I have, somewhat successfully, managed to work from home for the last 9+ years. In that time I have launched companies that failed, taken on low paid work to just keep my foot in the door, and given up for about 3 hours. But I love keeping myself organised, it makes me really happy.
During that time I have also had three girls to take care of too. In various stages of life, from newborns mewling at my chest in the early hours, to my eldest who is about to go to secondary school. A conversation a few months ago, between my peers and me, sparked up. It was a discussion about how we/I balance everything. Truth be told, it is because I am that type of person. I like a proper balance and want things in order. So what looks natural for me as a copywriter, blogger, designer and mother of three – might not be so easy for someone else. It is a lot about personality. I don’t believe there is any one way to parent or work from home that is better than another. I genuinely believe that it is very much a personal thing.
However, all that said. There are some things that I just feel help me keep my life in order.
Keeping Myself Organised
First and foremost. I outsource when I need to. If I look at my working week, and I can see that I have very little room for relaxing, I will outsource a chunk of my personal work. This might be hiring a VA to clear up my emails. It could be that the VA will schedule a chunk of social media for me (again personal only), or it could be that I commissioned some research on SEO or Keywords to save for future use. This helps by giving me room to concentrate on my clients, while my personal projects are taken care of.
I make notes. When first discussing work. A blog post, a design piece, a piece of copy – anything. I will make notes. Colour palette, the feel of the words, the angle, and other ideas. Even if that work is not due for another month or more, I have a clear idea of what I will be doing. One of the ways people waste the most time is by trying to find an angle, a hook in the same week as the work is due, and coming up blank due to pressure. Start early, make notes, and you won’t be sitting in front of a blank (read as intimidating) screen when it comes time to write.
Handle life organisation neatly too. Begin to make it a habit. Every month I total up my income and add it to an excel file. Equally, I add up my expenses. Come self-assessment time it is quick and easy to input my figures. I have a reminder set for car maintenance like MOT and renewals. My phone holds a list of important upcoming events in both reminder form and in the shared family calendar. My husband and I have a clear plan in place for our life after 50 too. The girls have healthy trust funds, which allows us to relax when it comes to their future education or housing needs, and plan some fun stuff (like cruises and last minute trips!).
Introduce a work schedule that fits your life. I have seen this so many times. With the best of intentions to become very organised, very quickly people overload themselves. Trying to get as much done in each hour as possible. Throwing the balance off between personal time and work time. Multitasking (which is just horrific anyway), and going all out. To avoid this, get yourself a piece of paper and write down what is essential in your day (example):
- School run mornings
- An hour-long lunch break
- School run afternoon
- Kids to bed
- Tidy up
In there you have to fit in a few hours per day. I work from 9.30am till around 2pm Monday – Thursday, if you have children in school this works well. If they are too young, you might have to move your working day to earlier in the morning (which is no bad thing!). I don’t, where possible, work weekends. Weekends are for personal projects, family time, cooking and other life stuff.
Tools I use for Organisation
- LastPass – I use this to give access to any Virtual Assistant while keeping my passwords safe
- MissingLettr – This neat tool allows you to schedule a year-long drip feed campaign. Great images, excellent pricing and easy to use.
- Buffer – I use this mainly for clients, again great for scheduling
- Trello – When working on collaborative projects we use a Trello board to keep everyone on track.
- Fivver / Upwork – I initially found my VA on Upwork, and I return to her any time work comes up. However, there are plenty of other places to hire someone, even for a few hours.
- Pen and Paper – while it is very tempting to do everything digitally, our brains love to write and read what we have written.
- Be Focused Pro (Mac) – it has preloaded Pomodoro style segments to keep you focus for say 25 minutes, with a five-minute break. It also schedules a more extended break too. It is a fantastic way of working. If you don’t use a Mac, then Focus Booster comes highly recommended.
- File things correctly – this is a manual one, you are the tool (so to speak). Use ring binders and folders (both digital and physical) for invoices, ideas, stock images, contacts and save them on your computer and a cloud/HHD.
- Caato Time Tracker – I use this if I have accepted a per hour contract and need to keep a record of my hours.
Sometimes, you are swimming against the current when it comes to keeping on track every day. Society, in general, is very focused on being a high achiever, having ‘it all’, multitasking, juggling, wearing 9-inch heels and earning an 8 figure income while also raising a lot of happy, well-rounded children. Unrealistic, and slathers the pressure on.
What I try to do, is create a personal balance with a few tools that give me time to be lazy, or time to work flat out and enjoy being a mum.
If you manage to get everything done without implementing tools, then I bow down to you! If not, then I hope at least one thing in the post will help you achieve your organisational goals.