One of the most challenging aspects of building up an online business – or simply working from home – has nothing to do with business at all.
It is one’s family life.
Whether you’re a parent of young children (as I am) or you’re caring for older members of your family, it can often seem like it is a distraction from your goals online.
Of course, that’s not the attitude we want to have. Our families are important – far MORE important than any blog or website. For many, spending more time with family might have been one of the original reasons for working from home in the first place.
So, it isn’t something that can be abandoned, and those who find themselves putting family on the back burner while they pursue these other online goals often end up regretting it.
The “trick” is to learn to manage it.
My Normal Day
I have been working from home for many, many years now. And for most of those years, I have had a family. We have 2 kids. And, you might think we’re nuts, but…
We also homeschool.
Both of my kids have been doing virtual school for a couple years now. They do their work in the mornings, just like normal kids. When they need help with something, they come see us. But, aside from that, they’re actually pretty good at self-managing their school.
My home office is literally right across the hall from my daughter’s bedroom. My son’s room is just a bit further down the hall. Most of our home is tiled, so the sound travels pretty well.
When the kids are having lunch in the kitchen, I hear everything quite well.
If they’re arguing over something (they’re kids and it happens), I hear all the noise.
When I need to do an Office Hours call for LAB members or record a training video, I need to go out and forewarn the family to keep their mouths shut. And surely, there are a few videos throughout the LAB where, if you listen closely enough, you just might hear my family talking.
But, I work from home. And I like it very much. And it is actually OK that my kids are also home at the same time. I manage. Some of the tips I’ll share below are how I manage it and still manage to get anything done and maintain my sanity.
Some Strategies & Tips For Working From Home (Based On A LOT Of Experience)
There are some things I’ve learned to do to keep a balance and get both done at the same time. These aren’t hard-and-fast rules – everybody is different. But, they help for me.
#1 – Maintain an off-limits work space.
Ideally, you will have a work space which is just for that purpose: WORK. Ideally, you will not work in your bedroom or in a common area.
My home office is a separate room. I even decorated it differently from the rest of the house, so it even looks different in some ways. My kids know that if I have my door closed, do not come in. If the door is open, come in if you actually need me. But, otherwise, treat me as if I am at work.
#2 – Keep a schedule.
When you’re employed and working a regular job in an office, it is easy to romanticize the idea of working from home. You get to set your own schedule and set your own rules. Right?
In reality, though, if you treat it like a “free for all”, things fall apart. When you don’t have a boss setting your rules for you, it means YOU need to set some rules and impose them on yourself.
It is important to keep a work schedule and stick to it. Take the time to actually plan and schedule your day. I have found good success when I set “appointments” with myself. Even if it is time to work on the next blog post, I put it on my calendar and treat it as an appointment.
#3 – Schedule your “off” time.
This is the reverse side of the prior tip. You MUST have “off” time when you purposely do not think about your business.
You don’t want to be sitting there playing with your kids while your mind is REALLY in your office. It is really easy (especially as an entrepreneur) to be sitting there thinking about business issues or coming up with ideas even when you’re not in your office. Or sit there in bed at night reading business-related stuff on your phone.
But, that isn’t fair to your family. And it isn’t fair to you, either. We all need “off” time. We need time to NOT work. It is important.
You’ve got to learn to turn it off like a switch. If you know you’ve got set work time, then make sure you also have time where you give yourself permission to simply stop and be present for other things.
#4 – Invest in Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Even with the door closed in my office, it is hard not to hear what’s going on out in the house. And yes, it can be distracting.
One of the best investments I ever made in my business is a pair of Bose QuietComfort 35 Noise Cancelling Headphones. In fact, I’m wearing them as I write this very post. 🙂
I spend a lot of my time working wearing these things and listening to Google Music. You can listen to whatever kind of music floats your boat. But, it really aids in concentration and the kids can make almost any noise they want and I won’t hear a thing.
Best things ever.
#5 – Be Accountable To Your Time
It is all too easy when you’re working from home to have your time go by and nothing much happened. You sit there “working” only to be at the end of it and wonder what you actually accomplished.
Many times, this is because you were not exercising any focus on your time. You were bouncing around browser tabs, checking your email (for the 10th time), checking on Facebook, etc.
And it is really easy to do stuff like that when you’re not focused on a particular outcome.
I have a few tips below that go along with handling this, but one very important strategy (in my opinion) is to hold yourself actually accountable to the fact that time is ticking by. Here’s how I do it:
It is a simple desktop timer utility that sit there in my toolbar. This is called Be Focused (in the Mac App Store), but there are a bunch of these things out there.
With this app, I can work in batches. I use batches of 50-minutes. When I sit down to work, I start that timer. The timer sits there and counts down in my toolbar. It will beep really loud when it is done.
While that timer is ticking, I am full-focus on whatever I am working on at the time. I do NOT check my email. I do NOT check Facebook. I do NOT get up and refill my coffee. I just… focus.
And once it beeps, I give myself permission to screw off for a bit. And over the course of the day, I will shoot for at least 5 of these focus sessions. That’s how I do it.
Now, a VERY important component of these focus sessions working is the next tip:
#6 – Be ruthlessly clear on your outcomes.
When you are working at home as your own boss, you cannot simply “go to work”. In some regular office jobs, it is easy to screw around. Some say that the average worker only gets about 3 hours of actual work done in a full-time day. Yet, the salary check still comes.
If you are self-employed, that’s not very workable. Your paycheck is not guaranteed. Even if you work less than 8 hours during the day, it is important that those work hours are actually productive. You need to make it count.
The absolute most important thing I have found is to separate planning from execution. In other words, when you are figuring out WHAT to do, you do that as a separate thing. You go into “planning mode”. But then…
When it is time to work… you WORK. You don’t sit there figuring out what to do. You’ve already done that. You just…. DO IT.
This means you need to be really clear on your outcomes. You need to be able to NAME the outcome you’re shooting for as specifically as possible. Only THEN do you start your timer and get busy with it.
#7 – Perform “just in time learning”.
One of the biggest “time sucks” can easily be… learning.
That might sound weird to say. And yes, learning is VERY important. If you want to accomplish something you don’t know how to do, you need to learn.
However, many people also do a lot of aimless reading. They keep reading blog posts. Or participating in topical social media groups. It is easy to justify this by saying that you’re learning and preparing. But, it is also easy to get “stuck” in that mode. The result is that you spend time reading and watching videos, but little actual RESULTS come from it.
I think the answer is “just in time learning”. It’s very simple: You spend time learning ONLY the things which are relevant to the next step of your plan. And that’s it.
As an example, if you’re in the early stages of building an online business from scratch, then you have certain things to focus on. If you see some course being advertised on how to do some advanced marketing strategy (like webinars), then… ignore it.
And yes that means that you don’t go collecting courses and training so you have it later. 🙂 Don’t worry, you will never have a shortage of information when the time comes that you need it.
Just in time learning takes discipline. But, trust me, it works.
I’ll end off with this…
The success you seek is preceded by an attitude. This attitude isn’t one which must come inherently (although for some it does). It can simply be adopted.
That attitude is a focus on goals and of whatever it takes to get there…. RATHER than a focus on the barriers.
There WILL be barriers. Whether it be family or something else, this journey WILL have barriers. If it weren’t kinda hard, everybody would be doing it already.
But, don’t dwell on them. Don’t ever sit there and lament your lack of time due to your family or your job. Lamenting it only makes you unhappy. It CREATES unhappiness for yourself, and whether you know it or not, only YOU create your own emotions. Your emotions are not a result of the environment. Only you can cause them.
SO… view it as a game. That’s what it is.
Just like a quarterback has to get past the force of the defensive line and predict the right amount of effort to get the football to the receiver, so must you learn to get past those things which are in your way.
There is ALWAYS a way to make it work.
Family is important. For many of us, it is the REASON we do what we do. So, let’s not look at it as a barrier. Let’s change our minds and instead implement some sound policies where you can do both.