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Time Management 101: Working From Home With a Newborn
bySarah CollinsJan 08, 2015
When you're ready to return to work after maternity leave, working from home seems like the ideal scenario -- until you're dealing with a screaming baby while trying to listen in on a conference call and type up a report, all at the same time. Working from home with a new baby takes some serious time management skills, as well as the complete and total ignoring of the common new-parent advice to "sleep when the baby sleeps."
Before you had the baby, you probably heard one piece of advice over and over again: Sleep when the baby sleeps. It's a nice theory, but it should go out the window when working from home. "Although it goes against conventional wisdom, I do not sleep when my newborn is sleeping -- at least not all the time," says Boston mom Carly Fauth, the head of marketing for Money Crashers, a financial website. "As soon as he's down, I'll squeeze in a few quick tasks." If your newborn is amenable -- and not all are at early ages -- try to put her on a nap schedule so you can predict when you might get some work done. It's tempting to try to do housework or other tasks at that time; however, if you were in the office, you wouldn't do housework. So treat your working hours as such and focus solely on that to-do list. If you breastfeed, you can also use this time for working by setting yourself up on the couch with a laptop, phone and glass of water within reach.
Be Flexible With Hours
A perk of working from home, in most cases, is not being restrained to traditional 9 to 5 hours -- unless that's what your boss expects from you. Ask your employer how many hours you're expected to log per day and if they need to be within a certain period of time. Some bosses might not care the exact time you spend on work tasks as long as the job gets done. Others might be fine with you working in the middle of the night during a marathon nursing session. As long as you're meeting your employer's expectations, stay flexible with work hours.
Work in Five-Minute Increments
When your child isn't sleeping, you might only have a few minutes at a time of peace through the magic of a swing, bouncer or other baby-friendly contraption. At the beginning of your day, write down a number of tasks that you can complete quickly -- whether it's responding to an email or digitally filing some documents. Every time you get five or so minutes of time, knock one of those tasks off your list.. "There's just no way I'm going to get a one-hour project completed when he's awake," says Fauth. "I save the bigger stuff for when he's down for the night. I've also found that a handwritten to-do list is invaluable -- I've became quite forgetful of late."
Some days, the only way you'll get any time to work for a longer period of time is by hiring a babysitter or asking a friend or family member to help. Hire a high school student, who might cost less than a college student or adult; you don't have to worry as much about emergency situations because you'll still be in the same house. If this isn't an option, practice time management skills with your significant other -- as soon as he arrives home, allow him to take over kid duty while you put in some solid time "at the office." Break for dinner, and then allow him to handle bath- and bedtime while you return to the job.