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Staying Productive in the Home Office: Special Tips for Work at Home Moms

Feb 28, 2008
Staying consistently motivated and focused in a traditional office can be difficult enough, but when you are working from home, it's even tougher. There is always something that is nagging to be done. How does a work-at-home mom turn off the distractions and work productively? Here are nine things that have helped this work-at-home mom.

1. The first step is to get organized. Piles of clutter don't just make it more difficult to find things; they send a message to your subconscious that you are ineffectual and disorganized, and it will be much more difficult for you to work steadily and without distraction. So take an afternoon, or more if you need to, and clean up. Recycle, shred, or file all the miscellaneous items that are just lying about in your home office. Clean the windows and vacuum the corners, too. At first, you might feel like you don't have time to take this first step, but the time you save over the next few weeks or months will likely more than make up for the few hours you spend getting organized today. A clean office really is a productive office.

2. Try dressing up. If you're always working in comfortable clothes (such as sweatpants and sweatshirts), see if you don't feel more energetic and productive in more professional attire. Sometimes, just the act of putting on shoes can make you feel more effective and more motivated to get working.

3. Stop multitasking. Work-at-home moms often have so many things to juggle that it's tempting to try to do several things at once. I find that, unless it is the simplest of tasks, the things that I accomplish when I multitask just aren't up to par. It's often most efficient to save tasks for those times when you can devote your full attention to the task.

4. Keep a running to-do list. When my kids are home with me, or when I'm working on family-oriented tasks, I can't run and do the things I want to do right away. So I keep a small notebook with me where I write down those things that I need to accomplish when I have more time.

5. Use monthly to-do checklists, too. A WAHM's workday is often unpredictable. It helps me to use a monthly to-do sheet, where I write all of the things I need to get accomplished in that calendar month. It works really well in conjunction with a daily to do list because there are always items on the agenda that can be accomplished in the amount of time that I have. Like most work-at-home moms, some days I have 10 minutes to work, other days I have 5 hours, and this type of checklist helps to know that there is always something I can be working on. I have a master checklist in my word processing program, and I print a slightly different checklist each month. Checking off an item from this list always helps me to feel efficient and productive, even while juggling my household's busy schedules.

6. Be realistic. When my kids were younger and they left the house for a playdate, or on those rare occasions when they all actually napped in the middle of the day, I would often make the mistake of trying to cram too many tasks in brief little time slots. Then I would invariably get disappointed when I didn't get all of those things done. It's really important that you stay realistic and don't get down on yourself for not finishing more. Before you know it, the kids will all be in school full time. Until then, just do what you can.

7. Get help. You don't need to be limited to finding day care providers to take care of your children during the day. Think about having a "mother's helper" come into your home a few hours a week to play games with the kids while you finish some important tasks. You may even find it easier to hire a Virtual Assistant to help you with your business tasks, rather than hiring someone to help with your kids.

8. Give yourself a break. You don't have an office water cooler, but you still need a little downtime now and then. Take 15 minutes to instant message a friend or giggle with YouTube videos. I find I am even more refreshed and productive if I can get away from the computer and do something unrelated to business. Call a friend, meditate, do a few yoga poses, or take a walk. That's often when the ideas get flowing.

9. Know why you are working from home. Write down your "why" and keep it posted where you can see it throughout your day. I know firsthand that it's sometimes difficult to work from home, but consistent reminders as to why you are working so hard to make this work may be just the thing you need to stay motivated and productive.
About the Author
Jamie Jefferson writes for Momscape.com, a website devoted to celebrating life with children. She shares the web's best office supply coupons here including Office Max coupons.
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