Recently, I was chatting with a few of my friends and realized that, in the past year or so, many of us have gone from being just stay-at-home moms (most who home school) to doing all that AND working (most of us primarily from home). Working from home is rewarding and beneficial… and has its own set of challenges. Here are my top ten strategies for balancing work and home:
1. Get up early. Oh, this is so hard for me! It’s not really early, but at least 30 minutes before my children get up. Time to reflect, read the Word, prepare breakfast, take a shower in peace (no, I can’t accomplish ALL that in 30 minutes, but maybe some of it!).
2. Divide up the chores. When the house is looking messy, I make a list, divisible by three (that’s me plus my girls who are still at home). I let the girls each choose a chore, then I choose one. We grab our tools… perhaps one plugs in the vacuum cleaner, one fetches the duster, and one a handful of plastic grocery bags for the wastebaskets. I set the timer for ten minutes and yell, “Ready, set, go!” We work like mad until the timer goes off. Then, we choose another chore each and start over again. Usually, after three ten-minute sessions, the house is quite clean and tidy. Another idea for chores is, instead of setting the timer, give everyone a list and take turns choosing music (one song at a time) to play while we all work.
3. Do one load of laundry per day. Ideally, I grab it as I’m headed downstairs in the morning, and toss it into the washer. Later, I throw it into the dryer, and when it’s dry, carry it upstairs and pile it on my bed. If nothing else, it gets folded before I turn in at night. Which takes five minutes. When done this way, I find that laundry is no big deal. (It also helps when my husband is trying to get to bed at the same time as me… I get folding help!)
4. Let go of perfection. During busy times, I do not vacuum the edges of the carpet or clean out cupboards. I save those chores for weeks when my schedule is light… OR, even better, for children who want to earn a little extra money.
5. Manage distractions. Caller id is a wonderful thing. Unless it is one of the family members who lives in my house, or a business-related call, I usually do not answer the phone. When I have a minute, I listen to the message and either call the person back or make a note to do so. This way, I can think through any questions they had for me, or check my calendar if they’ve made a request to get-together. As I am now armed with the information I need to address the caller, the call back is much shorter and concise.
6. Do NOT attempt to “multi-task.” You heard me correctly. Men do not multi-task. When I observe my husband, he focuses intently on one project at a time. Whether it’s his freelance business or working on projects in the yard or house, he accomplishes so much more in less time. In my business, we have a “Weekly Plan Sheet.” I like to color-code each hour of my day with highlighters for family, church, housework, business, and free time. When it’s time for each activity, I try to focus on that activity only. For instance, when I am shopping with my daughter, I enjoy that time and try not to think of all I have to do in the other categories. When it’s time to make calls for my business, I shut the door of my “office,” and keep calling until the hour is done. When I am having dinner with my family, I eat and talk to them about their days. You get the idea. Now, I must admit, this is how I LIKE to do things, and how I know things work more smoothly. But I’m still working on doing this consistently.
7. Let your family, especially your children, know why you are working. Is it to pay off debt? What will you do when the debt is paid off? Some sort of family celebration? Maybe you’re saving for a memorable family vacation. Make a chart (I love the kind with rising mercury on a “thermometer” for each increment accomplished towards the goal). The kids will be begging you to work your business and will be shooing you to your office or out the door as they clean up the kitchen! (Ok, slight exaggeration… =)
8. Make a “Six Most Important Things to Do” list every night before you go to bed. Perhaps even keep a pad of paper and a pen on your nightstand. Listing things before bed clears your mind and helps you to sleep peacefully and be ready to accomplish your goals the next day.
9. Say “no.” Look in the mirror and practice it. ”No.” You can do it! There is no reason to feel guilty. Remember, your family is your number one priority, and having a part-time job or other commitment takes time away from them already. It’s easier to do things well when you aren’t doing so many things. Even requests to lead or participate in church activities (outside worship service) need a pause… I’ve realized that though many ministries and activities could use my help, not everything needs to be done by me.
10. Plan meals ahead of time, using the slow-cooker and other time-savers: these Simple Strategies are a great source for meal planning and preparation.
Lastly, know that nothing ever goes smoothly all the time. When you don’t accomplish everything on your to do list, simply cross off what you DID accomplish (to give yourself a sense of satisfaction), and move the other items to the next day’s list.
Prayer and a little coffee never hurt, either. =) Happy working from home!
~written by Kim A.