Recently, my two-year-old daughter decided to give up her afternoon nap; that wonderful two – three-hour break in my day, where I could work uninterrupted and drink a cup of coffee in peace and quiet.
With this valuable time now gone, but the workload remains the same, I decided to try working in the afternoons while my daughter had “quiet time,” a chunk of time where I set her up with books, educational DVDs, paint and other projects while I worked.
Well, it seemed to be working fine.
But then, a few weeks ago, I went to Washington, D.C. to visit a friend; I arrived at the airport only to find out that I had lost my credit card! In a panic, I called my husband and asked him to look around the house and call the grocery store where I had last used it. Long story short, my husband told my daughter that they needed to look for mommy’s credit card. She looked at him and said, “Oh” and immediately went to the location where she had put it! At some point in time, she had gone into my wallet and taken it.
I was so relieved that my card had not been stolen. I told my husband, “That’s pretty funny that she took it out of my wallet; I didn’t even see her take it out.” His response was, “Well, you’re working all the time — you’re going to miss things.” Heartbreak right then and there! My work was getting in the way of my most important job, being a good mother. The whole reason I decided to work from home in the first place was so that I could spend time with my precious daughter!
So what do you do when work time creeps into family time?
Here are some modifications I’ve been using to help me create a better work-life balance.
1. I’ve slowed things down
In the beginning, I started working at home so that I could spend quality time with my daughter. Yes, I want my business to succeed and grow; but I have decided to take a small step back and let it grow at a slower pace. I figure there will be enough time in the future for aggressively growing my business when she is in school full-time. You only get to experience these young, tender years with your children once – take advantage of them.
2. Better balance
To help create a better work-life balance, I enrolled my daughter in a mother’s day out program, two days a week from 9 AM to 2 PM. This gives me a good chunk of time to work while someone is attentive to her needs. It’s also a wonderful chance for her to socialize with other children.
3. I’m in control of my email
I’ve stopped letting email control my life. I now schedule times to read my email. I check it once in the morning and once in the afternoon. If you only answer emails at set times, you save yourself from being distracted, and you can completely focus on the task at hand. I have also noticed that I tend to use email and social networking as a crutch for when I have writer’s block – not a good use of time.
4. Outside help
I am using posts from guest bloggers. Not only does this free some time up for me to write quality posts, but it also helps to diversify and bring new ideas and insight from other sources.
5. Ask for help
When I am feeling stressed out, I ask for help. This may come in the form of me asking my husband to pick up takeout for dinner, asking my parents to watch my daughter while I get some work done, or using a virtual assistant to do a few extra tasks.
6. Prioritize everything
I have prioritized my tasks. Each night I create a to-do for the next day, I number each task in order of priority, and then I cross each off once it is completed. Prioritizing tasks maximizes your most effective and creative energy for your work that requires the most effort and concentration. For me, this period is used for writing blog posts. In the afternoon when I’m feeling less inspired, I work on emails, social networking, and smaller tasks that don’t require as much focus.
7. Meal planning
I have started using a menu planning system. Each week a new menu and shopping list are delivered right to my inbox. I simply print it out and head to the grocery store. There’s no thinking about what to make, no searching online for recipes, it’s all been done for me. Besides being a huge time saver, it has also helped me to save money at the grocery store because my shopping is now more focused. The recipes are delicious, kid-friendly and easy to make.
8. Special time
I make sure to plan a special activity for my daughter and me to do each week. Whether it’s going on a play-date, baking cookies, or going to the park or pool, I make sure that we do something special each week.
9. Quitting time
Lastly, when the clock strikes five, the computer goes off, and it stays off! Evening time is our family time where we have dinner and spend quality time together.
What do you do, when work time creeps into family time? How do you manage to put your family first?