Overcoming Mental Blocks: How To Free Up 20 Hours a Week

As moms, it’s easy to say that we have no time. We take care of the kids. We take care of the house. If we have time, we take care of our own basic needs. And, more often than they like to admit, we take care of our husbands.

With all that, our businesses sometimes end up getting the bare minimum time that we are able to give.

When you have decided to run your own small or freelance business, the juggling act takes on even more epic proportions as you have to assign and compare importance between what your clients need and what your family needs.

But in many cases, even the most productive women can find a way to create more time and space for themselves.

Find Out Where Your Time is Going…To Get it Back

Let’s be honest, there are entire websites and tome after tome dedicated to productivity, and it all sounds great in theory, but isn’t it kind of procrastinating to delve too far into reading about how to be more efficient?

This will certainly be slightly different for each of us, but let’s look at some of the average moms’ biggest time sinks, and quick ways to fix them.

  • Facebook. If you use Facebook to decompress after a long day and keep up with friends and family, by all means, do not let me stop you. But if you feel like you don’t have enough time to give to your business, make sure this is what you are really doing on Facebook. It’s easy enough to not play Farmville, but are you unexpectedly spending hours paging through photos? Install an app like Rescuetime, which gives you a weekly report of how much time you spend on unproductive websites, or SelfControl (for the mac), which completely blocks your computer from accessing certain sites for as long as you choose.
  • Online forums. Like Facebook, online forums can provide crucial support, venting space, and decompression time. But it’s also all too easy to let popping on to look up something you need turn into hours down the “learning” and “networking” rabbit holes. Consider one of the apps above if you have a forum that you consistently fall into like a black hole, or unsubscribe if, on some reflection, you find you’re using it more for distraction than education.
  • Housework. This is an easy one. There are very, very few self-employed women who are not charging more per hour than an individual housecleaner. Pay someone else to take care of these chores to buy time for your business.
  • ChildcareYes, you do need it! Now, I’m not talking about playing with your children or any other type of quality time. But running a business while having sole responsibility for caring for children is difficult at best and business-suicide at worst. If you were working outside your home, you’d need childcare for the time you spend at work, and that should still be true if you’re running a business at home. Use a babysitter or a daycare service for a few days or hours a week to give yourself focused time to devote to your business.  I can’t stress this enough!  Yes, you might feel guilty for getting help, but consider this the cost/expense of running a business.

 What if You Don’t Procrastinate?

Attacking these four areas, you may gain even 20 hours per week (assuming 1-2 hours a day of Facebook and forums, 5 hours of housework per week, and one day or two mornings of babysitting) or more that you can devote to your business or your physical and mental health, which will in turn make your work hours more productive.

But what if your life is already Facebook-free and full of help with everyday responsibilities?

Take a one-day (or more if you can!) tracking challenge to look at how you spend every minute of your day. Use a paper tracker like Productivity Flourishing’s heatmaps or a digital tracker like Officetime (free trial) for one day, and BE HONEST.

Look at time sinks where you’re not being effective or using your time to recharge. None of us can be on all day—you need to watch TV or veg online sometimes!—but look for spots when you should be effective during the day that are being filled with procrastination.

Plan for Productivity

Now that you’ve found and freed some extra time, make sure that you are using both your new-found and your usual work hours as effectively as possible using four easy tactics:

  • a do-or-die list
  • three daily MITs (Most Important Tasks)
  • accountability buddies
  • have a daily and weekly master calendar and stick to it

To be most productive, these techniques require some planning and checking in the night before to leave your morning open and energized for work.

The Do-or-Die List

This is your real to-do list. Not a list of all the things you “would like to” accomplish today. Or the things you “have to” do today (because we all know those don’t always get done). But the list of things where, if they don’t get done today, something bad will happen.

Maybe these are bills that must be paid, work deadlines that must be met, or dependent tasks—if you don’t call X today for information, you won’t be prepared for your conference call tomorrow.

Try to keep this list to no more than seven items, 10 at the most. These should be finite tasks (email Bill, invoice Sue, go to doctor’s appointment, submit conference speaker proposal) that ideally do not take up more than 5-15 minutes each.

Three MITs

Keeping things in threes is an important psychological memory trick. MITs (Most Important Tasks) differ from your do-or-die list because they are the three biggest tasks you need to do in a day. Rather than small, but necessary calendar-linked tasks, this is the real meat of the work you need to get done (active tasks, not passive).

For some, it’s best to do this the evening or work session before when your head is in the game so you can hit the ground running the next day and not have to remind yourself what you’re working on, then plan, then work.

It’s often good to split the three so one focuses on marketing or a long term goal to make sure you are always moving your business forward.

Accountability Buddies

An accountability buddy is anyone—preferably another self-employed mom, but any fellow freelance or small business worker, your spouse, or a rotating cast will do—that you can share what you need to get done with and help each other hit those goals.  Putting together a mastermind or joining one is one way to find accountability buddies.

Depending on how much time you each have available, you can just send over your do-or-die list, MITs, or your entire to do list at the beginning of the day and then report back at the end, with encouraging emails in between. But some self-employed moms find it useful to call every couple of hours and help cheer each other on and keep each other focused.

How can you find and re-purpose time to reach your business goals today?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lisa Stein owns FreelanceMom.com, is a college business professor and a mom to Gabriela and Elle. Lisa is dedicated to playing a part in helping women and moms run a business they love, help support themselves and their family and create a flexible lifestyle. You can find her online on Facebook and Twitter or at home burning something in the kitchen.