10 Tips for Working at Home with Little Helpers
Baby crying, preschooler tugging at your leg wanting a snack, text message ringing, dog barking, Dora the Explorer singing in the background…sound familiar? Is that your usual background music when working at home?
Not exactly an ideal office setting for a professional virtual assistant, is it? It doesn’t have to be that way. Yet when working at home, often we don’t have any backup help or child care options for whatever reason – cost, availability, single parent, etc.
Here are some [free] ideas that help me with working at home when it’s crunch time:
- Breakdown: No, not a nervous breakdown. I’m talking about your to-do list; work in small chunks. With little ones at home you probably don’t have the luxury of 4-hour blocks of time. So break down your projects into short tasks you can do in a few minutes. Keep a running list handy so you’ll know exactly what to start working on the next time you sit down.
- Variety: Come up with a list of ideas, games, activities, etc. that you can rotate. Each one may buy you 15 minutes or so, but that’s 15 minutes more than you had. Download my Survival Guide for a list of ideas.
- Involve: Find little ways your kids can “help” – sorting office supplies, shredding papers, testing pens for you to be sure they aren’t out of ink. Make them feel like their job is important. My kids love to use highlighters. Give your preschooler a highlighter and a discarded printout or junk mail to highlight: boom! Just bought yourself 10 minutes.
- Evaluate: Consider different types of jobs that might fit your current working at home situation. If you have an infant or toddler but no child care, maybe tasks that require a lot of professional phone calls aren’t the best right now.
- Create: Get up early and work before everyone else is up. I know. Trust me, I used to be one of the worst night owls in the jungle. Mornings were NOT my thing. Then I discovered this lovely, lovely gem called Peace and Quiet by getting up an hour or so before everyone else. I can get SO much more done in one hour of quiet than in four hours full of needy little people running around. And by getting that jump start on my work, I don’t feel so stressed or behind the rest of the day. (Disclaimer: Some days I take a 20 minute power nap when the kids are napping to compensate for the early up!)
- Explain: Just tell them what you’re doing, who it’s for, and how long it will take. Be realistic – don’t expect a toddler to wait 2 hours for a snack. I’m talking about you’ll be done answering an email in 2 minutes. Then keep your promise and shut it off when time’s up.
- Evaluate: Think of your time as a pie. There is a limited amount of it. The more pieces you give away, the smaller they get. Be selective about who or what you give your pieces of pie to – make sure it’s going where you want and that there’s enough of you to go around. You want the pieces to be big enough to make a worthwhile difference in the things that matter most to you. If too many of the pieces are getting too small, maybe you need to evaluate where they are going.
- Separate: When it’s time to work, work hard. When it’s time to stop, STOP.
- Wait: Sometimes you just need to walk away. Shut down the computer and work later when you’re free of distractions. Be in the moment with your kids. You’ll be more focused, get the work done faster, and make fewer mistakes. (Don’t ask how I know that!)
- Bend: Flexibility is huge. But I don’t need to tell you that if you’re a mom!