While the flexibility of working from home is always appealing, most people cringe as they imagine their productivity levels plummeting from the idea. Remote work and home businesses are on the rise, however, so it's ever more prevalent for people to find ways to manage the work load among regular household duties, raising kiddos, and oh my gosh the dog keeps barking.
When I first felt called away from teaching and into an entrepreneur lifestyle, it was extremely hard to switch my mindset from a regular, daily schedule of routine and expectations, to self-imposed time management and direction. The freedom was incredible but I'd never in my life had such a wide open door of possibility. It was intimidating and chaotic. Over the years, though, I've found a few key factors play a major role in my overall productivity and have led to not only increased productivity with my work, but better quality work, and more importantly, an ability to take advantage of that freedom in the best ways for the benefit of my family.
Here's 6 of my top tips for better work-from-home management:
1. Prioritize Home and Work Tasks
There are certain tasks that take longer or require my full focus like writing or formatting and placing client orders. Other tasks can be done in short increments, like batches of editing -- 2 images here, 3 images there-- in between dog walks or baby tickles. Then there's the dishes in the sink, the floor that needs vacuumed, the laundry that needs switched to the dryer. I've learned to first, categorize these tasks and recognize what type of attention and time they require, then prioritize.
Knowing that I need to schedule my blog posts for the week and respond to a waiting prospective client with information, when Kira goes down for a nap, those tasks become my first focus. As hard as it is to walk by the laundry room without popping in, I zoom in on that time as work hours only. I grab a cup of coffee, go to my desk, and get right to the task at hand. Little, unrelated tasks distract from big priorities. They can always be squeezed in throughout the day, whereas a good chunk of time for focussed work is harder to come by. When trying to make your time really count, purposeful planning is the key.
2. Minimize juggling
The same theory goes for the opposite direction-- when it's time to put on my mom or wife hat, setting the devices aside and focussing on the people in front of me and those connections can be just as hard but necessary. Sometimes Kira is content to play on her own while I work, which is great, but that's when those tasks that require less focus come into play. As a general rule though, I try to separate work from play as much as possible. That means no client calls while making dinner or responding to emails on while watching TV with my husband at night. When we try to over-multi-tax, we do a whole lot of nothing well. Just because you work from home doesn't mean you shouldn't have "business hours," though that's a tough concept when the two worlds mingle constantly. It's ultimately more efficient, however, to delegate time and really center yourself to one thing at a time.
3. Develop Systems
Having an organized system for everything from weekly goals to meals has done wonders to simplify life. Spending 30 minutes at the beginning of the week to establish top priorities and tasks, both personal and business related, will make everything run 10x more smoothly. (Read about my Trello organization method here). Include your business tasks, communications, meetings as well as social engagements, chores, and errands. Having the big picture puts your week in perspective so you can feel on top of your game all week.
4. Shower/Get dressed every day
Sounds like a no brainer, but it's easy to set that aside if you're agenda for the day doesn't require you to leave the house and your toddler is your only witness. Even in high school and college, I wasn't one to go to class in my pajamas or even yoga pants. "Dressing for success" is legit and these days, while I'm not talking dress pants and blazers, there's power in feeling refreshed, clean, and pulled together when you start off your day.
5. Turn off the TV
Daytime TV is nothing that will change your life and is really just a distraction. When I used to argue my curfew as a teen, my parents would rebuke with
"nothing good happens after 12:00 at night."
I have similar sentiments about TV during the day -- nothing good can come from it so you may as well just direct your full attention elsewhere.
6. Get out of the house
At least one errand, social event, or nice walk a day is imperative. No matter how cold or dreary it is outside, it can start to get really lonely if you live and work in a black hole. Create an excuse if you must, but hey, if you're going to be showered and dressed already per point #3, you may as well get out and try to engage with someone!
There are plenty of other great little tricks to creating a work/home balance but these are a few of my tried and true. The best part is they are simple and easy to follow if you just commit!