Every stay at home parent struggles with being productive. It’s the nature of working from home; your attention is constantly pulled in several directions, and if you’re not careful, one interruption can end up taking over the entire day.
To succeed at home, you need to stay focused; and these three tips will help simplify your home/work life and strike a meaningful balance between business tasks and family time.
1. Budget Your Time
Time management is the key to productivity, and everyone knows that you should spend time on the most important task first, and once that is complete, you move onto other tasks in order of decreasing importance. That method is great for the office worker, but for the stay at home parent who contends with raising children, doing the laundry and the shopping, and a work from home job, determining what’s really important can be a tough prospect.
There are rarely times when you will get a few hours of uninterrupted work, so blocking your time in a calendar is not realistic, especially if you have an active child at home. Instead, try dividing a piece of paper in two. On one half, write “Work Tasks,” and on the other write “Family Tasks.” Then fill each side with the tasks you need to complete that day for each of the two categories. Make sure to put the tasks with the highest priority at the top. That way, you don’t have to comb through your list to find what’s important; it’s always the highest entry. As you complete tasks on each side, cross them off and move down to the next most important task.
To be even more efficient, try creating a simple time budget. It’s not unlike budgeting your finances. You decide upfront how much money (time) you plan to spend on each budget item. For instance, today, your personal tasks may take importance over work tasks, so you can try to isolate three hours of total time to those tasks, whereas work tasks might only receive an hour.
Remember to stick to your budget. If you’ve spent three hours on personal stuff, take a break and move over to the work side. If you started with work and the hour is already up, switch over to the personal tasks. Like a financial budget, your time budget will need to be adjusted occasionally. If you could not complete the must-do work in the time allotted today, you might think about dedicating more time to those tasks tomorrow.
2. Keep Your Home Office Organized
One of the best ways to stay productive is to make sure your home office is neat and organized. Professional organizers will tell you that everything you use most often should be within arm’s reach. The idea is to cut down on time spent walking into another room to pickup a letter from the printer, or digging through your junk drawer to find a few stamps.
Try setting up your office in an area of your home where you can dedicate some space just for work equipment. It can be a corner of a spare bedroom or even a closet. Whatever space you choose should have enough room for a desktop surface that can hold a monitor, phone, printer/scanner, and maybe a docking station for your laptop. That way, the minute the baby goes down for a nap, you can wheel away to your “office” and start working on the next most important task from your time budget.
The best part of a home office in a closet is: when you’re not working, simply close the doors to the closet and your office disappears.
3. Know When It’s Time to Take a Break
Inevitably you will run into a situation at home that is just too distracting to complete your work; like when the family next door decides to install a pool and the contractor’s jack hammer is thumping away all day (real story). In these situations, getting any meaningful work done is nearly impossible.
Rather than struggling through and turning in sub-par paperwork, it helps to just get away. Of course, you’ll need to find someone who can help out with the kids before you can leave the house. If you don’t have that person already lined up there are online services that can fill the void at home like Sitter City (www.sittercity.com), which will help you find babysitters in your neighborhood.
Once the kids are secure, you need to find a quiet place that has all the amenities of home. A few great spots include:
Library – it usually offers printers, scanners, copiers, and meeting rooms which can be very private.
Book store – most people in book stores practice a reverent silence usually reserved for the library. You might not have access to a printer, but you can get your mobile computing word done without too many distractions. Plus, coffee is never far away!
Flex space – some building management companies rent office space by the hour, and include free phone and internet service, access to copiers and printers, and even postal services. Checkout Regus HQ (www.regus.com), which has a network of flex space across the globe.
Being a stay at home parent is a rewarding lifestyle choice, and if you practice these three tips, it can also be a productive choice for both work at home moms and dads.
Craig Grella is a serial entrepreneur, tech geek, author, and father who loves writing and blogging on topics like business, law, parenting, and entertainment.
- Top Tips to Staying Motivated When Working from Home (smallbizbee.com)
- I Work From Home (metaversemodsquad.wordpress.com)
- Ten Ways to Stay Productive in Your Home Office (brighthub.com)
- The Rewards of Working From Home (realwaystoearnmoneyonline.com)