How to Survive Working From Home with Kids
I tend to get obsessive about things- organization, cleanliness, and since this blog, (my fourth child) came along… blogging. Working at home with kids isn’t easy and I became so focused on writing and blogging that (as discussed in Confessions of a Work at Home Mom) I started letting my responsibilities at home take a back seat to the blog.
My family and the way our household runs was suffering as a result.
I realized that this was not an efficient way to operate. The house was a mess, there was almost always a load of dry clothes sitting in the dryer for longer than they should, and it was effecting my health (Breakfast, lunch? What’s that?).
After realizing that this was not a sustainable way to live, I made some changes. It’s still a work in progress, but so far, a lot of these methods have worked for us. So if you’re a WAHM who’s facing the challenge of balancing business and brood, check out what I’ve been doing to smooth the balance:
How to Survive Working From Home With Kids
Time management is still an area I’m working on. Once I get started on something, I have this overwhelming need to finish it. I’m also very thorough so what should take an hour ends up turning into 3. But I’ve come to realize that if I ever want to create a good balance between home and business, time management is the area to focus on first.
Like a 9 to 5 job, you need to start and end work within a time frame. This keeps you focused on the task at hand and keeps you on a schedule. This also sets an expectation within your household. Instead of attempting to do everything all day, family members can expect that you will be working during regularly scheduled times and aren’t available. It keeps the kids at bay while you’re typing away or making calls and you can better schedule activities to keep them busy while you’re doing it.
For example, if you set the expectation that you will be working from 9am to 11am, there’s a sense of urgency to be done with breakfast by 9am and the expectation that eating won’t happen again until after 11am. You can also get the kids focused on an activity or activities that fills that time slot. Kids love structure and routine- and setting expectation can save you a lot of interruptions. Housework will need to wait outside of business hours and managing your time efficiently will help you to complete tasks instead of dabbling in a little here, there, and everywhere.
Your time management plan should include time blocking. Committing to a few hours a day to work on ONE specific thing instead of multitasking (and half-assing) everything at once, is an effective use of your time. Going back and forth between projects and housework is a time waster. So plan to allot a specific amount of time to one task before moving on to the next.
For example, following the time frame above, you can schedule work tasks in a 2 hour slot. Between 9 and 11, if you need to make calls, schedule “call time”. Don’t make one call and then move on to data entry for that call. Instead, take notes as you go and get all the calls done. Input during the next time block.
As for housework and taking care of the kiddos, you can throw in a load of laundry and load the dishwasher before 9am. At 11am, you can switch the laundry, put the dishes away, and start preparing lunch for the littles.
Not everything is a priority (I swear!). I’ve had to learn this the hard way. Writing a list in order of priority is one way to start managing your time effectively. This list will constantly change as priorities shift, but just remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day and just do the best you can. (There will be more on list making below).
Cut Out Excess
Some things are nice to have, but deemed unnecessary when you’re on a time frame. If you’re spending two hours on creating a graphic for content you haven’t finished yet, you’re wasting your time. If you’re spending an hour organizing for the tasks you need to complete, you’re wasting time. Focus on actually performing the tasks that bring you immediate results.
For example, instead of staring at a calendar and planning a month’s worth of posts, you might want to just write a bunch of posts and THEN plug them into your calendar. You’d be surprised what you can do without… ahem… binder making and excessive list reorganizing.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be organized, but when all you’re doing is organizing and re-organizing, you’re not likely to get any of it done.
Create 2 Lists
Stop reorganizing or making new lists and start tackling the ones you have. Make 2 lists: one for High Priority and one for Low importance. Edit them as you go and as appropriate, but don’t spend too much time reorganizing. Sometimes, as time goes on, some things on your low-importance list may become high priority, but the idea is to work on what matters first.
Now spend your longest time blocks tackling the items on the High Priority List and only dedicate a few hours to Low Importance tasks. For example, Monday through Thursday, I work on the High Priority list- finishing Freelance assignments, creating content for the blog, creating graphics for those posts, marketing, and finding more writing opportunities. On Fridays, I tackle maintenance, nice-to-haves, and number crunching. A majority of my time is spent doing things that will bring me results, or the most reward.
Commit to Completing 3 to 5 Tasks a Day
Take your High Priority to-do list and pick 3 to 5 result-giving tasks to complete. Start with the hardest one and get it out of the way, then make your way down the list. If there is one task that will take you an entire time block to complete, commit to that one at the beginning of the week and then follow the 3 to 5 for the rest of the week.
This ensures that you spend a majority of your time completing tasks that will produce results.
Working With Kids
Rock Nap Time!
If you’re fortunate enough to get your toddler to nap, then you need to plan around that. Things that you can do when your toddler is awake need to be done while they’re awake. This includes laundry, work-outs, eating and cleaning. Multi-task as much of your housework while your little one is up a (outside of business hours) and save that quiet time for things like client calls and writing.
Preparation is key, here. Set yourself up for a smooth transition into work mode while your little one naps. This will give you a head start on “work time” while they’re napping. For example, maybe take the last 10 minutes of your morning work time block to get out the list for calls you need to make or your notes together for data entry. As soon as your little one is down, jump right in!
Dealing with Distraction
Time blocking and lists sound great, but as WAHMs, we all know that there will almost always be a distraction. Toddlers can be unpredictable sometimes (ok a lot of the time) and we need to be prepared. A client might call outside of the nap time hours, or a sick baby might need more attention than your schedule planned for. In these circumstances, you need to have a backup plan. If you know you’ll face issues ahead of time or are particularly busy that week, call a friend or family member for help or enroll your kiddos in an MDO program for the day.
For random and instant distractions- like a call from a client outside of nap time, TV (**GASP**) is a great distractor (so long as you don’t abuse it). If you feel like you don’t want to turn to TV, check out my post on Keeping Kids Busy Without Using TV. Quiet crafts, educational apps and pre-made snacks can go a long way in helping to keep little ones distracted, too. If your little one is sick, leveraging their nap time to complete work can go a long way, too.
It might be frustrating, but the truth is that sometimes our schedules will need to change. So long as you’re working in time blocks MOST of the time, you’ll be in good shape. It’s when you’re not working consistently or effectively that things will start to fall apart.
Many of us who work from home cannot afford the luxury of daycare, but if you can- enrolling your kiddos in at least part time day care can be a big help. Not only for you but for their social development, it might be a good idea. Check out some local daycares in your area- you might be surprised by the services they offer. There are also a lot of church groups that offer Mother’s Day Out for reduced prices (and sometimes it’s FREE). Sometimes, getting a full 8 hours of uninterrupted work on one day is worth the $20 and will save you a lot of stress the rest of the week.
Working From Home
Eventually, the kids WILL be out of the house and I will have all the time in the world to work on freelancing and the blog, at which point, I bet I’ll miss having them home. That’s just the twisted way life works. In the meantime, trying to balance home and work while they’re here is the key to winning on both fronts. Try these methods and see what works for you. I’d love to hear what you do to keep the kids busy while you work!Keeping #Kids busy while you work from home isn't easy. Check out these methods I use to… Click To Tweet
If you’ve decided to go the MDO or daycare route, check out 8 Easy Ways to Deal with Separation Anxiety in Toddlers.
Do you work from home with kids, too? How do you keep them busy during working hours?