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What I’ve Learned From Working at Home for the Past 12 Years
12 years. Wow, I have worked at home for 12 years now. 3 computers, 4 keyboards, 2 chairs, 5 different desks. And a lot more trial and error. I have learned a lot over these years and would love to share what I have learned with you, so you too can be successful as a work at home mom.
What do I do, you might ask? I currently work at home as a transaction processor for a huge international company that just changed their name from a company that starts with X and ends with X. This job has been amazingly flexible, I basically work whenever I want as long as my required hours are completed. A true blessing when my children were younger, I was home when they were sick, could pick them up at school anytime and could go on field trips. I was able to make a lot of great memories over those years with my children, spending time with them that many other moms cannot do because of being tied to an office.
Oh, but it isn’t always sunshine and daisies. It has taken a lot of discipline and very early mornings. A lot of late nights and working when I was sick right along with my children. Backaches, headaches, working with a heating pad on my neck, whatever it takes. So please, sit back, grab a cup of your favorite and I hope you can take away one or two tips for your work at home life.
Organize Your Time
You need a schedule! Block out your work hours and work as if you are in an office (except little people will stop by your desk to chat instead of adults). Use a planner where you can schedule your day hour by hour. Keep track of all of your personal appointments right along with your work schedule in order to coordinate both. I personally am more productive in the morning right after my kids leave for school, so my mornings are always designated as working hours. I try to make all appointments in the late afternoon. Make sure your family knows this schedule as well, so when you don’t pick up the phone, they know you are not ignoring them.
Designated Work Area
Whether you have a home office or just an area carved out, designate that space as your work area. Keep your desk decluttered and minimize the distractions. I have tried it all ways, I have had a few different home offices and have worked at the kitchen table, the chair (on my laptop) and now have a huge desk that sits in between our dining room and living room. It does serve as my home command center, but when I am working, everything goes away except my planner and my work binder. On my desk, I have my favorite mug full of my favorite pens, my planner, a notebook (for all of those cool ideas that pop into your head, so you don’t get distracted), sticky notepads, along with my work binder and index card box.
Do not watch the newest episode of your favorite TV show while you are working, no matter how tempting. I often have the TV on, but it is only on a boring news or weather channel. I also listen to music sometimes. This is my go to when my house gets loud after dinner and I still need to work a few hours. Invest in a great pair of sound canceling and comfortable headphones. I use Yurbuds and absolutely love them. I also use them when walking or jogging.
The correct posture will not only increase your well-being, but your productivity as well. If you are feeling good, you are working efficiently and accurately. Go to your local office supply store and sit in a lot of chairs. Move around in them, adjust the height and back and see what is comfortable for you. I personally have a chair that is a little big and I can use a pillow behind my back sometimes. If you are using your keyboard extensively, like I do, make sure you are using an Ergonomic keyboard. (link) I use the Fellowes Ergonomic Keyboard and I love it. I have never had issues with my wrists. Make sure that your keyboard is at the correct height and your monitor is also at the correct height. You will be sitting for hours at a time, make sure it is comfortable.
The Laundry Can Wait
Yes, it can. The laundry will be there when you are done working. So don’t “take just a few minutes” and throw that load in. You know as well as I do that on your way back from the laundry room, you will pick up a few toys and go to throw them in your child’s room and oops, they forgot to make their bed, so you make the bed and straighten the room. Now it has been 30 minutes. The laundry and dishes can wait. And, if your children are old enough, start a chore list so they can help Mommy.
The Slow Cooker Will be your Best Friend
Meal planning is essential to keep any household running. When you are working at home, it is easy to get distracted by doing some meal prep here and there and searching for recipes. I plan out our family meals for the week on Sundays. My husband is a much better cook than I am, but works long hours outside of the house and usually only cooks on the weekends. We often throw 5-10 slow cooker meals in the freezer on a Sunday, especially at the beginning of hockey season (both of my boys play). My slow cooker and Instant Pot are two of my favorite ways to prepare dinner (calling for Pizza is my absolute favorite though). I use my slow cooker at least once a week. My Instant Pot is pretty new, but will likely become my go to on a busy night. You can read all about my favorite slow cooker recipes here.
You NEED a Work/Life Balance
It is so easy when you are working at home to say just five more minutes. Those five minutes turn into 60 and before you know it, that child that asked you to read a bed-time story is fast asleep. I know, I have experienced that and have deeply regretted those times. You cannot get back those precious minutes with your littles. My youngest was two when I started working at home and now he is 14. Time flies! So keep to your schedule, ask for help and maybe even still send your children to daycare a few days a week so you can be even more productive.
Finally, you still do need human interaction. Meet your girlfriends on their lunch hour and gab. Call your boss on the phone instead of sending that email. Go to happy hour once in a while to catch up with friends. Working at home is not for everyone, but it is a wonderful experience and a terrific opportunity for many.