Here’s the classic scenario. The children are fed and sitting in front of the tv for a movie. You sit down to get some serious work done in the 90 minutes before the movie ends. Not 15 minutes into the movie, one or more of the children comes running in to tell you their sibling just hit them.
Or maybe this rings home – You get the kids set to work on their homework before going in to call a client when your husband comes home needing to tell you about his horrible boss.
When working from home, interruptions aren’t an if, they are a when. So really this post is more about how to MINIMIZE the interruptions than how to avoid the interruptions.
Children (and Spouses) – 9 Tips to Avoid the Interruptions
Now mind you, the very best systems will be the ones that are practiced with consistency and created uniquely for your family, something that can be done with some coaching help. If at first, it doesn’t work, that just means you may needs to fine tune the system and get some individual guidance.
Here are some basic steps that everyone can use to minimize or avoid the interruptions that occur in your busy household/business.
- Set Boundaries – Setting boundaries is a critical step. This applies no matter what age your child/children are. I’ve been a WAHM since my boys were 5. I was employed WITH a home based business as well before that. I would determine what my working hours were and what my family hours were. Sometimes this required flexibility but the boundaries were always there.
- Share the Boundaries – This is even more important than setting them. Make sure everyone in your family is clear on what your work/family boundaries are. You may have to get creative with this and add a RED|YELLOW|GREEN sign to your office door (or kitchen table) for the younger children. Red means don’t interrupt unless someone is bleeding or the house is on fire. Yellow means you can interrupt but make it brief. Green means I’m not really working on anything important so feel free to come in. My boys have been trained since they were young that, if I have a phone to my ear, do the silent check in to see if I’m available.
- Reward Appropriate Behavior – Even your spouse could use a reward. Think massage, foot rub, or, well, you know! For teens, good rewards can still be effective when phrased as though not a reward. “Once I have completed this project, I’ll take you to that movie you’ve been wanting to see.”
- Get support – Engage your spouse, a family member, neighbor or fellow WAHM to occupy the children for a period of time while you can get clear, focused work done.
- Short Duration – Your work time should be in short durations, no longer than about 45 minutes. This is best for you and for your children. Once you’ve gone 45 minutes, check in with your children and see what they need. Then you can resume your work after a 15 or 20 minute play time or homework review with them. Use a visual timer of some sort for younger children so they know when you will again be available to play with them.
- Plan Their Time – For younger children, find ways they can spend the 45 minutes without you entertaining them. Have a “work time” toy box of special things they only get to play with while you are working. Give them a longer activity or project.
- Educate While You Work – One of the greatest gifts being a WAHM allowed me was the opportunity to teach my children about the work world on a daily basis. For many of the tasks I did, I could teach them little things as I was completing my work. As they grew older, I was able to then pay them an extra work allowance (which is tax deductible in certain circumstances) to do some of this work for me.
- Inform – Information is key. Whether for our spouses or our children. The more they know, the better they help. Children can learn more about the value of working when they see that mom doesn’t drop everything to rush to their every need but that she is there when they most need her. Take time to share what your business means for them in an age appropriate manner.
- Consistency – Like anything new, there will be challenges before you see significant improvement. Stick with your plan and play it out.
I really can’t say it enough. The idea is to create a system and be consistent. If you aren’t consistent with what you set up, it won’t work. It’s that simple and the reason I’ve seen most WAHM’s fail at this particular part of balancing their business and family life.