I’m not sure if I’ve talked about this on the blog before, but I work from home. I do project-based freelance writing, editing, and proofreading for a bunch of clients. Like any work from home momma will tell you, this is not an easy thing to do. Yes, I can set my own hours. Yes, I can be home with my kids. But I also have no work/life separation and I contend with a cranky toddler while I’m trying to meet deadlines.
It’s not easy, but it works for me.
Over the years I’ve learned a few tips and tricks that make the whole process a little easier and a whole lot more productive. The last two apply strictly to mommas, but I think the first three tips are valuable for anyone working from home.
Plan as far out as possible
I’m not what one might call a planner. Just ask my husband how long I “planned” on throwing out the completely dry and wilted flowers that were sitting in our living room (hint: think in terms of weeks instead of days). Still, if you’re going to work from home, you’re going to need some sort of plan.
At first I said “I don’t need no stinkin plan.” I’m a fly by the seat of my pants kind of girl. I like to see where the wind takes me. The problem with that? I get distracted by shiny things. And when I get distracted, I’m not getting work done.
I’ve found that doing something as simple as brainstorming some ideas for the coming month and putting them into an editorial calendar (nothing has to be set in stone, it’s just a rough guide) is incredibly helpful. Especially during times when I’m a bit distracted. I can just peek over at my calendar and see what’s coming up that I need to prep for and which project deadlines are getting dangerously close.
It sounds kind of simple and it might even sound a little unnecessary, but trust me: it’s a lifesaver. It allows me to focus my thoughts when they might otherwise be scattered all over the place.
Find your zone
Way too often I’ve sat staring at a computer screen all bleary eyed and exhausted, dreading the fact that my kids are going to wake me up in a few short hours. I’m tired and I’m obsessing about how little sleep I’m going to get and how that’s going to throw off my whole next day and that I’m going to miserable which means my kids are going to be miserable which means THE WORLD WILL BE MISERABLE. You know what I’m not doing? Getting quality work done.
Instead, I’ve noticed that I get so much more done in a much shorter amount of time when I do a big push in the early morning. My kids are eating breakfast and distracted with Netflix. They’re not bored and crazed for an itinerary of the day’s events—not yet at least. And I’m fresh as a daisy, hot off a full night’s sleep.
Work in batches
I always thought this advice was kind of stupid. I like to start and finish something before I move on to the next project. Why would I want to write the copy for something and then stop working on it to write the copy for something else instead of just putting the whole thing together right then?
Because it’s actually way less efficient to do it that way.
While I’m procrastinating on the whole getting work done thing, I like to read up on how to be more efficient with managing my time (how’s that for ironic, Alanis?). Everything I’ve read tells me that it’s more efficient to work in similar “batches.”
Between work activities (ie writing and photo editing), take a break to let your mind adjust to starting a new task. Do the dishes. Get silly with your kid. Make some lunch. Then start something new. If you try to do a little of this mixed with a little of that and jump back and forth, you’re not working up to your full potential. You brain is sort of jet lagged and has to get used to your new direction.
I’ve experimented with it a little bit and I have to tell you. IT’S SO TRUE! I never realized how much my work suffered from jumping back and forth between different ways of thinking until I tried the whole batching approach. It’s amazing.
Use nap time efficiently
OK. This one sounds like a no brainer, but it’s actually not. When (if) your kids go down for a nap, you’re immediately tempted to savor your “break.” You surf gossip sites or go online shopping or stalk Facebook, telling yourself it will be real quick and then you’ll get to work. But then you look up and realize a half hour (or more) has passed and your precious quiet time might not last much longer.
Obviously there are some days where a breather is necessary for your mental health. But if you’re on a deadline or need a pocket of time to get a lot done, nap time is golden. Close all of your browser tabs that you don’t need, put your phone on silent (and hide it behind the computer so you don’t see notifications pop up that make you rush to Instagram or Twitter) and get to work.
Take breaks when the kids need them
Taking a break might not seem like the best idea if you’re drowning in work and there’s no end in sight. But if the little people are rebelling and need some sort of distraction, you’re way better off taking them outside to run off their energy or playing board games with them than being continually distracted from whatever task you’re working on.
I don’t know about you, but the reason I work from home is so that I can spend more time with my kids. When you’re buried under a mountain of work it can be easy to lose sight of that little fact and get irritated that they won’t stop hanging off your arm or asking What can I do? What can I do? What can I do?! They’re kids. And they’re important. And sometimes you have to show them that.
Do you have any tips on how to work from home?
This is the second post in my Like a Mother series, where I tackle conquering the seemingly impossible like only a mother can. 😉 If you can think of anything you’d like to see featured in this series, shoot me an email.
For more work from home tips, check out Our Freaking Budget’s Making Bacon at Home series!