Five Tips to Successfully Work from Home as a New(ish) Father.
In 2020, it’s become pretty normal to find yourself working from home and balancing work time with family time (if you have had the luck of keeping your job through the Pandemic).
If you have a two year old with enough energy to run your local power plant from 7 AM to almost Midnight like I do, it can seem nearly impossible to keep things straight some days.
Most people have had quite the adjustment period through this situation — especially if you’ve had to set up a make shift office, find a quiet place to work, and balance the work day with child care.
I don’t want to generalize and say that all men are bad at multi-tasking — but I can state plainly that I accomplish the most when I am able to remain focused on one task at a time in an environment that is very distraction free.
That has become difficult for me since March, 2020.
I’m guessing it may be a challenge for you, too. Don’t worry, I am sending some hope and help ahead. Sometimes it’s the small changes that can make an impact in your day. This concept is actually pretty observable in almost everything we do, and in nature.
Take the sugar out of your coffee and drop twenty pounds a year later.
Wake up one hour earlier to sit at your computer alone before the rest of the house wakes up and accomplish more in that hour than you usually do the entire morning.
Whenever I think of this type of thing, The Paretto Principle (aka the 80/20 rule) comes to mind.
If it’s new to you, basically it observes that 20% of an intended result comes from 80% of a given effort, and vice versa. Meaning a whopping 80% of whatever you are after or trying to accomplish comes from only 20% of your thought, effort and output.
There is time and energy waiting to be recaptured, and some of the small changes I’ll share with you below can help you and your family do just that.
Hopefully, this will just act as a primer for the rest of the possibilities that sit before you as untapped, raw potential just waiting to be utilized.
So, what has helped me transition happily and successfully to working full time from home on my insurance business while also balancing Medium and Quora partnerships, a Quora space dedicated to self-publishing success with over 74,000 followers, a writing schedule for my fiction work and finding time to exercise/eat and stay sane?
Here are the top five changes I’ve made (roughly 20% of what I’ve tried) that made the most impact on my daily routine and productivity…
- Optimize your work space for flow and productivity. Prior to the stay at home orders and transition to working over the internet I had several desks set up for different purposes in different parts of the house. What I found to be best was to consolidate not the number of desks but the space in which I used them. I set up my main two-tiered desk with my computer and laptop against the back wall of my office room. To the left of that I placed my three drawer filing cabinet and printer/scanner/fax machine. To my right is a small collapsible desk with my 1950’s Royal typewriter for distraction free fiction writing. Behind me is a small L-shaped desk that sort of closes in my work space. If you can picture it, it’s like a creative cubicle at home. This allows me to sit in one place to do all of the things I enjoy and need to do throughout the day, rather than having to get up and change position to do something else (in which case I usually always lose my state of flow and get distracted).
- Lighting. It’s amazing what the right kind of lighting can do for your mood, energy levels and productivity. To my far left is a large window where natural light pours in. On my main desk facing the back wall is a small lamp with a soft light for night time. I sit this lamp just behind my monitor and it works out perfect. Next to that is a standing floor lamp that I have plugged into the outlet that is controlled by my light-switch by the door as I walk in. I use both lamps at night or during the day when I need a lot of light. Having options helps a lot for balancing demanding work related tasks with creative activities in the same room. If your work space is too dark or only offers one type of light, try getting new bulbs or another lamp to brighten it up and change the lights as your mood changes.
- Have a room with a door that can shut and establish “Work Time” or “Quiet Time” boundaries with your family. If you don’t have a separate room, try to partition yourself in a separate area where you can remain focused. I talked to my family about what it meant when my door is shut and what it meant when it was open. I established boundaries and they work because we communicated openly about them.
- The power of sound. I use an Amazon Alexa, YouTube on my PC, or Spotify depending on what type of mood I’m in. When I’m writing, I’ll usually have some upbeat music on. Something like “Today’s Top Hits” on Spotify or one of my curated lists of songs. When I’m working I love the Alexa station “Classical for Studying” — it’s great for improved focus. BONUS — it also helps calm my two little dogs down when they would otherwise love to be barking at any and everything throughout the day.
- Have a space for your child to safely play and stay occupied and within sight if you have to watch them alone while working. If you can close your door and keep enough of an eye on them in the room you are in that’s great. I’m lucky to have some help throughout the day from family (that’s probably productivity tip number one if you have the help) — but there have been plenty of days and even full weeks where I’ve had to watch my daughter full time. I set up a space for her to play with some puzzles and toys within eyesight and earshot and take breaks for diaper changes, eating together, daily ten minute walks together, and more fun. It’s worked out pretty well so far.
So that’s it, those are my strategies to make sure you’re getting stuff done at home. I’m sure I’ll have more to add in the future and as we get to know one another — but hopefully this can help some of you that are currently struggling to make it work.