Get Stuff Done …
I bet this scenario is pretty common if you are a work-at-home dad: you are trying to get work done, but your child is pulling your sleeve and asking you to play with him/her.
If it’s not your child, then it may be your spouse asking you to do something – right now! On top of this, you might have pets who want your attention too.
You start to realize that your expectations about the realities of working at home have been completely wrong. You assumed that your home would be perfect place to get work done and complete those big projects you had planned but …
Eventually you become frustrated because you are not able to focus on your work – it’s a constant struggle to meet the deadlines you promised your clients.
You know that this situation cannot continue very long. Otherwise it is going to negatively affect both the bottom line of your business and your personal well-being.
There is only one thought in your head that you repeat over and over again: “If I’m not able to work productively, then I’m doomed!”
Get stuff done – anywhere …
The cons of working in an dynamic environment
Although working at home is a dream for many, it definitely has its shortcomings.
First of all, when you work at home, your family members may falsely assume that you are available for them – at any time of the day.
Of course this isn’t the case, but their inability to understand this is causing most of the distraction you face: “Hey, daddy is home – let’s play!” or “Honey, take out the garbage”.
Another common problem with working at home is lack of discipline. It’s very easy to slack off and do anything but work if you don’t discipline yourself.
When you work at home, no one is looking over your shoulder and giving you instructions or job assignments. You are your own boss and if your “internal boss” is not strict enough, it’s likely that you won’t get anything done.
If you fail to understand your work-at-home environment and its special characteristics, you are going to fail to be productive too.
Are you willing to change the game?
There are two parties that effect your ability to work at home productively: you and your family.
Working in an dynamic environment (like at home with your family) requires certain changes to your working habits. Therefore you should become more organized and methodical in the way that you work.
An even bigger change has to come in the form of communication: letting your family know when you’re working and that you shouldn’t be disturbed during those times.
If you fail to do this then you can also blame yourself for the constant interruptions, frustrations and your inability to get the work done.
Finally, the wrong kinds of habits and mindsets can make your everyday working life much harder than it needs to be. You can slack off a bit in a regular office, but when working from home the wrong habits can quickly damage your ability to run your business successfully.
Reclaim your productivity with these simple tips
If you blame the environment and your family for the lack of productivity, think again! There are lots of work-at-home dads who get their work done, even with screaming kids, demanding spouses or pets in the house.
If you want to reach the same level of productivity as these work-at-home dads, you’ll have to make some changes to your environment.
Let’s start by defining some boundaries: does your family really understand why you are working on your computer or do they think you are just hanging out on Facebook all day?
If there is confusion about this, then it’s time to have a family meeting and set the expectations straight. Tell your family what you do and why you should be able to focus on your work without interruptions.
Get stuff done – alone …
If that doesn’t bring the wanted results, isolate yourself temporarily. This could involve working in different ways, or going somewhere else where you can focus on your work. Just let your spouse know where you’re going first!
Next, organize your time (at least part of it) so that you can work during the times when you home is at its quietest. For instance, I like to wake up early and get some writing work done because our home is still very quiet (everyone else is asleep).
Now, the morning time may be suitable for some, but it won’t be for everyone. If you think there are other times of the day when you are at your most productive, take a note of those times and try to get work done then.
Let’s deal with your organizational skills next …
When you start your work day, do you know what you are supposed to do? No?
In that case, get into the habit of creating a daily task list the night before, which consists of the most important tasks you want to work on the next day. Without having a plan for your day, you are more likely to do whatever you please – not what you should really be doing.
Get stuff done with routines …
What about your routine tasks, how do you handle those? Have you defined workflows and systems to make that kind of work easier?
For instance, if you are writing a blog post, do you have a regular way of accomplishing the task or do you take a different number of steps every time?
I suggest that you create workflows for your recurring tasks – you’ll find that you achieve more that way.
Workflows are also important because it’s easier to outsource the work. It is easier to delegate a process to someone else when you have clearly defined steps on how to accomplish something, thus freeing up your energy and saving you time.
Another great way to organize your working methods is to group similar tasks together and do them all at once. This way is also known as batching. Not only does this work when you are doing your business-related tasks (like checking emails) but also with more traditional stuff (like running errands).
Finally, no matter how much you follow the tactics I have just explained, they don’t matter at all if your mindsets and habits are not in sync with your goals.
For example, if you treat your business as a hobby and not as a true business, you can’t expect any great success in return.
By changing your mindsets and habits, you will increase your overall productivity and have more chance of success.
This time tomorrow, things will look much better!
Ok, enough of the theory. Now it’s time to put all the advice into actionable steps that you can follow..
Even if you only put this advice into action a little bit, your days will become more productive.
1. Set boundaries. Hold a family meeting and discuss why it is important that you are able to focus on your work, without doing anything else. Explain that you need this time to run the business that provides their current lifestyle.
Also let your family know when you are working and put those working times in a place where everyone can see (e.g. the refrigerator door). Tell your family that, unless there is a family emergency, you shouldn’t be interrupted.
2. Work when it’s quiet. Work during the early morning hours. Work during the late evening hours. Work during your children’s nap times.
Become aware of your family’s everyday patterns: when are they napping, sleeping or getting outside the home? Work during these times if possible.
3. Isolate yourself. Sometimes you have to “isolate” yourself from the home environment and do your work elsewhere, whether that’s outside, in a coffee shop or in a public library.
Pick the right place for you and let your spouse know where you are (as well as how long your “isolation” is going to last)
4. Define workflows and systems. We are surrounded by different workflows and systems in our everyday lives, but most of the time we don’t recognize them.
That’s why it is important to document the steps you take when accomplishing something (e.g. the process of publishing your blog) and recognize the steps that should be optimized, removed or outsourced.
Organizing your recurring tasks will make them easier and faster to do, since you will cut out any unnecessary steps.
5. Batch whenever possible. Avoid randomly repeating the same tasks. For example, check your emails all at once (twice per day) or pay all your bills at once (on a dedicated day, if the due date permits). Batching these tasks is more efficient and saves a considerable amount of your time.
6. Outsource. Although outsourcing is a very common way to improve one’s productivity, a lot of people still don’t take advantage of it.
You can outsource your work by doing task-based outsourcing (through Fiverr), project-based outsourcing (through Elance, oDesk) or by hiring a virtual assistant (part-time or full time).
Finally, you could also ask your family to help. For instance, my wife sometimes helps me by proofreading the occasional blog post.
7. Define a work-at-home mindset. It is crucial to have a special kind of mindset when you are a work-at-home dad.
First of all, understand that you are your own boss. If your “internal boss” lets you slack off, no work is getting done – this won’t help your business in any way. Taking on this mindset makes you less likely check your Facebook account when you are trying to complete an important task on your list.
Secondly, you should appreciate and respect your work. Take time to understand the value of working at home: many dads strive for it and you are very fortunate to be able to work like this.
Another benefit of appreciating and valuing your work is that it makes it easier to tolerate any distractions.
Once you appreciate what you do, you will also understand that most of the distraction you face is part of every work-at-home dad’s life. This helps you to deal with random distractions without getting upset.
Over to you: share your work-at-home productivity tips. How are you able to stay productive in a family environment?
Share your tips on the comment area – let’s help each other! Let’s get stuff done!