6 Top Tips for Working From Home + Being Productive with Little Kids
Today we’re talking all about working from home with little kids around.
I’ve gotten quite a few questions about balancing working on this site and having little kids and I wanted to take some time to talk about tips for working from home! I have been working part time from home for almost four years now and thought sharing what I’ve learned along the way might be helpful. Whether you have a side hustle or are trying to be more productive during nap time, I hope some of these tips for working from home work as well for you as they do for me.
Tips for Working from Home with Little Kids
Where You Work Matters:
In the first year or so of working from home (while I was finishing up the last two classes of my degree online after we’d left BYU and moved to Cincinnati for Ben’s job), I did most of my working from the couch or from our bed. I hardly ever sat at the kitchen table and even less frequently did I use the desk in the second bedroom I had set up as an office.
When we moved into our new home, right before Lincoln was born 2.5 years ago, I again set up a spare bedroom as an office. And this time I got a desktop that was much better than my laptop and so I always used my desk. And THIS WAS HUGE for my productivity.
In that little office I could shut the door to the mess of the rest of the house and just focus on what I needed to get done.
When Adelaide was born we turned the office into a nursery and moved my desk + desktop into our bedroom. It was nice to have a designated work space but it made it so hard to really step away from work. I also really disliked evenings where I’d work for 3 or 4 hours after the kids had gone to bed, just to walk three feet away to hop in bed and go to sleep.
Designated Work Hours:
This is the most read piece of advice I’ve found when looking for tips for working from home over the years and it doesn’t really work for me.
Yes, if I could know for sure that I was working from 8-10 am and 7-10 pm each day, that would be great to plan my schedule around. But, my kids aren’t that predictable and I find that when I set expectations for the specific hours I’ll be able to work on a given day, it just causes more frustration when, inevitably, it doesn’t work out.
Instead, I have embraced the flexible work hours and focus on what I’m doing during those hours using a 3 point to-do list.
The Short To Do List:
I adopted the “3 Item To Do List” a few months ago and it has been the biggest game changer in my productivity, in all aspects of my life.
Essentially, the night before (or at the end of my work session), I take a minute and jot down the three things I need to accomplish the next day in my business. I can list more items in a general to-do list but my list for the day can only be three things.
For example, it might be draft a post, respond to emails, and send over the social links for a campaign.
There is something about the human brain and the number three that makes it easier to remember and focus on.
Then, the next day, whenever I have time to work, I can ONLY work on those three things until they’re done.
I used to spend so much time at my computer “being productive,” filling my time with things that were helpful for my blog but not THE thing that I needed to be working on.
With this method I find I get more sleep, spend more quality time with my family, and do better work.
Also, I FEEL so much more productive because, more often than not, I can finish all the tasks I set for myself each day. Once those three things are done I move down my to-do list or onto other things that will make tomorrow’s list if I don’t finish them right now. Feeling productive makes me more likely to sit down and start the next day so it’s a self-feeding cycle and I love it.
Consider Your Distractions:
When Adelaide was first born, I was uncomfortable leaving her with anyone for extended periods of time so I hired a nanny for a few hours a week to come watch the kids in our home while I worked down the hall. I could hear everything going on and I loved that. I could step in and help if Adelaide kept crying and I didn’t have to worry that she wouldn’t settle for someone else.
For me, I knew I would be more distracted working from a coffee shop where I would wonder if everything was okay than from my bedroom when I could hear when anything wasn’t.
As Adelaide got older and I got more confident in our nanny’s ability to handle both kids (and not kidnap them), it became more distracting to be home than to be out. So, I started working from Panera or the library once a week.
Being aware of what distracts me and keeping that in check as I plan my work situation has been a huge help.
Have focused time:
I know, I just said I don’t use designated work hours but, I do make sure I have some focused time a few times a week where I know I can accomplish bigger tasks or plow through a to-do list without interruptions. This might be when the nanny comes over for two hours or Ben takes the kids to the gym in the morning. It might be after I’ve put the kids to bed for the night or waking up a few hours before they do in the morning.
not just nap time
I try not to let my only focused time be nap-time because it seems that my kids can tell when a big deadline is coming up and that is the day they won’t fall asleep, or wake up an hour earlier than I’m expecting.
setting an end time
If my focused time is in the evening I like to set an end time with something to look forward to, like watching a show with Ben or enjoying a popsicle and a podcast on my own. There were a lot of nights last year, while Ben was working an overnight shift, that I just sat at my desk for hours and hours, getting less and less done, but pretending I was working. I find I could push through more attempts at distraction if I had an end time in mind with something I was excited about.
Sometimes though, the work just piles up, or I am so excited about an upcoming project and I would just need to work ’till 1 am.
But, overall, I try not to be willing to sabotage my happiness and productivity the next day for one late night.
Fuel your body:
One thing I’ve found that really helps with focused work is food.
I find I am much more productive in my pajamas with the right snack than I am all dressed up at my desk with a growling stomach.
Making sure I’m not hungry when I start focused work time is vital.
And if I need an extra boost, I’ll take a new ZonePerfect® Revitalize for Mental Focus bar in Hot Chocolate Marshmallow or grab a drink of Taka (my favorite clean energy option). The first time I tried one I just liked how it tasted ….and then knocked out the most productive hour of writing that I’d had in weeks.
What are some of your tips for working from home?
What did I miss?
Blogging is so much harder then people realize. Just getting traffic and loyal readers alone seems overwhelming. If you have established a point where you can make money blogging then you know lots of hard work has paid off. Also, totally unrelated, but I just posted a kid friendly smoothie recipe using cauliflower you may want to check out. My blog is aimed at posting healthy recipes that are quick and I do talk about stuff we can all relate to as moms.
I’m sending your link to my daughter. She’s recently become a SAHM and her biggest complaint is being non-productive because of my grand daughter. She just needs to learn your tips.
These are all awesome tips! I’m finishing my last year of my Bachelor’s starting next month, and I have my blog and everything, so time management has been on my mind A LOT over the last few weeks. I’m definitely going to have to set some work hours/time, and just honor them and get focused!
These are great tips! I just started blogging a few months ago and sometimes I find it difficult to sit down and focus. I try to utilize our babysitter but then I feel guilty.