Any parent will tell you, child rearing is an endless job. So, how can you fit in a second full-time responsibility as a successful work at home professional? Obviously, there’s no simple answer. However, in this 4-part series, we’ll explore time-tested practices geared toward slowing the pendulum.
Part 1: Make Room!
Finding your own space is one of the most important aspects of working from home. Build a partition in the corner of a bedroom or convert a large closet, but designate a space that is yours alone; completely off limits to spouse and kids.
Install a second telephone line and stash all of your stationary, writing utensils, and computer equipment here. Resist the urge to perform household tasks such as bill paying in your “sacred place”. Out of sight, out of mind, right? This provides the solitude necessary to hear yourself think, allowing your creative juices to flow freely.
Part 2: Organize, Organize, Organize!
Organization aids any office environment but is crucial for entrepreneurial parents. Purchase a computer desk and hutch with plenty of nooks and crannies. Alphabetize papers in a file drawer, store office supplies in cabinet doors, and use the shelving for books and manuals. Add locks to doors and drawers to deter curious little fingers from exploring.
Use a to-do list to plan daily tasks. If you have smaller children, schedule phone calls at naptime or during a favorite educational television program. Organize your brainpower by learning to compartmentalize. During your established hours, think only of business matters. Save grocery lists and personal e-mails for off hours.
Part 3: Set Rules!
Eliminate chaos by setting and enforcing clear rules. Present a professional image by prohibiting family members from answering your business line. That’s why you invested in voice mail.
Reduce distractions by establishing specific work hours (and adhering to them). Post them on your door as a reminder. Inform your family that you are unavailable during this time. Allow them to interrupt only in minor emergencies. Wouldn’t you require the same consideration if you worked outside the home?
Be sure to keep your commitment to the kids as well. If business hours are over at 4:00 p.m., leave your space and “commute” home. If they trust that you will be available at an appointed time, they are more likely to respect your preferences.
Part 4: Know Your Limits
If you’re self employed (and in this economy, even if it’s the boss’ money) you’re probably working with a limited budget and resources. It’s important to focus on your “time to value.” We all think it’s better to do it ourselves rather than spend the money but, how smart is it to try to handle everything alone?
You must get creative to find ways to balance business demands with family needs. Start by defining processes that virtually run themselves. Automate your newsletter, marketing e-mails, or response to customer inquiries. Identify software solutions designed to manage customer relationships, not just track contacts. This improves your productivity and frees your time for spouse, children, and whatever else you desire.
If you begin to feel overwhelmed, find help. Form alliances with other businesses to share the cost of advertising, professional development, etc. It’s no secret, we’re big advocates of using others’ talent to save time and money. Hmm, say a qualified Virtual Assistant for instance? Try outsourcing those energy sapping tasks you prefer not to handle, like record-keeping or database management. Someone better trained will probably spend less time completing the chore anyway. Believe me, your customers (and your family) will thank you for it.