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Aren’t you lucky to be able to stay at home and tend to your children’s needs while being still in a position of contributing to the family budget? I feel this way, too. But it took me some time to truly appreciate the opportunity to work from home without compromising my idea of being a good mom at the same time. I had to fine tune my expectations in both endeavours, adjust goals, configure relationships with clients and reinvent the concept of time management to suit my family needs. As a result, I became more organised, fulfilled and happier. I manage now to complete whatever tasks I’ve set for myself for the day and still have free time to enjoy a half-an-hour chat with a friend, for instance.
So, how to be more productive as a stay-at-home working mother and find the right balance between your professional duties and your responsibilities as a loving and caring parent? And how to achieve this without feeling overwhelmed and stressed in the process?
The tips below might just help you avoid getting anxious about always missing a deadline because your good intentions to catch up with your work when the kiddo is settled for the night never come to fruition. I also hope that my personal experience of learning how to delete the word “juggle” from my life as a working mother will help you be in control with taking care for both your children’s needs and your sanity.
First and foremost, make an effort every day to get into work mood. I used to shuffle around in my pyjamas with hair tied in a messy bun till noon and never quite concentrate on the project waiting on my open laptop.
I half-did things.
My coffee stood cold on my desk, half-drunk. I half-replied to an important email and left it stewing to send later that afternoon. I half-cooked an elaborate healthy lunch for my son only to open a ready-made baby food jar when he cried “I’m hungry! Now!”. I half-tidied around the house and folded the laundry while checking several times if the post has arrived.
And by the time I had no excuse but to sit down and get on with my work, I felt like doing nothing.
Check this out: Have a shower and enjoy a cup of coffee while the baby is securely crawling in his/her playpen or your toddler is watching a program on TV. Dress. Wear something casual but presentable enough. And why not put a little perfume? You will instantly feel fresh and ready to conquer the day.
Everyone is different but I just can’t focus on a task if I have to share the kitchen table with my hubby while he is reading the newspaper (his work schedule involves having three days off in the week). I’ve tried, don’t get me wrong, to work on the floor while dodging fluffy toys thrown at me, in the bedroom only to doze off unexpectedly, or in the garden, getting bitten by insects. I just need my space – a quiet corner and a desk.
Check this out: Be inventive. Shift furniture around if you have to or curtain off a section in the living room. Explain to older kids that after-school time is homework time for an hour while mummy’s finishing off with her work. Get inspired by others on how to create a comfortable home office workstation.
At the start of your work-from-home career you may be tempted to set a rigid schedule of working hours that details out when the babysitter’s shift starts, how long to allow for a lunch break, when to screen your emails and so on. Well, you’ll find out soon enough that being in sync with an ironclad work timetable on a daily basis is a job in itself. Why? Because things happen. Life happens. And you are no longer in the predictable office environment, where distractions are somewhat in your control. So, learn early on that it doesn’t need to be a big deal if you make subtle changes to your initial plan. And you can still enjoy a stress-free working day. There’s no need to yell at your daughter for wanting some attention or snap at your sis for seeking a crying shoulder over the phone.
Check this out: Simply improvise, stay calm, breathe and do not panic if you need to make a sudden trip to your kid’s dentist or your in-laws arrive a day earlier than arranged. Look on the bright side! You are most likely your own boss, so reschedule and catch up later with your project.
Let’s say your little princess is off school for a few days. Stormy weather has messed up your working day, she has chickenpox or it’s half-term break. Well, it’s not the end of the world and you may not need to work nights because of it. Involve your seven-year old by asking him or her to cut out some labels for you. Assign the stick-a-sticker-on-each-folder job to your budding 3-year old personal assistant. Reward your helper for their efforts with a quick run to the ice cream man.
Check this out: Kids love to copycat parents and encouraging them to take on an important role will keep them busy beyond the game.
We all have sometimes motivation issues, regardless of whether we work from home or in an office. And no matter if the lack of oomph that day is due to a mental block or a late night, a quick fix is at hand – some physical exercise. It is proven that a 10-minute workout can do wonders to getting your focus and motivation back. And the beauty is that you can do this whenever you feel the need if you are working from home. Even a brisk walk to the local shop will restore your concentration abilities by getting the blood moving and treating your lungs to some fresh air.
Check this out: Make the habit of starting your day with dedicating 15 minute of your time to sport. Whether it’s yoga, stretching or performing your favourite dance moves, any physical activity will inject your system with heaps of energy and boost your mood.
Remember not to flap when your well-planned task schedule suddenly gets disrupted? We all have days like these when things simply don’t go as we thought they would. If this happens, reorganise your day by shifting priorities in order to stay productive. Use your kid’s nap time to focus on that important project and devote the morning to less demanding tasks, for instance.
Check this out: I know now how to keep my cool no matter what. And my advice to you is to learn to do the same. From experience, your productivity levels can be crushed in no time at all if you allow to get stressed over something that is out of your control. Be creative and get on with things differently!
Again, you are only human. And most importantly, you are a working mum. So, don’t set yourself goals that are difficult to achieve or that require sacrifices, which you are not in a position to make. Being more productive also often relies on finding the right balance between work and your duties as a parent. Because if you get that strong sense of achievement after a completed project at the expense of your child’s needs, you may well end up having a rotten night filled with guilt and plenty of tossing and turning. And how is this going to help your productiveness on the following day?
Check this out: I’ve made a conscious effort to teach myself to say “no”. If a pushy client tries to twist my arm with a short-notice deadline, I negotiate immediately instead of agreeing to an unreasonable commitment and later on feel frustrated for my weakness to assert myself.
There are always occasions when you may have to stay late to finish off an overdue task. But ideally, this should be an exception. Organise your work day in such a way that involves having a clear time-off period. Your free time is as valuable to you as it is to your family. And your ability to turn off the laptop every evening without a fail is, of course, a credit to your improved time management skills and newly acquired productivity.
Check this out: All the above tips help me give my family the best of me while still enjoying what I do for a living.
Do you have any interesting tips to stay productive? Then, why not share them in the comment box below?