Six Secrets to Success from a
Six-Figure WAHM (Work At Home Mom)

By Ann K. Levine

My office is 10’ by 10’. My desk is covered with bills, knitting needles, photos waiting for albums, stamps, envelopes for mailing books, chocolate covered espresso beans, Crayola Color Explosion markers, thank you notes, a hello kitty pencil, and a magazines I haven’t had a chance to read. My daughters slip checkers under the door as I work. They knock - persistently - to inquire as to whether they can have string cheese. Occasionally, they do this while I’m on the phone with a client. Yet, I run a million dollar business under these conditions, and I am my sole employee. How do I do it?

I have six secrets to managing everything that comes with being a WAHM (Work at Home Mom). Whether you have a paying job or the full time job of running your household, these tips will help you manage your life in a way that allows you to enjoy what you do.

1. Delegate. Figure out what needs to be done by you and what can be done reasonably well by someone else. I want to be the person who takes my kids to school and sees my kindergartener line up when the bell rings. I do not need spend six hours making cookies for the PTA bake sale just to raise $25 for the school. My time is better spent working so I can earn the $25 and donate it to the school.

I do not need to be the person who returns things to stores and runs to the drug store. I found a great errand running service that helps me grocery shop and take items to the tailor and dry cleaner when I do not have time. I also have a SAHM (Stay at Home Mom) friend who wants to make extra money so she will run some errands for me and mail out my books from home when someone places an order on my website. If you do not have money to spend on this kind of help, find a friend who always does Cosco or Target runs and ask her to pick up a few things for you and agree to watch her child or walk her dog in return.

2. Use the stopper. Do you feel like time runs out of your day like water down the bath drain? Find the leak and stop it. I used to complain I had no time to get to the gym, but I knew I was spending an hour and a half each day on Facebook and Twitter and probably another thirty minutes browsing for things I couldn’t afford (or just flat out would never buy) online. I cut myself off of these activities for a week, and found I could return and just spend 20 minutes a day on my online activities. Facebook and Twitter is work related for me, so I can justify that investment. With the “extra” time, I actually make it to Pilates class twice a week.

Evaluate where you are wasting time and just delete it. I actually decided - after three seasons of dedication - to forego Grey’s Anatomy so I have time to read and participate in a book club with a group of dynamic, inspiring women. I’m even considering giving up American Idol this season!

3. Retain Focus. During my busy season with work, I stop making play dates - for myself and for my kids. No more lunches or coffee dates with friends. Unless someone wants to go along on my weekly 3-mile run, my friends know to count me out of things three months out of the year. I make up for it by taking them out for really nice dinners on their birthdays, and I try to say hello on Facebook, but I make no plans.

I protect my schedule so I can focus on work when I need to be working. I do not schedule routine doctor appointments for me or the kids during my busy months. Also, I never schedule workouts or meetings for the non-profit board that I chair on Mondays because I anticipate that I’ll have more emails and phone calls waiting for me after the weekend. By scheduling myself according to what I can handle, I avoid feeling overwhelmed on a daily basis.

4. Block Your Time. Designate time for priority activities by blocking it out on your calendar. I want one afternoon a week to spend with my girls when I do not have to work. I work only a half-day on Fridays to take my daughters out for frozen yogurt, to the library, or to the park. Friday afternoons are light work days and usually unproductive due to exhaustion. I’m in need of a break and so are my kids. I don’t schedule anything on Friday nights because that’s family time to have a quiet evening at home. Nothing goes on my calendar on Friday after lunch.

I commit myself to classes at the gym by putting three on my calendar every week. I don’t schedule phone calls or meetings at those times so I have no excuses not to go. I schedule calls with people on email and Facebook instead of playing phone tag so I know when I’ll have time to concentrate on larger projects without the phone being a constant interruption.

5. The Rule of One. I only let my daughters do one extracurricular activity. Not per day - per semester. Twice a year, each child gets to pick whether she wants to do ballet or soccer or art or swimming. Therefore, I’m not running around town with my head cut off on a daily basis. I stick to the same rule myself. I sit on only one non-profit board at a time. I belong to only one book club at a time. I say “no” to things that do not really interest me; I never feel obligated to sell raffle tickets for the preschool or attend parent meetings on a regular basis. No one seems to mind, or label me a neglectful parent, and everyone seems very happy to accept my financial contributions and presence when I am able to arrange it.

I keep errands located downtown on the same day (lunch meeting, nail appointment, store return, tailor) so I am only running errands one time per week rather than taking an hour out of my day every day. If I have a board meeting or lunch with a friend, I schedule no other out-of-office time that day. My workout has to be the next day, and my dentist appointment has to be the day after that. That way, I can still be productive for 5-6 hours that day, rather than have any particular day end up a complete waste.

6.  Invest in Others. Rather than just say hello to the other moms at drop-off and go about your day, make an effort to get to know one new person each week. Pick the person who always smiles at you, whom you always say hello to but aren’t quite sure what her name is or which child is hers. Really ask her about herself and take ten minutes to learn her story. She might be the person who ends up inspiring you most. You might learn that she also takes care of aging parents, or that her husband is overseas, or that she is the marketing director for some huge company. Take inspiration from the stories you hear and remember that we are all busy - it’s about how you handle the busy-ness, and business, of life that matters.

Ann K. Levine, Esq., is a work at home mom, law school admission consultant, and owner of Law School Expert. She brings her experience as director of admissions for two ABA law schools and five years as a law school admission consultant. More than 100,000 law school applicants and pre-law students depend upon Ms. Levine’s advice as a guide through the daunting law school application process. She is the author of the new book, The Law School Admission Game: Play Like An Expert.

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