Updated: Sep 22, 2020
Many entrepreneurs work from home either by choice, or by necessity. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, several companies have their employees working from home as well. Add to the mix, parents that have children at home with distance learning, and life can get chaotic! This combination of work, life, and school can make it hard to be productive.
I have been working from home with my own business for over 2 years and I have been homeschooling our two daughters for a total of 10 years. Without a doubt, I can tell you that having a schedule and being organized is a must if you want to survive and thrive in your current situation. Yes, you CAN thrive!
The choice of the location of your home office is crucial to your success. Too close to the activities going on and you get distracted (excluding if you have little ones, of course, you have to be close to them). Too far away, and you become stranded on an island. Another concern is the 7-Eleven effect, where you find yourself feeling like you are always open for business. In a noticeably short time you will find yourself exhausted. There are ways to manage these issues in order to make your home office experience a success.
Here are some tips and ideas I have found useful.
1. Have a dedicated space just for work. Your home office does not have to look like a corporate office with a huge oak desk and wall-to-wall filing cabinets. However, you should have a dedicated desk and space. Often, you may see pictures of people lounging on a couch or outdoor by the pool with their laptop, working. This may work for you, but most experts agree, you should have a dedicated space/desk with an office setup to help with functionality.
2. Schedule dedicated work and school time. Sometimes, as parents, we need to work odd hours if our children need extra help or support during "normal" 9 - 5 hours. This is just part of parenting. There is no easy answer to it, especially if you must be present during these specific hours. Try talking to your boss, or if you are entrepreneur, try scheduling your work early in the morning or late afternoon around your kids' schedules. This is also a wonderful time to try and teach your children about schedules and that sometimes, mommy or daddy is here, but needs to work and can't be fully present. Many parents I know, sit their little ones down with an engagement activity, like coloring, so they can focus on a good 20 minutes of work.
3. Try the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro Technique is a useful tool for time management. This technique is a method where you set a 25-minute timer and focus on one task, no distractions. Entrepreneurs that work from home sometimes use it, so we don't get distracted with emails, social media or dirty dishes. This can work for parents too. Many children can handle a short stint of focus time. If 25 minutes is too long, try a shorter time until you and your children get used to it. Some people go to 30 or 45 minutes. Do what works for you.
4. Turn off your notifications. I know the world moves at a fast pace and we want to know it all asap (or is that just me?) but having notifications on your computer or phone, constantly dinging, pinging or beeping at you will only distract you from your task. Next thing you know, you will have gone down the proverbial "rabbit hole" and an hour later, you have achieved nothing.
5. Have all the office and work supplies you need at your desk. Another devil in working from home is not having your desk set up with all your supplies. Let us look at this scenario; I am a bookkeeper; I need to print out a report. Oh no! The printer is out of paper. So, I walk from our living room, through the kitchen (oh dang, I need to do the dishes) then through the family room by the snack cabinet (man! I am so hungry, hmmm...) and then out to our garage for the paper. (Oh snap! my craft area needs some cleaning up and oh, I need to make that card for......) Get the picture? Now I may be exaggerating a little, but let's face it, if you have worked from home long enough, this has happened.
6. Make A To Do List. Set up your To Do List the night/day before. Nothing kills work efficiency like getting up in the morning and trying to decide what you are going to achieve today. Make sure when you create your To Do List, you also put in your scheduled appointments and create your list accordingly.
7. Make your office space joyful. I have worked in cubicles (I hated it), office spaces that were painted a dingy cream color, I even had a desk that literally faced a grey, ugly wall at one job. Now some people can handle this, and I did out of shear desire to perform my tasks well. However, nothing helps creativity, productivity, and plain old happiness like having positive things you love around, so have a few in your office space. (That is why people in offices often have pictures of their loved ones up on their desk.) I have floating shelves on my walls. They are full of only happy things; some are my children's artwork. It sounds silly when I work at home with my children right near me, but it does matter.
8. Use earphones or earbuds if possible. We have a two-story house. Our downstairs consist of a living room, kitchen, dining room, and family room. We were so excited to get this house and loved the open concept of the downstairs. We purchased our home several years ago, way before COVID-19 and never thought we would have all 4 people in our house (2 working from home and 2 going to school/college) doing online meetings, classes and phone calls at the same time! With that being said, if you need a little "private" time while studying or working, there is nothing wrong with turning on some gentle, background music (or whatever you can study/work to) and plugging in to block out your lovely "coworkers/cohabiters" (Is cohabiters even a word? If not, it will be after COVID.)
Well that is long enough for this post. I try to keep all my blog posts to a 3 to 4-minute read and I have hit 5 minutes, according to my website. Feel free to drop in your work/school from home tips below, it might help someone else out.
As always, if you have any further questions about this or any bookkeeping subjects, please contact me at Rebecca@RHBizSolutions.com. I look forward to talking to you about your bookkeeping needs.
Here's To Your Success!
RH Business Solutions