It’s 4 a.m. in the life of a work-at-home mother of 3. I’m starting this blog post in my mind while dressing the 3-yr-old and thinking about what she can eat all day while riding shotgun in the semi with Dad.
Then I nap.
At 7 a.m. I’m thinking over my scheduled meetings and virtual obligations, as well as project deadlines while finding backpacks and exclaiming about how nice the lower case “r’s” look in last week’s homework.
As any work-from-home mom can tell you, the guilt that builds up with the laundry, and splitting time between kissing boo-boos and talking with clients is a hard act to juggle. Here are 3 tips to help you manage the chaos.
Here are my top 3 tips to schedule your life around working from home.
Tip #1: Talk it Out
Working from home can be tough without cooperation from the rest of the family unit. Communicate clearly with your spouse and kids/grandparents/friends that the time you spend in your office is actual work time. And only a little bit of social media…
Do not treat your business like a hobby or entertainment, but rather as though someone is actually watching over your shoulder to make sure you get your work done. Help your family to understand that work time is not to be interrupted if they’re old enough to understand (but sometimes the 3-yr-old just needs a hug – and that’s OK).
*ironic side note*
During the writing of this blog post, I had to run across town to pick up my husband’s employee who needed a ride. So things aren’t perfect, but we’re working on it.
Show your family the projects you have going on, and let them know if you won’t be available at certain times of the day.
Make arrangements to have enough alone time to get your projects, follow-ups and marketing done every month.
This leads me to my next tip…
Tip #2: Make Friends with your Calendar
Before you get the wrong impression, know that I’m not, by nature, an organized person. Enter subject #1: My Desk is not pretty. In order to keep my business running smoothly, I’ve created a schedule for meals, a schedule for client projects, and, more importantly, I keep a schedule for myself.
Educate clients at the start of working with you about when you are available to work – in my case, all holidays, weekends and ‘no school’ days are not working days. There are exceptions, of course.
It’s my belief that family comes first, and when kids get off the bus from school, they want their ‘mom’ time. They want to be understood, listened to, and appreciated. Schedule time to listen to and respond to their transition time from the school day into home time.
A schedule keeps work-from-home business owners grounded and sane.
I’ve created a template calendar based on advice I’ve received over the years from various mentors. And yes, I deviate from my calendar. We all do. The creation of the calendar went like this –
MENTOR: “You should really have a calendar.”
ME: “But it’s too hard to stick to a schedule! I’m creative and I like to go with the flow!”
MENTOR: “You would work better with some down time.”
ME: “But I never know what I’m doing from day to day, and things change!”
MENTOR: “You should work on a schedule.”
ME: “Do I have to?” *whine*
MENTOR: “How’s the calendar working?”
ME: “Everyone should work off a calendar! My clients respect the time I set aside for them, I only run errands one day each week, and I work on my marketing EVERY week, instead of whenever the feeling hits. Why didn’t you tell me this before?”
A schedule helps you to prepare during the week, and even a week ahead of time.
Say, for example, an email comes into your email about a tool or software system that you want to learn about. Instead of taking the time now to read it, schedule it under “Business Marketing” for the next week.
This way, you always have a specific item scheduled into each slot, and you don’t waste time jumping from one interesting shiny object to another.
Want to see what my calendar looks like?
And yes, I do more production work than I have scheduled into my calendar. Some things are rush jobs, some hours come up with I have unexpected time on my hands (kids away with cousins, for example.)
Scheduling business time leaves more space for the next tip – personal freedom.
Tip #3: Say NO to Grey
Because we love to work (is design really work?) we sometimes forget that the body needs food, or the kids need clothes, or your spouse is coming home expecting a hug and time to talk about the day. So onto the schedule go meal times, break times, and personal time.
Work in black time, and live in white time. Black time gets spent on your business. White time gets spent on everything else. Remember that there is no grey area.
As you focus on one or the other, you’ll get more done in less time.
This past year I made a big change that really helps me focus: a separate office in my house.
It’s away from dirty dishes.
It’s far from flinging crayons and lego pieces that don’t want to get shared.
It reminds me that I do not have to work every hour that I’m able, and to appreciate the family and life that I’ve created by working from home.
It’s not a large office, but sufficient.
Also be sure to put time into your schedule that is personal, but not work related. These things include time for personal care (massage, anyone?), dates with your spouse or friends, and play time.
Time away from your business has been proven to build your brain in ways that constant work cannot.
Obviously, it takes time and work to make communication and scheduling effortless. There are days when I’m sure that I should quit working from home and hold babies all day long. I find myself frustrated when there are breakdowns in communication that make me miss my personal time.
Scheduling my time has ultimately created flexibility in my life. Looking back on the past 3 years, I can see how the systems I’ve created have set me up to provide financially for my family, and also keep my creative soul alive and nourished.
Now, time for a break.
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