Although trying to create a workplace environment at home and operate similar working hours has its benefits, I have found a different style to work for me.
I've owned my business for four years; however, for ten years prior to that I worked from home as a field manager for Pearle Vision. Those ten years encompassed the early elementary years of my oldest and the birth and toddler years of my youngest.
The pull between home and work was never stronger than when I had a hungry baby with a wet diaper to care for while responding to the needs of business. Here's what I learned:
1.Crying babies trump whiny managers.
2.A focused workday while working from home is an oxymoron.
3.Shutting the door on your home office doesn't stop your brain from working overtime.
4.Kids don't understand that "Mommy's on the phone with a potential customer right now" means "Go keep yourself busy and stop the dog from barking!"
So here are a few tricks that I've found help me manage my business and my family while enjoying both.
Create a Mini-Work Space
Every home office I have had includes a desk set up for my children. Kids just like to be near you. By creating their own work area for their homework, coloring or even stuffing envelopes for your latest marketing effort, you keep them occupied and satisfied.
Assign Blocks of Time
It is amazing just how much you can get done in 20 minutes of uninterrupted time. Chris Perrow of Perrow Systems is an organizational specialist and she helped me understand that when you work from home, you can't always shut the door and focus for hours on a project. Using that knowledge I broke up my day into smaller blocks of time that met my home and work needs:
- Set goals for the day and check email before anyone wakes
- Take time to enjoy breakfast with the kids and get them to the bus
- Focus on a specific customer project
- Resist the urge to check email or phone messages while in the "focus" time block
- Give myself permission to stop work when the kids come home for one hour to hear about their day, help with homework and start supper
- Work while supper is cooking and kids are in their mini-office
- Break to drive them to countless after-school and evening activities
- Write a blog post or comment on someone else's
- Review a task list and carry over unfinished projects
By not limiting my day to 8-5 I can afford to take off a couple hours during the day to participate in a kid activity at school. I still work 8-10 hours on my business everyday, but I break the day up to include my family time. Of course, the joy of knowing I can throw a load of laundry in while working on a project also has its benefits.
My approach to operating a home based business may seem a little unconventional and often means that I miss American Idol or the latest episode of Two and a Half Men. Yet, I know that when I focus on work -- I'm focused on work, allowing me to dedicate quality time throughout the day to my family as well.
My oldest is now 17 and he's not my biggest fan -- what parent is to a kid of that age? Yet I recently overheard him tell his girlfriend: "I hate to admit this, but it can be nice to have her here when I come home to tell stuff to."
Wow. Reason enough to ensure I always work from home!
My way isn't the only way, although my kids might tell you that it is my way or the highway.
How do you manage the juggle? Whether you work from home or not -- parents today have an amazing challenge when it comes to focusing on their career and their family without dropping one or two or 12 balls. How do you keep up the juggle?
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About the Author: Deborah Chaddock Brown opened her freelance writing business AllWrite Ink in 2004 after almost 17 years with the International retail optical corporation, Pearle Vision. Deborah's background is in franchising, operations, marketing and communication, however, her passion is helping businesses connect with their target audience using the Internet. Deborah blogs at Websites People Read.
Deborah is a member of the Small Business Trends Expert Network.