Whether you’re a work at home mom building your teacher empire or you’re still teaching and want some tips for productivity, today I’m sharing some of my best scheduling hacks. The truth is, we all need to have routines in place to maximize our productivity, but the daily routines makeover ideas I’m sharing with you will give you a glimpse into how I manage my work at home mom schedule.
Spoiler alert…I’m not perfect, but I have figured out a few things that make my day go much more smoothly.
The Daily Routines Makeover that Changed my Productivity
I enjoy checking things off my daily to do list, but I noticed when I was trying to be too specific by breaking down my day into minute-by-minute activities…I was totally stressed out!
I had created a daunting list of totally unrealistic tasks to complete in an impossible amount of time. And every day, I was falling farther and farther behind.
I knew there had to be a better way…and that’s when I executed a daily routines makeover.
I started looking at my day from a more “big” picture perspective and that has skyrocketed my productivity because I can focus on the most important things instead of getting stuck in the minutiae.
So I’m giving you my best tips for conducting your own daily routines makeover that will help you be more productive in whatever time you have available to work your side hustle or your teacher business.
Utilize a Block Schedule
So what do I mean by a block schedule? Well, a block schedule is simply a block of time devoted to a specific topic or job that typically ranges from 1-8 hours.
The reason block schedules are so helpful is that you can stay focused on one topic or job until it’s completed. Think about a typical 9-5 job; an employee goes in at 9, complete all the tasks designated for that particular day, and then leaves at 5 pm.
Obviously, since I work at home (and I’m my own boss), my day isn’t quite as defined. So, to make it a bit easier for me, I set time frames or “blocks” aside each day to complete work.
During work time, I keep personal phone calls, laundry, cooking, and other various “momming” tasks to a minimum…at least as much as possible.
I do this because research conducted by Gloria Mark, of the University of California, noted when workers experience interruptions that are different in “context” to the task being performed, we are disrupted causing loss of focus, concentration, and momentum. And that makes it even more difficult to re-start again.
By working in blocks, I give myself the maximum amount of time and focus for a specific task.
Quick Tip: Look at your current daily schedule. If you’re in the classroom full-time, do as much of your “teacher” work as possible during contract hours. Then when you go home, you can work on your side hustle in the small amount of time you can carve out of your busy schedule.
If you are at home full-time, you have a little more liberty to make adjustments to your work at home schedule. Obviously, if you have littles running around, your work at home mom schedule will probably vary greatly from day to day…
Break Your Block into Chunks
Ok…I probably could’ve made that sound a little more professional, but you probably know by now that I’m all about being honest, real, and just doing what works.
Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that I get bored completing mundane tasks, and no matter how much I love my job, there are mundane tasks that have to be completed. It’s true!
So, to keep myself focused, but not bored, I break my work block into chunks.
For me, I like to break down my “boring” tasks (those that take a lot of time and are super-repetitive) into 30-minute chunks. I work like mad for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break.
This break is important because it gives me time to move around and it helps me stay focused on a large task that would be difficult to finish in one sitting.
Now you may be thinking, “Jennifer, you’re contradicting yourself! At first you said stick with a task, but now you are saying take a break…so which one is it?”
Well, I’m so glad you asked!!
Think about it like this…when you are “in the zone” writing a blog post or creating a resource, you want to attend to that task as long as possible. The momentum you have going will keep you focused for a good deal of time.
But once you stop working to go switch out laundry or work on dinner, your concentration is gone and you have lost all of your momentum.
Now, if you find you’re having trouble keeping your focus past 25 minutes writing that blog post or creating that resource, give yourself a 5-minute break to stand up, stretch, grab a glass of water, or do a few push-ups.
But here’s the key!!!!
Set a timer for five minutes and at the end of the time get right back to the task you were working on. Don’t start another task, check social media, or make any major decisions because this is where we really get off track.
When our brains switch gears to “do” another mental task, we break our concentration and that’s why it takes so long for us to get back into the “flow.”
So, take your 5 minutes and then work for another 25 minute stretch. This cycle of work and rest is what your mind and body need to remain at optimum performance level.
Quick Tip: Don’t neglect to set the timer. This is going to guarantee you stick to your block schedule and maximize the time you have available. If it helps, set your timer for 25 minutes first and then when the alarm sounds, you know it’s break time.
Just remember that if you’re in a good flow, don’t stop until you get to a point where your mind is wandering. This is going to help you maximize your productivity and efficiency.
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Establish Environmental Triggers
When I was younger, I took piano lessons. Because I learned by the Suzuki method (or by ear), I was required to listen to my piano tape (yes…I’m that old) every day while I did my homework.
While I would’ve told you I HATED classical music at that point in my life, the piano music hearing became a trigger for me. I knew that as soon as I got home from school, I would turn on my music and do my homework.
Fast forward a couple of decades and I’ve come to realize that when I really need to focus, queuing a classical music playlist is exactly what I need. And although classical music isn’t my genre of choice for most activities, it is when it comes to working.
That is the power of triggers.
A trigger is something that your mind has equated with focus. It might be a scent of candle, a specific essential oil being diffused, music, or anything else you can imagine. The trigger doesn’t matter so much as what it tells your senses and your mind.
Quick Tip: Think about what you would like to use as a trigger and start doing that thing right before a work session. This will help you (and your family) distinguish between play time and work time, and you will find your productivity goes through the roof.
One of the most important parts of setting up a schedule or completing a daily routines makeover is to use any available time you have to work your side hustle or your teacher business.
You don’t want to exit the classroom just so that you can work MORE hours from home. That’s why you have to be very intentional about how you perceive your work time, how you explain that time to others, and ultimately, how you structure your day.
So I want to break down those three components of being intentional
Your Perception of Your Workday
You need to think of your work time as if you were an employee. You wouldn’t go to a job and expect your boss to wait on you because you were on a personal phone call for an indefinite amount of time. You also wouldn’t leave to run home and do a few loads of laundry.
So don’t allow yourself to drift into the “multitasking” mindset because you will do poorly across the board. Mark off your work time in your planner and then do what needs to be done FOR WORK during that time.
Then when you have completed the task, the laundry will still be waiting.
Trust me…laundry is always waiting.
How You Explain Your Work Time to Others
We all know that we can’t control what others think, but sometimes we actually do ourselves a disservice unintentionally.
Let me give you an example.
Because I work from home, I have freedom in my schedule. However, when something needs to be done during the normal 9-5 workday, who do you think others automatically assume can do it because I don’t have a “real” job?
Yep…that would be me.
Now, what they mean is that I don’t clock in to a traditional job and leave my home to complete my work. But it took me awhile to understand why I kept getting all these additional “activities” added to my plate when I was working, too.
You see, it was my own fault. I encouraged this view because I had made myself available during working hours.
So make sure that you explain to others including your spouse, kids, family members, church members, friends, etc. that you work from home. This will allow you to be in charge of what you take on instead of being the one that everyone ASSUMES will do the task.
How You Structure Your Day
This is one of the essential pieces of your daily routines makeover. And it will require some thinking on your part because the way you structure your day is going to be contingent on one very important factor…YOU!
Without question, I’m a morning person. I prefer to wake up early and get as much as done as I possibly can. I usually wake up between 5:30-6:00 am with a clear vision of the day and I want to tackle all of the things head on. Then, by 3 pm, I’m pretty much done when it comes to thinking.
My brother, on the other hand, is the total opposite. He would prefer to get up around 11 am and become hyper-focused around 8 pm. By the time he’s ready to make progress on his to do list, I’m ready to call it a night!
So, you can see how knowing this information has helped us when it comes to something as simple as phone calls. My brother knows not to waste his time calling me after 10 pm because I’m either already asleep or well on my way.
On the flip side, I know if I call him at 6 am, it will be like talking to a zombie and he won’t remember our conversation. Now, I say all of that, to say this. Knowing when you are focused and ready to take on the day will help you know how to create an optimal work schedule and when to target your power hours.
What are power hours you ask?
Power hours are those chunks of time when you feel hyper-focused and you notice that you get a lot accomplished. If you’re a work from home mom, you may have to work before your kids get up, during nap time, or after they go to bed at night.
In my case, I know I will be soooooo much more productive in the morning, so I work as hard as I can before anyone else is awake.
But just because that schedule works for me doesn’t mean that you have to adopt the same schedule. Simply think about when you get the most done in the least amount of time, and you’ll know your power hours.
A Work At Home Mom Schedule Example
- 5:30-6:30 Bible Study & Prayer Time – gets me focused and in the correct mindset
- 6:30-7:00 Get dressed and ready for the day, throw in a load of laundry
- 7:00-11:00 Work Block – this is my most productive block of time PERIOD!!
- 11:00-12:00 Lunch – Play a board game with my kids or watch a movie, switch laundry
- 12:00-1:00 Assorted household chores
- 1:00-4:00 Work Block – this is when the 25 minute work/5 minute break works well for me
- 5:00-6:00 I quit working for the day, dinner, hubby gets home from work
- 6:00-7:00 Exercise – because my work is very sedentary
- Work time (my most focused time)
If I’m being perfectly honest, it’s never quite as neat and tidy as this schedule indicates. But the main thing is I have an order to my day so I’m not tossed to and fro by every random happening in my home.
Do I have days that deviate from the schedule? Absolutely!
Do my kids play sports and make my schedule a hot mess? 100%
Do I freak out if I have to deviate from the schedule? Sometimes…I’m just being honest. Seriously, though, an occasional deviation is fine as long as it doesn’t become a habit.
Creating a schedule that is going to work for you isn’t going to be black and white….there are a lot of gray areas. And periodically, you have to do another daily routines makeover.
While the daily routines makeover I’ve shared has worked wonders for my productivity, you may need to tweaks it in order for it to work for you. The key is to think about your day more fluidly because if you’re still in the classroom or you’re trying to create a work at home mom schedule, you know every day is different.
Maybe you’re getting ready to add some new tasks into your schedule and you aren’t sure how much time you will need to complete them. That’s where the block schedule and chunking sessions come in clutch!
You can work during your block, figure out how much time you need for each new task, and then organize your time more exactly around those activities.
Just remember, it’s ok if your schedule changes occasionally, but the important thing is to make sure that you’re in control of your schedule, you have specific time blocks noted in your planner, and you protect those time blocks by acting the same way you would as an employee.