Over two years ago, I got my first work from home job. I was still working full time out of the home as a teacher, but it was so fun to begin the adventure of trying to figure out managing my time and making my own schedule for my part time, work from home job.
Until I realized I wasn't that good at managing my time or figuring out my own schedule.
Disclaimer before we go on: I'm not naturally good at this. Just being honest. And from what I have gathered, a lot creative people aren't the most naturally organized people.
So to keep my job and succeed at all, I had to figure it out. And I started to get pretty good at time management, but then I had a baby.
And then I added another part time from home job. And then started some personal projects/ businesses.
More than ever in my life, time management and scheduling has become important. Not only for helping me get my work obligations completed and grow my personal projects, but also to keep my sanity and make sure I can be present with my family.
And here's the thing...I don't have it perfected. I'm still naturally not a very organized person, that didn't change. I have to work really hard at this to make it work.
But being able to work from home is important to me for a few reasons:
-I get to stay home with Gemma, -I love the creative work I am doing from home -I don't like strict schedules. So making my own and being flexible is perfect for me.
Here are five tips that I've discovered to make working from home with a baby actually work. These tips are coming from an imperfect, organized mess of a person. But I've somehow made this all work, and continually am getting better at it, so maybe there's something to what I'm doing!
1. Use some type of planner/ list making/ calendar system and stick with it
I'm not being specific here. There's a reason there are so many different organizational apps, planners, calendars, list making systems out there- everyone works differently when it comes to organization and productivity. I personally need to write things down with pencil and paper, but I still benefit from phone reminders at the same time. I use a combination of bullet journaling, pencil paper calendars, and Google Calendar.
(PS I don't always drink wine while I work, but sometimes if I'm still working into the evening, a small glass feels like a good idea)
The endless creative options of the bullet journal really works for the way my brain works, and when I stick to it, I am way more productive.
If you are working from home with a baby, do not trust yourself to remember everything you have to do in your head. I've tried it, I've failed. It just doesn't work. Find some type of method to keep track of your tasks, appointments, responsibilities, and deadlines
Also, I have gone down the rabbit hole of trying "the next best organizational system/ planner." Don't waste your time doing that. As soon as you find something that is even somewhat working for you, just go with it and get better at it.
2. Make templates and refer to them often
As I mentioned in the previous tip, I use a bullet journal, and I have a page for each job where I've listed all of the weekly tasks I should get done in any normal week. This doesn't include specifics, but it is what I refer to when I am making my schedule for the week. These are pages that I sometimes still add things to, but for the most part, they are just templates of what needs to get done in a typical week, and they keep me accountable for doing these tasks.
I've also recently created templates for my ideal daily work-from-home schedule. This doesn't just include what time I will work on what jobs, but also when I will eat (yeah, because I forget about that sometimes), things I will focus on while Gemma is awake (mostly Gemma) and things I will focus on during naptime (mostly work. See next tip.)
On the same page spread, I've created a template of the major tasks I should do each weekday of a normal week. This helps me make sure I'm not forgetting about anything.
3. Work during naptime
You know what they say: "Sleep when the baby sleeps!" Well, not if you are a work from home mom. More like work when the baby sleeps!
I like the response I've seen to this quote better than the actual quote: "So should I vacuum when the baby vacuums? Or cook when the baby cooks?" Yeah, if you are a work from home mom, it's not going to work out if you decide you'll work when the baby works!
So take advantage of naptime! I've worked really hard to try and get Gemma to nap well, on a schedule, and long naps if possible. In her newborn days, short naps made it really hard to work, but I did my best. As she grew out of that, I helped her along by "nap training" her a bit. It doesn't work all the time because she is still young and her schedule is still changing, but long nap days are the most productive days for me.
4. Work in the margins
Is your baby playing? Sit on the floor with your laptop while she rolls around (you'll learn to keep one eye on the work and one eye on the baby). Is she fussy? Put her in the baby carrier and wear her while you stand, bounce, and answer some emails. Are you nursing? Sometimes I do some of my social media management work while I nurse Gemma. I've also nursed her plenty of times during work calls. I've even put her down for a nap during a conference call, and I can say I actually did pay attention to the calls while doing all of this!
(No, I don't always let her look at my computer screen and play with my computer, but it makes for a cute picture)
I know that might sound like I don't pay attention to my baby. I definitely do, and she gets much more time with me than if I was working full time out of the house. I don't love that I sometimes am on my phone or typing an email while playing with her or nursing her, but at the same time, I still make sure I nurse her and play with her without my electronics/ work as well. It's all about balance
And on that note: I do think it is good for my baby that I am not giving her my full attention every minute of the day. First of all, she is growing up seeing a working mom from day one, and I work so that I can raise her well and do things I'm passionate about at the same time. Second, she doesn't have to have me giving her attention every minute of the day to be happy. I'm not sure if she is just a semi independent baby or if it is because I sometimes have to get other stuff done.
I might be defending myself a little bit here, but I have to say that the mom guilt is real when it comes to this. Our current parenting culture of all eyes, hands, energy on the babies and kids all of the time is probably not healthy for anyone, but it definitely makes a parent that isn't doing that feel a little guilty- so there's a bonus tip for you, don't let the mom guilt get to you!
5. Shut it off and rest
This is something I haven't done well. I have conditioned myself to constantly work in the margins, work during naptime, after bedtime and on the weekends. I'm slowly learning that I need to shut the work off at some point. I need to have an "end of day," though it will look different than a nine to five.
For my sanity and so that I can spend real time with the people I love, I need to schedule my work in a way where I do have time where I'm not working or not thinking about work. So this is still in the works for me, but I think it's an important tip that I've learned needs to happen, even if I haven't put it into practice much yet.
Shut off your brain from thinking about work. Shut down your social media and electronics for a bit. Do whatever you need to do to refresh and rest. If you don't, you may end up like me, completely exhausted and sick on a Monday, because your weekend wasn't actually a weekend (ever.)
I'm not complaining. Working at home is definitely the best option for me as a mom, and I'm grateful I get to do it. However, there has to be a time when the work stops- so I'm learning that and I'm getting there.
When I was pregnant and knew I would be working from home with a baby, I wasn't really sure how that was all going to work. After I had Gemma, I REALLY wasn't confident I could make it all happen. However, slowly but surely, we learned a routine. We figured it out. It's not perfect, and there are things constantly changing, but these five things have helped me make it possible to earn an income from home while staying home with my baby.
If you work from home with a baby, what have you done to make sure you are productive and make sure you are enjoying and loving your child(ren) all at the same time?
Happy Monday- hope you have a productive week (but stay sane in the process)!