What Works For Me - Guest blog by Tami B.

I'm so thrilled to have Tami B. as this Wednesday's guest blogger. We've known each other since elementary school, and it's so fun to be able to learn from this side of her life - the professional home officer side.  She was smart, witty and organized then, and she's even more so now! Enjoy!

Wife, Mother, Home Officer
From the time my son was born and my daughter was 16-months-old until they were 3 and 4, I worked part-time from home with them at home with me.

That was one of the most challenging – and exhausting – things I ever tried to do.
I often think of that time as the “Dark Years,” as I finished up a great many work “days” in a dark house at 2am.

When the opportunity came up for me to start working full time, I knew it was time to get the kiddos in preschool.
Leaving them each day was hard, but I was also a little giddy at the thought of getting to work in a quiet house. During the day!

I was working on two separate projects, so I installed a software program that would record the time I spent working on each.
During that first week of full-time work from home, I took 15 minutes here to vacuum, 10 minutes there to switch loads of laundry. Little breaks throughout the day.

At the end of the week, my house was spotless, I was the most rested I’d been in years, and I’d put a complete homemade dinner on the table every night.
On Friday afternoon I checked the totals on that time-tracking software. During my first “full time” work week, I’d actually only worked 21.5 hours.

When I really looked at how much time there was in the day, I realized that I only had 7 1/2 hours between the time I got back from dropping the kids off at school and the time I had to leave to pick them up. For a while I tried chaining myself to my desk – working all day with no breaks – just so I wouldn’t have to try to make up work time after the kids were in bed. That just made me crabby.

After a lot of trial and error, this is what I’ve figured out that works for me:

1) Starting Early
I start my work day about an hour before my kids (or husband) wake up. I’m most productive in the mornings, so this is a great time for me to answer emails or get other little tasks out of the way. When the kids wake up, they come find me, and we take time to read a story or play with Legos, so I get a break knowing that I’ve already accomplished something that day.

As an added bonus, this frees up time later in the day to do something fun with the kids or to work on a personal project. (Yeah!)

2) Have a Designated Work Space
Preferably with a door that shuts or some other way to close it off at the end of the work day. I need some separation between work and home.

I started off working on the couch with my laptop on a little table. After several months and a noticeable increase in trips to the chiropractor, I bought myself a big girl desk and an actual office chair. I also painted my office just the way I wanted and hung some of my favorite pictures. I love this room, which is good, since I spend such a large portion of my day in it.
I keep my work space pretty neat. Clutter lowers my IQ by several points.

Yes, there are 4 monitors there.

3) Have a Plan

Without the rhythm of an office and other people around, I found that it was really easy to spend the entire day at my desk answering emails, never getting to that presentation I needed to prepare, never eating lunch.

I ended up creating a flexible routine with blocks of time each day. There’s a block of time to answer emails, a block of time mid-morning for reading and research, a block of time in the afternoon for more creative tasks. I can take advantage of the flexibility I have working alone to use the time in the way that best suites me.
I also have fifteen minute blocks every day at 9am and at lunch time to do at-home things. Water the plants, start laundry, get the mail. Little breaks help make me more productive the rest of the time and keep the house stuff from getting too out of control.

 I still haven’t figured out how to make time to cook dinner that doesn’t involve food from the freezer or how to get more than six hours of sleep, but for now, this works for me.

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