Last week in our Becoming a WAHM series, I talked about how
working at home is just that—it’s work. If you are not prepared to put in lots
of hours and lots of effort, there’s likely no point in starting in the first
place since I can guarantee you that it won’t be easy. Building a successful
business takes time, diligence, and lots of plain ole’ hard work.
Once you are determined that you’re willing to exert the
energy it will require, you’re not ready to start working from home just yet. First, you need to
take some time to examine your life. Step back and ponder
how organized (or disorganized!) your life is.
Do you feel like things are running smoothly most days and
that you have extra time to devote to a new endeavor? Or do you feel like you
are running around like a chicken with your head cut off barely keeping your
head above water?
If the latter describes you, then now is definitely not the
time to be adding something like working from home to your plate. Instead, I
recommend that you take the next month and evaluate your priorities, schedule, and activities. Are you willing to cut activities from your life in order to
focus part of your time and energies to starting a business? If so, what can
you start cutting back on today to free up more time for entrepreneurial things?
Don’t just think about cutting back or paring down—do it! If you’re
really serious about becoming a WAHM, it’s going to mean some temporary
sacrifices in order to achieve your long-term goals. You can’t do everything so in order to say “yes” to something, you invariably need to say “no” to something else.
I also highly encourage you to spend a few months
developing a good routine and solid organization into your life. Running a successful
business requires organization—not only
on business pursuits, but also when it comes to home management. Balancing
business stuff with your much more important priorities of being a wife, mom, and
home manager mean you must have a plan and you must have order in your life.
Otherwise, you’ll become slave to the tyranny of the urgent. Ask me how I know. 🙂
If you are struggling with time management, I wrote a series
on this subject on my other blog which you can read here (I’ll warn you, it’s rather long–start at the bottom of the page to read the posts in order!). For those interested, I also recently did a series on Successful Home Management with Toddlers.
Please know that I’m
still sorting things out myself and we definitely have days when I run around
in circles and accomplish next to nothing besides putting out fires; however,
by purposefully committing to develop organization and routine into our home,
things run much more smoothly. And it’s most assuredly only the grace of God and purposeful organization that enables me to be a wife, mom, homemaker, and blogger.
Just for fun: For those of you who work from home or have quite full plates, what’s your biggest time management tip or helpful idea for those who feel like they are drowning? I’d love to hear!
Lady Why says
I manage my home and my blogging with a simple schedule! It’s amazing what scheduling your day can do for your time management. I have older children as well as little ones so they are a tremendous help. I probably wouldn’t have considered launching a blog if I had a houseful of little ones again.
One of my inspirations for scheduling was Managers of Their Home by the Maxwells. You can see more about their resources at http://www.titus2.com
Great series, Crystal!
I have 3 things I do to stay sane working at home…
1. I “pretend” that I’m going to the “office”. I actually wave goodbye to my kids, go into the room in my house where the office is and close the door. They know how much it is ok to disturb me, but they are good about leaving me alone… my youngest is 11. The older ones are in college now, but I’ve been working at home for most of their lives. I also had regular childcare when they were all small. The kids went out to daycare and I worked at home. It was a great arrangement.
2. I have a robotic vacuum… a Roomba. It works while I work at least 2 mornings a week keeping the dirt off the floor.
3. I work for a company and have negotiated a 35 hour work week instead of 40 hours. I just can’t honestly do 40 hours working at home. So I work from 9-5 and take one morning off. I seldom take a real lunch break and this works for me. When the children were small I worked 20 hours at home.
I highly recommend working at home… But you have to treat it the same as working at a job away from home. You cannot allow yourself to be distracted by the household jobs that need doing. Those are for weekends, just like everyone else…
List Mama says
I have had my business from home for just over a year now and my favorite tools are lists, schedules, and to dos. Lists for home management (cleaning, groceries), schedules for daily work/home routines, and to dos for tasks that need to be completed each day at home and in my business.
I loved your post. You are so right on! If you think that a work from home job will give you more time, then think again! To be successful, you have to devote a lot of time and even more energy to the endeavor.
The most important thing is to have a quiet spot where you can work. When your kids see you at your desk/table/spot, you can explain you’re working and after a while, they’ll get the idea.
I’ve found once I take a break, it’s hard to get back into the rhythm of work, so I try to work as long as I can without stopping. I’ve pretty much given up on working late afternoon when school is in session because that time is devoted to school pick-ups and after school activities.
Since I do work from home, I can go back to work after dinner and work as long as I want. I’m a night owl, so I will often find myself up late working in the quiet.
My best advice is to have a schedule. I try to give myself a lunch hour and also use that time to make calls.
make art every day says
i’m also a photographer and my editing is done at home. for the summer, i’ve instituted “quiet time” for my 5yo and 7yo girls. it’s roughly 1-3 each day and they can read, play quietly, color, do puzzles, play with playdoh — but no tv or computer. most of the time once it’s 3, they don’t even remember to ask for tv again and it stays off the rest of the day. i do try to use quiet time to get work done, but sometimes i pick up a book and give myself a break.
I work from home 2 days a week with a 19-month old toddler who demands a lot of my time. I sit on the floor with my laptop and type emails while she’s playing around me. I can stop quickly if she wants to show me something and go right back to work if I need to. I also make sure to factor in breaks during the day for when I need to spend some QT with her. I work at night after she goes to bed to finish up anything I didnt get to during the day.
Heidi @ Today's Daily Dose says
I am just starting out with a brand new photography business which is somewhat of a WAH opportunity in that I set my own schedule and do all the photo editing at home. However, it varies in that I shoot on-location so I’m physically gone for that aspect of the job. Nevertheless, I love the flexibility of being able to turn down jobs that don’t fit into our family’s schedule!
As far as home management in general goes, here are two tips that have greatly helped me:
1. Pick up before every meal and every bedtime. We have 3 children under 4 and we always make it a priority to pick up all toys before each meal, before naptime, and before bed. And our kids pick them up – not me and my husband! That saves me from having to take the time to pick everything up later in the day (multiple times) AND it teaches our children to be responsible! Double bonus!
2. Turn OFF the computer. Not just standby. Actual OFF. I find that if the computer is on standby and I happen to be walking past it, I may stop to check my email and then get caught up in working on photos or other things online. But if the computer is off and I know it’s going to take 5 minutes to load up, I don’t usually bother.
Running a blog design business, I can easily get caught up in “designing” and my computer time often robs my homemaking time.
In order to keep my “work” time in check on the computer, I installed a program that actually turns the computer OFF when my time is up! I set the hours, and once my hours are up, they’re up! I just have to continue my work tomorrow.
Being a wife and mother comes first, so this is just one little tool that helps me stay on track with my schedule and not get off schedule or carried away with “business”.
I am enjoying your articles on working at home so much. When I worked at home as a computer programmer, I found that I really needed to set hours aside either at night or when the kids were occupied elsewhere to only think about work. It is so easy to get distracted thinking about all there is to do in the house, but I would not give myself permission to think about it. I have not been working for over a year now and am beginning to document my efforts to save and earn a bit of extra income in a blog.
I have a TERRIFIC free 5 year curriculum for stitching at my blog! It expires today! I know you have girls, so I wanted to get this to you as quickly as possible! It downloads in a PDF format. You can find it at http://homeschoolingforfree.blogspot.com I also thought you would enjoy my blog for your girls as far as “school stuff” too.
(I forgot to add the blog addy in my last post)
Several ladies have said it already, but I think it’s worth repeating: you don’t have to answer the phone just because it rings! Have a set time(s) of day to check your voice messages and e-mails, otherwise they can quickly snowball & consume your whole day.
Also, in our family, we remember the Lord’s Day. If it wasn’t high enough on the priority list to get done by Saturday night, it can wait until Monday morning!
I have to agree with Crystal that you need to carefully evaluate whether working at home is going to be worth your time and effort. I’ve been a medical transcriptionist for 11 years. We have three children (and expecting #4 in November), and I have taken some time off with each one after they were born but eventually ended up going back to it. With homeschooling two older girls (currently 7th and 4th grades) and keeping up with a toddler, it has been difficult at times. I haven’t always been able to accomplish what I wanted in the early mornings in regards to home/chores/schooling preparations because all of that time was devoted to MT. I had previously tried working in the evenings and late at night after my husband arrived home, but I was missing out on the evening family time, and that was no fun! We are not in a position (thankfully) where I have to work and basically I was working for our “fun money”, but as of today, I am no longer in the MT world (I wrote about that on my blog this morning). I think with the extra time I’m going to have in the mornings that I’ll be able to find more ways to save money, thus making up the difference. Just wanted to throw that out there. If your family is making it just fine without your extra income, it might be worth your sanity to keep things the way they are and use your extra time to find ways to save money – which in my opinion is a way to stay at home and make money!
I have a small at home business and I work 20 hrs outside the home. I have 3 children (4, 6, 9). I am not the most organized, but some of the things I do at my home to try and keep organized are:
1.) Do as much as I can the night before. Pack lunches (for me, my husband, and young children). Lay out clothing for the kids, myself. Have my coffee ready to brew. Have mail and bags ready by the door.
2.) Have the kids be responsible for themselves and each other. Getting breakfast cereal, drinks, packing lunches, putting clothes away and in the laundry. This is difficult for me b/c I hate messes, and kids tend to make messes when they do things themselves, but I also have learned to enforce cleaning up.
3.) Lists! Lists for me and lists for the kids and the husband. Each kid gets a post-it list on the refrigerator every day of chores (I mix the chores up so it is “fair”) feed pets, put away shoes, wash door windows, unload dishwasher, trash, water garden, etc.
4.) Keep a central calendar. Everyone has there own “date book” system, but I keep a large calendar hanging on the kitchen frig with EVERY important date listed. This way the babysitter, husband, kid, grandparents and myself can always have a quick look at what is going on and when time is available.
5.) Find a terrific babysitter. This may be based on luck, but finding a reliable, mature person to love your kids as much as you do and be able and willing to drive them to activities, pick them up from school and nurse them when they are sick is irreplaceable.
Keep in mind that if you choose to work from home or office and have a family there are times when you cannot be everything to everybody. I always want to put my family first, but, there are times that work can’t wait and you re-evaluate the urgency of the families need. Working from home can be flexible but will never be successful if you always put it on the back burner.
One of the best timing saving tips I have is Write It Down! I don’t know how many times I’ve wasted time making extra trips because I’ve forgotten things when I’m at the store. Or forgotten to do something that needed to be done, and ended up doing it when I would have rather been doing something else.
Regardless of whether you are working or not, http://www.flylady.net is a great resource for anyone trying to get their life out of chaos. FlyLady has absolutely saved my home and my sanity! 🙂
I just wanted to comment on Jen’s comment. If you have 2 children at home then you DO work at home:) LOL!
Well, I do not work at home, but I do have two small children. One thing I have to keep my kids busy when I need to get something done is a busy box. If I need to sit down and pay bills, make a phone call, do dishes, etc., I keep two clean plastic dishpans (about $1 each at walmart) in my kitchen. I keep play-doh, colored pencils, paper, crayons, coloring books, homemade file folder games, markers, stickers, highlights magazines and board books that never come out at other times, and whatever else I find. I just sit my kids at the table and give them something from the box. They are usually busy and quiet for at least 30 min (more if I switch their stuff as they get bored). And they are only 1 and 3. And of course, when relatives ask what to get the kids for a birthday or something, I give them a this list and let them keep my boxes stocked.
It is so funny that this is part two of your series. I just told my DH yesterday that my life needs a major overhaul. I am finding now with three children (youngest 3 months) that if I am not organized I might as well hang it up.
Believe it or not, I do have a tip though. This is more for work outside the home moms, but I am sure it can be converted. I made a sheet with everything I need to take with me on it. I put it in a sheet protector (because I keep it in the kitchen) and I consult it each morning that I have to go to work. It has saved my behind more than a few times.
The only thing now I do is write on my blog. Currently that earns me $0.01 every couple days, lol. But, I do it because I enjoy writing more than anything.
I am a WAHM medical transcriptionist with a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old. It is tough some days, but here are some things that work for us:
1. Unplug the phone. I cannot seem to just let it ring, so I unplug it entirely.
2. Have something special for when you need to devote your time to work, i.e. coloring activity or art project that does not require lots of your help!
3. Invest in a front carrier (I love my Mei Tai) to wear while working! I don’t know how I would survive without this! My son is still nursing, and I am able to wear him and nurse him at the same time, hands free! He will also sleep and nap, so this will work great for anyone who maybe does WAHM work at the computer, like transcription!
4. Remember why you are WAHMing in the first place!
1. Stay off the phone – it can zap time and energy.
2. Prioritize your daily schedule. I homeschool and that needs to be #1. That comes before my work at home (blog & piano lessons).
3. Say “no” to outside activities that add fluff to your already busy schedule. Evaluate if they are really worthy activities.
I’ve found myself drowning many times with this online business world. I found that stepping back every once in a while and evaluating which tasks increase my income and which don’t helps. I then focus on the tasks that do increase my income and let the ones that don’t go.
For instance, I used to have a really time consuming blog that didn’t earn me much money or really any valuable traffic to my main website, so I’ve let that go. And I started focusing on my t-shirts which do earn me money. So far I’ve decreased my time spent and increased my income.
Lea Ann says
Make word doc templates for all your business documents ahead of time (letterhead, fax, invoice, schedule, etc.) before you start your business. Then keep up with it.
•Send out invoices the day you finish a job.
•Keep an invoice word doc template for each client in a separate folder, with all their address info. Then “save as” to make a new invoice each time, leaving template intact.
•Put each invoice in a folder, maybe marked by the year. As each is paid, simply color code the doc. Then, at a glance you can see what’s paid and unpaid in the whole folder.
•Save every estimate you do in a folder. Then you can easily “save as” one that is close to new project, edit, and not have to build from scratch.
•Put a line at the bottom of estimate for client to sign. For new clients, add line saying “pay XX% up front”. For all clients, add line saying “actual cost may vary by up to 10% over estimate.”
Scheduling I think is what helps me stay on track and get things done. I don’t always stick to it exactly but I try. If I did not have a plan, I would never get things done. 🙂 Also, limiting time on the phone and computer is something I am working on. It really eats away too much time if you let it.
Rachelle (mamabear) says
We love Mangers of there Home (titus2.com) I also find if we do quick clean ups durning the day that helps so much. We set the timer for 15 mins and everyone gets their buddy and goes to the area they are in charge of. With nine blessings I find this works the best with the little ones. By the end of the day each area of the house has been picked/touched up. We also have 45 mins in the morning for reg. chore time! Hope this helps. Have a great week. Blessings to all.
1. Accept that free time will be consumed for a while. This almost always happens, especially if you are working at home as part of a freelance situation.
2. Set aside a specific place to work and stick to it. This means keeping anything that is not related to work as far away as possible.
3. Do not answer the phone or the door during “work” hours. Nothing will eat away at your patience more than continuous phone calls.
4. Set SPECIFIC work hours and stick to them. Try to leave them in place no matter what comes up.
5. Schedule specific time for you to actually do the routine admin tasks like answering e-mails, checking progress reports and even doing the basic bookkeeping tasks. If you ignore these tasks you will fail quickly!
I have been doing this for almost 2 years now and am just NOW starting to feel successful overall LOL.
Darla @ UltraBeautyBoutique says
The one major thing I learned to do was discpline myself to just get it done. I also figured out early on that if there are things in my biz that I am not good at, either eliminate doing them (if possible) or delegate them. Makes life much simpler to just let it go rather than continue to beat your head against the wall.
I have a TERRIFIC free 5 year curriculum for stitching at my blog! It expires today! I know you have girls, so I wanted to get this to you as quickly as possible! It downloads in a PDF format. I also thought you would enjoy my blog for your girls as far as “school stuff” too.
Hello! I don’t personally have a home business or anything. I do have 5 children. We are also a homeschooling family, so they are here all day with me. We live in the country, so that itself limits our running around. Anyway, for a time management tip, one that I have instituted lately is time on the computer.
Watch how much time you spend online. It really eats up time, I’m sure many of you know. If you have things that need to be done, do them first, then hit the computer.
I’m really enjoying this series!
Well, my husband and I both work from home on our businesses (3 of them) and I work full time plus outside the home. Talk about needing organizational skills and paring down on outside activities!
Our biggest challenges as work at home people are the following:
1. Incoming Phone Calls. A few months ago we recently instituted a no phone calls policy during mealtimes. And just this Sunday we instituted a no incocoming calls policy for the entire day. (Unless of course it is a true emergency).
2. Paperwork Organization and Mail Handling. Seriously this is the worst problem for me! I’m working on a plan to go as paperless as possible in the future. When we get to the point where we hire help the first one hired will be an assistant or office manager that will deal with all the paperwork. LOL 🙂
3. The other very tough one for me personally is time management. For a while yet I will continue to work outside the home before shifting to full time work at home. It is really difficult to prioritze tasks for which business when, my employer’s project and homemaking.
I’m open to any helpful suggestions!
I love the Managers of their Home book by Terri Maxwell. You can read more about their family and available products at one of their sites: http://www.titus2.com. I love their outlook and the products they offer. I just recently purchased Managers of their chores, but we haven’t started using it yet, as I’m still working through the book. This makes scheduling seem doable!