Posted on Aug 02, 2018
Vacuum the carpet. Clean the bathroom. Throw out the trash. Brew tea. Check Facebook. These are just some of the things that run through my mind when I sit down at my desk to start my work. If I were to give in to each and every whim I think of, I’d never get any work done! Being a work-from-home-mom is no joke, and if you're not disciplined, you'll find yourself constantly overwhelmed and behind on everything. Here are some tips I’ve developed to help me stay focused and on track.
1. Get help if you can afford it.
This almost goes without saying, but it’s worth mentioning. Paid help is definitely the easiest way to work from home as a mom because you eliminate delays to your work for the whole day. For at least a few hours, you can pay someone to help you feed, change, and entertain your kids while you hammer away at work. Whether it’s hiring a nanny, enrolling in daycare, or enlisting the help of loving and able relatives, this is the most effective way to work from home seamlessly and with the least stress. It’s also an added expense, so think carefully about what’s feasible for your family and go from there. If you are blessed to have family willing to help out who refuse to get paid, try to repay the favor somehow! Whether it be helping them with housework, cooking some food, or anything else you know they’ll appreciate.
2. Follow a strict routine.
Regardless of whether or not you’re able to get outside help, a routine is still necessary. Just like children crave routine, adults do, too. Establish a routine for both you and your kids – wake up and have breakfast, get ready for school or playgroup, take naps, have lunch, etc. Whatever the activity, make sure they are consistent and occur at roughly the same times. This will help your workflow and subconsciously keep you alerted when you need to be on “high” and “low” alert for your kids; e.g. high alert when they’ll need your full attention such as during meal or nap times, and low alert when they play on their own or are sleeping. Ideally you’ll want to get more work done during the low alert periods and plan accordingly.
3. Take a shower in the morning.
Even if you don’t need to be in an office by 9 AM, you still need to get ready for the day! Taking a shower will set your daily routine into motion. Go one step further and actually make an effort with your appearance, too. Wear clothes you’d wear to the office to really get into work-ready mode... and for those last-minute Skype video conferencing calls. ;)
4. Set up a workstation.
Just like they tell you not to study on your bed because your brain associates it with sleep, don’t sit cross-legged on your sofa hunched over your laptop for several hours a day! It’s terrible for your posture and blood flow, not to mention your overall health. Create a designated workstation in your home that is clean and conducive to working. It’ll help you get work done faster and eliminate distractions.
5. Change your location up if you need to.
Alternately, if working at home is not your forte, utilize your mobility-freedom to work anywhere! Obviously, someone would need to watch your kids for this to work, but even doing this once a week is pretty effective. Changing up your locations breaks up the monotony and can speed up getting your work done because your brain won’t be triggered by the same environmental stimuli that otherwise hold you up from being productive, like the TV, low lighting, or, oh yeah, your kids screaming and crying. :)
6. Utilize nap and sleep times to their max.
When your kids nap, you must take full advantage of these precious hours! I try to get all my high-priority, time-sensitive work done during this time because it means zero tending to my son while he naps. As you plan your work for the week, arrange it so that you can get all your necessary work done during these precious low-alert hours.
7. Work time is for work, only.
Regardless of any housework you have piling up, and regardless of any plans you'd like to make, keep your work-designated hours to work only. Be disciplined about this, and you'll find that you'll get most of your work done during your designated work hours, leaving you feeling accomplished and on top of your tasks for the rest of your day.
8. Plan for setbacks.
As any working mom will tell you, nothing will always go 100% according to even the most detailed, fool-proof plans. The babysitter might cancel, your husband or kids might fall ill, or your laptop might crash. There are a million and one things that can go wrong, and the first step when it happens is to b r e a t h e, and re-set your planner accordingly. Which leads me to my next tip...
9. Set realistic expectations with your employer.
Always have honest and candid conversations with your manager about what your schedule and constraints are. Let them know well in advance about the dates you won’t be available and try as hard as possible to honor your commitments and deadlines. At the start of every year or quarter, make a list of the goals you and the team need to get done and let them know where you can perform and meet expectations. At the same token, be forthright about where you may face difficulty and challenges.
10. Don’t overcommit.
To really build trust and your reputation for integrity at work, don’t overcommit to assignments you’re unsure of completing. While it’s important to demonstrate skill and competence and take on challenges to move up the corporate ladder, take an honest stock of your priorities professionally and personally. See where they align and conflict, and go from there. Once you have a solid understanding of what you’re able to do, it’ll be easy to say yes to new opportunities and no to the ones that may hurt you.
11. Do over-communicate.
Working from home means you don’t get the benefit of sitting side by side with your manager and colleagues every day and can’t stride over to their desk if you need to troubleshoot an issue. This means you need to communicate to the smallest detail in your email, text messages, or Slack conversations. Frame every written message respectfully and succinctly, but give enough detail that would otherwise be conveyed in an in-person encounter. This way, everyone is on the same page and no one gets any surprises after weeks of non-communication.
Working from home as a mother definitely has some challenges, but many rewards as well. We get the option to work on our own time and don’t need waste time in traffic or commutes. Best of all, the flexibility of our schedules can afford us to spend more time with our kids, which is important to take full advantage of! Whether or not you are able to get outside help, the key to making WFH work is to set up a solid routine that works for you your family. Happy working!