I know working from home is the reality for a lot of us around the world right now. Here in the UK last week the schools closed because of the coronavirus, meaning I now have our 4-year-old with me at home every day and our 3-month-old baby. I had a little wobble about it for a couple of days, but I said to myself… “You did this every day when he was a toddler building your business, If I can do it then I can do it now!”I made notes on how I can plan my time and how to manage it all, I tried and tested some of them last week. I’m still here, building my business and I am not giving in that easy.
So, if it’s all a little new and overwhelming for you, here are my top tips that I’ve tried out over the years running a business from home and having small children around me.
Setup 3 small business tasks a day (or one big task) – I always find making a to do list for the next day helps, so your thoughts are on paper and out of your head. If I have a project to compete, I break it down into 10-minute smaller tasks and tick off each mini task as I go.
Ask your child about their school schedule and make a little timetable together. For younger ones like mine, a mix of creative time and academic games as well some exercise and activity. But don’t overwhelm yourself or force them to do the work, take it easy and it’s all about blending fun and learning
Find a dedicated workspace – Somewhere you can focus and hopefully not get disturbed. I tend to sit in different places in the home depending on the tasks I’m doing. If it’s writing or planning – it’s a notebook or laptop on the couch. Any design projects or emails it’s at my desk.
My husband has now started to work from home some days too, so what we’ve had to do is switch out the dining room and make it into a home office as it’s the quiet room in the house. This stops us getting distracted in the living room with the kids when we are trying to focus on work or take calls. This has made a big difference and setting boundaries with other family members when you need to work.
Batch cooking and taking regular breaks –This is one we are still trying to keep on top of in our house. I love it when we have leftovers in the fridge or freezer, it’s so much easier when you have a busy day or one that’s not gone quite to plan. Freezing leftovers and fresh cooking sauces makes life so much easier and will stop you from reaching for the takeaway menu and the biscuit tin (I’m guilty of that at times)
Podcasts, audibles, playlists – I can’t work in silence and I find listening to business podcasts, self-development audible books and listening to my favourite tunes on Spotify helps. It really boosts my mood and keeps my creative ideas flowing. It’s also great for my mental health, it distracts me from checking the news all the time and keeps me in my creative zone!
Wear what’s comfy – Yes getting dressed in your usual work clothes might feel odd when you’re working from home. But strike a balance and wear something that makes you feel productive but comfortable. Maybe PJs will make you want to lay on the couch and switch on Netflix or maybe not, your choice!
Arrange calls with clients/colleagues ahead of time (if you can) – I use a Calendly which sets out certain days and times I’m available to clients for calls. They simply click on the link and book what day/time suits them (win/win). I know the times I’ve set on the calendar are when my husband is home to entertain the kids, nap time for the baby or I know in advance to setup a task to keep my 4-year-old busy while I’m on a call. But tantrums happen and they can get bored so if they do disrupt you it’s not the end of the world! Just explain the situation to your caller, who may be in the same situation as you anyway. Let your unexpected calls go to voice mail and respond to them when you can and if you need to.
Limit the social media scroll unless it’s intentional – Ever since our new baby came along back in December, I’ve had to really cut back on my phone use. Because I don’t have the time to sit and scroll and I’d rather make use of that time elsewhere (like with my family or on my business, or sleep!) If I’m casually checking social media, I use the iPhone settings that lock me out of my apps after 15 minutes. If It’s for business use, I set that time aside and try and not get lost down the rabbit hole.
Don’t check your emails constantly – Don’t let emails distract you and take over your day! Unless something “really, really urgent” has happened and you have to switch around your work priorities a little. As a rule, I only check mine once or twice a day, if you can set a response time in your email signature or auto responder do it! I aim to get back to my client’s emails within 48 hours, this works fine.
Sign off at the end of the working day – Just like if you were at your desk in a corporate setting. Switch off your computer, tidy up your workspace and if you are working in a separate room from the rest of the house, shut that door! Creating that leaving work/going home feeling is super important for you to switch off and not keep checking your computer for emails or doing one more task. Also delete the work email app on your phone! You will be tempted.
This finishes with… Go out and take a walk – Or spend time in the garden if you’re lucky to have one, do some outside activities with the kids. This really clears your head and gives you a break. When life is “normal” I usually do this on the school run and walk to school. This helps me switch off work.
So, all of this I’ve learnt and tweaked over the years since I’ve been working at home. Some days it runs smoothly and others it can be a hot mess! But, there’s always a new day! Even trying a few of these tips will hopefully make a big difference for you and your family.
Be kind to yourself.
Blog Post written on March 30th, 2020, during Covid-19 Lockdown