My (Not So) Magic Trick for Staying Sane as a WAHM

 

Keeping up with your hustle is hard. Keeping up with your hustle while caring for a living, breathing, loud, and oh so needy (but oh so cute) human being is a near super human endeavor, not for the faint of heart. Just when you’ve landed that elusive call with a prospective client, shrieking will inevitably ensue from the other room. Power through to meet a deadline and you’ll probably get a box of Cheerios dumped on your floor. What’s a woman got to do to for a little peace, calm, and productivity around here? 

Thanks for asking. Meet my sexy, productive friend: Pomodoro.

Ok, I’m pretty sure Pomodoro means tomato, and we have more of a business casual relationship than anything sexy going on. But after years of banging my head through the ever-loving-walls trying to get work done, I get a little weak at the knees when a tool levels up my productivity (Just me? Beuler? Beuler?). Enter the Pomodoro Technique. The concept is simple (in that omg-this-is-magic-why-didn’t-I-think-of-it kind of way), and an excellent way to minimize the distractions that come with being a work at home mom. 

Work at home mom productivity hacks

 

How to Use the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique works by breaking your day into focused bursts of work interspersed with short breaks. The name is derived from those kitschy tomato-shaped kitchen timers your great aunt Pearl still uses to cook dinner. It goes like this:

  • 25 minutes of work
  • 5 minute break
  • 25 minutes of work
  • 5 minute break
  • 25 minutes of work
  • 5 minute break
  • 25 minutes of work
  • 15 minute break

Yes, it’s that simple. So… where’s the magic part? Like I said, Pomodoro here is a little more business than sexy (I mean, he tries to be cool, so cut him some slack, ok?). The magic is there, it just isn’t flashy. 

The key to using Pomodoro effectively is to really work during your work sessions. For 25 minutes at a time, do nothing but work. Don’t get up for snacks, pay the bills, or answer the phone. Turn off notifications, sit down, and work on your high-level business tasks without multi-tasking. As a work at home mom, giving yourself explicit permission to single-task is like a breath of fresh air. We’re so used to firing all cylinders at once that it’s easy to forget what really intense, focused work feels like. 

After 25 minutes working, take a 5 minute break (each set of 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of break is referred to as a “Pomodoro”). This is when you can stretch, referee Jane and Tommy’s 487th spat of the day, pour a cup of coffee, and retweet Mindy Kaling just one more time. Knowing that a dedicated break is right around the corner is helpful when your mind starts wandering to everything you’re responsible for outside of your business. It’s a good motivator to help you knock out your more stressful business assignments, too. You’re a grown ass woman — you can do anything for 25 minutes. A break is just around the corner.


The Best Pomodoro App to Keep You on Track

Sure, the Pomodoro Technique was designed around a kitchen timer, but that doesn’t mean you need to go borrow aunt Pearl’s (she wouldn’t share, anyways). There are a plenty of great Pomodoro apps out there, from simple timers to ones jam packed with productivity-enhancing features (here’s a list of 12 great ones from the productivity-lovers at Zapier). After trying nearly every app I could find, I found my favorite: Pomotodo. 

Pomotodo is available as a mobile app, desktop app, and Chrome extension, so you can stay productive however you work. It incorporates David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology into the Pomodoro Technique, giving you space to record all of your daily to-dos. Pin your most important tasks to the top of the list to stay focused, and add hashtags to tasks to organize by client, project, or type of work. At the end of each work interval, you’ll be asked to submit what tasks you worked on. An intuitive analytics dashboard helps you look at your work trends over time, analyze how much time you’ve spent on different types of tasks, and more. 

A premium version is available with enhanced goal setting capabilities, customizable durations and timers, and advanced reporting options. I’ve been a happy user of the free account for the last year.

Why WAHMs Need Pomodoro

The Pomodoro Technique is used by many productivity experts and successful people, but it’s a magic wand for work at home moms. Why? Because it is built around the understanding that there will be distractions and hiccups in your day. Isn’t that the epitome of WAHM life? The magic happens when you retrain yourself to delay dealing with your distractions until the dedicated break. 

If your children are younger, you may find it helpful to work in 15 minute blocks. Give everyone some time to readjust to your new work rhythm. At first, you may find yourself fielding questions and requests from your kids throughout your work break. Sure, it can be frustrating to see how much you are interrupted in a short time. After you make it through the transition, however, you’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish. Kids love routine, and knowing that mom is available every 25 minutes gives them a powerful tool to work with you to create a positive work at home experience. 

While the periodic breaks in the Pomodoro Technique are typically touted as a way to renew energy and focus, for a work at home mom they’re a way to deal with the demands of motherhood. Would I do better work if I could hustle for 25 minutes and meditate for 5? Most likely. Is that what I do? Not even a little bit. My 5 minute breaks are usually spent serving snacks, finding craft supplies, changing Netflix channels, and trying to remember to take a deep breath while pouring another cup of coffee. And that’s perfectly ok. Working at home, as my daughter plays in the next room (or, let’s be real, climbs on top of me) is the choice I’ve made in designing my life. We all make tradeoffs when we choose how to work and live, and I’m happy with mine. 

Having a clear strategy for your workday helps keep you on task when the unexpected happens, and gives you a structure to fall back on when you’re just too tired to think anymore. The Pomodoro Technique has helped me break out of the overwhelm cycle and create a workday that actually fits my lifestyle. I don’t have to be frustrated when interruptions come up, because I know that I have a concrete way to deal with them.

  • Explain your new routine to your kids (before you put it in practice). Kids work well with routines, but nobody likes to be ambushed. Sit your kids down and explain that you’re going to be working in a new way, and that any non-urgent requests will need to wait until your timer goes off. Familiarize them with the sound your timer makes.
     
  • Set ground rules. Every child is different, and their ability to entertain themselves during work intervals will vary by personality, age, and individual needs. In our house, the ground rules are pretty simple: don’t interrupt mom unless you are injured or something is on fire. I’ve found that double checking child-proofing measures, filing baskets with healthy snacks and drinks, and making sure an activity is ready to go before starting my work day ups our chances of success here.
     
  • Be available during your breaks. Respecting your work time is easier when your kids know you will truly be available during breaks. Take the time to physically connect (a short hug can work wonders) and listen to what they have to say during these times. It’s a good idea to take care of the basics before getting back to work, too, so have snacks and drinks at the ready.
     
  • Respect your family’s unique needs. Is everything falling apart by the time you hit your fourth Pomodoro? Take a long break after 3. Do you find yourself scrambling through your 5 minute break? Take 10. Are you happiest doing 8 Pomodoros with short breaks, then calling it a day? Then by all means do that! You and your family are unique, and only you can decide the system that works best for you.
     
  • Know that some days, it will all go to hell. That’s life, and it’s certainly life with kids. Roll with the punches and pick back up when you can. That’s your mom superpower. 

 

I want to hear from you! Do you have any tried and true productivity hacks that help you succeed as a work at home mom? Have you given the Pomodoro Technique a try? Let me know in the comments!

Bonus! Get more done in your business with this free free social media calendar template! 


Fort Worth Digital Marketing Strategist Hunter Niland Welling

Hunter Niland Welling is a writer and digital marketing strategist living in Fort Worth, Texas. She shares a 600 square foot home with her daughter, 3 cats, 11 houseplants, and an unwieldy collection of books. You can follow her on Pinterest here.