Working at home is wonderful and challenging all at once. There are days that I get tons accomplished and other days that I want to pull out my hair. During the last 15 years, I’ve had to adjust how I work and where I work as the stages of my kids and my business have changed. I had to chuckle recently when a friend asked me, "How do you work from home? Don't you get distracted?!?" Short answer: YES I do!! Long answer: here's how I deal with it!
When working at home, I have found that it’s important to have a “home base.” This could be a desk or space where you keep your computer and calendar and office supplies. Secondly, it's important to have a work bag where you can quickly pack up and head to the library, coffee shop, or outside. Working from home means freedom and flexibility, so make sure you can change locations when needed! That’s one of the best perks!
Strategically pick a work environment for your home base. Do you need to be near small children? Away from teenagers? At the dining room to collaborate with a spouse? Or at a desk so you can’t see all the household chores pulling at you? The location of where you work will largely define your productivity. But first you must assess your needs. Not everyone can work in a home “office” and not every one can work at the kitchen table. Some need to be near a window to think and create, and some are distracted by seeing outside. Be willing to move around and be flexible, until you find what is best.
I have discovered that being at home has great rewards because I don’t have to rush out the door every morning, gulping down my coffee. If I wake up early, I can get some research and writing done while the whole house sleeps. When the kids are eating breakfast, I do my morning routine (shower, get dressed, make bed, do hair, do makeup). Afterwards, I get straight back to work. I ignore the kitchen and laundry and floors. I barrel through as many tasks and projects as possible until lunch time. During a lunch break, I assess the condition of the house, have kids clean up their art and cooking messes, load the dishwasher, eat, etc. After lunch I’ll slow down my pace a little bit, finish what I’m working on, and transition into “mom mode” where I am driving kids to theatre, dance, friends’ houses, etc. Some afternoons while they are in activities, I’ll settle into a comfortable booth at the library where I can really get a lot of writing and research done in pure silence.
When I’m stuck and can’t solve a problem, the nice thing about working from home is using household chores as a distraction and thinking tool. I’ve hashed out many dilemmas in my mind while elbow-deep in sudsy water, washing dishes. Folding laundry isn’t a chore—it’s therapeutic—compared to dealing with that difficult customer or hard employee situation.
Sitting outside on the deck working is a beautiful gift when the weather is gorgeous! It makes me appreciate everything I have and the life I live.
For staff meetings, I head into my Studio to meet with my employees, or lately we have been using a conference line for everyone to dial into. We can be done in less than 20 minutes. It’s fast and efficient, and we can all call from wherever we are.
My iPhone is my best work-at-home tool. I can be on the go, on vacation, running errands, or on the couch and from my smartphone I can answer emails, access my online notes, see my studio’s schedule, and view the security cameras at my studio location. I am on-call for any emergency any time, but I know everything is OK when I have my phone in my hand.
I also have an Apple Watch, which I LOVE because I can glance down and see the date, the current outside temp, my next upcoming appointment, and, of course, the time. A slight buzz on my wrist tells me when I have a notification. I can glance down and see if it’s important or if it can wait, without having to look at my phone and get pulled away from what I am doing.
To be productive, some people are motivated by outside forces, some from within. Some are rebellious and want to do things their own way. I am extremely motivated from within, and I like to create structure and discipline. Therefore, working from home is the perfect situation for me. It’s not easy—but it works, and I am loving it. At all stages of my kids’ development, I have valued getting out of the house to work at a coffee shop or library at least one day per week. When they were babies, I hired a babysitter to come for several hours before my husband got home from work. The most stressful part of working from home with my husband, while homeschooling my kids, is how messy the house gets. It’s very distracting and can ruin my mood quickly. So I hire a house cleaner to come every Friday for 3 hours. It’s a life-saver. Once the house is cleaned and picked up, I can think clearly again! It’s a gift and a necessity.
Every semester (January, May and September), I reevaluate what is working and what isn’t. I write out the entire week’s schedule and make adjustments where needed. It’s a continual work in progress and I am willing to make changes when things aren’t working. I also must create and sustain boundaries that I have set in place. When I’ve blocked off time to work, I can’t say ‘yes’ when a friend needs a listening ear or help with her kids during that time. I want to be loving and giving with my time, but not if it means rushing around all the time. I believe in building in margin, so there is time for emergencies, extended family, and friends. But if you are the one creating your schedule, you are the only one who can keep it. And sometimes that means saying ‘no’ gently and firmly.
For mothers of small children: ALWAYS hire help. If you are working, you are making money. You must invest some of that money back into yourself, and that means hiring a babysitter at least once a week. Then, hire a house cleaner. Start with every other week. Do what you can with what resources you have. There’s no way you can run yourself ragged and be successful at your work. And even if you are successful, if you’ve lost all joy and peace in your life, it’s not worth it.
Also schedule in regular dates with your spouse, and keep those dates! My husband and I go out to lunch and to the chiropractor every week. I love those times together and our marriage needs it.
I also go out to dinner with my best friend (and cheerleader) every Monday night. It’s something we have done for 14 years! And we both love Mondays because of it! It’s a chance in our week to step away from life, analyze, discuss, share, encourage, and uplift each other. My husband can’t provide everything I need emotionally, and having a close friendship that I can lean on is absolutely imperative. I have other friends who check in with me during the week via text or Facebook messenger. It’s important to have people in your life who understand what you’re doing and can encourage you and celebrate with you! In fact, having a solid support system is one of the number one, most important things you need to work from home. Surround yourself with people who “get” you and celebrate you. Your life and your business depend on it.
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Hi, I'm Jen Hickle!
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