Working at home tests all of your skills, especially time management and organization (and patience if you still have young children at home). Our time is at a premium as we struggle to balance work, play, and family. Sometimes, it’s enough to drive you crazy! But working at home can also be incredibly rewarding, especially once you’re organized, focused, and working efficiently! Here are 8 Tips for Staying Sane When Working at Home that will help you get organized, focused, working efficiently, and manage the interruptions we deal with all too often when working at home.
8 Tips for Staying Sane When Working at Home
The first 6 of these 8 Tips for Staying Sane When Working at Home address a few of the organization struggles that crop up when working at home. These struggles can drive you nuts and ruin your work at home experience, but there’s help and solutions!
The final two tips address the “interruption” problem when you’re trying to work at home and your kids are home, too.
#1 Have a Dedicated Space in Your Home for Your Home Office
Preferably with a door that closes…and locks.
My Office and Door…That Locks 🙂
Just kidding. Sort of.
Having a dedicated space for work makes life so much easier! First, there’s the physical piece of having everything in one place and within a few steps of your chair.
Second, there are the mental and emotional pieces. Having a dedicated place to work helps to signal your brain and your emotions that when you sit down in that one chair at that one desk, it’s time to get busy.
This same psychology can be applied to your kids, too: “When mom or dad is sitting in her/his work chair at her/his work desk, she’s/he’s working and can’t be disturbed.”
It’s subtle, but when used regularly it can work for you and your kids.
The door is nice when you have to quit work in the middle of a big project and either don’t have time to clear your desk or don’t want to put it all away just to drag it out again 3 hours later when it’s nap time.
It’s also nice when you need a little extra quiet or focus.
I also have a post with 8 steps that will help you keep your home office organized: Organize Your Home Office in 8 Steps.
#2 Keep Business and Personal Records Separate
I have a cheap two drawer filing cabinet that sits on one wall of my office. It contains all of our personal files (although, we’re working on going paperless…more on that later). I also have a file drawer in my desk where I keep all of my business files.
That way, I have the same break between my files as I do my work space. It helps to create order and separation. Two very important things when you work at home.
Need help sorting through the paper piles before you can get started on the filing part? Here’s the first in a series of posts on dealing with your paper piles: Finding a Place for Your Papers to Call Home.
#3 Create an Efficient Filing System That Works for You
There are thousands of filing systems out there. Find one that works for you and work that system.
For a long time, I’ve used hanging files, a “To File” box, and an hour set aside each week to file. It has worked well for me….
Up until now.
My business is expanding locally, and I’m scheduling more in-person meetings. I’ve also been traveling a little with my job (conferences of clients, educational conferences). It’s difficult to anticipate what I’ll need when I’m working away from my home office, and I’ve found it’s much easier, simpler, and incredibly convenient to have all of my documents scanned and filed in Evernote. I never forget anything, and I always have my entire filing cabinet at hand.
Going paperless isn’t for everyone.
The important piece is to find a system and work that system. Regularly!
However, if you do decide to go paperless, I highly recommend The Paperless Home by Donnie & Abby Lawson.
It walks you through the steps, talks through tech and hardware, and much more. I read it through once and have referred to it often as we’ve begun our paperless journey. Now that I’m ready to move to the next step, I’m reading it again.
#4 Use Your Calendar and Check It Often
This is the one place where I break my “Rule of Separation” (yes, it’s an actual rule…at least in my mind). 🙂
A calendar is the perfect place for storing all kinds of information: activities, meetings, appointments, to-do’s, deadlines, school activities, etc. And by having all of that information in one place, you won’t lose any of it.
I like to color code my calendar, that way I can take in a day, a week, or a month with just a glance. I use a different color for each member of my family, including our family pets. Birthdays and anniversaries have an assigned color. And I use a specific color for my blog and Virtual Assistant work.
But the most important part of this tip is the last part: Check It Often. All of that recording and color coding won’t do me a bit of good if I don’t look at my calendar and look at it regularly, like multiple times a day.
We’ve done a lot of work on our calendar habit, so much so that we started saving hours a day with just this one tool. Read more here.
And for those of you pen freaks, like me, these are my favorite calendar color coding pens!
#5 Use a Tickler File for To-Do’s and Long-Term Projects
The Tickler File is a concept that’s been around for a long time. It’s a file box and file folders labeled with the months and numbers 1-31. It’s a way to spread out and assign to-do’s to specific days.
I use mine in that way, but where the Tickler File really shines for me is when I use it as a place to store ongoing projects and all of the associated paperwork that goes along with that project.
For example, when I was preparing for my recent rebrand, I had a “Rebrand” file in the front of my Tickler File. That file held all of my rebrand notes, fonts, colors, logo ideas, category and post brainstorming, etc. So, instead of having a pile of papers on my desk or the shelf behind it, I could stow it in the file box when I wasn’t using it and just pull it out during the times I worked on my rebrand.
Not only does it help to keep me organized, it keeps my desk organized and decluttered, too.
I’ll be sharing more about how to set up and use a Tickler File next week.
Snag a FREE printable To-Do List in this post, and find out how my timer saves my sanity!
#6 Use a Project Planner for Big or Ongoing Projects
This tip relates to the one above. I always keep a project planner in my ongoing project files in my Tickler File. It’s where I keep track of all of the to-do’s, notes, websites, and materials I need for that ongoing project. I never have to search for that sticky note or envelope that I scribbled that hex code on, because it’s all on the Project Planner.
To help you get started, I’m sharing the project planner that I use with you!
#7 Make Use of a Do Not Disturb Sign
Now, we’re getting into the “interruption struggles” that always arise when you’re working at home. Kids simply don’t understand that although mom or dad is home, she or he actually is working.
But I’ve found something that helps. It seems simplistic, but a visual reminder to not disturb you can be really helpful for your kids. Especially during summer vacation…when the kids are home all. the. time!
Unless your kids are toddlers or younger, you can teach them that at a certain time, mom or dad can’t be disturbed. It is an ongoing process. Even with teenagers, I have to give my kids a visual reminder that they can’t come into my office and talk to me whenever they want to.
BTW, I can sit next to them at the kitchen table or on the couch for hours, and they won’t say a word to me. But the minute I go into the office and shut the door, they have a thousand things that they have to tell me right. now!
I find it helpful to post a couple of signs on my office door: “Do Not Disturb” and a “I’ll be done working at….”
To make it super easy on you, I’ve included a printable “Do Not Disturb” sign for your office.
Don’t have an actual office at home? Maybe you work at the dining room table? #BeenThere #DoneThat
Try wearing headphones and posting the sign in front of your desk or where it blocks the path to get to you.
And make sure you give your hard-working self a little extra support with essential oils and a diffuser! I have a list of my favorite diffuser recipes and how they support me while I’m working in this post!
#8 Establish Work Hours
For yourself. You’re more focused and efficient, because you can see that you only have 2 hours to get those two posts written and edited.
Here’s a printable for you to use to record your work hours.
Since my kids are older, I find it helpful to post my office hours on my door. That way, if they’re dying to ask me if they can go to the movie with their BFF, they know that they’ll have plenty of time to talk to me before it’s too late.
It’s helpful for me, too, because I’m not as tempted to blow off my “quitting time,” keep working, and end up grumps, because I didn’t have time to spend with the kids, clean the house, do the laundry, walk the dogs, do my yoga, etc.
Here’s the printable I use to display my quitting time. I put it in a plastic page protector and use a Vis-a-Vis Marker to record my quitting time.
And those are my 8 Tips for Staying Sane When Working at Home!
There are many struggles when working at home, but there are also many, many benefits.
Hopefully, these tips will help you balance the two, manage your time, stay organized, and help to keep you and your kids sane.
Thanks for hanging out with me today here at Calyx and Corolla!