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5 work from home tips for busy mothers!

Before starting work with my present company, six years back, I had never even heard of the concept of working from home. Even though I had worked with people from around the globe, I had never even thought of the possibility of working from home. But now, since I have two children under the age of four, I work from home on most days. I am thankful that I have this opportunity, but I also can understand how frustrating it can become on some days.

I love watching routine videos on YouTube (btw, have you subscribed to my YouTube Channel?). But one thing that I have noticed is that a lot of people who work from home are people who are running their own business and/or YouTube is their predominant job. I don't think I have watched a routine of someone who is working a 9-5 job at home.

When you are working from home for an organization, the setup is very different than when you're running your own business. Not that one job is more important than the other. But just the nature of the job, the flexibility each job offers, and the line of communication can be very different.

If you are like me, and are managing many things like kids, your hobbies, and still working a regular 9-5 job, you might find it difficult to effectively manage your time while ensuring productivity and success.

So today, I share a few tips that have helped me to work from home productively. Let me be honest at this point and tell you - I don't do this every day (although I know that I should), but this is how you can ensure that you deliver your best without getting overwhelmed, all in the comfort of your house.

1. Have Routines

This was a surprising find for me because I have never been one to stick to a routine. But I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having routines.

Have a morning routine - something that marks the beginning of your day. The routine I am trying to stick to right now is to take a bath as soon as I wake up, pray, get ready, have a cup of coffee, and a few minutes of silence. Once the kids wake up, there is no silence or sanity. Since my return from maternity leave, I have been working an early shift, so my workday starts at eight in the morning. And since my son sleeps quite early in the evening, he also wakes up really early. So I am trying to wake up earlier to accommodate my morning routine.

Have a work-time routine as well. If you are working on multiple projects, depending on your workflow, decide how much time per day you are supposed to work on each project and strictly adhere to these timelines. If you are supposed to work on a project for 3 hours and another project for 5 hours - work accordingly. Another important thing to remember is to take regular breaks. When you're in an office, you will meet people, go for coffee breaks, get up and walk - and do many such things. But, when you're working from home, you end up forgetting to give yourself that break simply because there is no need to. Of course, it is different if you have kids - they'll demand some of your time even if you have a nanny to take care of them and so you do end up taking breaks. But it is important to include breaks in your work routine.

It is also important to have a nighttime routine to mark the end of your day. Since you are at home all day, if you just shut off your laptop and go back to scrolling on your phone without getting up from where you were sitting, you will end up feeling really tired and overwhelmed. I know because I have done this endless number of times. So, once you are done with work, take a quick shower, get a cup of coffee and recalibrate for the evening. This is the only way to make a difference between your workday and the rest of the day.

2. Time Block In Your Calendar

I have only started doing this and I am genuinely surprised at how helpful and productive this is. Put everything on your calendar. Allot time slots for everything you need to do. This makes it so easy to plan for the day. (Should I do a video on time blocking? Let me know in the comments!). Also, if you know what all you need to do every day and if you allot time slots to it, you will also see how much time you have left in the day and decide what you want to do with this time. Magically, you will realize that you have time for most things you want to do! Don't forget to schedule even your breaks on your calendar. If you can, integrate your work calendar with your personal calendar so that you can find everything in one place. If, for some reason, you cannot integrate your work calendar, block off your work timings on your personal calendar.

3. Segregate Your Spaces

This is one of the most challenging things to do in this list for me for a couple of reasons. I stay in a small place and I have two small children to take care of. This limits my ability to work in a separate room, shut off from everything. I tackle this by not using my work laptop for anything else (I don't think it is even allowed in my organization, but I know a lot of people who use their work laptop to watch videos and other things). I do no use my work laptop for anything else and I do not open it during the weekends unless it is really necessary. If you can have separate spaces for your work, utilize this. I think it is also important to take breaks away from your workspace. If you have a designated space set up for work, do not eat your lunch there. Try not to even sit there when you are on a break. This will allow your brain to understand that you are not working and can help you relax.

4. Communicate

One of the key challenges of working remotely is the lack of social interaction and personal presence. I used to be a ghost to most of my teammates - no one really knew who I was even though they had heard my name. And this becomes challenging in the team-building process, which in turn brings some complications with trusting the parties involved. The only way to mitigate this challenge is through constant communication. Make it a point to communicate within your smaller team as well as within the larger team so that your presence is felt. Send update emails regarding your work in progress. Respond to emails promptly, use appropriate statuses in your messenger apps (don't show as available if you are actually away, don't always show as busy, that sort of thing), speak up and contribute in meetings and calls, attend any team outings/ social events, etc. In the global settings that we are now working in, your presence should be felt even when you're not physically present.

It is also very important that you communicate any challenges you are facing to your team. Do you have an issue with your internet connection? Let your team know. Are you having issues with understanding your scope of work? Let your team know. Do you think you would need more time than you previously thought/ assessed? Let your team know. Unless you tell your team about the challenges you are facing, they will not be able to provide support. Just because you are all not in one place does not mean that you stop becoming a team. So, communicate, communicate, communicate.

5. Practice Discipline.

Another thing that we can easily forget when we work from home is that even when we are at home, we are still responsible for the work assigned to us. Being able to/ allowed to work from home is a privilege that you need to respect. More companies are allowing this because they realize that adults need to be allowed to work at their pace and space - but this holds value only if this is respected. When you are working - do the work. Just because you don't have a manager or a "boss" looking over your shoulder all the time, does not mean that you can do whatever you want to do. You are still responsible for the work assigned to you and you will be held accountable for it. So do your work properly and don't let the many things around you distract you. They are not paying you for that. One way to ensure this is to not get distracted by social media. Do not spend your time sitting in front of your laptop, scrolling through social media, and definitely avoid posting on social media during work hours. This is especially true if you have your 'clients' on your friend lists. No one might ask you anything about it, but it just comes across as unprofessional.

When I have to post my videos on YouTube and the subsequent social media plugs during a workweek, I schedule the upload on weekends and take my lunch break only when the video is about to go live so that I can spend some time on the social media plugs. These too, I draft earlier and keep so that I don't get distracted by being on SM for a longer time.

With that, we come to the end of my list of the top 5 tips to effectively work from home and also be productive. On most days, I enjoy working from home. I feel like I am more productive, and ironically, less distracted when I work from home than when I go to the office. When I'm at home, I don't have to worry about what the kids are doing and I'm able to be with them when they need me the most. But there are also days when things are so crazy and I cannot wait for them to end!

Are you working from home too? What has worked for you? What needs to change? Do let me know!

- N

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