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Hired at Home

Sarah Hamaker

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Juggling Act

Household chores, errands, children, husband -- sometimes it seems like a stay-at-home mother's work is never ending. Add an at-home job to the mix and it can be hard to see how everything will get done.

Here are some tips on how to be productive at home while juggling your house, kids, husband, and work-from-home job.

Look for time wasters. We all have tendencies to waste time, whether it's Internet surfing, chat-room discussions, talking on the phone, or watching television. These activities aren't bad in themselves, but they can steal precious time that could otherwise be spent doing more productive tasks.

To discover how you waste time, keep a time journal for a week by writing down everything you do and how long you spend doing it. Use a stopwatch or timer to record accurately. You might be surprised at how long you take visiting your favorite Web sites or getting dressed in the morning. Once you have identified your particular time wasters, consider how you could shorten the time spent on those tasks to free up minutes for other things, such as at-home work.

Plan your week. On Saturday or Sunday, take a few minutes to jot down what you need to accomplish each day for the next week. Incorporate housework, shopping, children's activities, appointments, and work-from-home tasks. Knowing at a glance what your goals are for each day helps keep you on track.

Prioritize tasks. When you have a particularly busy week, separate your to-do list into what's absolutely necessary from what can be put off until another day. Keep your mind focused on the important tasks and temporarily ignore other things. One of the hardest things for me to do is resist doing a load of laundry or organizing the kitchen counter when I have an assignment that needs my immediate attention.

Ask for help. Enlist the help of your husband and children -- if old enough -- for extra assistance around the house when you have deadlines looming. For instance, there are times when my husband does the grocery shopping because I need to spend time on a freelance assignment. Don't hesitate to ask family and friends to help with childcare or even meals when needed.

Learn to work in increments. Train yourself to be productive in small amounts of time, because sometimes that's all you get. I used to spend several hours at a time writing an article, but those days are long gone. Now I often have to write in 15- to 30-minute increments. Being able to start and stop projects quickly is a handy tool for being productive.

Schedule busywork. With any at-home job, there's "busywork" -- those housekeeping tasks like checking and responding to e-mails, returning phone calls, filing, and bookkeeping. Those things might not be directly related to your home-based business but are necessary to running it efficiently. Block out specific times to check e-mail or put together a mailing project. Again, using a timer can help keep you on track.

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