One of the best things you can do to balance work and home life is to define your workspace. Set up a little home office, even if it’s just a bedroom corner. Having a defined space will make it much easier for both you and the rest of your family to determine when you’re working and when you’re “just Mom”.
When you claim a room or space in your house as your home office, it sends a message to your family that you are serious about your work.
Sure, we often start out working from a laptop on the kitchen table, or on the home computer in a corner of the family room. The problem with this set-up is that the constant interruptions make it hard to get a lot (and sometimes any) work done. It’s time for your very own home office.
If you have an extra room in the house, it is of course ideal to have an entire room dedicated as your home office, but if that’s not an option, don’t despair. Find a room in your house that currently serves a different purpose and set up your home office in it. A spare bedroom, your own bedroom, or even the laundry room are all viable options. Try to find a room with a door you can close and where you can expect to work quietly for at least a few hours per day. It will do wonders for your productivity.
Set up some sort of system for your filing and paperwork. This includes paper files including contracts with clients, marketing and learning materials (CDs, DVDs, and binders), as well as electronic files. A file cabinet or even several storage bins will work well for your paper files. A bookshelf works great for marketing materials. As for your electronic files, set up different sections and folders on your hard drive and in your email software for them. Get in the habit of filing and straightening up your desk and work area before you finish your workday. It will be much easier to get started in the morning if a clean desk welcomes you.
Speaking of desks… You will need some sort of desk and chair in your office. Since you will likely spend quite a few hours each day in front of your computer, be sure to choose a desk and chair that are both comfortable and ergonomic. The last thing you want is a sore back after a long day at “work”.
If the kids will be with you sometimes, fill a “treasure chest” of special toys and activities that they only get to play with while you are working. Some moms set up little desks for their little ones with paper, safety scissors, tape, a play computer and telephone…use your imagination.
Other than that, keep your office friendly and welcoming. You want this to be a place you are comfortable and happy in – so feel free to decorate and make it your own. Put up pictures of the kids or those from your last vacation. Hang up a motivational poster. Whatever motivates you to work goes. At the same time, keep distractions to a minimum. Find a good balance and before you know it, you’ll have a home office set up that you love to work in.
While planning your home office, consider the following questions:
1. What hours of the day will you be working? Do you want to be near bedrooms or far away from them?
2. Who else will be home during the hours you are working? Do you want to hear what is going on and participate, or do you need quiet to concentrate?
3. Do you want to be locked away or do you want to be accessible to your children? It’s a good idea to have items to entertain young children that can only be played with in your office.
4. Do you need privacy while you speak on the telephone? Don’t wind up squatting in the bathtub to create professional quiet…and avoid yelling at your children while you talk. Plan your telephone time.
5. How much equipment do you need? If big machinery or large tables are a must for your work, where will they fit?
6. Will clients be coming to your office? If the answer is yes, choose a location that is near an outside door so that they won’t have to trek through your whole house to get to your office. If your office is out of the way, create a small meet and greet table with 2 chairs that is convenient to outside visitors.