We’d all like to be able to roll out of bed and into the “office” (ie. where ever our computer happens to be in our home), but not everyone is prepared for what “Working at Home (WAH)” really means. Take it from me, there are a few things you need to know BEFORE you make the decision to make the jump from office to home office.
I was sort of thrown into my WAH mom status unexpectedly about 4 years ago. I left work on Maternity Leave and about half way through was told that I wouldn’t be able to come back. As you can imagine, I was totally blown! Here I now had 2 kids and a mortgage – not to mention all of the other bills. I had planned on going back to my job and that just wasn’t an option anymore. I took this very hard, and really had to think about what it was that I was going to do to help support my family.
I had always planned to start my own freelance business, eventually, but it looked like that time was now. I reached out to some of my colleagues in the industry and gathered up some of my very first, and longest running, clients – and just got to work.
It took me a very long time; and I’m still working at it; to really get my time management down. Over the almost 4 years I’ve been working at home, I’ve also had a little boy to raise. At first it was VERY difficult to handle an infant and try to get anything done. Especially when mine had colic for the first 6 months! *eek* But over time, we developed a bit of a system that evolved with his growth, and now we can get through most days without any major derailments!
What is that system, you ask? Really it’s just a group of tips that I’ve gathered from other WAH Mom’s or just pieces of wisdom gained from doing it. Obviously, my system may not work for everyone, but it could serve as a guide while you work out your own!
Here are my tips for managing your time as a WAH Mom:
- Write it Down! – I am an inherent list maker. See here…So having a planner of some sort really helps to keep me on track. Over the years I’ve realized that if it’s not on the list, it’s not getting done! I spend the first part of my morning every day writing down what I really need to get done each day. I may not get to it all, but if I can see it written down, I am much more likely to prioritize and get things done. Also, when you have a toddler running around the house at the same time you are working, you need to write things down just to remember what you need to do period! It really helps me focus.
- Take Breaks! – This part has taken a lot of working for me. I’m the type that just sits at my desk and works. Once I get into a groove, I am very reluctant to get up. I’ve learned that is does no one any good. I started by carving out times during the day to sit and interact with my son. It doesn’t have to be anything that takes loads of planning either. I have made an hour for breakfast and an hour for lunch mandatory each day. No matter what I have going on, I take those hours and sit with my son and eat. He enjoys the attention, and my body enjoys the break from the computer! Now, I have even gotten myself comfortable with taking even bigger breaks – I spend a few hours one day a week and take my son to story time at our local library. I have a very hard time justifying outings like this during the work day, but I’ve found that it does help with productivity. As long as you “schedule” this time in, you won’t feel bad about taking the break.
- Keep Family Time Sacred! – Again, this took me a long time to come to grips with, but make sure you have a real work day. Whatever works for you and your family is fine, but pick your working hours and stick to them! I have found with taking my older son to school and school pickups that my best work day is from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. Some days, when I don’t have to do the school pickup, I can make it until 5:00 pm. But do what works for you. And once your “work day” is over, STOP WORKING!!! I can’t stress this enough! When you have decided your day is over, get up from your desk. No more email or phone calls.Yes, it’s hard and sometimes you have to break this rule, but for yours and your family’s sanity, you have to draw a line in the sand. Finally, take your weekends. Yeah, every now and then you have to do a little work on the weekend, but on the whole, make that family time. You won’t get burnt out and you will feel like a lot better about yourself.
- Socialize! – Now, I am not the poster child for this rule…I find myself getting cabin fever and more often than not, I talk to everyone like they are a 3 year old. This year I have vowed to make more of an effort to get myself actually dressed each day and to find more ways to get out of the house each week. Getting out to story time last year did make a difference, but you also need to schedule time for YOU to be YOU. Get out with friends. Get out with your significant other. Just get out by yourself! I even use Facetime a lot to have “face-to-face” conversations with other adults in my life. Trust me, you will feel SO much better when you make time to socialize with people your own age!
I know these things seem like they’d be standard and easy to work into your day, but when you try to work at home, raise kids, and take care of your home; you will find that it’s a lot easier said that done! Some of these things have really taken me almost 4 years to put into place in my own time management scheme. Don’t feel bad if you try and they don’t work right away. Just keep at it and eventually something will just click for you.
Working at home AND raising kids AND taking care of your home can happen! Figure out what works best for you and run with it.
Do you work at home? What have you found to be the key rules of it working for you? I can definitely use more tips!