The work at home alpha mom

Dec 24, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. ET

Discover real strategies that help work-at-home moms walk the tightrope between home life and work time. In 2013, increase your productivity and decrease your stress as you hone your stay-at-home career.

Working from home has its benefits, but it’s still work. In order to gain flexibility and freedom, moms who work at home have to sacrifice free time and learn to juggle the responsibilities of parenthood and career-oriented tasks. Use these alpha-mom strategies to streamline your New Year working at home.

Get dressed for work every day

As tempting as it is to work in pajamas or sweatpants, try to get dressed for work every day. You don’t need to dress up, but you should try to look as put-together as you would going to the store or even meeting with a client. Brush your teeth, do your hair and put on makeup if you’re a woman who wears makeup. These rituals will help you get into a work mindset. When you sit down for work, you’ll feel energized and focused and less likely to waste time idly browsing on the computer or fiddling with housework. Cut yourself some slack when needed, but try to stick to this habit as regularly as possible.

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Use child care whenever you can

When it comes to working while your children are at home, set reasonable expectations. Even the most well-behaved, hands-off children will need your attention often enough to distract you from work. Structure your work time around school hours or times when your partner can watch your children. If you do need to work with the kids in your care, be gentle with yourself and with your children. Plan for noises, delays and kids who require your attention. Try not to communicate to the kids that work is more important than they are. This is a tough line to walk, and one that takes practice. It gets easier the older your children get.

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Never take calls or send email when you’re distracted

Working from home can be distracting. From kids to pets to unexpected visitors, you never know what might pull your attention away from your work. If you use the phone for work, be very conscious of your own state of mind and the background noises that may occur. Don’t attend virtual meetings or take calls if your kids are in the other room. Kids have an uncanny ability to get loud and upset when you need them to be quiet. Don’t send emails when you’re frazzled or distracted. Be aware of your stress levels and how focused you are. You should always be in “work mode” when sending work emails.

Schedule work hours as strictly as possible

Sometimes working from home feels like working 24/7. If you carry a smartphone around, you may get emails from clients and work associates all the time. Avoid the bad habit of reading and answering work emails from bed, the grocery store or the car. Regardless of the kind of work you do, you should set realistic hours as if you’re a place of business. If you start answering emails late at night, you’ll set unrealistic expectations and you’ll make yourself crazy. Your hours don’t need to be 9 to 5, but they should be somewhat consistent. It’s OK to work very early before the kids go to school and very late after they go to bed as long as you’ve consciously decided that these are the best work times for your health and productivity.

More work-at-home career tips

Making money from home
How to work from home with young kids in the house
Turn a small space into a home office