Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Putting the WORK back into Work-at-Home Mom

February 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, Goals, Time Management

new blue organizers and yellow smiley ball on office deskOnce upon a lifetime I worked as a Financial Analyst at an worldwide HR firm. It sounds far more prestigious than it actually was. Sure, I had specific degrees of stress, but I managed it all with elaborate spreadsheets, lists and calendars. I was good at my job.

That was nearly ten years ago before I became a Work-at-Home mom.

Since then I’ve been learning to juggle an ever-changing life of milestones and at-home endeavors. I am a writer and a freelance editor; I tell people I work from home, but I’ve never felt fully worthy of that title. I mean, does it count as “working” if showers are optional and fuzzy slippers are acceptable attire? I do have assignments and deadlines, but most of them dance around my personal life and kids’ schedules. My paycheck is imaginary more often than not.

As I think back on my time in corporate America, I recognize distinct differences in how I tackled life. Then and there I was calm. Organized. Purposeful. Focused. Proactive.

Here and now I too often feel scattered. Stressed. Interrupted. Distracted. Reactive.

Why is that? I think the contrast originates with an attitude that feeds habits.

When I was working-working, I thought of myself differently. I saw myself as a professional. Productive. Accomplished. As a work-at-home mom, I see myself as a mom who occasionally gets to work.

And what habits do these attitudes feed? Well, working-working me didn’t see work as optional. She made it a priority. She organized her tasks in logical fashions and did what needed to be done. Mommy-me tends to always put work on the back burner. This is not good! It’s not good for me, my clients, my career … It’s not even good for my kids who now believe they are the center of the universe.

I’ve decide to put a little more work back in working at home. Here’s how:

  • I cleaned my office. I work in a multi-purpose room that serves as writing station, guest room, coat closet and home office. It looked quite abysmal after the holidays. I’ve cleaned it out, placed a lock on the closet (lest children decide to pull things out without permission) and instituted a strict “no clutter” rule on the bed (which formerly served as a “catch all”).
  • I organized my desk. No more school papers littering my work space; no more snack wrappers or kiddie toys under the computer. It’s my space now and it is arranged for clarity and focus. I even got a nifty pen holder (sorted by color and style) and a vertical In-Box for sorting mail and notes.
  • I integrated my calendars. I used to have separate calendars for school, church, personal and work. They were all hung or hidden in various dark corners of my house. I now have them all online, color-coded and cross-referenced. This is very simple way to be and feel proactive rather than reactive. Bonus: My husband has easy access to the calendar, too, so we need not depend so heavily on remembering verbal communication about events and deadlines.
  • I created a project journal. I’ve tried many times to keep a running spreadsheet of ideas and assignments. It never works for me. If it works for you, great! I’ve found, however, that bound journals just work better for me. I allocate one page to each project (blog post, article, ebook idea, guest post assignment, etc.) and add sticky flags for those with deadlines. This keeps everything in one spot instead of having little pieces of paper all over the house or ideas flitting about my brain.
  • I started a daily task journal. To-do lists seem far more urgent when dated and kept in a bound book. This habit helps me keep track of what I want to accomplish and what I actually get done each day. And, just like my project journal, it’s bound keeping all my lists are in one spot which prevents me from losing or forgetting things.
  • My task lists include positive steps forward, not just maintenance chores. Updating facebook and twitter are fun, but not work. Yes, we want to build our platforms and connect with readers, but that cannot take all day if we want to actually write something those readers will pay to read. What do I need to do today so that I can be where I want to be tomorrow? Or next week? Or next month? This may include cold calling for speaking opportunities, emailing potential guest bloggers, researching specific markets or finishing the next three chapters on my WIP. The point is they must be measurable tasks that promote growth within my career, not just surface work.

Your Turn: How do you keep a work mentality when you are your own boss?

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