A work from home job can be a pretty cushy gig, and if you’re a mother, chances are you’ve wondered if this flexible job scenario is right for you. Freedom, control of your schedule, and not having to commute are just a few of the benefits that make achieving work-life balance easier. But, work from home—whether you’re a freelancer, an entrepreneur, or an employee working off-site—also creates a unique set of challenges and distractions, all of which can threaten your livelihood if you don’t meet them head on. Here are some helpful tips on working from home.
Here are five ways to ensure that you work effectively and keep productivity high, while remaining underneath your own roof.
1. Identify Your Top Priorities Every Day
Weekly to-do lists are a great way to get organized. There are times, however, when looking too far into the future—even if that’s just a few days—can feel overwhelming in a way that hampers productivity. The best way to circumvent this is to write out a weekly list of objectives that includes everything you hope to get done in the different spheres of your life, creating a separate category for each (professional, personal, family). Then prioritize the items in each category from highest to lowest. Each morning, choose the one or two most important items from each category and make sure to complete them by the time you go to bed, no matter what. You will feel productive and less anxious at the end of each day knowing that your biggest priorities have been met. It’s also a great way to ensure that you are giving attention to all areas of your life. After all, balance is the reason you wanted to work from home in the first place, right?
2. Be a Stickler for Your Schedule
A while back, when I was still struggling to find my work-from-home groove, I sought advice from a friend who seemed to have it down pat. She advised me to create a weekly schedule so detailed it would put a FedEx manager to shame. So organized was the schedule in question that it allowed for five minutes between a blog post and a conference call each Wednesday to clean the toilet. No joke—this woman meant business, and for good reason. Mothers working from home often have a compressed work day, and as a result, it becomes essential to minimize wasted time. Schedule everything—email correspondence, social media (if necessary for your job), projects, when you are going to shuffle over to the fridge and find lunch, etc., and then focus solely on what is on your schedule in that given moment . Inevitably, life will throw you things that require flexibility, but try to deviate from your schedule as little as possible. You may not have a supervisor onsite, but your schedule is your boss.
3. Separate Yourself from Your Main Living Space
When I first began working from home, my favorite place to set up shop was the dining room table. I liked it because it was a large space with good sunlight and a nice vibe. Over time, however, I realized that this spot was not particularly well-suited to helping me stay focused. I could see the dishes stacked up in the sink. I could spy my children’s toys lying on the living room floor. My cat repeatedly tried to lie on my keyboard. It wasn’t long before I’d get swept up in household affairs that I thought would just take a minute (which would then turn into 10 or 20 or 60). Create a space for yourself that is removed from the rest of your house—an office, a guest room, a basement—and shut the door during work hours.
4. Get Dressed
We all go through it—that honeymoon phase of working from home when spending a work day in your pj’s feels like nirvana. Eventually, though, we realize that it’s tough to take yourself seriously when you’re wearing 8-year-old flannels with holes in them (ditto for your memory foam slippers). Each morning, get dressed as though you are going to leave the house. For most of us, that means real clothes, a hairbrush, some make-up, and shoes. By ensuring that you look the part of a competent, upstanding citizen, you are sure to have more energy, confidence, and self-esteem all day long.
5. Work Face-to-Face with Employers and Co-Workers
If you have the chance to meet or work with employers in person some of the time, take it! Working from home fosters work-life balance in many ways, but the opportunity to forge bonds and build rapport with other professionals through face-to-face contact is invaluable. If your client or employer is nearby, try going into the office at least once per week. Or, meet with co-workers for lunch or social events. In addition to combating loneliness, spending time with others will also ensure you stay current with industry trends.
There is no doubt that working from home creates a lifestyle far less conventional than professionals could have imagined a generation ago. However, with a bit of practice you may very well find you are more productive, well-managed, and efficient than even the smartest nine-to-five office dwellers. When this happens, you become a valuable employee indeed.
Stefanie Boucher is a writer, editor, blogger, and mother learning to navigate the varied demands of adult life. You can find her on her blog, Opt-Out Revolutionary, where she aims to assist and inspire stay-at-home-moms as they transition back to career life: http://optoutrevolutionary.com.
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