When I tell people that I work from home, I can see the thoughts flashing through their minds:
“She gets to wear yoga pants all day.”
“I’ll bet she can just sit and watch TV while she’s working.”
“Her job can’t be that hard if she does it from home.”
Many people don’t realize that with two small boys, a nine year old daughter, and a job that demands much of my time (I teach high school English online with students who can contact me at any time during the day but need me to help them RIGHT. NOW.) that I don’t get much “me” time. In one day, I must do eight hours worth of work in about two or three hours. After the kids go to sleep, I try to squeeze in another thirty minutes to an hour so that I can be one step ahead for the next day. And at some point, I attempt to look my husband in the face, in the silence that is our post-bedtime-for-the-kids time, for at least an hour before we collapse into the bed.
Are you wondering how I manage to fit that much work into such a short amount of time? Let me share with you the tricks I use to get it done (and bear in mind that I’m still usually buried in work):
- Make lists. I have a to-do list. It is scribbled on and rewritten and changed almost daily, but it gives me focus. There’s a very satisfying feeling to mark things off as I complete them.
- Turn off social media. This is hard to do, so I turn my phone upside down and close any tabs that aren’t work. Doing so helps me really focus for the hour or two that I have.
- Do the most pressing things first. If something is due next week, it can wait longer than something due tonight. I try to deal with the biggest and most important items first.
- But think about those long-term deadlines. It helps me to make notes about the items coming up later so that when I get to the task, I have already planned. I may make notes in my list book, or I may jot it down on a sticky on my computer.
- Learn to say, “No.” This is the hardest thing for me to do. I love being involved, and I love staying busy (as much as I’d like a nap). When I’m approached and asked to take on more tasks, I really have to stop and think about this task’s value and whether or not I can really do it.
- Set your “start” and “end” times for the day. I try to finish by 8 pm each night unless there is a planned meeting. That gives me about an hour after the kids are in bed to work furiously. Most of my work is squished into nap time, so the after-bed work is dedicated to getting ahead or tying up loose ends.
- Take some time for you. Yes, there are deadlines. Yes, your job is your job, so you must complete the work. But ask yourself this question: if you worked outside of the home, would you bring your work into your living room? As a high school teacher, there were several times that I brought essays home to grade. That was every now and again. With my current online job, I could work all day long because all of the work is on the computer. When I worked for a bank, I walked out at 5 pm and didn’t think about the work again until 9 am the next morning. Find a way to set limits, and do your best to stick to them.
Working from home has been a blessing for me and my family. Knowing I’m here if the school calls to tell me my daughter needs something or not worrying about missing a day of work because one of the kids is sick is an awesome trade-off for the stress that comes with having my office surrounded by toddlers, toys, and crumbs.
What suggestions do you have to offer to parents who work from home with children as their co-workers?
Lydia Richmond is a high school English teacher and wife to Aaron, a high school math teacher. Together, they are raising three kids, two dogs, and one old cat. When she’s not knee deep in grading or blogging on ClutteredGenius.com, Lydia can be found sneaking cookies from the cookie jar. Connect with Lydia on Twitter (@lydsrich) or Facebook.