The hardest part of working from home, for me, is being surrounded by my ‘things’ and finding a separate place and time for taking care of things and taking care of work.
It has gotten easier over the years. I’ve been a work at home mom now since my oldest daughter was about six months old. In the past five years, I’ve learned, and today I thought I would share some of the things I have learned about working from home when you have children – and separating your other things from your work.
- Get a space. Any space. You’ll hear people say you need a complete room for working – not true. Sometimes my porch works just fine. Sometimes my living room floor works just fine. Though I have a dedicated office, sometimes that office doesn’t work just fine. This is the beauty of working from home! If you feel you need a separate space for paying bills or working on an outline or writing a proposal, find it. If you discover that you get bored in your office and spend more time looking out your window or checking emails, move it! Sometimes a change of pace, and some fresh air, will really bring the creativity back – and let the productivity rise.
- Stop checking email. Seriously! Set a time each day, perhaps in the morning, when you go through all of your emails. Then, if you are not working, don’t check them – and if you are working, spend only a few minutes doing so. If you are in the middle of a project, wait until the project is finished. It takes about 15 minutes or so to get back to work after checking emails – a real waste of time if you are working from home on a limited schedule. Emails can wait, unless they are urgent. And if you need to determine whether or not they are immediate, ask those emailing you to put URGENT or something similar in the subject line so you can differentiate.(By the way, what you are making for dinner tonight-not urgent!)
- Get off facebook. This silly social networking tool is a time waster. Yes, I’m on it! And yes, I’ve gotten sucked into its void – which is why I’m warning you! Each minute you spend tending to a virtual farm or commenting on someone’s status is a minute you could be working. A recent study found that people spend nearly FOUR HOURS each day on this site! Four! Something as easy as updating your status can take minutes – or hours – from your day.
- Twitter about your business – and then moved on. This other social networking tool Twitter is great for business, but if you get stuck reading everyone’s updates each time you log in, watch out! You’ll find yourself more concerned about Ashton and Demi than about business at hand.
- Let your kids know you are working – and how important this is. Believe me, this is one of the hardest things to do. It has taken me quite some time to train my kids to understand that mommy works – from home. While daddy heads to the office each day, separating play time with kids from work time for adults, I am working from home. They seem to believe that when I am home I have to devote full attention to them, and Barbies, and dress up clothes. However, through a lot of work I have taught them what I do by showing them what do, and telling them why this is important to me. I have also separated work and play time. I work at certain times – like right after I put them to bed and prior to seven in the morning – so when they need me at these times, I tell them I am working – and now they understand.
- Explain to the kids why you work. On the same note, kids don’t understand ‘work.’ They see you sitting at the computer or going through boxes or writing something down and they see you doing nothing fun – and they want to do something fun! They don’t understand this is important to you, and I truly believe we have to take the time to tell the kids why it is. Don’t make this all about money, either. It’s important to teach our kids that working is ‘fun.’ Yes, deadlines can be hectic and clients can be pushy, but in reality we work, at some level, because we enjoy what we do (or, at least, we hope that is the case). List reasons you work, and why it is important that they help you have the time to work. This may be “because I get to be creative” or “because it makes me feel happy inside.” It may be because we need some extra money, but don’t make this the only reason.
- Don’t answer the phone. If youa re working, you are working. Unless it is a client (and caller ID is great for this!) you should not answer the phone. Who cares that the telemarketers ‘need you’ right now? Or that your best friend just bought yet another pair of shoes? These things can wait – if you are in the middle of work time and the phone rings and it is not related to your work, don’t pick it up.
- Same goes with the doorbell.
- Create a schedule. My last tip is actually the toughest to follow. It is important to create a work schedule, though with young children this is bound to change – sometimes on a daily basis. You’ll have colds and bad dreams, you’ll have doctor’s appointments and school committments, but you should at least have a schedule you can somewhat follow so you know at some point during the day you are working. Maybe it is early morning or late at night (I have one friend who draws until the wee hours of the morning! I’m an early riser myself). Maybe it is during nap time, if your child still naps. Maybe it is during your kids’ favorite show, or perhaps you schedule play dates during the week for this reason. Whatever it is, get a schedule and stick to it as best you can. Once you begin breaking schedules you will find it is tough to get back to work.