Working at home is, in itself, difficult. It takes incredible focus and a great deal of self-discipline. Add a preschooler or two into the mix, and the amount it demands more than doubles.
I have been working from home for over two years now, and I have learned a lot about what to do and what not to do during that time. I still have a long way to go before I am satisfied with my work-at-home performance, but the tricks I have acquired in the last couple of years have made a big difference for me.
Here are a few things I have learned:
1. You need set working periods.
When they are is not so much a concern as that they exist. You can’t just say, “I’ll get to it,” because if you do, chances are you won’t. You need some time set apart for your job.
It also works best to make the time you choose regular. It can be at different times on different days, but if, for example, you can make working time on Mondays the same throughout the month, it will become much easier to work on Mondays.
My little one no longer takes a nap, so we have quiet time instead. This is my time to work. I know that when it starts, I need to sit down to my computer and get busy. If I don’t, my work doesn’t get done.
2. It helps to organize your working time.
To say simply that “At 3:00 I am going to work” is, at least for me, not good enough. If I limit myself to that, I’ll sit down and feel overwhelmed and confused. Instead, I find that it works much better if I organize my time. For example, if I have two hours in the afternoon to work, then I spend the first hour editing and the second hour writing. This system is useful not only in that it tells me when to start each activity, but also in that it doesn’t leave the end time open. If I feel unmotivated to work, this helps me to push through since I know when the closure will be.
3. Plan to work in the evening or morning.
I read about all those mothers who get up at 5:00 and get two hours of work in before their children wake up. This does not work for me yet; I’m too tired, or my son wakes up too early. Maybe it will succeed one day–I haven’t given up hope. Right now, though, I have stopped trying because the constant defeat was too disheartening.
Instead, I work in the evening after my son has gone to bed. It’s quiet and free time, and it has the advantage that I am not anticipating a wake-up. I’m tired, of course, but if I know it is working time, I can push my way through it.
4. Hire a babysitter.
Even if it is only for a couple of hours once a week, it is nice to have a block of worry-free work time. My two hours have made all the difference for me a number of times, and not only do they give me time to work, but they also give me a mental break.
5. Take time when you can find it.
Besides your set working time, you may be able to find pockets of time throughout the day. Have the mindset that you will take advantage of these times, and when they open up, seize the moment. For example, there are times when I have been planning to give my little one my full attention only to find that he is fully absorbed in independent play. At those times, I sit down at my computer and snatch a few minutes of work.
6. Have a list of quick tasks you can do during these brief spaces of time.
If you don’t have a list ready, you may not be able to use your unexpected time productively. You could save your administrative tasks for these times, for example, or you could devote them to social media (if that is part of your job). I like to use these moments to do my pinning on Pinterest or, if I really know what I am doing, to get a few more words written out.
7. Be flexible.
After all I have said about planning and organizing, it is nevertheless important that you make allowances for interruptions when things don’t go quite as expected. After all, you are Mommy first and foremost, and sometimes Mommy has to set aside her working cap in order to take care of her little ones.
If this sort of thing should happen, don’t get frustrated and ruffled. Pick up where you left off as soon as you can and adjust your schedule. You may lose part of your afternoon, so tack on some time in the evening. Or, if waking early is your thing, get up a little earlier the next day. Work things out with your husband if you need extra time.
These few tricks have made all the difference for me. If you are working from home and are trying to find a system to help you out, try my tips and see what you can accomplish. And as always, if you have any tips of your own, leave them in the comments below!