What do you call a person who cooks dinner while watching a webinar, emptying the dishwasher, supervising homework and dreaming about the treadmill – all at the same time.
A mom, of course!
Like most parents, I end up multi-managing different parts of my work and personal life. And yes, it’s something I do both by choice and necessity.
For an Entrepreneur managing two ventures and raising a young child (my husband travels frequently), working at home (WAH) comes with both benefits and its trials. I love the flexibility, and the time saved on the commute. I also don’t have to stress about my wardrobe and appearance every day.
But the lines can be hard to separate. The hours have no clear start and end times because your work is one room away. Vacations and snow days can be a blessing or a frantic juggle. Working from home also gets its fair share of judgement – if I had a dollar for each time I’m asked how I stay busy or what else I do, sitting at home all day…
In work and life, the balance is always dynamic!
Yes, there is the inevitable stress and the constant need to keep things steady constantly, so I’m always trying to find ways to do things faster or better. Jokes apart, multitasking is a double edged tool so until there are 48 hours in the day, something will take priority and your focus. And that something will change every day.
Lessons I’ve learnt as a work at home mom
Like so many of my brethren, I’ve seen it all – the good and the frustrating, the encouraging and the downright unsettling.
So, thousands of crazy hours later, working my way through insane deadlines, bad wi-fi days, looming piano recitals and an empty refrigerator, here’s what I’ve learnt.
You can’t always choose the rules
Entrepreneurs – you can be the boss, but the ask and accountability also lie with you.
I’m a Mom running an online Community for women and a solo company. We have a built a robust, and constantly growing platform with Maroon Oak. Our entire team works remote, which has saved us huge real estate costs, but it also means enforcing – and following – team discipline on time and deliverables, given that we are not working out of the same office.
In other words, walk the talk, or your team will balk!
It’s time earned, not saved
Managing a lean startup also means that my co-founder & I carry a large portion of the workload – business development, strategy, design, social media and more. And everything is due yesterday. So the time we save on the commute each day – we put it to work. Literally.
Split shifts for family time
I actively choose to split my workday into multiple tranches – a quick catch-up early AM, then during the school hours, and a solid chunk of time most nights. I leave the after school time to be with my little girl, and for shared projects, chores and homework. It makes for some rapid gear changing several times a day, but with some planning, it’s doable.
Also read: Motherhood and its Skill Amassing Side Effects
I also try and make fitness and cooking a family activity so we don’t lose out there. Recreation, yard work and errands are assigned to weekends, though I squeeze in work into some part of those too. Online shopping saves me a bundle of time.
Improvised workouts have to do when there’s no time for the real ones. Most days I have leg weights tied on, just for that extra push. Occasionally, you can catch me doing barre leg work off the kitchen counter or hula hooping while helping my daughter with her homework.
Pick your times
Like all kids, my daughter has the most pressing needs at crucial moments, when I’m resolving a big systems crisis or on a client call. A closed door doesn’t always cut it, so I choose the school hours to focus on work that requires my complete attention. Virtual & in-person meetings, technology updates, brainstorming ideas or creating content are all earmarked for the daytime.
Make up the deficits
When I signed up for a Friday morning class for a dance I badly wanted to learn, for months, I worked an extra two hours every Thursday night. With work scheduled and completed beforehand, I could dance guilt-free. Importantly, it kept me from sliding into a comfort zone I could ill-afford.
Laundry can wait
And it must. The temptation to tackle a few chores instead of leaving them in the off hours can really undermine your productivity. Even with the unending demands of housework, work has to take priority, so I set aside chores for mornings or after I’m done for the day. It also helps to set a weekly deadline for certain home chores – less stress all around.
Also read: When mom goes back to work: prep yourself and your family
Embrace your tech
It doesn’t have to be fancy or cutting edge – it only has to work for you. I depend heavily on shared smartphone calendars – with the team and my family. Scheduling apps like Buffer and Hootsuite help with social media. With emails, I can draft something at night to reach the customer’s inbox at 7 am, when I’m in fact, getting the lunches ready. Google apps let me work on a blog post or proposal even while at swim practice. Audiobooks (Audible) or Podcasts during a workout and meditation apps (Headspace) for the ‘me time’ are heaven sent!
Most of our team is mom professionals who work similar, unpredictable schedules. For that we use Trello and Slack to collaborate – things for action and approval that people can work on, in their time. So even if we are all not at our desks at 9 pm, the work doesn’t suffer.
Use the right tools
In the last 13+ years of working from home, I have invested in multiple work gadgets, but now have a pared down list. I focus on the essentials, even if they cost a little more.
A good ergonomic chair, something that’s comfortable for the upper back and neck, is a must, because I work long hours on the computer. Ditto for a flat mouse (like the one from Apple), else the nerves in the hand can start tunneling with prolonged use.
My preference (actually, essential) is a large screen desktop computer – I use a 27” iMac which is great for working and switching across different apps. Moving files and previewing docs is more convenient on a larger workspace; easier on the eyes too.
Some people like huge desks, but I prefer one which allows me smarter storage rather than a larger size.
Don’t be social. Or not much
Keep time-sucks like social media scrolling for after hours – Facebook ain’t going anywhere. Another option is to purposefully set aside time for social media breaks into your day (say, with coffee or lunch) and stick to it. Tempting though they might be, luncheon dates with girlfriends will eat into your time (instead of the other way round), so I rarely offer myself that option.
Also read: Skill Up with Girls Night Out Learning
Learn or Perish
Even when you hire, the founders always need to have the bird’s eye view of the company. So you need to know the basics of everything. We realize that like any enterprise, ours can fail (or not be a spectacular success), so I spend a lot of time learning skills that will sustain and strengthen it. Even when my cup overflows, I’m determined to not stop learning. It takes some creative workarounds to factor in time for it but the will finds a way.
Also read: How I prioritize time for learning and you can too!
The more I work, the better I finetune. With practice, I’ve learnt to focus on working smarter and being productive, to ride – not fight – the frequent push and pull, and make time for all that I value.
But the real lesson for me every day is that perfection is elusive! And that’s all right too.
Pooja Krishna is an Entrepreneur, Consultant and Mom. She has worked both in large corporates and managed startups over the last 20+ years. A co-founder of Maroon Oak, she’s also founded Win Thinks, a small business consulting company, and Trading Paces, which educates amateur and pro stock traders. She blogs and teaches workshops about Brand Strategy, Social Media & Future ready Career Solutions. She loves being a Classroom Mentor and teaching students across the U.S. about Job Skills and Entrepreneurship. Read her interview on Huffington Post.
A trivia buff and yoga & hula hoop enthusiast, Pooja loves spending time with her family playing board games and watching documentaries.
[…] I struggled with the concept when it first appeared on my horizon a few years ago. As a busy mother and a work-at-home professional, I was always juggling and multitasking. Always. Despite the utterly sound logic, it just didn’t […]
I can relate to this post and loved all your tips, thanks for sharing!!
This is such a relatable post! I work from home the majority of the time, and while I don’t have children, I did have to make adjustments and care for my new puppies while balancing life, client services, keeping house clean. Helps to have some kind of plan/structure.
Spot on! Personally, I love working from home and can’t imagine any other lifestyle. There certainly are things about it that I don’t like but the benefits far outweigh them. I know companies are always concerned with their employees wasting time and not being productive. I think it really boils down to prioritizing and knowing “why” you’re doing it in the first place. Without a bigger reason, you’ll not be productive or succeed at it because of distractions.
I can never work at home, I wont get anything done. There will always be a distraction, be it to the laundry, tidying up or something that needs doing. Best out the home for me.
These are wonderful tips! Working from home definitely poses some unexpected challenges and distractions!
Love this! I am definitely in this boat and working from home you have to be (in my opinion) more strict with your time. Fighting the urge to do chores during the “working hours” can be really hard
I like working from home every now and then but I don’t think I can do it everyday. I like going to work, that way I feel I can control my day better. I love all the tips you mentioned. You have convered every single time beautifully
Oh yes! You said: “if I had a dollar for each time I’m asked how I stay busy or what else I do, sitting at home all day…” and I would add ‘ I would be rich and could sit at home doing nothing’? But to be honest, I enjoy what I do, although it can be overwhelming. And you gave some great tips, I’m searching for the tools to help with some of my tasks. Write now I’m actually not using any?
I am becoming more and more of a master when it comes to the split shift area of balancing work and home life… I do that every dang day! Love your list of tips, sounds like you’ve got it figured out… thanks for sharing!
I can understand the need for balance while working from home, I work from home too. Although life seems easy for people who work from home, it comes with its own set of challenges. It’s good you are setting work time and cutting out on social media which actually takes away a lot of time 🙂
Thanks for sharing.
Do drop by my blog as well : http://styleovercoffee.com 🙂
Information tips to handle your work from home and yes no need to waste much time on social media.work harder!
I’ve worked from home for the past ten years and was nodding along as I read your post. The hardest thing for me is saying no and sticking to it. The kids used to think that just because they could see me, I was available. Friends thought I could drop everything I was doing and meet them for lunch on short notice. If I was away at an office, everyone would say “Of course she can’t, she’s at work now” x
It’s so hard finding a balance between life and work and trying to manage everything in between. These are some great suggestions on how to do that. I need to learn how to stay away from social media 🙂
Love the tips here. I work from home and it gets really tricky on some days. I struggle to stay on top of everything.
I’m not yet work at home mom but work and life the balance is super important even though I’m not mom yet. There are lots of multitasking involved when it comes to live and travel full-time for us.
I love working from home and I have a struggle too for our laundry so I woke up early and do our laundry when I’m done I will be starting my online work and I think I need to lessen my social media Facebook really steals my time.
I would go for pants so you’re always on the go! I love working from home. You have time for your family.
I so much agree with you, If you are home, a mom and working to bring up a start up you have a lot to do wrt managing time , giving time to kids, improving up on tech and so much more. Great to understand thew ay you have been managing and learning.
I love this! I work from home and facebook steals so much of my day! I need to stop being nosy on social media and work harder!
This is so true! I like the tip about splitting your day into chunks. That’s been my best strategy to work from home without losing my mind!
This post is on point. Working at home has it cons and pros. Working in comfy clothes is definitely a big plus.
I totally agree. If you work at home you have to have set hours to walk away from it or it can be all encompassing. Love every single tip here!
These are great tips!!! I feel like I would get side tracked all the time! I love all your ideas!
These are some great things to keep in mind. Setting a schedule for your work time if definitely a must, but hard to do. My down fall is wasting time. Need to work on it.
I think this article is so relevant. So many people assume that it’s so luxurious that you “get” to work from home and be with your kids. I don’t think they realize that there is a whole other set of struggles that accompany it. But ya, yoga pants help ?