I go to school and work from home. I'm finishing up my senior year of college (and have been for 3 years now!!!) at a slow pace through my University. This has worked great since I had my twins 3 years ago because a lot of it is done at my own pace and I can do it all from my pj's in my living room. And then, in April (I think it was April?) I got this job working for Cheeky Lime. I run the blog, social media sites and do customer service for the company. Again, it's nice because it can be done at my own pace and all from home in my pj's. However, while this set up seems ideal to some, it does come with challenges. I have two 3 year olds who need supervision and attention given to them. I have a house to manage, I have a life of my own and I have to fit in a shower every now and again, right? ;)
So, over the last few months and years, I've slowly been figuring out this "work/go to school from home thing". It's been a trial and error process and I certainly haven't been perfect with it, but I thought I'd share my top 5 tips for how I manage everything.
1. Set up a routine. I don't like the word schedule. It's always sounded so structured and confining to me, so I prefer to use routine. I do realize that some work at home jobs require an actual schedule and if you've got one of those, it's probably best to stick to it, but for me, I'm able to have a flexible routine where I can move things around as needed. Usually, every Sunday night, I sit down and look over the things I have going for the week. When are my assignments for school due? What blog posts do I have planned for the week? What days will the be posted on? I usually try to space things out so I don't have too much to do on any particular day of the week. From there, I add the most important things to my calender on my phone and get ready to hit the ground running on Monday morning.
Each morning, I usually wake up and check my email and social media sites I run. Responding to emails usually takes no longer than an hour and I can often do this before my children wake up. It's nice to have things checked off my list before they even get up. From there, the rest of the day is really flexible. If they are entertained with something and I know it will keep their attention for at least a half hour, I hop online again or pick up my text book and get to work. I try to save things that require my full attention for nap time (that's rapidly turning into "quiet time" WHY do 3 year olds insist on not napping anymore?) or for when they're in bed at the end of the night. Usually all my school work gets saved for after they go down at night because that's when I can really focus on it. But really, my routine is flexible and it's important for me to keep it that way.
2. Utilize technology. This one can sort of be a double-edged sword. I have an iPhone and by golly, I don't know where I would be without it at this point. That thing helps me SO much through out the day. Since all of my schooling and work is 100% done online, I can basically do anything I need to from my phone. I've even taken exams from my phone before! I use the Notes app to jot down ideas I have for posts, order numbers that need assistance asap, or definitions or points that I need to remember for school. I already mentioned that I use my calender app, but it's so nice to have notifications pop up through out the day reminding me of what I need to accomplish. I also use the app Wunderlist that allows me to create a list of tasks (or even grocery lists!) and check them off as I do them. I'm a visual person, so it helps to physically see the things I've done during the day and it keeps my motivation up.
3. When you're not working, don't work. This is where the other edge of the technology sword comes into play. With virtually everything at our finger tips, sometimes we feel like we have to respond to every email that comes in immediately. I was doing this for a little while, but quickly stopped for two main reasons. 1) It was harder to track my hours for work when I would respond to things here and there. and 2) I felt like I never got a break! As tempting as it is to respond the moment when Suzy asks, "When will the Classic Bag in Teal be back in stock?" sometimes those things can wait and hour or two. (*and spoiler alert!* Lots of people have been asking that and the answer is, just in time for Black Friday! Get excited!!) Now I try to make sure that if I'll be working, I have at least a half hour (but preferably an hour) to devote my attention to work/school. Anything less than that really makes me feel like I'm constantly going and not paying attention to other aspects of my life.
4. Reward yourself! Maybe this is childish of me, but I thrive on rewards. A few weeks ago, I had a really big paper due for one of my classes. I wasn't motivated to do the reading or listen to my online lecture and I certainly wasn't interested in writing the 5 page write up on it. I decided to give myself rewards with each part of the assignment that got done. When I listened to all of my lecture (which was about an hour and a half) I had a slice of pie. Once I finished about half of the reading, I caught up on a tv show we enjoy. And once the paper was done, my husband and I went on a date! Again, that might make me sound like a kid, but it really motivated me to get it done and helped to see the assignment broken up in chunks. I also try to reward myself with a legitimate weekend if I've gotten everything done during the week. Sometimes I'm not able to get everything done, so I do work on the weekend, but again, I try to be flexible with it.
5. The last tip I have is to consistently re-evaluate. One of my classes only has one due date: The last day of the semester. I've tried to come up with my own due dates, but I found that since that class was *too* flexible, I started lagging behind. And with work, I was putting in a good amount of hours, but that meant that my school and family life were being slightly neglected. I decided to slow down with work (and again, I realize that I'm lucky that I can do this) and devoted a few more hours a week to get caught up with my class. I probably wouldn't have realized I was getting behind unless I sat down and evaluated how things were going. I looked at all aspects of my life and tried to figure out if everything was in balance. I noticed where most of my energy was going and decided to scale back slightly while catching up in other areas. It really helped me to see that I had ideas for work posted on my iPhone, so I didn't have to put too much brain power into it since it was mostly already done. I feel like I've balanced things out a bit more the last few weeks and have decided that evaluating how things are going is a must if you're juggling a lot of "hats" in your life.
Do you have any other tips you would add? Obviously, I'm still learning constantly and I am pretty new to this work at home mom thing, so I would love to hear what other, more experienced women and men have to say about this topic.