Like many corporate women who realised they couldn’t maintain their demanding careers and be a mum, I set out to create my own business working from home. While I’ve always been the type of person who is very busy, highly organised and internally driven to succeed, it wasn’t long before I realised that working from home with a baby rarely goes to plan. And while I’d heard so many people say “don’t try to do anything else except sleep and eat once the baby is here”, it’s not so simple when you’re running your own business – there’s no one to pick up the slack for you!
Over the last 2 years, I’ve managed to build a good rhythm and while I’m by no means an expert, I’d like to share a few tips that have helped me work from home while being a mum:
1. Chunk out your day
I find that doing too many things at once can make me more inefficient and left feeling frazzled. I’ve learnt to chunk out my day so that I’m able to focus on one task at a time and complete it to a higher level rather than rushing through millions of things and making errors along the way. For example, I might allocate 2 hours to paying invoices, 1 hour to responding to customer emails and 2 hours to drafting up and scheduling newsletters etc. I will ignore any new emails that come through during times that I haven’t allocated to “checking/responding to emails”.
2. Set up a permanent workspace
When I first started working from home, I loved the freedom of working on a laptop. Exhausted from a busy day of entertaining a toddler after a night of broken sleep, I would crash in front of the TV and do work from the lounge with a glass of wine nearby. On a busy day, I would set up my laptop on the dining table and reply to emails while my toddler ate his lunch. If we went away for a few days, my laptop would be the first thing I’d pack. The problem was that having easy access to my laptop meant I could never really switch off and live in the moment with my son or husband. When I realised how blurry the distinction between work and home life was, I decided to set up a permanent workspace at home. With my own space that inspires me and puts me in work mode, I’m no longer tempted to “just answer a quick email” from the lounge room which leaves me feeling more relaxed and connected during family time.
Unlike my pre-baby days where I could work back or start early if I needed to, my working hours are so limited and precious now that I’ve learnt the importance of prioritisation. I always have a to-do list and work through it in order of priority to ensure nothing important is forgotten or left to the last minute. Like most entrepreneurs, the work is never-ending and I could literally work all through the night and still not be satisfied with the amount of work that still needs to get done. I’ve learnt to let go and focus on the top items so that I can switch off at the end of the day.
For me, the biggest advantages of working from home are not wasting time travelling to and from work in Sydney traffic, not wasting time and money having to get dressed up for the corporate world, and being able to do small jobs around the house when I take a break. In saying that, I’ve become really aware of not “wasting” my work time on things that someone else can do better than me. I hire a weekly cleaner who also helps with some of our washing and changing bed sheets, and we have a gardener who comes monthly as my time is better spent on my business than those jobs. Outsourcing also applies to my business; I don’t get involved in picking and packing orders as this is very time consuming and it’s more efficient for someone else to do this to free up my time for other things.
5. Planning VS Spontaneity
Being organised and planning ahead gives me a great sense of control and calm. Things such as social media posts, email newsletters, and promotions are almost always planned in advance so if something pops up last minute (e.g. a sick toddler), the business can continue on without putting too much extra stress on myself. However it’s important to be flexible and adapt to what’s happening in real-time, so I always leave room for that too. For example, I will schedule 80% of my business Facebook posts, and leave the remaining 20% to post about current topics such as “Best Sellers” showcasing popular items and “Stock Updates” showcasing items that have almost sold out.
It’s definitely not easy, but the challenges of working from home are so worthwhile once you figure out how to make it work for you and your family.
Dominique is the Co-Founder and Head of Marketing for the online kid’s fashion store Baby Dino.