I’ve been working from home, for myself, for the past 4 years. When I first began working from home, I had a contract for Bay Area Parent magazine and BlogHerads. This meant I had set hours and a set list of tasks I needed to accomplish on a daily basis in order to get paid.
Now I work solely for myself — I run the websites and I write books. I LOVE what I do, but because I don’t really have a “boss” I find that I spend more time procrastinating and fiddling around online or pacing the house thinking about work than I actually do working.
This hasn’t been too much of a problem for me; I’ve never missed a deadline, and so far (knock wood) I feel happy with the ebb and flow of our days, even if there isn’t an actual set schedule.
But I also sometimes feel like a kindergartener doing an adult’s job. And when I’m asked by readers how I go about organizing my work day, I sometimes don’t have a very clear answer.
and that’s not good.
So I’ve decided to pay attention to what I do when I’m on a deadline — because as we all know, deadlines are really the only way to get things done. Here are the tips and tricks I use when I need to ACTUALLY GET THINGS DONE.
(but on the days I don’t need to actually get things done? I procrastinate. It’s human nature, and I’ve found it’s best to just not fight it, but instead embrace it, and move on to the next day. We can’t always be on task 24/7. This is real life, not a how-to book or magazine article.)
2) Fill it out —- fill out every slot, if you can. Write in waking the kids up, making breakfast, lunches, getting them out the door, etc. If you have little ones at home with you, schedule in outdoor play time and wear them out so you can then (hopefully) count on nap time so you can get some work done
3) Schedule business calls during nap time. If this isn’t possible, schedule them during times where you know the littles will be happy and can be occupied with a movie/favorite TV show. Try to let unscheduled calls go to voice mail — your clients will quickly learn that you need them scheduled.
4) When on calls with kids awake, have a full-on snack prepared, sippy cups filled; etc. I usually do microwave popcorn and apple slices, and a juice-box. My kids don’t get juice boxes very often, so they are a treat. I start the TV show right before getting on the call, or press “play” right as I’m dialing the phone
5) Take phone calls out of sight from the kids — in a closed bedroom, or the backyard or the garage. Usually with kids over the age of 2.5 or so, they are safe watching TV and if mom is out of sight, she’s out of mind (of course use your best judgment, etc. etc.; you know your kids best).
6) Always inform whomever you’re on the phone with that you are working from home today with small children and you’ll need to keep the call under 20 minutes (or whatever).
7) If you have to write a report or have quiet “thinking time,” I suggest working when you can be fully off-duty as a parent. If you have childcare help, or the kids are at school, use that time. If not, I suggest using the early morning or late night hours, depending on your own personal biological clock.
for me, I’m much more focused early in the morning. When I’ve got a deadline for a writing assignment, I set an alarm and get up at 4 or 4:30 am. It’s just me and the coffee pot, and I can crank out a good amount of work before Adam’s alarm goes off at 6am. When I wrote for Bay Area Parent, I regularly worked what I called “the split-shift.” I went to bed at 8pm with the kids, then set an alarm and worked from 12-4am; then went back to bed until 7am when the kids got up. It may not be a long-term solution, but it definitely works if you’re in a pinch.
and let’s face it. You’re working from home. You’re in a much better position than many, many working people, and there’s no need to complain. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.
Life is good.
8 ) There is no End to the work day. I don’t care how many work-from-home books there are that tout putting away the computer or the phone or the book at 6pm to fully “unplug” and be present with your family. It just doesn’t exist when you work from home and are also in charge of the family. There will always be more to do — and there’s no need to make yourself feel guilty for checking email while you walk through the living room, or stop to answer a call if it rings during Jeopardy. You are home. You are lucky. Don’t make arbitrary rules for yourself that you have no intention of keeping.
That said, don’t be obnoxious. Don’t be the person on her iPhone during the Saturday morning soccer games or text during church. Don’t put the phone next to your dinner plate, or use it in a restaurant. If the kids are talking to you, close the laptop and pay attention. Yes, you’re “always on” but you’re not a neurosurgeon. Get over yourself.
9) Enlist help. One of the cool things about working from home is that I can pop in a load of laundry in between tasks, and go outside and weed during a conference call. I love that I have this flexibility, but there are times when I just can’t do anything more than put out fires online, or over the phone. I expect my kids to do their chores, and I expect that my husband help out, too. We follow the Daily 7 as a family, we have regular Family Meetings, and the kids each have a chore chart. If this isn’t an option for you, then hire help.
Don’t try to do every last thing yourself. Not only is it not healthy for you, you’re not being a good role model for your kids.
I feel incredibly fortunate that I have this opportunity to provide an income for our family while being the full-time caregiver to our children. It’s not something I planned — but I couldn’t be happier.
I’m not that much of a girly girl, but am realizing that I can get away with wearing the same plain shirt and jeans quite often if I switch up my jewelry. Recently, my friend Jennifer’s (yes, I realize ALL my friends are named Jennifer..) mom started selling jewelry, which means I’ve started to buy more pieces.
I love my new jewelry, but find that real silver tarnishes much too quick for my liking, and I stop wearing it completely after a few months. After a bit of googling, I discovered the quickest and easiest way to wash it all at once to remove the tarnish: a salt water bath with aluminum foil. The hot water and salt loosens the dirt and grime, while the aluminum foil attracts the tarnish (for the super-geeky, this is an ion exchange), and it then wipes away from the jewelry (or silver pieces) easily with a soft towel.
I would not use this method to clean jewelry with precious stones. All the stones I dropped in the solution were made from glass.
tarnished silver jewelry, silver pieces (flatware, etc) (I also threw in a hammered copper pendant, which cleaned beautifully)
1 tablespoon table salt
glass container or jar
Fill a glass jar or container with hot water, and stir in a tablespoon of table salt. Make sure the salt has dissolved completely, and throw in a few (I did three) 1-inch aluminum foil strips. Add jewelry. Let soak for a few hours, stirring every so often to remove dirt (the water will get brownish in color).
This worked much better than I expected it to– the dirt and tarnish just wiped away with the towel. I found some of my really badly tarnished chains needed to soak longer, but they still were ready to go in a few hours. I only wish I was gutsy enough to tie the crockpot in with this one…
It’s 2012. I’ve spent the last four years of my life on the internet, and I love how I continue to learn new things. I developed a slight addiction to Pinterest over the holiday break (what? it was only supposed to last a week and I stretched it into a month? shhh. don’t tell anyone.) and learned that you can make ANYTHING into a white board with a cheap dollar store picture frame and a dry erase marker.
I think I’m in love.
The above frames were made in about 37 minutes. It took me a while to figure out the actual dimensions of the frame– 8 x 10 means that if you’re using a power point presentation you should size your project for 6.6 x 9.
Another Thing to Note: the glass at the dollar store breaks really, really easily. I broke the glass on each of these frames, and ended up going out into the shed to find old pictures to steal the glass (one might of been from Adam and his college friends. oops.). I’d maybe find cheapish frames at Kohl’s or Target that match instead.
My kids don’t seem to care that I’ve written a housekeeping journal/planner, or have developed a clever acronym for decluttering. They also don’t care that I get thank you notes every day in my email box which continues to perplex my #butIhelpotherpeoplewhydoesntmyownfamilylisten crazy brain.
it’s okay. I’ve come to terms with it.
Anyhow, I wrapped these chore charts up and handed them to my 7 and 10-year-old daughters (their names are on the charts, but I’ve covered them with tape because I’ve promised Adam I won’t exploit the kids on the internet) as New Year’s presents.
My 10 year old rolled her eyes, but my 7-year-old was uber excited and got to work checking things off her list immediately. If you’re looking for a guideline for age-appropriate chores, this list is a good one. Our picture frame chore charts have now been in action for exactly one week, and so far so good.
How was your New Year’s? Any big ideas for 2012? Did you make a vision board?
it’ll be a good year. I promise.
1 basket of clean laundry, unfolded and dumped on the living room floor
1 basket of clean laundry, folded and left on couch
2 “used” baby socks
2 brand-new shoes still bungee corded together
1 too-expensive rolling backpack
45 whole crayons; 3 broken
1 broken blue bead necklace (hanging from the couch cushion)
3 empty Target bags
and when I swivel away from the living space to look at the table:
1 new lunchbox that is supposed to be used FOR SCHOOL ONLY
2 new BPA-free water bottles
1 water bottle ‘cozy’ that came with the lunchbox (completely unnecessary)
random leftover lunch stuff: sliced turkey meat, cut up apples, tortilla chips & hummus
1 abandoned laptop and 3 notebooks
1 very cheeky 19-month-old baby (helping herself to hummus)
106 new gray hairs
I mistakenly thought I could get some work done while the children played peacefully inside or frolicked in delight outside (isn’t that what children are supposed to do? Frolick?) . Yeah. I know.
But you know what? This is real life. Not a glossy magazine. Stuff happens. Mistakes happen.
and it’s okay.
Give yourself a hug—- you’re doing a fantastic job. Already.
School begins for us on September 6th. I loved having everybody home with me for the summer, but I’m done. How are things going with you?