Since I launched my own business in 2008, I’ve been working on the art of balancing the coveted ‘work from home‘ status. While it is enticing to hang out in slippers and yoga pants many days, there are some key strategies that can either make or break your ability to stay focused and productive. With the added distraction of home and children, moms have it more difficult than most when it comes to getting it all done. So, if you are a work from home professional parent these strategies will really help!
1. Create regular office hours.
So many entrepreneurs struggle to separate work and home. Working from home causes you to blend many parts of your life. While you need a place to work, you also need spaces in your home NOT associated with work! Otherwise, you run the risk of blended boundaries. This can hurt you and the ones you hold dear. So, the first thing you need to do to create work from home success is to create regular office hours.
A brick and mortar store always has hours of operation. But, when you work from home – you can work all day, every day! So – When will you work? When will you shut down for the night?
Perhaps you’ve never considered your work hours. So, right now, close your eyes and dream of your ideal day for your work from home lifestyle now. Consider the following questions and see what comes up for you.
- Your ‘ideal’ work hours for you and your family at this time?
- What days and times will you work on your business?
- When will your work from home days begin and end?
- What time will you go to lunch?
- How will you handle family time and make time for your children?
- What will you do for self-care and how will you create rituals around me-time?
Once you have an idea of your ideal work from home schedule, block your work and personal days on a monthly calendar. Post it in a prominent place to remind yourself of your commitment to creating a boundary around your work. It’s important to create routine and rigor while working at home. This way you can start out successfully, hold your boundaries, establish a reliable routine for you and your family that will help to maintain your sanity while working from home.
2. Set your work area up for success.
Working from home requires a work area. However, many moms attempt to multi-task their work while staying available to their children and families. Imagine this familiar scene: Trying to balance your laptop on your lap, in the bathroom, on the potty, trying to avoid the chaos of the kids in the other room. Or juggling papers while hopping from the kitchen table to the couch, to your bedroom just to get some time to think.
If this sounds too familiar, you need to restructure your home office. You need a legit work area to make working at home possible without driving yourself crazy! In your attempt to get it all done, you sabotage yourself with no boundaries. There is safety inside of walls and behind a door.
I’m not suggesting you re-structure your house, but if you’re distracted often, and running away from the kids, it’s time to give yourself the gift of a real office space!
Consider whether your work from home space works for or against you. At the very least, figure out how to provide yourself with an actual workspace.
You need workspace ‘boundary’ especially if you have young children. Children can’t see invisible boundaries that are not there. They don’t know when you’re working, or when your surfing your social media. So if you’re answering emails while feeding junior lunch – consider it’s you. YOU NEED AN ADEQUATE PLACE TO WORK!
For a successful work from home office, set up a work area that supports the work you do. Be sure to give yourself the tools and supplies you need for success. If you need a headset, buy one! And find a way to provide adequate lighting for the tasks at hand. If you need some guidance, check out this home space assessment tool that can put you on the right track.
3. Separate work from personal space and time.
One of the beauties of being a mom entrepreneur is the fact that you can be home and attend to your family’s needs at a moment’s notice. While it’s true that you no longer have a boss breathing down your neck, and second-guessing your decision to stay home with your sick child, it is important to create boundaries between work time and home time. Kids can’t see the invisible boundaries you manage while cramming work, chores, and tasks into the nooks and crannies of your life.
While it only takes a few minutes to throw in a load of laundry or run the vacuum, it is important for you to create real boundaries. You want to sure up expectations for all of you. So it’s important to discuss how you will balance work at home and when you’ll be able to take care of chores and personal tasks, so they don’t compete with dedicated work time.
4. Work out how to handle distractions.
There’s no better way to derail your thoughts and workflow than by constantly interrupting yourself during the time you’re trying to work. It’s inefficient and leads to inefficiency and bad energy.
Human beings are just not meant to jump from deep work to light work. If you’re focused deeply an interruption can derail your productivity. Because when you start back on the task, it can take triple the time to ramp back up into focused work mode.
To avoid this productivity slip, time-block your tasks. In other words, if you need to take care of personal tasks during your workday, do yourself a favor schedule like-tasks together. Doing so can help you maximize productivity, and help you take care of yourself and your family.
Another common distraction is pets. If your pets disrupt your workday, consider hiring a pet sitter or dog walker. It’s important to getting help so your pets’ needs are taken care of during work hours.
5. Build regular and consistent social structures.
When you’re serious about working from home, you’ll soon experience yourself needing to say ‘No’ to the endless requests from friends until they get it. BUT BEWARE… depending on your friendships, if you say no too many times, it won’t be long before they stop asking. Or they may even stop communicating when opportunities pop up.
The best way to avoid the inevitable disappearing act is to build time in for social contact NOW. Don’t wait! To support your social structure and make time to see your friends create regular gatherings or events. This helps a lot. Your friends will feel like they matter to you and it gives you things to look forward to.
Events can serve as the social anchors for your friendships when you start to work from home. Try organizing something new like a girl’s night out, book club, luncheon, exercise club, or monthly movie night. Whatever makes sense in your chosen social circle, don’t let it go. Create opportunities that are consistent and easy to manage to be sure you don’t lose touch with the people you love most!
6. Develop healthy home operating procedures.
When you create a dual-zone at home, it’s important to agree on the ground rules. One of the best ways to do that is to create agreed-upon procedures for your work from home business. Ideally, you’ll need to cover the regular procedures that include home management tasks, but also you should consider creating a procedure manual for your work from home business.
Gaining support from your entire family is possible as long as family members know what they need to do to contribute to the family unit. When working from home, be sure your operating manual includes chores to delegate to others. Another good idea is to include a disaster or emergency plan to be sure you have everything handled just in case disaster strikes!
7. Remember – Left Hand, Right Hand.
Unless you hang out solely with entrepreneurs when you launch a business, your attention shifts away from your loved ones and those people who are in your social circle. As such – many of us begin building our work from home business by providing services and products to those close to us. We first sell our services to friends and family. Often though, we offer discounted rates or do all the work for free. But it only takes a few jobs to realize that it doesn’t work to help you build a business.
that most friends and family don’t value your services in the same way as ideal or potential clients do. This is an issue of boundaries, and it is up to you to keep them clear. My good friend Stacey Martino of relationshipdevelopment.org shares a metaphor called ‘Left Hand, Right Hand’ that works for entrepreneurs everywhere.
Think of your friends and family as those in your inner circle – Your “Right Hand” and those business colleagues, connections, and partners as your “Left Hand”. Now, here comes the important part, your job with the people in your right hand is to love them… That’s it! And your expectations of them are for them to love and support you.
This is an incredibly helpful distinction to make when setting expectations and building a business. Literally, your right-hand people are there to protect you and for you to protect them, keep them safe from harm and love them. Just give them love and support. However, it is those in your left hand from whom you’ll seek support for your business and goals. You can feel free to pour your thoughts, support, advice, and counsel into your left-hand people. In fact, those people show up to be filled up, inspired and assisted by your business offers, services, and products.
This distinction is incredibly important for you in the beginning stages and will help you keep those personal and business boundaries clear.
Remember that launching a business is not a short-run plan… It’s a long-range plan that will take effort, time, and energy. Keep your perspective, create space to continue to fill yourself up, and celebrate your small successes along the way. If you need help along the way – I’m here, cheering you on from the sidelines!
What other work-from-home strategies help you? Please comment below!
Which of these work from home strategies are the most challenging for you? We’d love to continue the discussion with you in the comments below!