I feel like you guys have to be getting sick of me talking incessantly about my current situation - we get it, Melissa, you're a work at home mama to a newborn baby boy and two-year old toddler girl, with a husband who works away from home on the road with a band for much of the year. I admittedly bring it up often lately, but the truth is that that is my life right now - and if I pretended it was any other way, it wouldn't be genuine. I have my hands full. I am constantly on the go. I'm busy. (We all are, right?) From toddler dance lessons to play dates to infant doctor visits to housework to frantic work deadlines met during those precious periods when both kids are sleeping, there isn't much time for relaxation. I'm happy, and I absolutely love my family and my job. But in order to function on a somewhat normal (whatever that means) level, I have to come up with strategies to manage my time and our hectic schedules in ways that are as efficient as possible. Today I'm partnering with Dove to share with you some of my favorite 'life hacks' that have proven useful to me as a work at home parent. Many of these can also be applied to those of you who work at home without kids, as well as to moms and dads who stay at home with kids or work out of the house. They're varied, and some are more relevant than others, but they all make my life easier, which is what ultimately matters.
1. Prepare your office or workspace the night before. Work at home parents rarely get to take full days off, and most of us work when the kids are sleeping (or for parents of older kids, when they're at school). Just the knowledge that my work time is limited helps me be more productive, but I've found that I can get the most done when I'm able to jump right in. So right before I go to bed, I organize my work space so that everything is immediately ready to go when the kids are napping the next day. Even if it gives me an extra 5 or 10 minutes of work time, it makes a big difference.
2. Use the timer on your phone to complete tasks. Every smart phone has some sort of timer (on an iPhone it's part of the alarm app). I never used mine until my mom told me that when we were little kids, she would put the timer on the stove on for 15 minutes to get certain parts of the house cleaned. It was a game - if she was super productive and focused, she could get it done before the time buzzed. Now I do the same with everything from cleaning or laundry to answering work emails.
3. Use pretty baskets to organize toys and books. This hack is more for moms and dads in general than specifically for work from home parents, but for a design lover like me, it's a good one. I'm not one of those super organized parents with kids who only play with toys in their bedrooms or play rooms. In fact, my living room looked like a giant toy box for the first two years of Essley's life. I love using baskets to decorate my home, so when I finally reached my limit with stepping on legos, I decided that rather than getting plastic/rubber tubs to organize the kids' toys that are played with downstairs, I'd get a set of pretty baskets instead. It's a quick way to accessorize a room with pieces you love design-wise and organize your little ones' toys and books, all at once.
4. Borrow your child's sound machine for your workspace. My toddler and baby both sleep infinitely better at night with a sound machine on. And it makes sense - the white noise blocks out other sounds and is naturally soothing. One of the biggest challenges of working from home is the distractions, so one day I decided to use the sound machine in my office area while I was working. I was amazed at how much better I was able to concentrate and be productive. This proves especially helpful for me during periods when my husband is off the road and I'm working full days because I can't hear the craziness going on downstairs while they're playing, so I'm able to give work my full attention.
5. Make 'me time' a priority. I've written several posts on the importance of me time. Maybe this seems more like advice than an actual 'life hack,' but I had to include it because it's crucial for work at home parents, who know all too well that your job and life can easily run together and drain you to the point of intense mental exhaustion. Even if you work during nap time like I do, make sure you set aside a few minutes of it, or of other times when your kids are occupied, to take a little time to just relax with a cup of tea or do something you enjoy. If you can get a sitter and get out of the house, even better. You'll ultimately be more productive both at work and in your home life if you take breaks.
6. Combine your business and personal to do lists and use colors to code them. Most people will probably tell you the opposite - to make separate to do lists for personal and business tasks. But when you're a work at home parent (especially in my case where my hours change constantly based on my husband's ever-changing work schedule), your workday often consists of constantly overlapping aspects of your job and your daily life. I keep one to do list that combines everything (from work projects and returning emails and social media tasks to personal appointments and paying bills and kid activities), but I use different colors to organize the tasks both by importance and by whether they're personal or business. I have found this to be an incredibly productive way to get things done. You can do this on your computer with different colored fonts or in a planner (or even a pad of paper) with highlighters.
7. Get an antiperspirant that goes on dry and lasts all day. The consistent rushing and running around that exists on the daily in my life - and in the life of any work at home parent - calls for an antiperspirant that works well and lasts the entire day. Dove Dry Spray Antiperspirant (my favorites are Original Clean and Soothing Camomile) is a necessary part of my everyday routine as a busy mom and entrepreneur - a couple quick sprays first thing in the morning and I'm good to go. It goes on clear and dry, has no visible residue (which is more than I can say for the baby spit-up that is constantly adorning my outfits), and provides me with odor and wetness protections right up until bedtime and beyond (we're talking 48 hours). It also contains Dove ¼ moisturizers for softer, smoother underarms. It's the latest beauty trend for busy moms and girl bosses, y'all! Go to Dove.com/trydry to learn more. #TryDry
8. Create a boundary for your workspace and call the area outside of it a work-free zone. I read somewhere about a life hack for those who work from home where the author said they established something called "the rule of the stairs," where when her foot touched the first stair out of her home office, she was not allowed to do or discuss work. I will admit that I do a lot of my social media work from my phone during the times Essley is playing and Emmett sleeping, but the rest of my work is done in a defined area upstairs, and I don't bring it outside of that. Not only does this allow me to fully focus on my kids and fulfill my mom duties when I'm with them, it also allows me to create a more professional work environment for when I need to focus on work. When I first started working from home years ago, my work took over my entire house and it led to major burnout and loss of productivity. Even if you don't have a full room for an office, you can easily define an area of a room as your work space and include the rest of the room in your work free zone.
Fellow work at home parents (and/or those of you who work from home without kids, or just parents in general!), do you have any tips or life hacks that help you create balance or be more productive?
This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Dove Dry Spray Antiperspirant, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #instantlytrending #DovePartner #TryDry http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV
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