When I’d tell people that I worked from home, they’d immediately express their excitement and jealousy.
“So you get to lounge around in your pajamas all day, huh?” they’d tease. “It must be nice to make your own schedule and be able to stay home with the kids.”
They had no clue about how my days actually went — that every day was not a virtual “day off.” Or that sometimes, those days at home with the kids and the laundry weren’t always so jolly and there was no such thing as “lounging around” — PJs or not. In fact, many days, I worked harder than I ever worked on a 9-5.
Despite the fact that my family knew that I worked from home, they had a hard time accepting the “work” part —- all they knew was that I was home. So, initially, there were constant interruptions and complaints.
“You’re always so busy,” my husband said one night. “We never get to do anything fun. I thought you were doing this so you’d have more time for us?”
He was right. I was super busy. I didn’t have time to go to the park during those beautiful spring days. My entire days were spent on the computer — working… and working…
My life was completely out of balance. I had to do something to fix it.
1. Set work hours and stick to them
The first thing that I had to do was define my work hours and actually work during those hours – only during those hours. I had to start the day when I said would and stop taking extra breaks for coffee or to gaze out the window or to watch an episode of Judge Mathis…
I had to approach my day with the same diligence that I’d give at any other job.
That was hard at first, because there always seemed to be emergencies after I’d shut down for the day. Clients would send me urgent emails or text messages — I couldn’t just ignore them, right?
I learned that when I shared my work hours with my clients, they were less likely to expect me to jump right at that moment. Most of them were okay when I told them that I’d have to get back to them the next morning.
It doesn’t matter which hours you work, as long as you define them. They can be spread out throughout the day. Just find what works for you.
2. Work during school hours
I found that I was most productive when I worked while the kids were gone to school. It was difficult to adjust at first because I prefer working at night, but I had to make a drastic change to keep up with my clients’ demands.
I couldn’t work late and sleep late every day. Only occasionally, when I had a pressing deadline, would I work after I’d put the kids to bed, but I reserved this time for critical projects only.
3. Work when your spouse works
Sometimes, it’s not the kids begging for attention, but your spouse. It’s difficult to get anything done when someone wants to talk and spend time with you. To avoid neglecting your spouse, try working when they work or when they are out running errands.
4. Work when the babies (or your spouse) sleeps
A house is never more quiet than when babies and spouses are asleep. So try scheduling your work around nap times and then either stay up late after they’ve gone to bed or get up extra early while they are still asleep. This is a tricky one to navigate, but it can work if you are determined.
5. Plan ahead for time off
Yes, a freelancer is the master of his or her own schedule, but don’t get tempted to take days off on a whim, just because you feel like it. Plan ahead for days when the kids will be home for school holidays such as spring and winter breaks.
Plan your vacations or days off to coincide with your family’s days off so that you can enjoy those days with them. If you can afford to take additional days off after that, go ahead.
6. Have a plan for out of town guests
I’m guilty of being the most boring host ever! My family came from out of town to visit and for most of the week, I was glued to my computer. I had a serious deadline to meet and no matter how well I thought I could pull it off, I failed miserably at keeping them entertained while I worked.
Develop a plan ahead of time for how you will handle out of town guests — they didn’t come all that way to watch you work.
The key is to keep them so busy that they don’t have time to get bored and to give you enough time to get your essential tasks completed.
You might think, this is an awful lot of trouble to go through. After all, freelancers are supposed be able to set their own schedules right? Why should you let your family dictate your hours? Because they are your family and you love them and they are the reason you work so hard in the first place.
Kiesha Easley is the owner of WeBlogBetter, a blog that offers writing, social media and blog tips. She’s recently published a blogging guide, 10 Week Gameplan for a Top 100k Blog. Follow her on Twitter @WeBlogBetter or Facebook.