Working outside of the home usually means that you have set hours that are devoted to work—nine to five, plus a commute, or if you’re in an industry where you work longer shifts for fewer days during the week (such as healthcare) you may be on for 12 hours Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Whether your freelance, telecommute, work as a contractor for another company or are a mompreneur-business owner, navigating your work schedule is no different in theory—except that you’re doing it from home, and working with (or around) your family’s schedule.
Boundaries and Communication
First, set clear boundaries and communicatewith family members and in-home childcare providers what those boundaries are and the consequences for violating the sanctity of your work and workspace.
Night Owl or Early Bird?
Second, look at when you’re at your best. Are you a night owl or an early bird? If you’re an early bird, or can spare even an hour before the rest of the family wakes up, use that time to get a handle on your day, make your to-do list, and respond to or send e-mail. If you’re a night owl, once everyone is in bed, that’s the time to do the work that you need quiet time for and can really think and concentrate well while the house is quiet. You can even use this time to get ahead for the next day’s tasks. This can work even if you’re not a night owl, and can spare an hour or two after the family’s all gone to bed. Don’t fall into the trap of staying up too late though—the next day is filled with fully rested and recharged people who need you, and if Mama’s over-tired, she’s not at her best—not for her family, her business or herself.
Making Calls and Other Appointments
Third, look at your business and examine when you’ll need to be speaking with or working with others during prime working hours for your time zone or the main time zones that you work in. This will determine when during the day you can take or make calls or do phone conferences or video meetings. If your kids are preschoolers, nap time is a perfect time to utilize for phone calls. Consider too, with whom you need to be speaking. If it’s with other WAHMs, or clients who know you work from home and don’t have an issue with it, the occasional squeaks from child-background noise might not be as bothersome as it might be to people who are not working from home themselves. Choose wisely when you’ll be making and taking which calls.
Fourth, look at your family schedule. If the kids are in school already, that leaves more time during traditional working hours to have those person-to-person interactions that you might need to have. It also means a larger chunk of uninterrupted time to devote to the tasks that you need absolute quiet. If you know that you have to leave at 3 p.m. to pick up your child from school or daycare, don’t schedule a call for 2:45 p.m. Don’t waiver. Respect your own work schedule and your family’s schedule enough so that you don’t become overwhelmed by conflicting demands. (Tip: you don’t have to tell the person that you can’t do 2:45 because you have to pick up the kids. You can always simply say that you have another commitment or meeting. This is especially useful when you haven’t yet developed a more personal relationship with the person you need to speak with.)
Get Help When You Need It
Don’t be afraid (or feel guilty) for asking for help from relatives such as grandparents or from trusted neighbors or friends who offer to take your child so that you can have a full day or two to work or to hire in-home childcare to assist you while you work. If there is another WAHM in your area with whom you’ve developed a friendship and trust, you can also do a childcare swap, where one day you take her kids and another she takes yours thus giving you each a full day to work, or whatever arrangements you end up making with one another.
While setting your schedule, don’t forget to factor in personal time, family time and time with your partner/spouse. This can be as easy as not taking calls after 6 p.m. , not working on weekends, or only for part of the day on Saturday for example, while your spouse/partner takes the kids out of the house to do an activity. While the Internet offers 24/7 access to everyone and nearly everything, you can neither work all the time nor can you be at everyone’s disposal all the time. Setting a schedule will help keep you focused on your work when you need to be (even if you have an overactive mind) and will allow you to be in control of your WAHM-career destiny