The school term creates a strict 5-day-a-week routine on the household and it's one I've learned to embrace as a work-from-home mum.
The pace of my early motherhood years was rhythmic; we didn't need to be anywhere at any time so we floated from one activity to the next. At the time it worked wonderfully for us; I was teaching a few yoga classes a week, occasionally blogging and generally just relishing in new motherhood. It was beautiful in theory but not conducive to productivity.
When Che was three I started working from home and productivity was necessary. I may have grieved the loss of spontaneous days when he started school but over the years I've discovered that the 9-3 school day creates a very rigid time frame for me to work. Some may find this rigidity to be stifling but I'm not ashamed to admit that it suits me. In fact, I'm not sure how I would work without it.
My work load has increased significantly over the past year (professionally and domestically) - subsequently I've had to be pretty strict with my time and how I use it. In the process I've accepted that I'm not a Type-A highly organised person. But with realisation comes necessary change and I've discovered a few ways to get the work done without inflicting too much pressure on myself or the family.
Here's how I juggle work and motherhood and manage to make deadline:
- seize free time : regardless of whether it's 10 minutes or one whole, glorious hour, I leave everything else behind and attempt to get some words on the page. In these instances I'm really aware of my mind and my mouse wandering so I literally have to repeat "focus, focus, focus" to ensure I stay on task. Spontaneous work time, just like scheduled work time, requires a very clear goal so I'll choose one task and work on it till it's complete (or till my time is up). It's stolen time used productively....small steps towards completion.
- done is better than good : Elizabeth Gilbert completely shifted my mindset with her simple yet profound advice in Big Magic. Perfectionism is such an unrealistic goal, especially for creative mothers working from home. Thinking back over the past few years I spent far too much time and energy (and angst!) attempting to create perfection with every story and photo. In retrospect my lofty goals inhibited an efficient work practise. Now I just get the words down or the photo edited and while I care greatly about the flow of the sentences and the colour grade, I prefer (for my own wellbeing and sanity) to just. get. it. done!
- stay on top of emails and paperwork : the behind-the-scenes of working from home needs to be addressed regularly so you can maintain some semblance of organisation. Knowing the paperwork is done, so to speak, allows you to get on with work with a clear head (I'm really good at ignoring the pile of dishes that sit solemnly beside the sink). I set aside twenty minutes every day to send emails and delete the junk. Every few months I make sure I go through my email subscriptions with a fine tooth comb - newsletters that appear in my inbox but never get opened are just time wasters (for fast deleting go visit unroll.me). Because I work as a freelancer I also need to keep my invoices and receipts in order - I do this once a week.
- start your day productively : a slow start can often mean little progress (speaking from experience). I find that an early morning walk is the best way for me to start my working day. I push the pram with gusto and spend the forty minutes of quiet running through my to-do list, sprouting story ideas and thinking ahead for the week. If I can cross exercise off my list by 7:30am I'm rearing to get everything else done, too. For me, exercise creates mental space - I'm a lot less likely to be wracked by indecision, angst or doubt if I exercise before I create.
- accept that balance is not always attainable (but juggling is possible) : I schedule specific work time into my week but it's not always enough (the freelance gig is often a drought/flood scenario). When I'm swamped with work I've learned to accept that the house will turn to chaos - there's just no other way around it. It's just not possible for me to stay on top of housework and look after the children and meet all the deadlines. So, messy house = busy work week, relatively clean house = quiet work week. Sometimes I'll type while holding a baby and answering pre-schooler questions, at other times I'll hide in the laundry just to get the urgent editorial done. Just like I schedule work time I also schedule down time. Working from home means the line between work and home is very, very blurry - indecipherable, even. Scheduling downtime is essential to maintaining some distinction between work and play.