9 Ways to Be More Productive While Working from Home
by the Co-Authors of Parenting while Working from Home
Working from home provides lots of amazing perks such as wearing comfy clothes and avoiding a daily commute. However, working from home also has its challenges, like trying to stay focused and motivated. And if you are a parent that has little ones at home, or the kids are out of school for break or summer vacation, then that can provide even more distractions. Thankfully there are solutions and strategies that can help!
We all want to succeed in our careers, and we also want to be the best parent to our children. It's a hard balance to juggle when you're dealing with two roles at the same time in the same space. But it's not all negative. Working from home can be a wonderful option!
Set the Kids Up First to Reduce Interruptions
This is the most important tip of all! If you do not meet the kid's needs first, then you can expect them to constantly interrupt. Have you ever found yourself repeating "Just give me 5 more minutes" over and over again? This doesn’t help you be productive or put out your best work, and your kids were not getting what they needed either. But when you set the kids up first, they will be much more content and will allow you a chunk of time to work.
Look for toys buried in the playroom that they haven't played with in a while, or bring out an old bin of toys from the attic. Give them a few snacks and sippy cups, and they will hopefully be good to go while you keep an eye on them from across the room. Once they get antsy, take a little break and run around outside with them for a few minutes, and then redirect their attention elsewhere. And after you all enjoy eating lunch together, nap time or quiet time can give you some extra time to focus on your work.
If you have children at home with no extra help, there will be some interruptions - it’s inevitable. So embrace it. Appreciate the breaks here and there, enjoy your playtime together, and try to be productive in the blocks of time that daily life allows. Each season of life might need to look a little different, but that’s okay.
Create a Routine to Maintain Order
Creating a routine is crucial to being more productive while working from home! We all know how quickly things can pop up or change when you have a toddler in the house. So by having some sort of order and routine in place to begin with will make it much easier to deal with those unexpected obstacles. It also helps if everyone knows what is expected, and what is happening next.
These routines are different from set schedules, which often feel more rigid. Don’t add stress to your days by setting arbitrary schedules, but instead try to create fluid routines for different responsibilities throughout each day. Part of working from home is figuring out how to go with the flow - especially with kids at home!
Set Boundaries to Stay Productive
Setting boundaries is a must! When you are focused on work, work. Don't let dirty dishes or laundry baskets distract you. Because if you are like me, then you can get caught up in thinking "I'll just do this one more thing..." but we all know it won't stop with just that one thing!
Also, just like you can't grab breakfast and lunch with friends every day in an office, don't do it just because you are at home.
You need to stay disciplined, take your work seriously, and make it as much of a priority as if you were heading into the office.
Pay for Help When Needed
Sometimes we do need a little extra help, and that is okay too. No one ever said that you have to be a full-time working professional while being a full-time stay-at-home mom. That is a recipe for burnout.
As a work from home mom with four kids, I did have phases of life where I needed to hire a sitter part time to entertain my little ones, or I sent them to preschool for part of the day in order to be more productive while working from home. Yes that did cost money, but I knew it was cheaper than a full day of daycare. I also kept reminding myself that no phase lasts forever. So if I needed to budget more for a little help and go out to restaurants less often, I was fine with that. My husband and I did what we needed to do to get through that phase of life, and then we continued to adjust as our careers and kids demanded different things from us.
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Pick a Daily Focus - Kids, House, or Work
Everyday you will have house work that needs done, professional work that needs addressed, and children that need tended to. However, picking one main focus for the day has really helped me to be more productive while working from home. If I needed to get more done around the house, then that was my focus in between everything else. I'd start a load of laundry here, unload the dishwasher there, wipe down the bathrooms during nap time, and so on. But if my focus needed to be on a work task, then I let those things go and used any spare moment to accomplish what was needed of me professionally.
It really is about quality over quantity. While we are with our kids all day everyday, we are not always spending that quality time with them. I try to consistently have a kid-focused day where I plan something fun or special with them. It doesn't always have to be an outing that costs money.
Sometimes we schedule a block of time to go to the playground. Or we will sit together and work on puzzles, play a game, or just color. We love turning on some fun music, grabbing some favorite snacks, and spending quality time together. I ask them silly questions, and they’ll tell me funny stories. Kids won't remember how spotless the house was, or how many deals you closed, but they will remember how much quality time you spent with them.
When possible, delegate a few of your responsibilities. Maybe someone else in your company can run with a certain task to ease your workload. Ask your partner to take on a new chore around the house to help make those chaotic moments more manageable. Consider having your groceries delivered. Or if you have a sitter, ask them to take charge of something like folding a load of laundry or preparing a meal. It's amazing how even just getting a few things off of your daily to-do list will help free up time and mental space.
No one expects you to accomplish every task immediately as it pops up. But it's helpful to know that you did in fact receive that email, are working on that project, or will address what is needed. It only takes a moment to quickly respond and let someone know that you will look over that email tonight. You will return that phone call tomorrow. Or that you will respond with an answer later in the week.
No one needs to know that you are in the middle of managing a toddler tantrum, or are in the middle of five loads of laundry. But by responding quickly and letting work, your friend, your partner, or even your mother know that you did receive their message and will get back to them later; it keeps everyone from wondering what's going on, and prevents them from following up again and again seeking an answer.
This is much easier said than done. And this applies to so many areas of life. But start with a small space and build from there. Clutter is very distracting and can be mentally overwhelming. which affects creativity. Try to keep your workspace as clutter free as possible by removing anything that you do not use daily. If you need something only once a week, consider putting it in a box or drawer out of sight until needed. Try to go through your inbox once a week and purge. By being deliberate about organizing every week, the mess will seem more manageable. It will also help you stay on top of your work and prevent mistakes.
Have Fun While Working from Home
Lastly, have fun! You are at home, which means you are more in control. Listen to the music you want. Enjoy your favorite snacks when you want. Take a break when you can, and actually go outside or play a quick game with the kids. Wear your favorite comfy clothes or even your pajamas. And since everyday is bring your kid to work day, involve them! I tell my kids a lot about my job. They get so excited for me when I accomplish something new, and they are very considerate when I have an important phone call. They also love to help me whenever they can with random tasks, even if that means using the duster to wipe off my desk, or stuff a few envelopes.
Working from home definitely has its advantages, and I personally try to make the most of it. I try to remind myself how lucky I am to not have to deal with a daily commute or being stuck in a cubicle. And while not every day is going to be great, overall we can make working from home a great experience.
Looking for more on this topic? We wrote an entire book about it!
Parenting while Working from Home: A Monthly Guide to Help Parents Balance Their Careers, Connect with Their Kids, and Establish Their Inner Strength is now available for purchase.
Parenting experts and founders of the popular website, Adore Them Parenting, Karissa Tunis and Shari Medini share actionable tips, heartfelt insight, and planning strategies to help you enjoy your own parenting journey while working from home.