I've tried the "Here is a stack of puzzles, now mommy is going to catch up on all her e-mails!" trick so many times. It has worked… once…for five minutes. Ok, it doesn't work! My daughter can sense when she doesn't have mommy's undivided attention, and she'll immediately start pleading with me to "come play" or " go hide and seek"! I've come up with a few solutions to that dilemma. Here is how I am attempting to peacefully balance my work and family life, which is all happening constantly under the same little roof.
Mine are as follows:
Early morning: I am not a morning person, but If I can commit to waking up at least one hour before my daughter, I can usually respond to all the important e-mails that came in overnight, get a start on the projects that need to be completed that day, and make a solid to-do list for the day.
Nap time: I usually get an hour and a half to myself during nap time. If this time isn't spent chugging a cup of semi-warm coffee, eating a meal made for adults, or taking a nap myself, it's amazing the amount of work I can get done in that time! I usually take care of phone calls during this hour and check back on my e-mails. However, if that work can wait, I've found that the napping hour is most productive when dedicated to the non-career oriented work that needs to be done, such as paying bills, arguing with AT&T, forgetting to schedule dentist appointments, etc.
Bedtime: Basically, once the little one is out, my workday is on! The key to not staying up all night is planning ahead, having a clear goal of deadlines and dividing up the "must do" work into a realistic amount for one evening. Of course, there needs to be an allotted time for Netflix binging before bed, too.
It's definitely not always possible to finish all my work in these allotted times. When that's the case, I'll set aside things I can get done when my husband is at home, or hire a sitter for a couple of hours while I play catch up. I should also mention how I excited I am about San Antonio's new Utopia Play Cafe. They have an awesome play area for kids (with competent people to watch your child), and a comfy cafe adjoined to the play area where parents can chill or work. I wish every city had these!
After that early morning hour I had all to myself, if I don't detach myself from my mobile device, all hope of separating work from family time is lost. I have literally turned off said device and put it in a drawer to keep from checking back on those e-mails, text, Facebook notifications, etc. (I may need to look into social media rehab). I usually put my computer to sleep, T.V. off, whatever! Total electronics blackout. I like to challenge myself everyday and see if I can make the blackout last until nap time. I rarely do, as I will take my phone on our play dates, or call my husband, but work is off limits! Once my little one wakes up, we have our own morning routine.
Ultimately, my goal in doing all of this is to be as present mentally as I am physically when spending time with my family. However, I have a ridiculously difficult time calming down my crazy brain, which is constantly reminding me what else I "should be doing."Cue post-it notes. (Triumphant music playing in background!) Sometimes I swear I can feel a mental weight being lifted when I jot my thoughts down on paper.
If I have an idea for a session or a new blog post but don't have the time to write it down, I leave a voice message on my phone to play back later. It took me a painfully long time to learn that I need to write things down, and stop thinking, "I'll remember that later." There is no telling how many genius ideas I've wasted. ;) So, please, learn from my mistakes!
Believe it or not, this is not a foolproof plan! My biggest dilemma is that once I get to the end of a long day, I sit down to plan a session or finish an interview and I am totally wiped! Inspiration? Zilch. Humor and personality? Gone; nada! I usually have my notes and voice messages from my prior spunky self to refer to, but setting up a comfortable work station also helps a lot. For me, "comfortable" equals absolute cleanliness and organization. I'm a nut like that, hopefully you're normal and just need a comfy chair.
Creative juice is always good. Mine usually comes in the form of wine or bold roast coffee.
A good playlist is an absolute must in my book, and Spotify has some pretty helpful ones. Something titled "deep focus" or "study time" usually does the trick.
Sometimes, I just need to press my reset button and take a long shower or meditate before I start my work night. Find what works for you!
That's my two cent's! I hope you enjoyed it.
(p.s. I am finishing up this post at 1:00 a.m. What did I tell you? ha! )
I'm trying to get better at this all the time, so I'd love to hear about your tried and true methods for balancing work from home/ quality family time.