Managing work in a chaotic household

The other day in my job sucks more than yours we looked at some of the perils of working at home. From distracting kids, to friends and family who believe you’re sitting around eating bon bons all day, to finding a coffee shop with non-sticky tables and more, working at home can be a nightmare at times. Here’s how to make it better…

Have a dedicated office space with a door you can shut: If you can’t have this now, or don’t foresee having this in the very near future, working at home honestly may not work out unless you live alone. Kids don’t get that an office space in a common area still means you’re working, and worse (in my experience) neither do the adults you live with. Also, people will take stuff from your office so good luck finding a pen when you need it. With a closed door people leave you and your stuff alone far more often. If you’ve got say, a spouse who works and kids who are in school then a common area office can work, but it’s still not helpful on snow days, sick days, weekends, holidays, and summer break. I’ve had both situations and having my own office with a close-ready door is about 95% better than a common area office.

IF you don’t have a closed door office: You can try some different things if there’s no way for you to get a personal office space at home. Some are more realistic than others, and none are that great, but I’ll list them just in case one might work for you…

Rent a space – if you’re a prolific writer and make nice wages renting a space might be an option, although, most of the writers I know can’t afford this option. Plus there’s travel time to consider; this makes working at home, not so much working at home.

Get a screen – at one point in my life I had a common office space that was blocked off with a large shelf. I’m not sure why, but people left me alone more. Maybe it’s the whole outta sight, outta mind deal at play.

Work off hours – work when other people for sure won’t be in the common space. This is best if you live with just one person. Once you start trying to juggle more than two people’s schedules in regards to a common space it becomes difficult.

Move to the least annoying common area – yesterday I was fed up to the breaking point so I moved my office from the living room to my bedroom. Our home situation is this; my boyfriend works from 3am-noon; my son attends school from 9am or so to 4 or 5pm; when my boyfriend’s daughters are here they take over the living room and extra bedroom. Basically I’m almost never the only person at home minus maybe three hours each weekday. That said, I moved to the master bedroom, where technically my boyfriend sleeps from noon to 7pm or so BUT since we have other sleeping spaces in the house he’s sleeping elsewhere while I work. It’s not perfect but at least I can go in the bedroom and shut the door vs. having people milling around me in the living room.

Turn off the phone: When I’m working during the day, I leave my phone on vibrate only. This way I can see if my son’s school calls but ignore everyone else. Telling people not to call won’t work, because they don’t believe that you’re actually working.

Learn to say no: Because I work at home I’m the go-to friend for emergency childcare, school events, errands, and more. I actually don’t have the time for any of this and learning to say so to others early on is in your benefit. If you’re a yes person people will treat you like it.

Minimize other distractions: If you don’t have a good office space then minimizing distractions so you can make the most of the quiet work time you do have is important. In fact I’ve even cut out email during my work time for the most part.

Ideally your goal, if you want to be a pro writer for life should be a closed door, quiet, distraction-free work space. Until you get that though you can try the options above or offer some other ideas in the comments.

How do you manage work in a chaotic household?



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