Many of you working at home with kids are trying to wear 17 different hats while juggling 23 different responsibilities and still get supper on the table in a timely fashion. Am I right? Working at home seems like the “ideal” setup. You get to make money, deal with people on your own time and stay home with your kids so you never miss a thing. In many ways this is, indeed, a dream life. In others, it is just one never-ending step away from chaos.
Currently, I have four kids aged 8 and younger. We also homeschool so “organized chaos” is a normal status around here. Being organized is not my natural state of being. Working at home with kids has forced me to adapt and utilize a few tried and true techniques. When life seems to get way off track it is often because I have let time control me rather than the other way around. Here are six tips for saving your sanity.
1. Treat working at home like a real job.
This is your business. This is your family’s welfare. Give your business the time and space it requires. How many hours do you need to work a week to earn the paycheck you desire? How will you fit this in to your daily schedule? Working at home with kids can be disjointed and feel like a rollercoaster. Make your job the priority it is and schedule it in to your daily routine. Do you need to work early mornings? Late evenings? During naptime? Make a plan and then follow it.
2. Time blocking is vital.
Get yourself a planner or look at the calendar on your phone, but get something and write down what tasks you are going to accomplish each day and then focus on one area at a time. For example, do you need to send thank you cards or followup messages? Set your timer for 30 minutes and focus completely on that task for the time allotted (no checking Facebook or falling down the rabbit hole of Pinterest). Do you need to take inventory pictures? Again, set your timer and focus. Some people find it helpful to assign a task to each day of the week such as Training Tuesdays, Followup Fridays, Tax Prep Thursdays, etc. In my experience, it is much easier for me to create a to-do list for the day, regardless of the topic, and then focus on that for short periods of time.
3. Create “play breaks” with the kids.
Small children want to be where the action is. Working at home with kids, especially younger ones, is challenging because they assume you are home to give them your full attention. If you time block your day/work hours (as mentioned above), take small breaks in between tasks to give the kids your undivided attention. That means shutting down the computer, turning off the phone and looking straight into their sweet little eyes. If kids know they have break time coming to them then they are more likely to leave you alone while you are trying to focus. I try not to let the TV be my babysitter but instead encourage the kids to draw, write, play games and entertain each other while they are waiting for me. Giving them periods of undivided attention will go a long way when working at home.
4. Allow your kids to help you where they can.
I have had several working at home gigs. They have each served the purpose I needed them for at the time. If you can, find little places in your business where your kids can help you. For example, when I do events I allow my girls to arrange and display the children’s jewelry on my boards. If it looks good to them, it will probably look good to other little girls, right? Sometimes I have to go back through and rearrange an item or two but for the most part this is a manageable task they are perfectly capable of. When I print mailing labels for orders I let my son cut the labels out and tape them to the packages. Occasionally, one gets a little wrinkled or not cut quite straight but my customers know me and they all know I have kids. Every package is assembled with love. 🙂 If you are just getting started with a business, you might also want this to be a part of your decision. Will your kids be able to assist you in some way? Will the business require perfection and absolute silence? How manageable will this business be when working at home with kids?
5. Use technology as virtual assistants.
There are 24 hours in every day. How we use them is up to us but I believe we can all agree we want to work smarter not harder, right? There are a gazillion apps and websites available to us for free or nominal costs to make working at home more efficient. Two of my favorite tools are Cinchshare and Canva. Cinchshare is an auto-posting program for Facebook. It allows you to create social media posts and schedule them to your personal profile, groups, and fan pages. This saves oodles of time and also allows me to be more consistent when building my online community. Canva is a website for graphics. There is an app for Apple and the Android version will hopefully be available soon. You can utilize Canva for free but upgrading (in my opinion) is totally worth it because you can save templates, branding, logos, colors, etc. Having these templates, fonts and colors at your fingertips will save hours of time when creating graphics. I usually take one day a month and create graphics for all of my Facebook groups, team pages, etc. and then post them with Cinchshare. What are your favorite apps or websites?
6. Feed your own soul.
When you are working at home, it is easy to get caught up in everyone else’s needs and schedules. Your kids need you, your spouse needs you, your team needs you, your customers need you. Where do YOU fit into that picture? Working and hustling and focusing on your business is important. However, we must also all take a deep breath and feed our own souls as well. Are you getting good sleep? Do you start each day with a few quiet minutes to center yourself? Do you end the day doing something to unwind or is it spent hurriedly answering late-night questions and text messages? Set boundaries on your work time (see #1 above) and honor that commitment. Chances are most of us are working at home because we want to spend more time with our families and friends. Allow yourself to live this dream. An exhausted, weary, hollow business owner will not be as successful as someone who takes time to nourish their own soul and set healthy boundaries for work and play.
If you are working at home with kids and have other tips to share please contact me or leave a comment. I’d love to hear your ideas.