How I Make Working From Home Work for Me

posted by Andrea | 06/26/2013

working from home

As many of you know from reading my posts, working from home has some huge advantages — like a more flexible schedule, saving on child care, no dress code, and no daily commute. However, working from home also has it’s challenges (read this post!)

Not only is it difficult to separate home life and work life when you do both in the exact same place, it’s even more difficult to separate FAMILY life from work life (at least in my opinion). After all, if Nora refuses to take a nap or is teething and fussy for days at a time, I don’t have many options except to push my work back to when Dave is home or after Nora finally falls asleep.

We’ve tried having a couple different babysitters come to the house for a few hours a week, and that has worked wonderfully. But then those babysitters grow up, go to college, or get a “real job” and can’t come anymore.

So while I love the idea of having super strict “work hours” when no one can bother me, that scenario just doesn’t work for me at this point in my life.

I don’t have anything against daycare, but I also don’t feel I can justify sending Nora to daycare when I’m home all day — although I’d be lying if I said the thought hasn’t crossed my mind a few times.

Yes, I work a full-time job just like many parents who send their children to daycare, but one of the reason I really wanted to work from home was so that I could “do it all” (and please don’t take that the wrong way).

When I say “do it all” I simply mean that I want to pursue a career I love while still being present for the people I love. And because of that, I’ve had to make many sacrifices in other areas of my life (Dave has too).

We’ve quit many volunteer opportunities and committees, we’ve eliminated almost everything “extra” from our schedules (including fun things), we’ve limited time spent with friends outside of our “couple friends”, and we rarely ever go on vacations because it’s just too exhausting to try and work ahead before we leave and then play catch up when we get back.

I’m not complaining about any of these sacrifices. I choose to work from home because I love what I do — and just like any other full-time working parent, Dave and I are forced to make sacrifices. Dave and I have consciously decided that at this point in our lives, these are sacrifices we’re willing to make.

We both feel blessed that we can make a living doing what we love, spend time with the people we love, and still have a little time left over to work on house and yard projects (our only hobby these days).

So how do I make working from home work for me?

Along with making sacrifices like I mentioned above, I think the key is to find a balance between planning ahead and being flexible enough to know that many things will NOT end up according to my plans.

Yes, I realize how ridiculous that sounds… but after trying many different methods of working from home, I’ve come to realize that I absolutely must have a plan, but I also need to be OK knowing that my plan will absolutely not happen the way I think they should!

Without a plan, I flounder and am unproductive (even during times when Nora is sleeping or when Dave is home to play with her).

However, without any sort of flexibility, I get overly-stressed and worked up because the day is not going according to my plans.

So every night, I faithfully sit down and look over my schedule for the next day. I make my Top 5 list, I defrost anything I’ll need to make dinner, I “debrief” Dave on my schedule, he “debriefs” me on his schedule, and then I silently remind myself that there’s a chance nothing will go as planned.

Then every morning, I wake up and do my best to accomplish everything on my list, knowing full-well that the day could be a total wash in terms of my work.  There’s always tomorrow right? :)

tomorrow's to-do list

If you currently work from home, I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas as to how you make it work for you and your family.

Also, if you’ve ever contemplated working from home, here’s another post I wrote about how to make working from home work for you.

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16 comments

  1. Lisa Ettore

    06/26/2013

    I just keep trying to practice what I preach to my clients. I know that if it is working for me (no matter what sacrifices I have to make) it will work for them. The schedule is THE thing. I try to stay as close to a daily routine as I possibly can, but as you say, sometimes life happens and that’s not always possible.

    One thing I am learning to do is blog ahead of schedule. I already know what I am going to write about because I have a calendar for that. So, I dedicate “writing days” in my schedule and that’s pretty much ALL I do that day. I then save my blog posts and any other writings on my computer and wait to post them until the corresponding day on the calendar. I look them over one more time the day before they are due to go out and make any last minute changes and then post it in the morning.

    This has really helped me stay on top of taking care of the house and running my kids to their practices, friend’s houses, in-home consultations with clients, and other activities that pop up. This month, we have had cheer camp, tech camp and we know quite a lot of kids this year who are graduating. So, not only have our week days been disrupted, but also the weekends with parties. Without this plan in place, I’d be way behind in my work and the house would be in shambles.

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  2. Amber

    06/26/2013

    I’m in the same boat with young sitters moving on or having a lot of schedule conflicts with their school activities.

    Some thoughts I have so far about ways to increase stability include paying more money for a retired person from my church to come by regularly. I also discovered some promising local caregivers on care.com. Another idea is to get the kids together and split childcare costs with another stay at home business owner.

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  3. Melissa

    06/26/2013

    I work from home as a web developer, but I am not self-employed. My office is in Sarasota, Florida, and my home is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I am a full time employee, I work 40 hours a week during mostly 8-5 work hours, I just happen to work from home. I’ve been with this company for thirteen years and I wouldn’t change anything. My kids were born after I started working from home, so they don’t know anything else. They entertain themselves about 80% of the time, they bicker during the summer about 10% of the time and I try to get them crafts or movies or something to do the other 10%. It’s worked out well for us. I use a laptop, I connect via IM or IRC with my coworkers and I have a regular work day. Next year, both girls will be in school full time, so I am really looking forward to having full days of work without fetching anyone juice.

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  4. Chris

    06/26/2013

    I also worked for many years at home for someone else, sometimes on my own schedule, sometimes on theirs and couldn’t change it often. People do seem to think that you can do things that the average co-worker isn’t able to, social engagements, etc., and don’t understand this.

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  5. Carrie

    06/26/2013

    Perhaps you could work out a trade with another family. It could be scheduled to fit your schedule and give Nora someone new to play with. Even parents that are not working sometimes appreciate a scheduled break. I have always stayed home and while my 3 kids are older now, in hindsight I wish I had scheduled some down time for me! My husband worked long hours days, nights and weekends so it would have been nice to have time for me even if I was catching up on chores at home.

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  6. Kalyn Brooke

    06/26/2013

    I like what you said about giving up volunteer opportunities to pursue a career you love. I have such a hard time saying “no” when someone at church asks me to get involved, because I just can’t seem to find the time to do it! This time in my life is largely spent on developing my blog, and a brand for myself. But then I sound selfish when trying to explain that to people. :/

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  7. Five4FiveMeals

    06/26/2013

    I own a marketing business and work from home. I now have a newborn and toddler, so some days are a circus! I work during nap and while nursing. Our older son now goes to the church Mother’s Day out program two mornings a week. It creates “office hours” and gives him some social times, he LOVES it.

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  8. Amanda

    06/26/2013

    I only work part time, but I have found a few things help. Also, my work is super flexible, and as long as it’s completed by the deadlines, no one cares when I’m doing it.

    1. When my son is awake, I’m on his time (mostly, I mean I still drag him on errands and stuff). We play, we do stuff (zoo, park, pool), etc. I do have one set of reports that need to be run earlier in the morning, so I usually just let him play in the living room while I run and submit those, and then I feed him and we start our day.

    2. During naptime, I budget my time for household things – laundry, cleaning, prepping dinner, etc. and it’s also when I grab my shower and sometimes workout. I’m lucky that at 18mo, I still get a solid 2 hrs from him, so this is an easy time to plan my household work.

    3. He goes down for the night at 8p – I usually spend a little time with my husband and then start working. My husband is an introvert and needs decompression time, so he doesn’t mind having a few hours in the evening to do whatever around the house (video games, tv, reading, projects, etc.)

    4. If I know that I/we have evening plans I will work through naptime, leaving my evening free for whatever (sometimes meaning that housework doesn’t get done that day). Also, I have the flexibility to work weekends if I need to, so if I know that my husband needs laundry done or some other project needs my immediate attention, I can shift things around. I just try to have a list of items that I need to get accomplished so I can make sure I’m not forgetting something.

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  9. Patty@homemakersdaily.com

    06/26/2013

    I don’t know if I count as working from home or not. I do have a blog and I post daily. I want it to be a “business”. I’ve tried doing my blog work when it fits in and I’ve tried having set hours for it. It seems like no matter what time slot I chose, it doesn’t work out.

    We’re currently trying to sell our home so I’m being interrupted for showings. Now my strategy is to do the most important things first and fill in with the rest. So I’m definitely not having set hours for the blog.

    I have decided, though, that when the house stuff is done, I’m going back to set hours. That worked really great although it was hard sometimes to make myself do it. I blogged first thing in the morning but I really just wanted to do house stuff.

    I think working from home is hard. I didn’t realize it would be. I guess the hardest part is that people act like you don’t really have a job and feel free to interrupt you. But that’s probably my fault. I need to set my hours, educate my family, and then stick to it. But it’s hard. Harder than I thought.

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  10. Erin

    06/26/2013

    I’ve been working 20 hours from home/20 hours at the office for almost a year, and my number one piece of advice is to be flexible. Over the past year, my work-at-home days have changed depending on the needs of my daughter. (I’ll admit I miss the days when she slept most of the time!)

    I tend to get a lot of e-mails during the day, so I will often set specific times to check Outlook and then leave it off the rest of the time. This way, I’m eliminating at least one set of distractions. I also save my most intense work for nap time.

    One of the biggest struggles for me is not feeling productive enough at the end of the day. I need to work on setting clear boundaries so that when my work hours are done, I shut down the computer and focus on my husband and daughter in the evening.

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  11. Sue

    06/27/2013

    I do not work from home.. but once my kids were potty trained we did send them to part time.. 1/2 pre- school. It was wonderful for them and they loved it.. it was only about 9 am to 12 pm 2 days a week and it was just enough for them to be around other kids /people.. and gave my family member a well deserved break twice a week. Oh and the kids usually slept really good when they got home!

    Sue in NJ

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  12. Georgia Gal

    06/29/2013

    I also struggle with trying to separate family life when working from home. I like to have a layout of my day in mind, but not a super strict, minute by minute schedule.

    I think flexibility is key as well as managing your time. It’s been a long time since I have thought “I’m bored”, so I try to maximize my time throughout the day. Does it work everyday, no. But all I can do is my personal best for myself and my family. We can do it! ~Hope you have a wonderful weekend~

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  13. Anna

    07/02/2013

    I love that you said you make a plan and then know in your own head the the plan is not going to turn out. That is exactly what I do! My “to do list” seemingly gets pushed to tomorrow’s to do list. I do have deadlines so I have to set times that I specifically just work on one client and that is it not checking emails etc. No interruptions for say 2 hours then I stop, reassess and then repeat. I do also find it hard to separate work / personal life and feel I do more hours working from home even though I am contracted part time!
    However I love the flexibility and being able to work around my young family, so yes it is worth it

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  14. Casey

    07/22/2013

    I love this! Thank you for providing a forum for those of us who are parents and work from home. I have been working from home since my son was 3 months old. I do it because I don’t know how to NOT have a job AND because we really do require the extra income to stay afloat. I have just very recently gone back to school, as well. I am taking all of my classes online, but the classes require daily participation and all of the other responsibilities that come with college. So, lately, I’ve been focusing strongly on how to manage my time and my workspace.

    I have bought a Planner Pad online and really enjoy the way it works for me. It helps me plan ahead and keep track of what I have to do and what is done. It gives me a weekly list of things I want to accomplish, then funnels down to daily to-do lists, and then down to a schedule for my client meetings and webinars.

    I have also reorganized my office several times. While I always hated my cubicles when I worked from a corporate office, I now miss having a cubicle. The beauty of them was that there was ample storage space, all of the walls could be used as bulletin boards, there was a lot of desk space, and it was free. I’ve been struggling to find the perfect setup that doesn’t take away desktop space and provides storage without breaking the budget. I’m still working on it, though I’m starting to get in a good place. I would really love ideas from others. Our office is a standard bedroom size, about 10×11′ and my husband has his own desk and computer he uses when he gets home from work.

    I also love seeing others share about how our duties as work-at-home parents is misconstrued by those around us. Everyone seems to see my job as 100% flexible where I can surf the net, chat on the phone, take my son to the playground all day, run errands, shop, play, watch TV, etc. It’s honestly not like that at all and, I believe, proves that not everyone is cut out to work from home. It’s wonderful since we save money on gas, clothing, and lunches. However, we have our own struggles. We have to keep ourselves on task, keep an eye on the kids, and constantly be reminded that we need to clean the house, do the laundry, prepare for dinner, etc. And then there are those friends and family members pressuring you to help them with things or go visit when in reality there is no time during work hours.

    Probably the biggest thing I’ve had to learn over the last 5 years is that I must work only certain hours. I only allow myself to be available to my job from the time I wake until 5 or 6PM. After that, everything must wait until tomorrow unless it’s some major issue like our website being down. I have to take a break for me as well as for my husband and son. It’s helped me stay sane. I also would like to thank my son for being so wonderful as to let me work from home. He entertains himself very well and understands that when my headset is on it’s time to be perfectly quiet. There have been times when he’s yelled “Mommy, I need to go poop!” in the background or flushed the toilet with the door wide open, but otherwise he’s perfect.

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