Are you working from home or setting up your own home business? If so, coach Amanda Alexander has some tips:
1. Get out often! This is my number one tip for any mum who works from home and there are 3 reasons for you to get out:
a. Keep your sanity. You can go loony tunes working from home, especially if you drop the kids off at nursery/school, come home, don’t see a soul all day and then pick the children up and deal with arsenic hour (or tea time as it’s sometimes referred to).
b. You will give yourself a renewed burst of energy and it will help your business if you are a mum running a business. Networking in any shape or form will help your profile, your job prospects and your revenue.
c. You will feel like a real member of society. One of the downsides of being a work from home businesswoman is that there that you get very little acknowledgement. It is very easy to become isolated when you are at home all day, and as precious as our kids are, having their company at the end of a day doesn’t count towards our regular need for acknowledgement!
2. Define your own special area as office space and educate your family as to the inviolability of this as your work space and not the general area for hanging out on the PC. You are much more likely to spend time working if you take pleasure in your environment and I think this is particularly important for women as we tend to be far more aware of our surroundings.
3. Communicate with your partner if you have one (and your kids, if they are old enough). Agree with your partner times when you will work if these overlap with times when your family is around. If you set expectations and explain what you are trying to achieve you will gain their support and help much more easily. Explain to your kids about the benefits of you working from home and help them understand what’s in it for them. Think of your family as your own special board of directors!
4. Be firm with your friends and family and if they call for a chat during your work time, tell them you’ll call them back, if you must pick up the phone at all. Much better to have a second line and to ignore any calls that come through on the home phone, or alternatively, add a calling feature that allows you to “split” the line and distinguish between work and personal calls. One of the truisms of being a work at home mum is that people think you are in fact sitting with your feet up watching daytime TV and eating chocolates all day! You have to constantly educate people to help them understand that working from home does actually mean working!
5. Getting excellent childcare in place is paramount. You won’t be able to work effectively unless you trust that your child is happy and safe. You also need to have back-up arrangements to your normal day to day childcare. Create a contingency plan – jot down a list of alternative childcare options (for those inevitable times when they get sent home for suspicious looking spots, nits or other exclusion reasons), particularly if you have clients or customers who you would have to let down. If you can’t create a viable back-up plan for childcare, consider in advance of the actual event as to how you can still get your work done and meet your client/customer commitments. It might be that you have an agreement to work evenings if you have a sick child, for example, or it might be that you set expectations with your boss in the event of unforeseen circumstances!
6. Find your own time management strategy. Use a system that works for you – there are many and you will need to experiment to find your best fit. One suggestion is to do “time blocks” – look at what you want to achieve each day/week and block out your diary with each task or project with a pessimistic estimate of how long it will take.
When estimating how long a task or project will take, use the luggage-packing principle in reverse. The perceived wisdom for packing your luggage is that you put everything you think you need into the suitcase, and then slash it in half. Use the reverse procedure for estimating the time it will take for tasks. Estimate how long a task will take, then double it. Trust me – it’s a much better way of feeling ahead of yourself instead of behind, and it prevents you from slipping into the “I haven’t done enough today” trap.
7. Repeat after me: Boundaries, boundaries boundaries! You must place boundaries around work time and boundaries around non work time if you work from home. It’s ok to load up the dishwasher whilst you are waiting for the kettle to boil. It’s not fine to spend two hours on the housework in your “work time”! Clearly, this is not the route to work from home productivity. You must treat the time you have for work at home as sacred.
8. If you find it difficult to sit down to start work and that bad old pal Procrastination wants you to come and play, try this trick – just “get the file out”. Just sit down and write two for two minutes, just make two calls. Do you get the gist (or should I say do you get the just)? Just give yourself the tiniest first step, rather than frightening yourself with the whole task. And see what happens.
9. Stop for lunch – but make sure you have a defined lunch hour or half hour. Don’t let lunch become afternoon tea! You can even do your housework during your lunch hour, if you must! You need a break and studies have shown we are far more productive when we take regular breaks.
10. Most of us complain that we want to be thinner or fitter, and one particular refrain we hear ourselves saying is that we “don’t have time” for exercise. Well, working from home you have no excuse! Use your short breaks to walk around the block, do some sit ups, run up and down the stairs – anything you like! Use your lunch break to go for a walk or a run or dance around the house. Fit your fitness into five minute blocks throughout the day. The great thing about working from home is that you can do exercises that might otherwise get you arrested for strange behaviour if you decided to launch into them in the middle of an office. If you truly want a balanced life, and most people who work from home do, make full use of the benefits of working from home. You know it makes sense!
*Amanda Alexander is a Professional Certified Coach with a global reputation focused on developing emotional intelligent and resilient leaders, optimising performance and developing sustainable and fulfilling work-life integration.