How to be a champ at time management

By Mel Sim

I know, I have two kids and I work from home.

I’ve been a freelancer for more than a decade so when it comes to managing my own time, you can say that I’ve been there, done that and am pretty good at it. Working on multiple deadlines at the same time – no problemo. Got back-to-back meetings? Hold my calendar.

And then I gave birth two years ago. And again one year later (what did I say about being good at my timing). So began my journey as a work-at-home mum with two little ones who needed my attention like what seems to be always.

This would be an easy article to write if I told you I had help at home so time management is no issue. But I don’t – though as a disclaimer, the first born goes to school till about 4pm so that gets him out of my hair for quite a bit.

So during the day (and night!), not only am I trying to juggle my responsibilities as a functioning adult, I also have to deal with the needs and wants of little people as well as meet my work commitments as a freelancer. Then there’s laundry, meals to cook, dishes… you name it, it needs to be done.

Which is why time management is sooooooo important for me to get things done! It’s not easy, trying to work from home and juggle everything else… but it’s not entirely impossible as well. I would like to think I’m not doing all too bad, meeting deadlines and keeping sane. There are days where I have to roll with the punches and not get much done… but that’s life, isn’t it?

What’s my secret to time management as a work-at-home mum that you too can apply in your life? Let me share them with you.

#1 Do things in advance
You know all the little things that you can get done quite easily and almost immediately? Do them as soon as you can. For me, it’s getting the next-day clothes out the night before, packing my kid’s school bag and putting it straight into the car so I don’t have to deal with it the next morning where things are a blur. Whatever you can do at night especially when there are no emails or phone calls to interrupt you, do them. Make getting ready for work the next day a bedtime routine – so you can start the next day on a more productive track rather than scrambling to look for your keys, wallet, phone and everything else.

#2 Stay off social media when it’s crunch time
I’m guilty of being sidetracked by social media. And it’s really a time sucker and something you can do without when you’ve got a million and one things to do. What I’ve learned from all the years of juggling work and life as a work-at-home mum is not to get on it in the first place, especially when you have deadlines calling your name!

If you find yourself scrolling through your phone mid-work, do this: Put your phone in the desk or a place where you can’t see it (I turn mine off when I am really busy and need to sit down to get work done). This way, you won’t be tempted to pick it up and look through Instagram “for just five minutes”.

#3 Schedule, schedule, schedule
Anyone crushing time management will tell you this: It’s all about scheduling. Having an outline of what your day will look like helps you envision when you can get things done. For me, it’s school run and then home to put baby down for a nap, which is when I check my emails and do some easy writing work if possible. Baby wakes up 90 minutes later (you can get a lot done during those 90 minutes if you really put your mind to it!) and it’s play, lunch and back to nap – which is another block of time for me to do work for at least two hours.

Map out your day and try your best to stick to it. Maybe check emails if you take the public transportation to work or do it for the first hour when you get to the office. If you’re most productive before lunch, try tackling your hardest and most time-consuming task then to get it out of the way. Having a sense of what your day will look like helps give you more focus and structure to properly manage your time as closely as possible to your schedule.

#4 Get help or outsource
One thing I’ve learnt as a work-at-home mum? I don’t have to do it all and if I can outsource it to give me more time and sanity, then I will. I have a cleaner who comes in three times a week, a dishwasher and dryer I absolutely can’t live without, and dinner delivered every week day. I’m all for ordering groceries online as well. By doing this, I gain at least three hours to do stuff around the house as well as work.

So if you have things you can outsource like laundry (and it doesn’t cost too much), do it. There are a lot of services out there that can really save you time and effort, plus do a better job at it than you will. My husband used to iron his work shirts but have since discovered that he can get it done outside at RM2 per shirt. It’s a win-win for him: He gets to catch up on his work reading instead of ironing and his shirts come back absolutely creaseless.

#5 Prioritise!
Look, I get it – you want to get everything done. Let me tell you that’s not possible and you’ll just run yourself down by trying to do it all. It’s great to feel super achieved but at what cost? Will trying to tick everything off your to-do list means you pay less attention to details?

If you haven’t done it already, learn to prioritise. Pick out three important tasks that you need to accomplish today. When that’s done, you can either call it day and reward yourself… or do all the other non-essential things you’ve been putting off. The most important thing here is to manage your time wisely to accomplish what’s important and not waste time trying to do everything and in the end, get nothing done at all. Head over to this article on how to master the art of prioritising to learn more.

BTW – I just wanted to let you know that I finished this article in the time my baby napped. And even put some groceries away. Get to it – be a boss of your own time!

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash.

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