If you work from home, you already know how many distractions there can be. My nemesis/distraction happens to be the laundry. The bigger the project, the taller my clean washing pile. Whether you’re a serial cleaner, organiser or Internet surfer, you’re not alone.
It takes discipline to focus and complete tasks when you work from home – and that becomes even more difficult when you have children in the house.
Of course, spending time with the family is one of the perks to be gained from flexible home-working and self-employment – especially if you have young children. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to see the little ones before they go to bed rather than peeking in on them while they sleep with their full body pillow after a long commute.
However, working from home in the summer holidays can make concentration difficult, if not impossible. As the parent of a toddler, I came to the decision that working in her company simply wasn’t going to work. Who am I kidding? It wasn’t my decision, it was hers! She physically closed my laptop and told me to put my phone down (good advice I might add)! I love spending time with my daughter but we’re not in the position where I can give up work so I’ve had to make changes to the way I run my business to enable me to be as productive as possible in less time – without sacrificing precious time with the little one.
Is it possible? Yes, but it takes some planning, rejigging and relocating every now and then.
Having spoken to a few parents with children of varying ages, the consensus seems to be that working outside of the home for a few hours per week really helps. In fact, over half of the people that work at FunkBunk are parents and use the workspace for that reason, myself included.
Consider your child’s schedule
It does take some organisation to make it work and, of course, it will differ for everyone but a good place to start is by planning your schedule with your child’s schedule in mind. All too often we tend to plan around our client’s schedule only and then wonder why it jars with family life.
Work life will always be a great deal easier if you can share childcare responsibilities with others. If you don’t have family around to help, or a nursery, nanny or babysitter to rely on, it’s worth exploring whether other parents could do with a childcare ‘buddy’. It does help to seek out other work-from-home or stay-at-home friends and parents so ask at your child’s nursery, school, playgroup or even at the co-working place you regularly attend, if you don’t already know anyone. You’d be surprised at how many of us there are. If you can take turns with child care, or split shifts with your partner (as I do), it makes a big difference.
Leave the house!
If you can arrange childcare, you must then commit yourself to leaving the house. If you don’t, you risk becoming equally distracted by all those chores and tasks you didn’t get to finish while the kids were around! Step away from the laundry!
By leaving the house and working somewhere else, just for a few hours per week, you are allowing yourself dedicated time for pure, focused work – time to completely absorb yourself in your business without distraction. Forget coffee shops – too distracting and too close to the shops. From hot-desks and jellies to co-working and shared offices, there are places designed to make you feel productive and make the most of your work time.
By dedicating a couple of days per week to serious head-down work time, you’ll be amazed at just how much you’ll achieve. You may even find that you don’t need to work at any other time in the week (depending on what you do). I recommend reading The 4-hour Work Week by Tim Ferris if you fancy exploring this concept further.
Plan your work day around the kids
If you aren’t able to leave the house, there are ways to maximise your time without working through the night. Again, by working to your child’s schedule, you can plan your tasks to suit. Plan to work on the high-concentration projects when your children are napping or engaged in activities that hold their attention, and utilise high-productivity techniques for optimum output during these periods. If you do this, it’s important to tell your children when you will be spending time with them (if they’re old enough to understand) so that they can look forward to your undivided attention when you’re finished too.
By deciding to focus on one or the other (work or family) rather than trying to accomplish both at the same time, your effectiveness and enjoyment for each will improve and you will (hopefully) emerge a sane, happy and productive human being by the time school starts again.
If you have any other tips and ideas for parents who work from home, we’d love to hear them – and if you fancy working in a flexible office with other home-working parents, freelancers and self-employed, pop along to the FunkBunk (suitable for people around Leighton Buzzard, Aylesbury, Milton Keynes and Tring).