When you work from home, whether you have a whole room set aside for your office or a corner of the computer desk in the family room, having an organized workspace is key to productivity. Often we have to grab moments to work between carpools, naps, making meals and doing laundry. If you have to waste time looking for things and finding a pen you are not going to accomplish as much as you could if you have organized systems in place. Here are ten easy steps to get you on your way to streamlined systems:
- Set aside time each day to file papers. Avoid allowing paper to accumulate. Remember, piles are not your friend!
- Keep an extra printer cartridge on hand, as well as other office supplies to avoid not having the item you need to complete a project.
- Work when you are at your best.
- Turn off email alerts, Twitter and other distractions when you are trying to accomplish a task. Multi-tasking is a gift but it is not conducive to turning out quality work.
- Have a dependable back-up plan. If you are working on a deadline than have someone you can call to help you out with the kids if one becomes sick. Often, this can be a swap type situation with another WAHM.
- Be selective about the things you commit your time to. People often assume that because you work from home you are available for every volunteer event, PTA committee and playgroup. And, it is tempting since you make your own schedule to succumb to the desire to be involved in everything. But, you can only be spread so thin before both your parenting and your career will suffer.
- Schedule your work time, play time, house cleaning time, etc. If it isn’t on your radar screen, there is a good chance it will not get done.
- Cut yourself some slack! You will not get everything done all the time. Sometimes work will have to come first, most of the time your kids and significant other will need to come first. In the end, it will balance out.
- Take care of you. Being all things to all people can leave a mama stressed and tired. Do things that rejuvenate you- get a manicure, go for a run, treat yourself to a latte. Whatever takes care of you- make time for it!
- Pat yourself on the back. WAHM’s have their feet in both worlds, the SAHM world and the career world, without the benefit of separating the two. Work never leaves because your work is at home and it is hard not to look at all the laundry and dishes when your office is across from the kitchen. Give yourself credit for all the things you accomplish on a daily basis and remember there is always tomorrow for the things that still need to be done.
As a work-at-home mom, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the number of things I need to do. Mornings are spent rushing to get the older two kids out the door to school. Once they’re on the bus, I’m feel ready to conquer the world and get to work. Then the baby’s raging cries bring me crashing back to reality.
Does this scenario sound familiar to you? How can we, as work-at-home moms, be productive when the needs of our children must come first? I’ve revised my daily routine several times since beginning my freelance career. I don’t have it completely down yet, but I’ll share what I’ve learned as well as advice from some of my work-at-home friends.
- Keep a daily notebook. Develop a notebook system that works for you to record your daily to-do list along with reminder notes and organization tools like grocery lists and appointment reminders.
- Use an electronic management program. Some people prefer to do everything online. There are lots of great management tools to help you keep things organized. I use Gmail because its label system is easier for me to organize than traditional folders. I also like 30 Boxes as my calendar.
- Multitask. I have a friend whose favorite time to brainstorm is when her kids are bathing. I think that’s brilliant. I take a book or notebook with me when I wait for the kids to get off the bus.
- Utilize your best time of day. Most of us are either a morning person or a night owl; use your best time of day to your advantage. I’m kind of an odd ball, in that I do better in the afternoon. When my husband gets home from work at around 2:00, I get busy until it’s time to go pick up the kids.
- Start early. No matter what your best time of day is, get started on tasks immediately. Then reward yourself by taking some time to check your email or catch up with your favorite social network.
- Divide and conquer. Trying to do everything at once makes me feel scattered, so I allocate each day to a different task. For example, I use Monday to do research and brainstorm topic ideas, and Wednesday is usually query day when I pitch my ideas to publications.
- Minimize distractions. It is so tempting to watch just one TV show or do one load of laundry. Avoid that time trap by setting yourself a timer or resolving to stick to a set schedule.
- Take a break. Though you don’t want to get sucked into time traps, it is important to recharge your body. Each day I sit down to lunch with my infant son. We enjoy the uninterrupted bonding time while refueling our bodies. Then I’m ready to get back to work.
- Delegate household tasks. Enlist family members to help with the chores and determine when they will be done. Maybe you could work as a family to clean on weekends or tidy up a bit each night after dinner.
- Make family agreements. Your family must be involved in order to make work-at-home work well. I’ve challenged my husband to do his job while caring for children and cleaning the house. No traditional employer would expect so much, so why hold yourself to such unreasonable demands?
- Reassess. This is something I’ve had to do, and it can be tough. Have you over-committed? Consider whether one or two of your daily to-do’s can be dropped. This will free up your time to tackle what’s really important to you and your business.
- Dress the part. Don’t work in your pj’s and bunny slippers. Nothing kills my productivity more quickly than foregoing my shower and trying to get right to work. When I look like a professional, I feel more professional.
These are a few examples to get you started. Consider your personality and your family’s routine when developing your own schedule. And remember that you may have to try several variations before finding a routine that works for you, so don’t give up!