Work at Home Productivity

Routines – Not as Scary as You Think

Routines are not straitjackets.  Strangely enough, contrary to popular opinion, routines actually free you up to be more creative and productive.

Think of a messy house, where everything is just laying around, the floor is covered in toys and books, the washing up hasn’t been done for a week, clothes haven’t been washed, the vacuum is buried in a cupboard somewhere.  How easy would it be to live in that house and do good work?

Now think of an ordered house, where everything has its place and everything – or at least most things – are in their place.  It’s tidy, calm and relaxed.  Which one of these two would enable you to be most creative?

Now I know for most work at home moms (WAHM) a tidy ordered house is a distant memory.  It’s something we had before kids.  It’s something we don’t expect to see again until they leave home.  That’s not what I’m getting at.  The point I’m making actually has nothing to do with cleaning a house, it has to do with an organised mindset and know what needs to be done and being able to do it.

If you have a routine, or system, or process, for your business tasks it makes them so much easier to do.  If you know that when you’ve dropped the kids off at day care you have two hours to work on your business and you know exactly what needs to be done, then you can use your time effectively.

However, if you know you have the same two hours, but your inbox is crammed full, your in-tray is overflowing, you have four to-do lists blu-tacked to the wall and a list a mile long in your head still – how do you use your time best?


Know what you have to do and when.  Start with a list of the minimum you need to do to keep your business running.  Not growing, not marketing, just running.

Receive orders.  Package and ship orders.  Send invoices.  Pay suppliers and employees.  Answer emails.  Bookkeeping.  Order stock.  Whatever it takes to keep your business ticking over, write it down on your list.  Work out when each of these needs to be done and how long it will take.  Block this time off in your calendar.

Once you know what absolutely has to be done to keep going you can add in the tasks that grow your business.  Marketing.  Tweaking the website.  New retailers and wholesalers.  Developing new products.  Writing blog posts and articles.  Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Squidoo etc.

Look at each of these tasks and work out how often and what you are going to do.  Write them down in a daily, weekly and monthly list.  Block the time out on your calendar.  (yes, I’m a big believer in calendars – especially electronic ones with reminders).  Put the lists where you can see them clearly every day.

You now have two lists – the basic essentials and the growth tasks.  When you sit down to your business you need to work on the basics first.  Then you work on the growth tasks.  These lists are your routines.  They guide you in keeping your business running and growing.  They make best use of your available time.  Just like the clean and tidy house, these routines enable you to relax and do your best work.  To be creative and efficient.

Go write your lists.  Get your house in order, metaphorically speaking.  Know what you need to do and how much time you have to do it in.  Then do it.

Melinda Jameson

Melinda is the founder of and started this site to share her best work from home ideas to help other Work At Home Mums become more financially independent and able to spend time with their families.

3 thoughts on “Routines – Not as Scary as You Think

  • It’s funny, after writing this post I looked at my own lists and went “they’re so out of date!” So I’m now writing up new lists that reflect what I’m actually doing now.

    @ Samar, your mum is right. You know that saying “A clean desk is a sign of a sick mind”? It’s wrong. When things are orderly your mind is at ease and able to be creative. It frees up mental space, like defragging your computer.

    @ Cindy, I try and do my writing early in the day when my mind is fresh as well. I also tend to get a second wind after the kidlet has gone to bed and the house is quiet. And yes, the list definately helps with prioritising!

  • Good points! I often flounder around with no clear direction, and having a list definitely helps that. I would also suggest scheduling certain kinds of tasks at certain times of the day. For example, I have to do the more creative stuff earlier in the day, when my mind is fresh. So I try to do all my writing before lunch. More mundane stuff can wait until later, when it won’t hurt that I’m not at the top of my game.

  • Spot on Mel. The important thing is to write it down. Mental lists get ignored very easily. Suddenly you look up after working hard for 2 hours and the messy house get on your nerves and completely breaks your momentum.

    An actual list reminds you of your priorities.

    It might be my mum’s lifelong mantra speaking, but a clean house (or whatever your personal responsibilities are) reflect in every aspect of your life. Your work is less stressful, get done easily, and a big part of your brain is at ease letting you concentrate on just your work – till the kids get home from school 🙂

    Samar’s last blog post..Productivity Hack: PrintWhatYouLike

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