The Power of Routine (and other tips for folks who work at home)

Agenda

My #1 tip for being a successful entrepreneur while working from home (with or without kids) is to follow a routine. 

My routine is everything.  Working at home and raising children simultaneously calls for a flexible yet effective routine to manage work tasks, personal tasks, and family life.  When it comes to keeping a list of all my to-dos for the day, I rely on a great site called Remember the Milk.  For scheduling activities and dividing up my time each week, I use Google Calendar.

Here are some tips for having a successful work-at-home career:

– Treat your work-at-home job just like an outside-the-home job

– Get housework done early so it’s out of the way

– Find a system for email and task management that works for you

– Allow some flexibility in your routine but also create some limits for how many hours/days per week you will work

– Remember to take breaks and get away from the computer

– Don’t waste time socializing when you should be working

 

6:30a: Get ready to “go to work.”  Wake up, make coffee, take a shower, get dressed.  It’s a mental thing really but it works.  Do everything you would do if you worked outside the home.  When it’s time to start working, I plop down in a comfortable spot where I can call my office.  I’ll sip my coffee and collect my thoughts for the day.  I begin my work day by checking emails, facebook, and twitter updates.  By the time my coffee is gone, it’s time to start writing.

*A note about email management: I get a fair amount of emails and I usually respond immediately if I can.  There are some other people who have clever ways of managing their email by categorizing or color coding them as they come in and responding during designated periods of time. For me, if I can respond within a few minutes, I will just to get it out of my inbox.

7:30-9:30a: Researching & Writing I.  The content I write on a daily basis takes about 1 to 1.5 hours to complete a single article, including time for research.  I will write 2-3 articles before stopping.  I regularly contribute to wiseGEEK – a place where people can get brief and accurate answers to common questions.

9:30a: Break time I.  I take two one-hour breaks throughout the day to get a load of laundry going, run the dishwasher, and make any non-work-related phone calls.  I can pay my bills during this time if needed.  One of my favorite things to do at break time is play with my son.  I sometimes call this “Owen hour” so he knows it’s all about him and he has my full, undivided attention.  When break time is approaching its end, I have to give him a 10- and 5-minute warning so he knows mommy has to get back to work.  It’s tough for him to understand since he’s only 4 years old.

10:30a-1:30p: Researching & Writing II.  If I have any special work I have to get done for a specific client, this is the time I use.  If I don’t have any specific client assignments, I will write another 2-3 articles for my contributions to wiseGEEK.  By the time 1:30 rolls around, I have 4-6 articles completely researched, written, proofread, and submitted to wiseGEEK (or my client).

1:30p: Break time II. This break time coincides with lunch time.  On a perfect day, I will prepare a nutritious lunch for me and mini-me and we will read together or play after we eat.  Although I haven’t done this yet, I’d love to use some of this time to do some physical activity like yoga, walking, or stretching.  Good for the body and good for the soul.  I find it’s best to get some time away from the computer periodically throughout the day.

2:30-6:30p:  Advertising.  This part of my day is probably the most fun. I get involved with the wedding crowd on Twitter and Facebook and I check out what everyone is working on.  A lot of the time is spent networking, emailing, and working with new advertisers.  I get to put on my creative hat which is very different from the writing assignments I do with wiseGEEK where I’m all about science.  Call me a renaissance girl if you want but I love the contrast.

 6:30p: Dinner time.  Sometimes dinner gets pushed back an hour and that’s ok.  I try not to work more than 10 hours per day (including the two 1-hour breaks) and 40 hours per week.  A perfect week means I’ll only work 4 days!  Sometimes that really happens, other times I’m working a few hours each day M-F.  I avoid working weekends all together unless I’ve really fallen behind during the week.

The remainder of the evening is perfect for working out, blogging, and extra side-projects.  I treat this job like a regular outside-the-home job, so I set my work hours and I stick to them.  Whenever you are “off,” you get to do whatever you want to do.  Watch TV, take a relaxing bath, get my hair done, wash the car, go shopping, whatever pleases me.  I’m a mom though, so this time is often spent doing whatever everyone else wants me to do but when everyone else goes to bed, I have my “me-time!”

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