Working from home provides tremendous advantages for a mom. You're able to set your own schedule, bag the stockings and read at the preschool. You can nap when you're tired or call a friend. What a life!
But challenges also abound. It's almost impossible to work without childcare. The more you're in the house, the messier it seems; domestic projects call from every corner. The mail carrier may be nice, but he's not a colleague. And nobody is looking over your shoulder to make sure the job gets done.
To thrive as a work-at-home mom, you need to set guidelines. What follows are time management tips gleaned from my experience writing from home as the mother of two girls, now 5 and 8.
* Establish boundaries. Don't allow the kids in your office without permission. I set this rule early, and as a result I can always find my stapler. I cannot say the same thing for my hairbrush or lipstick.
* Set a schedule. Notice how your preschooler needs structure? So do you. A regular work routine will help keep you from getting sidetracked by daytime TV.
* Buy a stopwatch. I click my stopwatch on to write and click it off when I leave my desk. At day's end, I log my work hours. Tracking time keeps me focused and helps separate "work" from "home."
* Keep a "small stuff" to do list. Working at home allows you to use spare moments for office work. But to be efficient, you need to keep a list of tasks that can be done in 15 minutes or less.
* Stash toys. I keep a basket of toys in my office for special occasions. Since the kids don't use them regularly, the toys have novelty value. The basket buys me an hour of work time on my children's sick days.
* Distinguish breaks. Two hours spent cleaning the playroom is not a break, it's a morning. Start the day with work, not chores. Keep breaks short, work hours long. Ignore the dust bunnies.
* Set the handyman straight. Chat and then make it clear that you have to go back to work. Tell him that you're on a deadline -- even if you're not. He'll get more work done, and so will you.
* Get out. Working at home can be isolating. Schedule events that require you to wear clean clothes and interact with adults who are not relatives, contractors or delivery people.
* Know thyself. It's confusing. You're a working mother but you're mostly around stay-at-home moms. Deadlines call, but you're constantly asked to volunteer. Consider your work commitments before accepting outside obligations. Remember, you're a working mom, even if you don't commute.
* Take advantage. What's the point of working at home if you don't enjoy the perks? Sneak in a siesta. Check in on Oprah. Shop for shoes. Celebrate the "free" in freelance, and the "independent" in independent contractor!
© Jennifer Bingham Hull. Reprint rights granted as long as entire article is published, including resource box and its live links.
About the Author:
Jennifer Bingham Hull is an award-winning author and mother of two. Her book, Beyond One: Growing a Family and Getting a Life, looks at the issues women face as the family grows. Jennifer's articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Working Mother and many other publications. She also speaks to parenting groups. To learn more visit http://www.growingafamily.com/ where you can also contact her to receive this "Life Beyond One" column regularly and sign up for her free newsletter.