Young Woman Holding BooksMany of us small business owners work from home (at least part of the time), especially if we are parents trying to juggle work and childcare. I spent most of the summer providing tips for moms and dads to adjust to the summer break and still reach for goals.  With the brand-new school year on the horizon, I was jumping with excitement.

I have to admit the end of summer was rough for me.  I completely abandoned my routine, took some time off with my kids, went to the beach, and literally lost a big chunk of my work-at-home discipline.  While enjoying the last few gulps of summer and lemonade, I was the least bit concerned with getting back in the work groove.  It was only a little over a week ago, when I plopped down at my desk, did I realize I was in trouble.

This experience was the complete opposite of last year for me.  At the beginning of the 2011 school year, I was prepped, primed, and prepared to hit the ground running with a newly expanded and regimented routine.  As I shopped with my kids for their pencils, I mapped out my fall office hours and 4th quarter to-do list, only to be sorely disappointed when nothing fell into place as I hoped.

I was both discouraged and disappointed in myself and even a tiny bit in my kids for things not working out.

The 2012 school year ushered in a chaotic craziness that I never experienced before.  Of course, I had my kids once again organized and outfitted for success with binders and notebooks and highlighters, but I was not armed for ‘back-to-the-grind’ myself.  I had the supplies, but forgot the plan.  To make matters worse, as I semi-mapped out my call of duties, my boys had a change of heart on one after-school sport and then added a different one making the school pickups totally off-base of what I originally had.

Once again, I started a new school year feeling discouraged and disappointed in myself and a wee little bit in my sons.  It may have been a different year approached in a whole new way, but the outcome was the same.  In the end, I became victim to a sluggish and despondent attitude.

I decided to take a little lesson from my kids.  Kids are so resilient.  When something does not go exactly as planned, often the slough it off.  I watch in awe as my sons wakes up every day to a shining new day with yesterday being a faint memory.  If one plan does not work out, my kids try another.  I know this is not as easy for them all the time or for each and every kid, but I think it is fair to say that kids do not become as easily jaded as we do as adults.

In an effort to end the week right, I put everything away and took a warm bath on a Wednesday night, and woke up Thursday with a fresh (and clean) attitude.  I looked for a new approach to my schedule while inputting drop-off and pick-up times in my calendar.  I also re-injected my creativity.

Here are my FIVE tips for reinvigorating your work at home routine when in a slump:

  1. Do plan, just not too far in advance.  I find that restructuring once a month helps.  Of course, always add in any travel plans or long range meetings as you plan them, but re-evaluate your overall starting/ending times, best slots for meetings and conference calls, and quiet times to get paperwork in order – at least once a month.
  2. Break up your day with movement.  As startup business people, we often trade 9-5 hours for what we assume will be greater flexibility, and then find ourselves living, breathing, and sleeping our businesses.  Do not hole up in your office!  Find an excuse to move every few hours whether it be chunking your errands (personal or business) and having an errand running time slot, walking to the bank or post office, or simply taking a walk.
  3. Discover a creative space.  In addition to moving around, we cannot be creative exclusively in one place all the time.  I often find the same 4 walls of my office limiting…especially, during the last few weeks.  I found that hitting up one or two of my favorite nooks (the coffee shop on the tree lined street and my backyard) gave me the creative infusion I needed.
  4. Write down what is not working, draw a line down the paper, and brainstorm what you may do differently.  Hang it up.  (I keep mine inside the closet so it is private).
  5. My work-at-home mom’s greatest secret – the slow cooker.  As you are making breakfast for yourself and/or your kids, prepare your favorite recipe in the slow cooker.  This allows you to have the most time possible on the end of your work-at-home day without worrying about what’s for dinner, and leaving you some QT with the family.

With these little tips in place, the last item you need to have in place is ACCOUNTABILITY! Stay tuned for more on that in my next post (and if you can, send me a quick tweet to @backngroovemom reminding me to take my new LLC paperwork to the bank.)