Working from Home: Striking the Right Balance Between Work and Family

I get asked this one a lot — balancing a successful writing business with four kids and a life isn’t easy, but if you don’t carve out some time for things you enjoy, you’ll go crazy. Striking the right balance between work, self and home can keep you from becoming a frazzled, stressed out mess. If you’re a freelancer (or want to be one), then the quality of your work will also improve when you are not trying to cram too many things into an already packed schedule.

Finding a Balance between Work and Family

Anyone who works needs to find a balance between the professional commitments and family life – but it can be much more difficult to do so if you work from home. When you have an office to go to, you automatically have a built in “start” and “stop” time. When your office is your dining room, you can find yourself wandering in there to do “just one thing” multiple times per day and night. How do you strike the right balance between working at home and family time? These tips will help:

Schedule dedicated work hours: Believe it or not, setting firm work hours each day will actually help you spend more time with the family. How? When you can work uninterrupted, you can work quickly and efficiently. Every interruption, even “Where are my socks?” or “I can’t find my book” will disrupt your train of thought and actually prolong the amount of time you spend working – or trying to work.

This became far easier when my youngest started pre-school; until then I had to rely on sitters and working odd hours to get stuff done. Training the family really helps you focus on work — and then leave that work behind when you are done.

Your missing sock is not an emergency.

My kids are used to hearing “Is anyone actively bleeding or on fire?” If not, then don’t interrupt!

Leave the office behind: When you’ve completed your tasks for the day or the hours you planned on working, close the door on your office, even if it is only figuratively. Don’t check your email, leave the laptop closed and resist the impulse to return one last phone call. You’ll be able to dedicate all of your attention to the family and not stress about what you might still need to do.

This one really helps, particularly if you have a home office. When you can get away from the physical place you work it is easier to focus on real life. Once that workplace collides with home, it is a lot more difficult. If you wouldn’t drive back to the office to work on something, don’t do it from home outside of your chosen hours, either.

Grab an extra hour: You can’t add an extra hour into the day –sorry, we each just get 24, and you have to sleep sometime—but you can add a work hour when everyone else is sleeping. If you’re an early bird, get up one hour before anyone else, and get to work. Night owl? Schedule some tasks for after the kids go to bed, and enjoy dinner and bedtime together.

I seriously hate mornings, but since I need to drive the kids to school anyway, getting up an hour earlier did wonders for my schedule and life balance. If you have not yet read The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM), I strongly recommend it. It turned this night owl into a morning person for sure! (Well, the ideas in the book and lots and lots of coffee).

 

Outsource: Consider hiring someone else to do tasks for you. You can outsource professional tasks or home tasks. From a weekly cleaning service to virtual assistant (VA) services, web design or even social media support, outsourcing some tasks can help you build your business without overbooking your time. Right now I am using outsourcing for my VA. professional editing and  Pinterest management and am desperately in search of an awesome cleaning service.

Balancing work and family when you work at home isn’t easy, but it can be done – and when you figure out what works for you, the whole family will be happier.

 

Note: This post contains affiliate links to products or books I love and recommend!

 




Southern Style Hurricane Prep

I wrote this for my other blog in 2014, but I’m back home in the south now, and as Hurricane Matthew eyes our coast, this is relevant again 🙂

Stay Safe, y’all!

hurr

From 2014, just after Hurricane Sandy slammed into the NJ/NY coast:

We were thankfully spared Hurricane Sandy’s wrath – just a few downed branches and a lot of debris tossed about the yard. Our SC house (the usual target of hurricanes and tropical storms) came through just fine (thankfully, as my parents are staying there!). SC was spared this particular hurricane.

One thing that stands out to me after the storm though is the preparation process. When Sandy was pretty firmly predicted to hit NJ, I did what I assumed everyone did – filled the gas tank, bought supplies and started baking.

I posted this on several networks, including Facebook, and the responses were surprising. Every Southerner asked what I was cooking, if the propane tank was full on the grill and if I had filled up the gas tanks in the cars. Northerners thought cooking up a storm before the storm was weird or surprising, and were mostly fighting over the last loaf of bread at Target. I had just assumed that “everyone” knew what to do when an unprecedented storm came, since they come so often.

But they don’t. Not here, anyway.

Floyd, Bertha, Bonnie, Fran, Ivan…these are just a few of the big storms I remember, prepared for and lived through on the SC coast. But just like our little Southern beach towns were totally unprepared for the very few snowfalls we’ve seen in the last decade , the folks here in NJ had no idea how to prepare for a real tropical storm. For my Southern neighbors, though, that inch of snow meant every adult on our block was out playing in the street and marveling at the snow at 6am – and school was cancelled for 2-3 days. A hurricane strike here in NJ  has had much more serious consequences.

Obviously you should stock up on the basics like bottled water — but what else should you do?

9 Things to do Before the Storm

I thought everyone did the same thing to prepare for a hurricane – but just in case you’ve never been in one, I hope some of this info helps!

For our Northern friends and neighbors, here are a few things to remember and do before the next Sandy comes along:

  1. Watch the tropics, but don’t obsess: New reports usually come from NOAA at 8, 11, 2 and 5, around the clock. That frantic report at 10am, a full week before a storm is close? That’s based on the 8am advisory. Get your news direct from NOAA – read the actual advisory and look at the models. Look for more frequent updates the day the storm makes impact, but until then, true “breaking” news related to the actual weather is only available at these advisory times. I like WUnderground.com – they seem to be the most factual and least likely to twist reports for maximum news impact.
  1. Fill up…everything: Head to the gas station and fill up every car you have and a gas can too. You’ll need that extra gas if stations are closed (lack of electricity or unsafe conditions can close gas stations, and keep them closed long after a storm has passed). Fill up the propane tank for your grill – and have an extra handy. You can not only cook burgers on your grill, you can boil water for safe consumption – and coffee!
  1. Get cash: Don’t wait until the last minute – hit the ATM and get actual cash. If the power goes out, ATMS won’t work – or they can and do run out of cash after a storm.
  1. Eat the perishables, and don’t buy more: In the days before the storm, eat the perishables in the freezer – steak, burgers, whatever won’t last if the power goes out. I never stock our freezer well in the summer for this very reason. Cook them up and make dinner and you won’t have to worry about losing that pricey tenderloin you’ve got stashed away.
  1. Bake: Why baking? That question is what started this lengthy post! Baking converts perishable items like butter and eggs into nonperishable items like cookies, granola, muffins and more. You’ll end up with more good food on hand, and less to worry about in the fridge.
  1. Distribute supplies: I have 4 kids and several cats (each of whom took one look outside the day Sandy struck and hid under the bed in the in-law suite for the next 24 hours). Due to our large kitty/kid population, I don’t use real candles, so I distributed the lanterns and flashlights at strategic places upstairs and downstairs. I also put a flameless candle in each bedroom, just in case. Even if a storm hits during the day, it gets dark inside! I also pulled together a few books and other items for each of the kids, to be used only when the storm hit.
  1. Babies and Pets: Animals act weird before a storm, not sure why. We rounded up our chickens a full day early and secured everyone in the barn, with two days’ worth of food. I did check on them in the early hours of the storm, before it got too bad, but wanted to make sure they were ok, just in case. Grab some extra pet food – and if you have a baby, some baby supplies as well.
  1. Charge everything: Laptops, cell phones, even the kids sadly neglected DS’s — we charged them all. If it casts light or can be used for entertainment when the power is out, get it charged and keep it charged, you’ll be glad you did.
  1. Freeze water: Toss a few bottles of water into the freezer – just shove one into any exposed space. They’ll freeze and keep everything in there cold for a while if you lose power

Hope these ideas help someone (though I certainly hope they aren’t needed anytime soon!)

Stay safe!

Sam