When people learn that I earn a living working at home, they often gush about how lucky I am that I never have to step foot out of my house to go to my job each day. They also seem to envision leisurely work days with me in my robe and pajamas tapping away on my laptop, conversing with the occasional client via phone or Skype and even making time to bake cookies for the kids when they return home each afternoon.
They have no clue about how hard getting scheduled work accomplished each day while also caring for four bored, constantly hungry kids home during summer break can be. And I won’t even mention the dishes, laundry, and other daily chores that also need to be handled.
Despite my sometimes distracting work environment, I am still responsible for delivering the services my clients pay for. That means implementing a few strategic ideas to help maintain focus and maximize workflow.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
Current technology is what makes working from home so easy. You can use Skype to communicate with clients and customers internationally. The Internet makes marketing and online operations a breeze. Manage email from your mobile phone when you need to leave your home office. Carry along your laptop to the kids’ sporting practice to wrap up blog posts or an important report. Teach classes to others online via webinar. Technology makes it easier and more convenient than ever to get work done at home or on the go.
Create a Structured Schedule
This is critical to ensuring I complete necessary tasks and meet client deadlines as promised – especially when the kids are home. Bottom line: I’m a mother, and my family’s needs come first; however, I also operate a business that generates income needed to cover our living expenses.
When the kids are in school, it’s easy to work while they’re away. During the summer months, I have to get a bit more creative with my time. For example, I may wake up an hour before Fajr to work and then stay up after to squeeze in more work time. For me, this quiet time is great for working on blog posts. I also schedule days during the week for the kids to visit the public library to check out books or participate in the library’s many planned activities. While they search for books, DVDs and/or participate in a sponsored class, I pull out my laptop and take advantage of the free WiFi.
Utilize a Time Blocking Strategy
Between managing clients, my Muslimahs Working at Home blog, and various writing projects, it’s easy to spend time on one project more than another or become so overwhelmed that nothing gets accomplished. A good friend who is a whiz at cranking out ebooks, suggested that I follow her time blocking method to ensure I dedicate enough time to each individual project based on the projected deadlines. For instance, I may spend the early morning hours writing blog posts and then commit to writing 3000 words for my ebook during the latter part of the morning. The afternoons may be designated for returning emails, calls, and research.
When I can’t do something, I find and hire someone who can. I remember spending hours and hours trying to build my first website using a free template I’d found online. Even when I switched to WordPress templates, I still spent more time than necessary trying to learn mechanics I simply never mastered. Now I hire someone to handle the techy stuff for me. The cost is more than worth it – I have more time to spend running my business and working on what I know best. Great ROI (return on investment).
Create Work Time Boundaries
When you work from home, the line between home management and running a business blurs easily. You think nothing of taking a quick break to toss a couple of loads of laundry to wash or fill up the dish washer. When Auntie calls in the middle of the day, you may feel guilty about not taking the call, rationalizing that it’s only 15 – 30 minutes out of the day.
Don’t get me wrong, working at home does give you a lot more freedom over your time and schedule so you can do things like meet your husband for lunch or chaperone your son’s third grade field trip. However, if you don’t establish boundaries, you and those you know will continually suck away your time, and in business, time is money.
You’ll have to tell friends, family, and loved ones that you’re working during the day and cannot take phone calls and accept visitors until after your work hours. Be prepared to have to repeat this. Some people have a hard time accepting the idea of a home-based business as a legitimate venture. You may also have to show them by letting calls during business hours go to voice mail and explaining to uninvited guests that you’re working and can’t stop because you have a deadline to meet (I would keep typing on my computer when friends would stop by unannounced.)
It all comes down to planning ahead to maximize productivity. Less distractions mean you get more accomplished. How do you mange to get it all done as a working mother?