Working at home isn’t always easy. I’ve been a work at home mom for the last 5 years. Believe me, I love it… I do, but there are days when I just completely and utterly breakdown because it’s a constant struggle/balance/juggling act to make it all work. I don’t know what it was about THIS week in particular (and it’s ONLY Thursday!), but this week was a tough week. This week wasn’t so out of the ordinary for me – deadlines, conference calls, business meetings, planning for travel (en route to Houston today!) – but this week just got me, it got me good.
I honestly feel like most of the time, I can handle the family/work/home life fairly well, but sometimes I just crash and burn. I have these 5 kids that are my heart and soul and all I want to do is love them, take care of them and provide for them.
Creating a business out of my home was the best option for our family, but the challenges it comes with can be tough ones (my “favorite” is when conference calls need to take place while Victoria is up!). I know that there are thousands and thousands of other work at home moms out there, so I decided to reach out to my Facebook friends and ask what are some of their best secrets are for trying to make it all work. We’re all in this together, so why not share the wealth of ideas with each other. Why not be real and just admit that the white flag needs to be waved sometimes.
What I got back brought me to tears.
Comment after comment after comment from friends sharing advice and tips. I couldn’t get over how incredible the tips were and how many I was copying and pasting and emailing to myself to remember!
I just wanted this to be a quick list of tips, but what it turned into was a collection of incredible wisdom from people I love, respect and admire.
So this is Part ONE of Tips from Working Home Moms that I’m happy to share with you all. May this help you and guide you to a better work at home experience! ♥
Ellen Peppercorn – Have a designated space so you can “leave work” at times. Communication with your spouse is key for the times work and life collide and you need extra help!
Joanne Basile – Be kind to yourself, and realize what things simply need to get put off to another day. I’ve also learned that I can designate some tasks to my boys (My eldest just started mowing the lawn! hooray!) and sometimes I flat out need to ask others to help me (I hate doing this) Realizing that I can’t be superwoman and say yes to everyone and everything makes me better at the things I really CAN do.
Jessica Morrison – Close all of the tabs that are open except for the one you’re working on, so that way you don’t get distracted checking emails, FB and other social channels!
Katja Presnal – Set office house! No laundry, cleaning, dishes, or TV during work hours. You have to set up office hours or you will always feel guilty for home chores not done — or you feel you are behind at your work and then you need to work late at night.
Jackie Hennessey – As a pr consultant, I find it helps to “turn away” from my phone and social media temporarily. I get too distracted. It makes me more productive. I also recommend using an oven timer too. If I dedicate one to two hours to a project, then take a break, etc., I find I’m more efficient and creative.
Michele Cook – At least 2x a week, be sure to get dressed like you’re working outside of the house. Get our for lunch once a week. And, if possible, change up your work venue now and then – work from the library, the coffee shop, anywhere that let’s you feel relieved coming home instead of being surrounded by work 24/7.
Christine Koh – For the actual work day: at the beginning of each day I scan my to-do list and note the must-do’s for the day and start with those. And often I will start with the hardest thing. And I don’t mean time consuming. Sometimes the hardest thing actually only takes a minute or two — it may be firing off an email you are dreading — but it weighs you down emotionally and gets in your way. And then I’ve found that it’s essential, particularly if the day has been really hard and draining, to build in transition time between closing my laptop and joining the family. A few weeks ago I was in a really crappy place and totally stressed out and I knew that if I just shut down at 5:30pm and jumped into family mode I really wouldn’t be there. I would be stressed and distracted. I made an explicit choice to shut down at 4:30pm and do an hour of yoga (just in my house). And it was the best decision ever…of course the stress and to-do’s linger but I was much more calm and ready to be present with my family. Even if you don’t have an hour, I’ve found that even 10-15 minutes of transition time are critical.
Jessica Turner – Start the day by getting up early (before your children) and do something just for you. This might be a quiet time, reading, writing or working out. By taking care of you first, you are better able to pour into your children, your spouse and your work responsibilities.
Teresa Foskey – Also Don’t be so hard on yourself. Don’t demand perfection because you will fall short and get down. Star or highlight 3 things on your to do list that absolutely must be done today. That way if you don’t finish the entire lost you know what you had to get done is done and the others can be a priority tomorrow if they are time sensitivity.
Heather Gibbs Flett – Set a timer. Inspired by the Pomodoro Technique, for bursts of extreme focus, I give myself bundles of 23 minutes on any one meaty task; take a break; repeat.
Tina Seitzinger – Take breaks during the day! I’m horrible at doing this but find when I do take a few breaks and go outside to enjoy the fresh air and sun, I feel so much better. I also set time blocks (set an alarm) which helps keep my day structured. When the kids get home, I put away the computer/phone so I can enjoy them, help with homework and get dinner started. Then I’ll jump on later to answer emails or finish anything important. AND finally, taking time for myself (I take a work out class 3-4 times a week) which helps me feel better about myself and allows me to take care of me.
Stephanie Agresta – With little ones (pre kindergarten but in nursery school) I think you need to have a separate space outside your home. Although I have an office here, I also have a cute small and reasonably priced space that I can go near our home. I also break things up with travel and days in NYC. I think the secret to success is mixing it up!
Malia Carden – Having dedicated office space that is in a different part of my home than where most of the daily “living” happens has been so helpful for me. Not only does it help me mentally be “in office” or “out of office” but I can also basically set office hours/times where my kids know I’m working and shouldn’t be disturbed unless they’re bleeding or have set the house on fire. (It’s good for me to be remembering this today because it’s our last day of school and I need to outline these parameters again for the summer!)
Paige Frost Moses Lewin – The biggest hurdle was worrying that clients wouldn’t hire me if I couldn’t see them on a specific day, but I realized that if they want you, they’ll make it work. Being SO available isn’t good for anyone. Also: 1) checking social media/email at specific times of day (rather than whenever), 2) getting showered and dressed in something other than sweats before bringing the kids to school, 3) using the Pomodoro Method for short bursts of intensive work, 4) going to a specific room designated as your office (even if it’s just for that day) and shutting the door, and 5) staying away from the kitchen except during mealtimes (I put on 20 lbs in my first year of business because of my wandering in and out of my kitchen!).
Trisha Haas – TAKE TIME OFF. The issue w/ working from home (or any entrepreneur) is that we never leave it. We check email and online all day- even days off. Schedule time off because its never gonna stop- but YOU will stop. You will break at some point. Time off is normal, its smart, and its good for mental health and business.
Elyse Press Major – As a freelance writer/author/communications consultant, I worked at home for 15 years and it is very difficult, especially when the kids are little. People who have done it will tell you that, people who haven’t think you’re living the life. Being home but yet secluded can be a source of guilt. To make it work, I think it is important to try to set a schedule of work hours and family hours. Get help when you can, especially during tight deadlines (the stress!) where you need to focus. There were many times when I would push as much off to the weekend as possible and have my husband wrangle the kids all day. Oh, and something’s going to give, for me it was often dinner. Hello, take-out!
MaríaJosé Ovalle – I have a sitter for once a week. That day that I NEED to plow through things and not be distracted. Find someone in your area that has in-home childcare or can watch your toddler. It’s an investment, and well worth it!
Wendy Navarro – Seek out people to network with and get out of the house at least once a week. A good network group is a great way to surround yourself with people who can help energize you and provide a new perspective or ideas you may not have thought of before. My favorite equation 1+1=3.
Melanie Edwards – If you work with young kids at home with you, try these two tips: 1. Chunk your time: Divide your day into work time, time for the kids, and time for house responsibilities. Your kids (and you) will appreciate the structure and knowing when it’s “their” time vs. work time. 2. Involve them in your work: I show my kids exactly what I do and they often help me with my work! They love seeing the finished product up on my site!
Erin Shirey – Make your self get up and exercise throughout the day- outside! Lunchtime workout doing HIIT, quick 4 minute Tabata rounds, neighborhood walk while on a conference call. Get out of your seat and onto your feet! You need the endorphin rush, sweat and energy.
Pam Kirkbride – Don’t feel guilty about using technology (aka TV) for the kids. Make it a little less guilty and let them watch a “quality” channel wink emoticon as long as it’s on the kids will be kept busy, right? And tell them that Mommy is working and needs to work for the next X minutes.
Also – make a list of priorities and do one each in 1/2 hour chunks. I feel like if I prioritize this one thing for the next 30 mins then I can get it done versus a whole big list for the whole day. Take it one step at a time.
And laundry can wait.
Kristin Quinn – Carve out a separate office space away from hustle and bustle. Shower and get dressed as if you were going to an office job, helps you stay focused.
Samantha Ettus – Create set non-negotiable hours as though you have to report to an office. For example, you might say “10-2 are my set in stone work hours” which means no accepting the invitations to coffee or volunteering at school or personal calls during that time. Protect those sacred work hours.
Molly Balint – The list of 3. I swear by it. I have a long to-do list every day but I pick the three things that are either stressing me out the most/taking up the most mental space or just *must* be done. It helps me stay on track, focus on what really needs to be accomplished and feel like I’m getting stuff done.
Margo Schneider – A sit stand desk is an absolute must. I sat for 9 hours a day for years and it cost me a few herniated discs. Sitting while prego is not a good idea. Also, you’ve got to set boundaries. My children know not to come in when the door is closed. Treat your home office as if you were in a real office. Same goes for your personal time. Leaving the dinner table to go send an email or dig back in at your office will burn you out really fast. I also invested in a great set up with TV, built in shelves and a “charging bar” so that being in the same room all day didn’t feel too depressing. I’ve done this successfully since 2005. My biggest tip? Schedule specific after-work activities and/or workout classes to get out and breath air (and feel like a person).
Natalie Welsh Diaz – Invest in a good computer desk WITH DOORS! I found that when we had an office, I would be in it even when the kids are home. NOW we have a computer hutch with doors. When the office is open…so are the doors… yes, it’s distracting when the kids are home, but it motivates me to get as much done as possible before they get home.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing with me! I’m telling you! I had over 100 comments and will be sharing more! We’re all in this together and I think it helps to hear from other women who things work best for them. XO