Diana Kelly Levey

Productivity Hacks for Parents Who Freelance During Naptime

woman working at computer holding baby in lap

May 5, 2022

I saw a post on a Facebook page of a mom who called herself a “naptime freelancer” for her two kids until they went to school full-time.

I thought it was a clever term and pretty accurately described how I ran my freelance business during 2020 (like many adults did) and now while my second infant is eight months old and I only have childcare for him for a few hours a week.

Seeing this phrase also coincided with me listening to The Freelance Friday podcaster Latasha James’ “productivity hacks” podcast episode and I thought it might be helpful to outline how I’m doing it. (Even though I honestly don’t feel like I’m doing a great job of running my business and managing childcare at the moment, I’ll acknowledge that I’m keeping afloat and doing okay.)

I also had to think about how I get it all done with limited childcare for two kids, a spouse with a busy, erratic schedule, a dog that needs frequent walks and managing the household. I’ll even update you on how long it took me to write this blog post during naptimes! Get more details on how I work at home with an infant.

Productivity Tips for Parents Freelancing During Naptimes

Here’s what works for me while trying to run a six-figure freelance business and taking care of two small children most days a week:

Get some childcare in place for intense work.

If you can do this, even for a few hours a week, try to schedule your “deepest work,” i.e. most creative work or work that you need to concentrate on during the hours you have paid help or family help. My toddler goes to daycare three days a week and I have in-home care for the infant for about four hours every Monday. I have some client meetings during those hours, but I also try to make sure I’m maximizing that time for editing I need to concentrate on or writing articles for freelance clients. Ideally, it would be great if your intense work was during your best time of day to write.

Figure out what – if any – work you can do with children around.

If you’re willing to do some work, whether that’s on your smartphone or on a laptop while your kids are around, then determine what those “light” tasks are that you can easily do with lower levels of concentration. Here are some suggestions:

  • Maybe that’s updating your LinkedIn profile or connecting with some new contacts on that app.
  • Staying on top of email for work with a few quick responses throughout the day.
  • It could be doing research for an article or topic and saving URLs on your phone to glance at later.
  • You might retweet, share, or comment on a few social media posts throughout the day.

(Baby woke up. Minutes spent writing on Monday: 13)

(Started again Tuesday.)

Embrace the art of the short nap work session.

My husband and I tried to tire both kids out this afternoon and the toddler finally went down for a nap. The infant went down for approximately 8 minutes before I heard him fussing. I gave him another 5 to 10 minutes, tried to get him back down again for another 15 minutes or so, and then just embraced the fact that he was up. Yay. During the 15 minutes he napped/before I picked him up, I was able to mostly carve out the outline for an article. It’s not great but it’s a start and I was able to do some background reading on the topic. Even better, starting something and having it two-thirds of the way done or so motivates me to try to finish the outline during another quick freelance writing session.

I used to think I needed 45 minutes to an hour to write. Then I had my firstborn. I never knew if his nap was  5 minutes or over an hour every time I put him down. So I learned how to make do with the time I had and write faster. I didn’t want to start a draft when I thought I only might have 20 minutes. But then a funny thing happened. I almost always got more done than I thought I was going to. (And I’ll be honest, when I was in a writing flow and on a roll, I was annoyed that it was interrupted by a baby crying.) Right now the infant is next to me playing and gurgling while I bounce his seat with my foot. I just have to accept that this is where I am some days.

Hire taskmasters.

If you can afford a virtual assistant to help you answer emails, do admin work, start research for your articles, conduct research for companies you should pitch to, help run your social media, make travel plans, or even fix website errors, I strongly suggest doing that. This way, you have paid help running operations while you sleep and tend to your family. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to afford housekeeping help and that allows you to get freelance work done at a higher rate, consider enlisting someone. You might want to hire someone to do yard work so you can update your blog on the weekends, or if it’s more important to you to spend that time with your family instead of doing chores, hire help, or try a barter system.

I’ve used housekeeping services during my pregnancies and after my children were born to help out so I could rest more or finish freelance assignments to save up money for my maternity leave.

Determine the business tasks you don’t want to do or don’t have time to do and see if it makes sense in your business for you to hire someone to address these services.

Overall, it’s not ideal for me to have to do some work while my infant is awake—he likes to wake up in time for client video calls lately—but it’s important to me to maintain my freelance business and this is what I can do with our childcare limitations. Not only does my work help out our family financially, but using my brain for writing and freelance projects feels good after maternity leave breaks.

What are some ways you run your business during naptimes – or quiet playtimes?

(Also, whew, got the rest of this done in 28 more minutes while the baby played next to me Tuesday!)

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