This year, my best business decision was hiring Heidi, a virtual assistant. The story of how we met is pretty cool – check it out here.
I am so glad she is joining us today for the “Week of Help” series! She can answer any questions you have on “working smarter.” She is a gem – and extremely talented at the working-from-home gig with kids at your feet.
Here is Heidi!
How do you set up your week for success?
My planner is my best friend. Seriously. I don’t go anywhere without my calendar/planner. Each weekend I take some time to write out everything I need to keep track of for the upcoming week, including work tasks and family needs.
On Saturday morning, I plan our meals for the week and write a coordinated grocery list. Then when I go grocery shopping on Saturday afternoon, I know exactly what to buy to keep my family fed with fresh food that coming week.
On my calendar, I chart out our homeschool schedule and any upcoming activities: daily block of time for school, meetings that my husband or I have in the evenings, gymnastics practices, playdates, doctor appointments, etc. Once I have all those in, I start plugging in my work hours for the week. Working from home has great advantages, but you have to be careful to be very particular with how you spend your time. My calendar is broken down into half-hour increments so I can map out every half hour of my day. Yes, I’m one of those people! 🙂
Seriously though, this keeps me sane. I know exactly what I need to do at a certain time of day in order to accomplish everything I need to accomplish. Also, by scheduling in downtime I make sure I have balance in my life…which is easier said than done.
If I don’t spend time over the weekend mapping out my daily tasks, then on Monday morning I find myself totally frazzled and feeling behind from the get-go. Scheduling it all out is a great way to have peace of mind that you CAN get done what needs to get done, and you have a plan to do it. I can get a lot more accomplished this way each week than if I just “fly by the seat of my pants.”
For those that don’t have a wonderful VA like you – what are simple things they can do to be more efficient with their blogs?
Create an editorial calendar. This could be on paper or online, whatever works for you. Your calendar should outline which topics/posts you plan to share and when. This will give you a series of deadlines for your upcoming blog tasks, as well as ensure you are providing your readers a well-rounded variety of content.
The WordPress Editorial calendar is a great way to keep track of what you want to post, and you can easily move things around. But I know other bloggers who plan their posts successfully using Google Calendar, or even a Word document or Excel spreadsheet. Find a system that works for you and follow it.
Come up with one graphic style and stick to it.Many bloggers spend hours working on a picture with a heading. Make it easier on yourself and on your readers by choosing consistent fonts and colors. Not only will this save you a lot of time, it will also effectively brand your images so they are immediately recognizable as “you” on Pinterest or other social media avenues.
Invite guest posts. Plugging in one or two quality guests per month will reduce your content writing requirements AND help expand your reach. It’s a win-win.
Consider creating a mastermind group of bloggers similar to you, to share support and ideas, and to cross-promote. This can help give you a pool of trusted resources to draw from when you need guest content to post on your blog or social media.
Limit online distractions. If you’re tempted to check your e-mail every time you turn on your computer, it’s wise to break tasks into blocks. We all know how checking e-mail or Facebook can become an hour-long distraction from productivity. Set aside, for example, one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening for e-mail/social media/online shopping — and that’s it. The rest of your available time can then be spent developing content, working on your monetization strategies, or other core tasks.
How can any working mom benefit from working smarter?
Plan, plan, plan. Use a schedule and stick to it. Especially meals. Plan ahead of time so you’re not staring at the cupboards each night wondering what you are going to concoct tonight. And fast food is only tolerated so many times each week. Plan your meals BEFORE you go to the grocery store so you are sure to have the right ingredients.
Do things in half hour increments. It helps me get twice as much done as I think I can. Setting a deadline makes you work harder and faster. If you give yourself all day to get a project done, you will procrastinate and it will drag on all day. But if you give yourself 30 minutes to get a certain task done, or some part of a task, you will get it done and have the rest of the day to do other things. Try it. It works.
Share the load. One strategy that greatly helps at my house is shared chores. For example, everyone folds their own laundry, even my 5-year-old. Mom and Dad wash and dry the clothes, but each child is responsible for folding theirs and putting them away. It teaches responsibility and frees up time for my husband and me. I have also taught my kids what pants go with which shirt. So when they put their clothes away, I’ve trained them to organize in outfits. Then when it’s time to get dressed in the morning, we don’t have meltdowns and frantic running around because there are no matching clothes. Great time saver!
More from Heidi at Sidekick Adventures…