Somewhere within George’s fourth or fifth week of life, I snapped. I had reached the end of my sanity rope, and between his colic and my fatigue, I was barely surviving each blessed day. The typical struggles of postpartum life collided with newfound elements of our lifestyle to leave me a mangled wreck. I grew increasingly frustrated with the baby and with myself. I was struggling to get in a groove of working full time from home while caring for a baby that screamed every second I put him down. So with my patience thinned, I decided that something had to give. I need to make changes that would support both my family life and my career.
Being able to work from home is an absolute gift. Contributing to my family’s temporal wellbeing while being home with el niño is one of our greatest blessings. But being a work from home mom takes some adjustment, and if we are not attentive and proactive, then both our work and our family will suffer.
I know many women out there are in similar situations that I was in the beginning: grateful for and motivated in their work situation but floundering under the transition of wearing two hats at once. So I compiled a list of changes I made in my days, some smaller and others larger, that truly made all the difference in the world. Because it’s totally possible to be a work from home mom without going crazy 😉 Now, I am nowhere near perfect, and am constantly shifting the way we do things, but these points have been indescribably beneficial.
Even if you have to fight all your natural instincts to be un-scheduled. One of the perks of working from home is that you are usually able to determine your own hours. This is a major benefit because it allows you to plan around your kids’ activities, appointments, and nap times. But I found it imperative to set major parameters in our day. The very first thing I did when I reached my breaking point was to schedule absolutely everything. Times for work, for email, for playing with George, for prayer, for leisure, for chores, for errands, for focused time with Dave, for hobbies, etc. It took me a couple of weeks to feel out the rhythm of our life, and I made several drafts of a schedule before I finalized one that seemed to cater to our duties and desires. Now, our entire day is scheduled in 15 minute increments. It may seem a little tedious at the outset, but it has increased my productivity and decreased my stress levels. I discovered this crazy season of our lives is actually enjoyable when we have this schedule and stick to it. I’ll be going into more detail about creating and maintaining a schedule soon as a part of a series I’m launching next week, but here are a few more points for now:
- Tackle my big rocks first. Of course, my schedule has to be flexible because I have a five month old and a husband in school. Things change frequently. That’s why I find it vital to always tackle my biggest tasks first in the morning. I focus on what absolutely must get done and ensure its completion. That way, if the baby decides to headline SobFest 2014 (thanks, Monica Geller) and the rest of the day is shot, my main tasks are not in jeopardy.
- Make checklists. This flows from the former. Each day is accompanied by a checklist of “must-do’s” and “would-like-to-do’s”. This helps me focus when I get a spare minute to complete a certain task and guides my determination of the big rocks.
- Use my evenings to plan my next day. Another game changer was taking five minutes each night to plan specifics for the following day. That way, I wasn’t left stumbling through the mornings wondering what I should do and when.
- Take natural breaks. When I was formulating our schedule, I included times of natural breaks. I scheduled in snuggle time with the baby in the mornings, play time when he wakes up from naps, and family time right after dinner. This helped our schedule feel more natural and not so forced.
Determine a Dedicated Work Place
Once I realized that I am more proficient and productive in a certain area of our home, I made that my designated work place. It’s easy to hop around the house and work wherever you are in the moment, but forming a habit of maintaining a work-related mindset in a particular area has proven to be very fruitful for me. It helps me stay focused and honestly, I am able to crank out many more projects than when I worked anywhere and everywhere.
Employ Outside Help
Aside from rallying my husband’s help and support, employing outside help was another beneficial decision we made. Most weeks, we have a mother’s helper come on one day for about three hours. This allows me to escape to my favorite coffee shop and work on projects that require even more concentration and time. Of course, everyone has to weigh if the expense and time away from home is worth it in their particular situation; but for us, it was a no brainer.
Take Care of My Person
If I’m eating well, sleeping well, exercising, and making time for prayer, my productivity and creativity increase. When I allow these things to fall by the wayside, everything suffers. By making time for these things I am able to not only relieve stress but have more energy to do the things required from me.
This one can be the most difficult. When we work from home, especially if we’re entrepreneurs, there is always more we can do. We can always get ahead, be more present on social media, do more research, and so on. There is a constant temptation to keep working until you’ve completed all the things. But that may never happen. There’s always more to be done and we should be striving for that, but we also shouldn’t be forsaking our family or our person. I have found it helpful to set an absolute stop-working time. By this time, all my necessary tasks are completed, and even most of my “would-like-to-do’s” have been checked off the list. This is the time that I make for casual reading, watching a show with Dave, and prayer. And in the long run, this makes me a much happier and more efficient wife, mom, and employee.
How many of you work from home? What are your secrets? And for everyone, how do you manage your time and work/life balance? We’re finding that it’s a never ending quest to strike that balance, and I’d love to hear your input!