is to batch your work.  Which basically means, do all ‘like’ tasks together, in one hit, rather than jumping from one task to another.  So if you’re a blogger, you might do all the photography you need to do for that week’s blog posts in one go.  Then do all the writing.  Then schedule all your tweets in one go.  This kind of focused work is so much more productive.

If you have children at home with you:

As you’re more likely to get side tracked when you have your children around, it might work to take this batching idea to a different level and tackle different tasks on different days.  So on Mondays you might focus on photography.  So you have everything set up and the camera ready so whenever you get the chance you can jump in and get a few shots.  Then on Tuesdays you might work just on writing content.  And so on for the whole week.

 

Get ready.

I have about 2 hours every morning to work at the moment, while Nerys is at school, and I find I’m much more productive in that time if I have everything set up and ready for when I come home from the school run.

Planning what needs to be done, and writing a to-do list, the night before means I can hit the ground running.  Otherwise I find I faff around a bit, working out what I need to do, and wasting precious time.

If you have children at home with you:

Create a master to-do list of everything you need to get done.  Then each evening write a to-do list for the next day, with about 5 tasks on it that you need to focus on.  Work out what windows of time you’ll have to fit your work in and then plan which tasks you’ll tackle when.

Knowing ahead of time what you need to be doing will help you to jump straight in as soon as you get the chance, saving valuable time.

 

Get your frogs eaten first.

If you’ve ever looked into productivity, then chances are you’ve come across this idea before.  There is a quote, apparently from Mark Twain, that goes along the lines of ‘eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day’.  So basically, you should do the work task that you’re dreading the most, first.  If you keep putting it off it will nag away at you, distracting you and making you less productive.  If you just crack on with it, and get it done first thing then it’s out of the way, and your mind is left clear to focus on the other jobs you need to get done.

If you have children at home with you:

Plan an activity to occupy your little one at the start of the day, so you can get on with eating that frog.  Depending on how long you need, you can pop your baby in a jumperoo or under their baby gym to entertain themselves for a short while.  For toddlers you can set up a simple art/craft activity so they can ‘work’ alongside you.  And a bit of tv or tablet time really won’t do them any harm in my opinion, and can be a good fallback option if you need some quiet to get that most dreaded task completed.

 

I really hope some of these tips might help you, if you’re a mum or dad trying to juggle working from home with looking after a baby or young child. 

Do you do any of these already?  Or do you have another tip that helps with productivity when you work from home?  Please do leave me a comment and let me know!

 

This post has been linked up to the list linky with you baby me mummy.

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7 Comments

  1. obsessive.compulsive.mother 06/10/2017 / 1:30 pm

    Thanks for this, what a useful read! Love these tips 🙂 As a work-from-home mum, I’ve only just started to get in to the way of it. I’ve never heard the Mark Twain quote, but I think it is brilliant! Definitely need to get my frogs eaten first thing more often 😀

    A good thing I have found, is to take my laptop out and about with me. If I get nap-trapped in the car, I use my mobile phone’s data connection to get on the internet and get some work done – tethering has been brilliant, and really made a difference to times of the day when otherwise I would be at a bit of loose end. Most mobile contracts and some pay-as-you-go services allow it, so it’s worth looking in to.

  2. Katelynn|hampersandhiccups.com 06/10/2017 / 4:39 pm

    Great post. Lots of us struggle with being productive during awake times. For myself, I don’t like my kiddos seeing me at the computer and not being involved with them. I limit computer time to naps and after bed time so that I can be more present when they are awake.

    Katelynn, hampersandhiccups.com

    • This glorious life 07/10/2017 / 8:18 pm

      Thank you. It can be really hard though can’t it, trying to fit everything in during those windows when they are asleep! x

  3. Hannah 09/10/2017 / 8:27 pm

    These tips are brilliant. I have my 2yo at home 3 days a week and it is hard work to get anything done. I do try to vary our days, and make the most of the time she is busy playing independently. I love the frog idea, I will try and remember that!

    • This glorious life 15/10/2017 / 11:46 am

      Thank you, I really hope it is helpful! I need to take most of my own advice on board too, I have so many days where I just don’t feel like I’ve been productive at all! x

  4. Alana - Burnished Chaos 11/10/2017 / 6:53 am

    Great tips. My daughter loves sitting at the table next to me to do some drawing while I’m at the computer. I’ve also always got up at 5:30 to get some work done before getting the kids up at 7 (yes, they’ve always stayed in bed till then!) But this last few weeks my daughter has been waking up before me and my morning routine has gone completely out of the window. Over the course of a week that’s over 10 hours lost 😩
    #TheListLinky

  5. Mammy 15/10/2017 / 11:45 am

    Fascinating blog, Madeline. The frog idea should work for everyone!

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