Work-at-home-moms require a special, super-hero-like talent: organization beyond belief. If you are considering working from home there is one thing that surpasses almost any other aspect in order for you to become a successful WAHM. If you are already undertaking this adventure, you know that organization is essential for accomplishing a smidgeon of what you hope to each day. The past several years have taught me many lessons in the value of organization as a mom who works at home – and I’m still learning.
Organization Tip #1 – Use a “Doesn’t Belong Basket”
Working at home for the average mom doesn’t mean you get your own corner office with private cleaning service. If your home office is like mine, it is near the general hub of the family and not immune to the invasion of little feet (and all they bring into the room). Maybe it is even just your kitchen table or a desk in the living room. Whichever location you call your office, keep a “Doesn’t Belong Basket” nearby. Mine is routinely filled with LEGOs, hair barrettes, collector cards, and random toys they kids bring to share with me as I work, or they dribble along my workspace when they want a turn on my computer.
- Take a wicker basket (I usually get mine at flea markets or thrift stores) about the size of a shoebox and place it in a convenient location.
- Each time your find a treasure left behind from your children, toss it into the basket. Honestly, it is not worth calling my children to my desk each time I find a yo-yo or GoGo near my feet.
- At the end of the day, take the basket and have the kids sort through and claim their items.
- I also keep another basket in the kitchen for random items I find throughout the day that just don’t belong. It saves time and energy, and keeps the house and my office looking a tad bit clearner.
Organization Tip #2 – Make a Daily List and Check it Twice (at least)
Each day for work-at-home-moms can have a different routine, depending on the schedule of the kids and the household needs, as well as your actual workload. In order to keep track of you immense and various responsibilities, keep two separate lists, one for work-related items and one for “domestic engineer” duties (everything else on your plate as mom). You can keep a paper or electronic version.
- Start your day with your two lists and prioritize what has to get done that day in each list.
- As you move throughout your day, check back on your lists to make sure you are completing what you must.
- Add items as they arise – I usually keep a notepad with me throughout the day for my random notes to myself. It might seem like overkill, but it saves my sanity to know at least the paper and pen are accountable.
- After you tuck the kids into bed, do a quick check of the lists while your brain still has 30 seconds left of energy. Put stars or marks by the items that need to move onto the list for the next day.
- Rinse and repeat.
Organization Tip #3 – Follow the Rule of Three
Good things come in three, and organization is no exception. Life as a WAHM means you have to be able to prioritize – clients have expectations, the laundry needs to be done, and the kids need your attention. Organize your workspace with 3-tier systems. I use these for both my computer and my actual desk.
I use three plastic bins on my desk. One is for immediate – get-it-done-that-day work items. These might be invoices that need to be addressed or letters that need responses. Another is for items that I need to address that week at a more relaxed pace. The third bin is for items I know I need, but that can wait until I have the time.
- Make sure that you don’t go more than 2 weeks before you sort your least important bin – or whenever you fill it.
- Use an email program with colored flags or other virtual markers. I can mark client requests with red, invoices and receipts with blue, and prospective projects with green.
- Create three work folders with similar premises as the desktop bins, based on priorities. You can dump emails into these, notes in Word, or other files.
Life as a work-at-home-mom is a wonderfully complex and rewarding way of doing business. I get to be hands-on mom with my children, even homeschooling them, and I also get to pursue my passions and interests through work (not to mention bringing in a contribution to the family budget). Keep your life as a WAHM running smoother with these final organization tips:
- De-clutter every Friday – Monday will start out better if you do.
- Create comfort – I have place for my coffee, a radio, and a great view out the window from my desk.
- Invest in paper shredder, a good chair, and a comfortable keyboard.
How do you stay organized as a WAHM?