That said, these quiet moments at home–where my creativity is only stifled by own brain’s ability to think–are few and far between. Most of the time, when working from home, there is a 4-year old stealing my lap blanket and combing through my hair with sticky, banana-encrusted fingers. As annoying as this may be, it is only one-sixth of the distraction of my active one-year old (we call her the “Tiny Terrorist”), who makes a game out climbing up the furniture in order to find inedible objects that fit in her mouth, then runs around the living room screaming “Mom! Mom! Mom! Mommy!” And if that fails to get my attention, she will unwind the toilet paper or re-organize the pantry for me.
If you can relate to one, or all, of these scenarios, I want to tell you what has worked for me over the years. After four years of combining mom-hood with stay-at-home work, I’ve found a few tricks of the trade. This is how I do it…the Mom’s Guide to Productive At-Home Work:
1. Set up a day/time that is reserved solely for work.
Yes, part of the reason many of us wanted to work from home was so we could do it all: work, be a mom, make dinner, etc. But you can’t give it a 100 percent unless you have a few moments to yourself to fully get into “work” mode. So set a consistent day/time for your “work mode”, whether it’s a couple hours while the kids are at camp during the day, or two days a week when both the spouse is working and the kids are at school. Just reserving the same time for your work every week will help your brain switch from mommy/wife/homemaker mode, to work mode.
2. Love your home office.
Every second and cent spent to make your home office a desirable place to work is money and time well spent. That’s because us creative types are subconsciously influenced by our aesthetic surroundings. So take a day and give your home office a facelift (sneak a peek into my home office). Buy pretty notebooks to scribble in, bedazzle your laptop, buy yourself a new coffee mug–anything that might help inspire your home office movement!
3. Change up the scenery.
If the home office blues have you down, remember that the best part of your work-from-home job is the fact that you can do it from anywhere! So pack up the laptop and move your location for the day. Head to a new coffee shop, a park, or a restaurant patio…anywhere that might inspire your work. I’ve even worked from the dock of boat before! Sometimes, just the buzz of the coffee shop fills my head with new ideas, and brings me back to the days of coffee shop meetings and more traditional work life.
4. Go through the motions.
Just as you would if you were headed into office, go through the daily motions of showering, getting dressed, pouring yourself some coffee, and writing out your schedule for the day. When you feel like a professional, it will be reflected in your work.
5. Plan your day.
Keep a planner or online calendar with tasks, to-do’s, appointments, and goals for the day. Spend a few minutes at the top of every morning planning and organizing your day to help you stay on task. Also, plan your most challenging and creative work for the times of day when you are most productive. For me, that’s about 6am!
6. Avoid becoming a hermit.
Get out of the office, or at least on the phone, regularly. It is so important that we bounce our ideas and creativity off other people, just as we would if we were in an office. Meet with clients regularly, keep in touch with industry professionals, and join professional groups. This will help you stay on top of what’s happening in your industry while also giving you the social interaction stay-at-homers require.
7. Set a timer–and time limits.
Set a timer to help you regulate the amount of time you spend on a particular project or client. Take regular breaks, eat lunch, and limit your exposure to time-suck activities such as email and social media (unless, of course, that’s your job!).
8. Play music.
Make a playlist of inspiring songs that get you going without distracting you. Music itself is very creative and induces your mood, so find songs that work for you during various times of the day. I usually start the day off with French music from the Something’s Gotta Give soundtrack, and end my day with a little Aerosmith. Find what works for you!
Being productive outside the work place and working from home is an art, but you can find what works for you! Little tricks of the trade make those who work from home not only productive, but the envy of many traditional office workers!