How to Work at Home When Your Life Is a Complete Madhouse
I’ll be honest– my home life is completely insane. My house is like a zoo with two feral monkeys on the loose, tearing apart everything they can get their little hands on.
There are spills, wrecks, crying jags, minor explosions, loud thumping sounds (heads on walls probably), and occasional horror-movie-style screams. It’s amazing that two tiny people can create so much chaos.
My wife does all she can, but she’s outnumbered. I provide back-up, but I’ve also got a job to do. In spite of all the madness, I still somehow manage to write for several hours each day.
Speaking of which, I should get started on some work right now while they’re eating pancakes. Here are 5 of the ways I keep from going completely nuts and manage to keep my freelance writing projects on track.
Tip 1 – Don’t Get Stressed
Even when your life is absolute madness, there are always ways to de-stress. Maybe it’s exercise, soothing music, meditation, games of computer solitaire – whatever works to get your mind off the insanity. Find one or two things that help you de-stress and schedule short sessions throughout your day. If you don’t schedule them, they won’t get done.
Also, make sure they’re not in any way bad for your health. A fifth of Jim Beam each day might cure your stress, but you’ll end up with worse problems. Taking potshots at birds through your office window may help you stay grounded, but it’s dangerous and illegal. Drilling a tiny hole in your forehead may make everything all right, but… you get the point.
Tip 2 – Be Here Now
Kids operate on their own time. You have to be on that time with them. You also need to be focused on your work. If you work at home, they’re going to distract you and you should let them. When they need something, stop work and forget about what you were doing. When you’re with the kids, be only with the kids. When you’re working, be only working.
This shifting of gears is a bit tricky at first. In fact, switching too much actually adds to your stress. If I can’t work 30 minutes or more, I don’t bother trying. The reason is that working in 15 minute chunks alternating with taking care of kids leads to mental meltdown. It’s better to work only when you have a reasonable stretch of time, even if you have to wait for it.
Tip 3 – Rearrange Your Sleep Schedule
There are two ways of doing this – get up early or stay up late.
You can get up while the world is still dark outside and watch the morning joggers while you work away. You’ll get several precious hours done before the first child wakes up and starts harassing you. Or you can wait until the kids are tucked in and snoring, and then get down to business.
I’ve made the shift to mornings even though it’s painful for me. I’m used to it now and it’s a much more productive time for me. Experiment with it and find out what works best for you. Just make sure you get enough sleep. If you’re zombified by sleep deprivation, you’ll make things much harder for your brain (and your patience).
Tip 4 – Give Up and Go With The Flow
As a writer, I’m obsessed with deadlines and the work I have to finish today. But through my hectic family life, I’ve learned how to let things go completely and forget all about it. Somehow, it gets done. Learning to give up on the idea of controlling things in your life is an important skill to learn when you’re a parent.
Of course, you can’t let go too much or else you’ll never get anything done. I set hopeful deadlines for myself and realistic deadlines for my clients. The work usually gets done somewhere in-between. If there’s a sick kid or an emergency afternoon playing at the park, it helps to have the leeway.
Tip 5 – Remember Your Passion
What keeps me going even though my house looks like a tornado and Godzilla hit it at the same time? My passion for writing. If you keep in mind why you do what you do, it’s much easier to work anytime you’re allowed to. When my time gets squeezed into a few small hours at night when reasonable people are sleeping, I come alive. Keep your mind focused on doing what you love to do and you’ll get through it.
Do you have any ideas on working at home with your active children underfoot?