When I first began freelance writing my son was an infant. As any parent knows, building a career and nurturing an infant simultaneously is, well, it doesn’t happen. I consoled myself with the theory that once my son was older and in school full time, it would be easier to balance a full time career. That’s sort of a joke too.
I don’t know about you, but for me it’s hard to get into my work day and end it all at 2:30 when there’s still so much to do. I did the 4:00 a.m. thing for years, and frankly, I’m too old and cranky for that now. So I took a few other steps to help me become more productive while still being there for my family.
I’ll share my methods with you here, and when I’m done, I’d love for you to share your methods in the comments. Let’s help each other focus and get the job done.
A separate office
I used to pick up my laptop and bring it to the kitchen table, the dining room table, or even the back deck table. I had no home. Trust me, when you have to pack up and move every time a meal is ready or someone needs your work surface for an art project, you’re short on focus. Two years ago, my husband fixed up a small bedroom as my office. Having a place that is mine where I can write and even close the door when I need extra quiet time is priceless. It makes a world of difference to have a specific spot only for working. Others respect my work now – but more important, I respect my work more.
After seven years of having my son home with me when he’s not in school, I broke down and enrolled him in the school after care program three days a week. There were several reasons for this:
- It was difficult for me to pack up work every day at 2:30.
- My son’s friends are all in after care or activities so he wasn’t spending much time around kids his age.
- The after care program enables my son to participate in sports, science projects, crafts and more.
- I can actually finished my work at 5:00 and my family has me for the rest of the day and night.
During the first after care day, I felt so guilty that I picked my son up an hour early. He was having so much fun playing he asked me to please never do that again. School aftercare is affordable, and two and a half hours three days a week is making a big difference in my productivity. I especially notice that on aftercare days, I’m not rushing to get everything done. Childcare or having a mother’s helper can be a Godsend while trying to build your career. Don’t feel guilty for wanting help.
I used to wake at 4:00 AM each day, and often recommend this to parents who can’t get work done when their kids are at home. It was perfect for part time work as I’d work from 4:00 until 7:00 or 7:30 and have the rest of the day for my family. Truth be told that while I credit it for allowing me to work at home, I was glad when I didn’t have to do it anymore. I was so cranky. My options were to go to bed at 8:00 and not spend time with my husband, watching movies or reading books, or go to bed later and not get enough sleep at all. When I ditched the 4:00 wakeups, I was much more pleasant to be around and found I had more focus. I don’t regret doing it to start out, but I’m so glad that time of my life is over.
I think freelancing is a lot of trial and error. We all find ways to be more productive and focused on our goals. Sometimes it finds years to find a balance.What’s working for me today, may not work tomorrow. but at least I have the flexibility to reinvent my methods.
Now share your tips. What are some of the things you do to remain productive throughout the day?