I work from a desk in the corner of our kids’ small playroom.

Full time. Usually more. For two years now. Managing social media {and the website (in)courage} for DaySpring, the Christian subsidiary of Hallmark.

It’s the most rewarding job I’ve ever had.

Right now there is a baby girl at my feet playing an annoying musical toy and two boys playing the Wii in the living room. There is a small, wet dog asleep in her bed on the back deck and a hamster who fortunately has not yet been eaten by the dog.

It’s a good day.

I thought you might like a  peek.
{I must really like you guys to invite you into my little slice of heavenly chaos….}

Yup, that’s my real life, real deal, work-from-home set up.

So here’s what I’ve learned from the last two years about working from home without losing your mind:

1. Keep regular office hours

I’m connected to our Internet Marketing team via an intranet. It’s awesome. It’s like I’m there in the office with them. I keep the same office hours as everyone because I’m part of a team.

Distance is diminished by instant, reliable connection.

I’m always there when they expect me to be. And we all like it that way.

Thanks to Skype and instant messaging I’m only a click away and can easily pop a virtual head around anyone’s office door.

Even if you’re not part of an office team, regular office hours will set your body clock to the routine of a work schedule, which is the best way I know to tap every ounce of productivity.

2. Create a dedicated office space

Sure, my space may be a wee cluttered and colorful, but it’s me. And when I’m sitting at that desk all I see is that desk, my laptop and my white board to the left. My back is to the rest of the playroom {see “point 4 below: this is how I wear blinders”} and it’s my 100% work space.

I only sit at that desk when I’m working. Not for crafty activities with kids or letter writing or surfing the net or anything else in the relaxation realm. It’s for work and work only and it helps me get my game face on.

3. Trade up from sweats

I’m not talking suits here. And sure, comfy clothes are a big plus about working from home. But in order to have my head in the work game I need to feel like I’m in the office. And I would never wear my pajamas to the office.

What I wear is a large part of what I tell my brain I’m doing.

Running = sweats; girl’s night out = high heels; Sunday afternoon = pajamas;
work hours = business casual, usually with make up and sometimes with jewelry.

4. Wear blinders

The tricky bit about working from home is that there’s always something on the to-do list that isn’t work related. You can’t just close the front door on that stack of dirty dishes or overflowing laundry basket.

But here’s the secret: You can!

Just choose not to look. Keep the space where you’re working neat, tidy and productive. Turn your back on everything else.

If you don’t then I promise your precious work hours will be a series of fits and false starts.

5. With young kids at home, help has proved essential

My kids are six, four and one. I don’t home school. But Tsh from Simple Mom does and we talked about balancing full time work from home with school and kids in our recent podcast – did you listen to it yet? She has help too.

My two boys are in Kindergarten and preschool respectively. Zoe is home full time with me. When she was still immobile it worked out just fine to entertain her with strategically placed toys and peppy tunes. Now that she can walk and {baby} talk and get into everything, not so much.

I couldn’t do what I do without the greatest baby sitter on the face of the planet and a husband who totally gets and supports what I do in word as well as with his schedule.

Three days a week Zoe is with the adorable baby sitter {who also voluntarily does my laundry and dishes and yes I totally want to adopt her!} One morning a week Peter watches her. And the other day I just juggle.

Honestly, before Tara I had regular fits of weeping over the backed up laundry and unmanageable house. My love for her is big.

Anytime I have to travel for work or meet intense deadlines, Tara is available for longer hours or more days. And Peter and I plan ahead enough that he can be home early in a pinch or take over the whole shebang in the evenings if I need extra time. Yea, he’s awesome like that. And I always, always bring him home a cinnamon crunch bagel {name that place}.

6. Online grocery shopping is a time & sanity saver

I used to watch those Peapod delivery trucks and think it was only for the rich and famous. Then I did some research and DUDE, it’s only a few bucks more for the delivery. And believe me when I tell you those few dollars more than make up for the time and exhaustion tagging grocery shopping with three kids onto an already packed day costs.

Hands down worth the investment.

Unless you’re like my husband and enjoy grocery shopping. Then by all means, get your cart and squeaky wheel on.

7. Take a lunch break

You need to eat. You will feel more human if you do so without tweeting, Facebooking and writing reports at the same time. This is something I must remind myself on a regular basis.

Sometimes leaving the house for lunch and interacting with other three dimensional people can recharge a whole day for the cost of a bowl of soup.

8. Make your peace with letting go of perfect

If I let every stray sock, every doggie chew toy, every stain and unwashed item and pile of unattended paperwork rule my days, I’d never get anything done. I’d be too busy beating myself up for not managing everything perfectly.

I’ve traded perfect for productive. And sometimes productive takes a bit of messy to make the most of a day.

I’m finally OK with that. It’s taken me about a decade, three kids, a dog and one hamster. True story.

9. Knock off at 5pm

Honestly, this one is the hardest for me.

The temptation is to just let your work spill over into your late afternoon and then your evening as you try to finish up “just this one last thing.” But having a hard “end” to your day is essential to give your head time to clear and readjust to family time.

With no commute home to clear your head, you need to manufacture the hard stop between activities to help you transition from “work” to “home.”

This can be even harder if you work in social media, which – as we all know – never sleeps. But, as I’ve said before, it’s impossible to be involved in everything and in fact, missing out just might be the better choice most days anyway.

Manufacturing reasons to actually leave the building helps too – like going for a run or picking kids up from school. This helps me delineate between my two chunks of day: work life and home life.

{Confession: most nights after kids are fed, bathed and in bed I can’t stay away from peeking back in on things, but I try to fast from social media almost entirely on the weekends}.

10. Don’t start cleaning projects you can’t finish in 1 day

Sometimes, despite everything I said in point 4 above, there’s something in the house that starts to drive me bonkers. And much like anyone who works in an office needs to clean house now and again, that happens at home too.

But here’s the thing – try not to tackle anything that will immobilize your productivity. Save those big projects for weekends or holidays.

Work your way back into a peaceful state of mind, without multiplying the chaos, the way some housekeeping projects inevitably do.

11.Work out of the house on occasion

Mix it up some days. Work from the library or Panera or your favorite coffee shop.

You’d be surprised how much this can refresh your creativity.

12. Show your family what you’re working on

You may have heard of this awesome event that (in)courage recently hosted called (in)RL {short for “in real life”}. It was a webcast that 1,700 women tuned into from all over the world before meeting up with other local (in)courage readers to get to know each other better in real life.

It was a blast. A gift. An inspiration to be a part of.

It was also the most exhausting thing I’ve done in a long time and by the end I felt like I was down to one brain cell and had forgotten what my family looked like. And if families are a team, the team needs to know what it is they’re all rooting for.

So as the (in)RL weekend progressed one of the best parts was sharing the (in)RL Instagram feed with my kids. They got such a kick out of seeing my face on many of the webcast screens participants were tuned into. And I could explain that this is the work mommy had been doing to encourage other moms. They loved it. And it helped explain my weepy, emotional state all weekend as a year-long dream was realized before our eyes.

13. Some days, despite your best efforts, everything will spiral into chaos anyway. That’s OK

Treat with chocolate.

Start over again tomorrow.


And you? If you work from home what works for you?

I’d love to know.


Believe it or not, I wrote a book in the middle of juggling my day job and my family. You can order it over here – it’s called, Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected About Being a Momed by