I wanted to write an update now with a few more words of wisdom about what it really is to work from home and be a stay at home parent. Because you can be both and you can do both relatively well provided you have tight routines, a relatively agreeable kid, and a supportive partner (be that a family member, a person you hire to help, or a friend).
First though, I want to mention that my routine has changed a bit as Kale has grown and has different needs. Kale now attends preschool from 9-11:30 Monday through Friday and that is the bulk of my working hours.
I still grab work in snippets throughout the day (while Kale is eating lunch, for example, or if he has earned 30 minutes of TV), and I still do a lot of work at night. Since December 2010, I have elected to no longer work part time evenings for my pre-pregnancy employer. I’m also going to be moving on from working for the farmers market; I’ve given notice and have committed to staying on until the end of this summer season so that a new person can be carefully and fully trained. The company I started with my friend has seen steady growth and we are successful enough now that I felt I had to “pick one” and do it well, instead of continuing to divide my time and do them only half as well.
So, when I sit down to work now, I have specific routines I use to keep me focused:
I settle into work with fluffy stuff. I take about 10 minutes and I flip around in my social networks. I watch a few videos, comment on a few threads, or reply to some mentions. I find if I dedicate a few minutes to engage my brain into the idea of sitting at a desk and working, and use those minutes on something I enjoy, it is much easier to turn them all off in 10 minutes and get down to it. After I shut them down, I keep them closed unless I am working for longer than two hours and am taking a brief brain break.
I operate using lists of three. Immediately after I shut down the fluffy stuff, I compose three lists of three. Critical work that must completed in this working session, work I need to keep chipping away at, and work that would be great to tackle. Sometimes I don’t have work that’s due, and I struggle to find a third or even a second thing to add to one of those lists. So I will also add things like “pay bills online” or “call Person X to chat”.
I track my time closely and carefully. In fact, I’m actually tracking the time it takes me to write this blog post out of habit. I use Freshbooks (and no, they have not asked me for the plug) to track and invoice for my time. Our company does as well. It is easy to track time and divide it into various projects and I find it helpful to see how I could have been more efficient. I also schedule downtime. No matter how busy you are, you need a bit of time off.
I ease out of work by tidying my desk. Sometimes when I need to stop working for the night / day, but have not actually completed the task, I find it hard to disconnect. When your brain is engaged, I find it really hard to just shut it down and stop. So, I’ve started easing out of work by tidying up my desk. I set up my computer to run a back up, and while it runs I tidy and put things away – pens, scraps of note paper, and folders. If I am done tidying before the back up, I give myself a few more minutes of fluffy stuff.
I schedule meetings during preschool. If that won’t work, I schedule them for when Ross can cover me or for when I can hire a part time on call sitter. Kale is good with being babysat by a number of people, and I have taken the time to cultivate a list of people I can contact. Some aren’t available during the day, and some won’t come out at night. Some work for childcare swapping and some I pay by the hour.
I rely heavily on technology. I worship my calendar, and note everything and anything in it. I take advantage of its ability to remind me of things and I share my calendar with Ross and my business partner so that we can consider one another. I use a MacBook Air and store almost all of my files in the cloud using Dropbox, which is also shared with my partner. (If you aren’t using Dropbox, I totally recommend it – it has saved me So. Many. Times. And just so you are aware, if you follow that link, and sign up, I might get a bit of free extra space).
I should also mention that I no longer use a stand desk. I rearranged my office to allow space for my sewing machine and other crafts to come up from the basement, and found the stand desk simply wasn’t wide enough anymore and now sit at a very large heavy table with a comfy chair. I can’t say I prefer it over the stand desk I was using, but now all my things are in one place and I much prefer that.
There are days when Kale probably watches too much TV, and Ross probably forgets what I look like, and there are days when I probably don’t get enough work done. But we’re doing okay, and I like this working from home thing very much. I feel like I have achieved balance.