Time budgeting when you work from home: Something’s gotta give
Time budgeting is an elusive, tricky balance for parents. As moms we often suffer from Supermom Syndrome…We think we can do all, be all, and manage all for everyone. It’s our job to keep everything running, for everyone, every time.
I suppose we’re wired that way to some degree. It’s a mom thing.
The reality is that there’s only one of us and only 24 hours in our day, no more, no less.
Because of that reality, we have to be realistic about what we can and can’t do. We have to be deliberate about time budgeting effectively because there’s only so much of it.
Dave Ramsey, a well-known financial teacher, has developed a widely used concept of financial management and budgeting. The basic idea is that you tell your money where to go rather than letting your money be the dictator of you. There’s some flexibility and common sense involved, but it’s all within certain spending/saving guidelines that you set for yourself. If you follow those guidelines, you’ll meet your financial goals much more quickly.
My suggestion is that as moms we consider using the same concept for more effective time management – a sort of time budgeting, if you will.
What if we start telling our time where to go instead of letting our circumstances be the dictator?
It’s not realistic to pay off a $100,000 loan in two months if our monthly income is $2,000.
In the same way, we can’t expect to singlehandedly:
work a 40-hour week at home
+ be full time stay at home mommy
+ sleep 8-9 hours a night
+ have a perfectly clean house with home-cooked meals
+ volunteer in PTA
+ host play dates three times a week
+ be taxi driver for everyone
+ grocery shopping
+ local moms group leader
+ whatever else comes along.
(Not to mention self-care or time to relax!)
That’s just not realistic. But we still try to do it all anyway.
The reality is that it’s a recipe for a stressed out, unhappy mama.
You know what that means. Unhappy mama = unhappy house.
In an interview recently with author Mary Byers, she told me, “Remember, you’re the therMOMeter in your house. If you’re stressed, your kids will pick up on it even though they may not be able to articulate or recognize it. When I’m stressed, I’m always able to trace their behavior back to me. We set the temperature of the home. If your business stress is causing family stress, that’s no fun. Have your antenna up and be very aware of how what you’re doing in your business is either helping or hurting.”
We have to be realistic about how much time we have. About what we can and can’t do.
We have to be honest – with ourselves first, then with others.
We have to stop being supermom because that will eventually fall apart.
We have to be realistic about effective time budgeting for our:
|· Obligations||· Responsibilities||· Commitments|
|· Family/Friends||· Interruptions||· Circumstances|
|· Self-care||· Priorities||· Availability|
Think of yourself and your time like a pie.
There’s only so much of you to go around.
Your priorities and commitments have to all fit inside that pie.
It’s simple math. The more things you squeeze in, the smaller the pieces become.
When one thing takes more time, another piece is going to get smaller. When a new thing tries to squeeze in, something else has to shift or go away to make room for others.
The key is to be deliberate about the size of your pieces. You decide what priorities get a piece of your time, not the other way around.
First, let’s be realistic about what you can and can’t do.
- Do you have an infant that cries 23 hours a day? (or seems like it)
- Do you have a toddler that needs constant supervision? (If I wasn’t watching him every second, my little guy would climb anything!)
- Do you spend an hour dropping off kids at three different schools in the morning, then four hours later have to make the same route to pick up?
- Do you homeschool, have kids home from school during the summer, or have younger kids home all the time since they don’t go to school yet?
- Do you have any built-in buffer time between activities, or is it a constant mad rush from one to the next?
If your life includes any remote variation of the above, it may not be a realistic expectation to work 40 hours a week plus stay at home singlehandedly with your kids. (And have any quality of life or basic self-care like, you know, eating, sleeping, or bathing.) You might want to reconsider your time budgeting. Just sayin’.
That means it’s time to take a long hard look at your circumstances. Ask yourself (and your spouse, if you have one) a few questions (click here to grab them in a handy printable):
- Write out your daily routine and include an honest estimate of how long each activity takes.
- Under the current circumstances, what is a realistic number of hours I can work per week?
- How badly do we need my income? How much do I need to make?
- If I need to work more hours, what else needs to give to make it happen?
- Is there a way to cut back on hours (such as alter my pricing to offset working fewer hours? Raise my rates or offer packages instead of hourly?)
- Is there anything I can reasonably cut out of my schedule?
- What are the non-negotiables in my schedule? (These are the things you aren’t willing or able to cut out.)
- Are there areas where I can get help? (Maybe outsource some work, hire help with the house, trade off kid duty with your husband, swap babysitting with a friend, or hire a mom’s helper?)
- Are there things I can do on a project or package basis rather than hourly?
- Are there other ways of making money I should consider that would be more flexible with schedule (list things on Amazon, make crafts to sell, online tutoring, etc.)?
I’ve found that my husband and I have to revisit these questions every so often. Our circumstances change, the kids’ needs shift as they get older, and we set new goals as we meet old ones.
Your answers to the questions will be way different than mine, and they may even change every few months.
Once in a while we need to step back from the hamster wheel and evaluate our situation in light of our current season.
- If you have a colicky infant and a busy toddler, this may not be your season to work 40 hours a week. Or if you do need to work that much, maybe it’s time to consider getting some part time help.
- If your kids are in school but you only have 4-5 hours while they’re gone, you need to evaluate how much you can work and when that’s going to happen. If you commit to 40 hours a week, when will you work? Weekends? Nights? Get up early? Those 40 hours have to fit somewhere, and something else has to give to make room.
- Are you bringing in enough work to consider hiring a mother’s helper? Once in a while I hired a tween girl to come and play with my daughter while I worked for a couple of hours. She loved having a playmate, the tween loved getting babysitting experience and making a little money, and I could focus on my work in another room but still be available if she had questions.
Are you feeling spread too thin?
Do you need to step back and evaluate where your time is going?
Motherhood is very seasonal. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t do everything you want this season. Your capacity for various tasks will shift as your family grows and changes.
Use this to evaluate your current season and time usage.
Is there anything you need to shift so you can enjoy your current season more? Share in the comments below!
Know another work at home mom who could use some support?
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