One of my biggest struggles in 2014, especially at the beginning of the year, was finding a balance between being a stay-at-home mom and working from home. I spent a considerable chunk of time either frustrated that I wasn’t getting in enough time to work on my business or feeling guilty that I wasn’t giving Eve enough attention.
Granted, those first few months were especially hard since Eve was so young and not yet on a predictable nap routine. As she got older and started to consistently sleep at the same time, I was able to start to putting in more regular hours into my work while also finding ample to do things with Eve and give her my attention while she was awake (no more worrying that I was scaring her for life for typing my computer while she was in her swing!).
While working from home while simultaneously caring for a toddler still presents its challenges (hello, nap consolidation!), I have found that these seven simple things help me to both get work done with the limited time that I have.
1. Accept the fact that you probably won’t get as much done as you would like
I had been working from home for well over a year before Eve was born, so I was quite accustomed to my time during the day being my time. I got to determine my schedule and when I would work and for how long. Often I would start working at six in the morning and power through until lunch time, and then work in the afternoon until Sam came home from his job. Once a child comes into the picture, this is obviously not the case. Your child’s needs usually come first and your day now revolves around her, limiting how much time you can get done. The sooner you come to accept this and that your productivity level will have lowered considerably (especially in the first few months when you are particularly sleep-deprived), the less energy you will waste feeling frustrated about this.
2. Set a routine for yourself
Growing up, my mom had a very predictable household schedule. I knew exactly what days the laundry would get done, what days were for grocery shopping, and what night was pizza night (Thursday night). When I was younger, I would roll my eyes at my mom’s routine. Now that I’m a mom with two people’s lives I manage daily, I realize how much sense that made. The predictability will enable you to spend less time thinking about when things were going to get done and allow you to focus more on your work.
In addition to these weekly routines (which, I’ll admit, I haven’t quite mastered like my mom), I have a daily routine. I set my alarm for 5 or 5:30 since I’m a morning person and know I can get in at least a solid hour of work before Eve wakes up, and I have started stretching before I do any work. If you are a night person, then certainly sleep as late as you can and get work done at night instead. Fit in work during the time of the day when you work best, but do it consistently.
3. Make a list of everything you would like to get done each day
I make a list either first thing in the morning or when Eve first goes down for her nap. Either way, I know exactly what I want to work on when she is sleeping. It helps me to stay focused and use those valuable and limited hours most efficiently.
When you make that list, it is important recognize that you might not get to it all. Children don’t always nap as long as you expect, or something might take longer than you had anticipated. Put the most important items at the top of the list and get them done first.
5. Set a timer
I use a simple and free app on my phone called the Pomodroido App based on the Pomodoro Technique. (The app I use is for Androids, but I’m sure there are other free ones for iPhones.) Basically you work for 25 minutes and take a break for five. I like to break my work into “Pomodoros,” or half-hour increments (including both the work time and the break). I can estimate how much time each item on my to-do list and will take and therefore how many Pomodoros. Since I can usually count on Eve to sleep for at least 2.5 hours, that’s at least five Pomodoros I can typically count on accomplishing. I will often limit e-mail to 1-2 to Pomodoros, knowing that I could spend forever checking it, and save the rest for other tasks. It gives me a better sense of what I can get done, and I really appreciate knowing that I have built-in break times.
6. Limit other distractions
Close Facebook or Pinterest and anything else that might distract you. Will limited time, it is important to be able to focus. Of course, social media and other “distractions” may legitimately be a part of your work, but set aside a specific time to work on the. You can even make a Pomodoro for pinning, if it is actually helping you to move your business along and not just an excuse for you to look up DIY projects you know you’ll never actually do.
7. Do household chores when your child is awake
I understand for a variety of reasons this might not be practical for everyone (I do, after all, have a child who cries when I leave her alone in the room for 10 seconds just to grab a glass of water from the kitchen) and may even seem like a odd suggestion. But think about it, what would you rather have you child see you doing: washing dishes and folding laundry, or typing on your computer where they have absolutely no idea what you are doing? Unlike typing on the computer, with chores you can still be engaged with your child. If your child is old enough, you can even involve her in the them. Or put on some child-friendly music and dance around and sing along with your child while you work. If anything, it might even make these mundane tasks more enjoyable for you, and it will free up the time when your child is sleeping to get other work done.
Do you work from home with a child? What helps you to get work done?
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