I am so thankful that I get to be a work-at-home mama. To me, it is the best of both worlds. I get to be at home with my kids, while also doing something that I truly enjoy and adding (even if only modestly) to our family’s income.
But, working at home is not all rainbows and roses. It is definitely a challenge trying to balance all of the different aspects of my days, and it can become overwhelming and stressful at times.
Having little ones around at home, while I’m also trying to work, means that I often get interrupted, I have to multi-task with the best of them, and I sometimes find that I’m really not doing either of my jobs very well.
I have found though that when I focus on a few habits, my days seem to run much more smoothly, but when I let these things slide, I can feel it, and my family feels it too. Things just seem to get more crazy and out of control.
I’m constantly learning and growing in this area. I don’t always do it perfectly (Obviously! No one does!) but I have learned some lessons along the way that have really helped me keep things under control and in control when I apply them to my different roles as a work-at-home mama.
Make a schedule and set limits
One of the most important things for me has been to make a work schedule. Make set times when you plan to work, and although it won’t always work out exactly because things come up and plans have to be changed, try to stick to those times, and when the time is up, be done.
That way everything that’s important on your list gets attention — not just the thing that you enjoy the most, or the thing that takes the most time. If you don’t set a schedule and set limits for yourself, your at home work can end up taking over all of your time and you’ll find it hard to get anything else done.
Let yourself be interrupted
Sometimes I get really wrapped up in what I’m doing, or I just want to finish this one little thing, and then I’ll stop. But the problem is when things start going crazy around me, and I don’t take the time to stop and address them, then they get totally out of control.
As nice as it would be to have uninterrupted work time, it’s just not a reality for my situation. So I have found that when I stop for a second to address a need, usually of my kids, that it saves me a lot more time in the long run.
For example, if I yell across the room for my kids to get along, or stop making a mess and pick up their toys, it rarely makes an impact and usually has the opposite effect. They start fighting more, or get out more toys and make more of a mess, which both take me longer to deal with, then if I had just stopped, gotten up and helped my kids work out their situation or pick up a few of their toys, before things got too out of hand. Spending a few minutes to deal with things as they come up, even though it means an interruption in my work, saves me time and headaches later on.
Use Routines to Your Advantage
I like to have a regular routine in place for my days. It helps me and my kids know what’s coming next, what to expect, and what needs to get done and when. Routines don’t have to rule over you like a set in stone schedule, but they just help everything to run more smoothly.
Make a To-Do List
Even though I usually write way more on my to-do list than I could actually ever get done in a day, when I make a list I get so much more done that when I just kind of float through my day, wondering what I should do next.
Having a list helps me to be intentional about my time, so if I don’t feel like cleaning the bathroom right now, I can look at my list and see what I else I can do, and still get something accomplished. Without my list, I just procrastinate on tasks that I don’t enjoy doing, and then nothing really gets done at all.
Steal time when no one else wants it
I got this idea from Jon Acuff when he spoke at the Blissdom conference this past February. He talked about how if we have dreams that we want to accomplish, we need to steal time in the day when no one else in our family wants it. This would usually mean the early morning, or late night, hours. For me, this means I wake up early, usually 5:00 or 5:30 a.m., while the rest of my family is still sleeping, and use that time to write. It may be hard to imagine waking up so early, but I promise you that it does get easier. And once you see how much you can get done, and how it helps to make the rest of your day be more productive, you’ll be a believer too!
Support from your partner
If you’re married, or have a partner who you raise your family with, it’s really important to have their support. They can take over kid-duty at least one or two times a week, giving you precious uninterrupted work time, without having to pay for a sitter.
I often get up early on Saturday mornings (I know, groan!) and go out to get a few hours of work in while my husband stays home with my sleeping kids. Then when I come home, I’m not worried about all the work I have to do, and can just enjoy the weekend and time with my family. Taking the time to talk with your spouse and working out a schedule of sharing childcare will go a long way in helping you to balance your work and home responsibilities.
Try making these tips a habit as you seek to find balance in working from home, and I think that you’ll find that they help your days to run more smoothly, and help you to get more done both in your work and around the house, making working from home really the best of both worlds!