In the world of a busy work-from-home parent, there’s always a priority list. I’ve been known to say the phrase, “I can only handle one thing at a time, kids” more than once in any given day. And I stick to that one-thing-at-a-time rule as much as I can, checking off items down the priority list. Usually it’s something like, #1 – feed children, #2 – drive children to school, #3 – fold the laundry, #4 – take the dog out… the list goes on.
It’s not a bad system since it does keep me organized and on task. The bad news is that sometimes the stuff closest to the bottom of that list is the stuff I like the most. Like writing.
Now I don’t have all the answers, and what works for me might not always work for you, but I’ve tried to make my writing more of a priority in my day-to-day life. Sometimes, you need to be creative. Sometimes, you need to be firm with yourself. And sometimes, you just need to give yourself a break.
Here are a few of the strategies I’ve been using to make sure I get enough time to work on my fiction:
It IS possible to have a work-from-home career and take care of the kids, the pets, and the housework. It’s all about balance and finding what works for you. What strategies do you use to get reach your own writing goals every week?
I’m a freelance writer. In modern day America, that looks like this: every week, I write as many blogs/articles/content pieces as possible so I get paid. I work for a handful of online sites on a rolling basis, so the more I work, the more I get paid. Pretty sweet, or at least it would be, if I had enough time to really write to my full potential.Unfortunately, I don’t.
It’s great to work this way, because a really productive week means I’ll be earning some extra money. The problem, however, is that I sometimes become so focused on that dollar amount, that my brain starts to eat itself. I’ve discovered, during all the years I've been working from home, that every once in a while I’ve got to unplug.
I know the signs right away, too. I’m in the middle of writing or researching sometime and Boom! I’m surfing mindlessly, checking book sales, refreshing Facebook, scouring Twitter for something meaningful to retweet. I’m wasting time. I don’t really waste that much time when I’m really working. I’ve got my “internet rounds” that I make a few times a day, but then I get right down to business when they’re done. When it’s time for me to take a break, those rounds really do start to go round and round and round.
Eventually, I get dizzy.
Sometimes I can get a LOT of work done in a week before I hit that point. Other weeks, I’m fried by Tuesday. Bad news, right? Not always…
I write about this today, because it took me a little while to learn how to listen to that voice that’s telling me to quit. Once I figured it out, and learned that I needed to stand up and shut the laptop, then go do something else… well, my life got easier. I wasn’t fighting for every word, sentence, and paragraph. I got up and walked away. And when I was ready, I came back.
During those weeks that I burn out by Tuesday, I’m usually ready to hit the keys extra hard on Friday or Saturday. Sure, it’s a bummer to spend my weekend working, but the work is better quality, takes less time, and is often larger in quantity too.
The lesson here, and it is related to yoga, is that you have to listen to yourself. Your body and mind tell you what they can handle. If you’re listening, and you’re totally in tune with the message, the stress goes away. The less I stress, the more work I do. And the happier my mind is.
Now, I’m not trying to ostracize anyone here, but I’m going to make a bold statement: Being a work-at-home parent is a tough gig. You've got all the perks and all the drawbacks of being a stay-at-home parent AND a working parent. It's tough to remember to come up for air sometimes. Here's the way I see it...
It doesn't matter what your work life looks like, though, because any kind of parenting has plenty of stress attached to it. There’s nothing easy about it at all. Despite all the exhausting challenges, though, I don’t think I’d have it any other way. My work-at-home lifestyle is best for me for many different reasons, but it does come with a price: incredible amounts of stress. Plus, related stress headaches, stress-induced binge eating, long nights and early mornings with little sleep, and the like. It ain’t pretty.
But for moms like me, who have to work for extra income but still can’t afford daycare, how can it all be done? I’m still working out the details myself, but here are some of the little tips I’ve picked up along the way in my nearly 8 years of writing and momming at the same time.
#1 – Schedule Your Time
Admittedly, I can’t always stick to my plans but I make them anyway and then I try my damnedest to make them happen. When you know that you are going to work from 1-3 pm today, you can spend the morning focused on your kids, running your errands, or taking care of odds and ends around the house. Plus, when that scheduled time rolls around, and you’ve trained yourself to respect it, you can flip modes easily and get right into your work.
#2 – Take Some Time
As tempting as it is for me to start power-writing as soon as the kids’ heads hit their pillows, I have to take some time off once in a while. Everyone else gets downtime; so why would work-at-home parents deserve any less? I like to make Tuesday my “Sunday” as my husband says. It’s a day without deadlines that I can relax and recoup; it’s the perfect way to get ready to start off a new week of work.
#3 – Have Family Time
You can’t live your life in black and white: when the kids are awake and when they aren’t. When your kids are awake, it’s not just “other task” time, it should be an opportunity to enjoy your growing family and get down on the floor to color, play blocks, or make the noises for the train. I can’t do it every week, but I also try to go out on one of my husband’s kid adventures with the whole family. And what’s even better more important is that I won’t allow myself to think about work while I'm there.
#4 – Take Time to Organize
Back in the day, I just wrote until my hands hurt and sometimes I forgot to pay bills or send emails or other important things. Now, I have a sacred bullet journal that holds all my secrets… my calendar and to-do list and more. I write everything in organized little lists and keep a section devoted to each week’s workload. As I take care of things or complete writing assignments, I cross them off. It’s a simple idea but one that pays huge dividends when you’re juggling so many things.
#5 – Find Meditation Time
If you want real stress relief (not just stress minimization), the key is meditation. Keeping yourself centered through mindful meditation practices of at least 5 minutes each day can do much for your brain and body. Stress is reduced, clarity can be reached, and everything gets reset mentally. It’s like getting a fresh look at your day to day life through a sharper, cleaner lens. Don’t procrastinate this; start making time now and you won’t regret it.
What other tactics do you enjoy to help you minimize or eliminate stress from your busy life? All parents can benefit from the techniques mentioned above and I’m sure you can help me come up with more that I haven’t thought of yet!