I’ll be the first to admit that working from home is awesome. I wear pants about 37 percent of the time, the commute couldn’t be easier, and my officemate — aka my son — is the cutest person ever, if I do say so myself. Plus, childcare in America can be wildly expensive, so not having to factor that item into my budget is a relief.
On paper, I'm getting the best of both worlds as I spend my days raising my son while furthering my career at the same time. And yes, there are perks to being a work-at-home mom, but one major negative is figuring out how to find time for yourself when your home is your office. Since parenting is a 24/7 job, and I'm naturally going to want to put the same amount of attention into any other job I take on, I've had to learn by experience that firing on all cylinders isn't the most sustainable approach. Worst case scenario, I'm left feeling exhausted, and by day's end I don't have the energy to enjoy much quality time with my adorable officemate. Talk about a bummer.
In order to prevent myself from totally burning out as a work-from-home mom, I've had to teach myself when to turn off work mode and when to tap into life mode, but cultivating those skills is easier said than done. Here are a few techniques that have personally helped me begin to separate my home and work lives, even though they're, you know, happening in the same space:
1. Set Business Hours — And Boundaries
When you work from home, it’s crucial to treat your work day as just that: a work day, not a work day and night. Establish your business hours and communicate your expectations clearly with your clients. That’s not to say there won’t be emergencies that require overtime, but that should be the exception and not the rule.
2. Reward Yourself With Holidays
If you don’t have paid time off, it can feel hard to justify taking a vacation or time off for the holidays, but I'm here to tell you that she should never feel guilty about doing so. You deserve your time off just as much as any other full-time employee, and I promise it's worth planning ahead for a little time to yourself.
3. Make Technology Work In Your Favor
I've gotten into the Pomodoro method, which breaks your workday into small chunks of time, and there are apps that help you implement the Pomodoro method to make your time spent working way more productive. If you find yourself unable to unplug at night, f.lux is a plugin that reduces blue light on screens to help you sleep better when you do finally close your laptop.
4. Have A Dedicated Workspace
For me, having a separate working area has been crucial. Even simply walking to my desk in the next room helps me get into my work mindset. If you don’t have the space for a desk or work area, consider joining a co-working space. I've realized that when I can leave work in one space, it’s much easier for me to separate my work life from my personal life.
5. Work Offline
I get distracted easily, which means that social media is my worst enemy when I’m facing a deadline. A programs like Dark Room helps keep interruptions to a minimum, decreasing the risk of reading justonemore funny listicle when I'm online. Reducing distractions has helped me accomplish more and avoid stresses that keep me working through all hours of the night.
6. Turn Off Notifications
You can do this! In a world where we’re all connected in an instant, that little red number can be a huge anxiety trigger, making you feel like you should reply instantly. Pro tip: just don’t. Try switching your phone into "do not disturb" mode during the work day, or stowing it across the room when you're in the middle of a major project.
7. Get A Hobby
I know, I know — who has time for a hobby? But hear me out: Between work, chores, errands, and kids, there’s not much time left over for you, so make sure to take advantage of what you have. I'm not saying you need to take on anything extreme like professional base jumping, but something as simple as treating yourself to a favorite yoga class, or doodling in one of those adult coloring books for a few minutes after lunch can help reduce stress and prepare you for a productive day.
8. Let Go Of Guilt
You're a parent, which means your time is already totally accounted for. I had to learn that there will be days when I just can’t do it all, but I embrace my limits and give it my best shot. Taking a much-needed afternoon off is no fun if you're kicking yourself for skipping a voluntary school meeting, so don’t beat yourself up if you opt for a night in with your family for a Netflix binge instead. We’ve all been there!