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Three MilSpouse Tips for Working From Home

(Photo: Courtesy of David Mulder via the Creative Commons license)
(Photo: Courtesy of David Mulder via the Creative Commons license)

I've spent the last decade working from home, and one day last spring comes to mind when I think of why.

I got my kids off to school, drove back home, tidied up the house and then sat down at my desk to work. Within minutes of me sitting down, my phone rang with a call from an unfamiliar number. My dog Hank, a yellow Labrador, had escaped and a kindly person had found him. Of course, I had to go right then to retrieve my retriever.

I sat down to work again. My son's school called. He'd ripped his shorts during P.E. class and needed another pair. No question -- I had to go.

Home again, I began to dive into my work and was making some decent headway on a project when my phone rang, yet again. This time it was my daughter's preschool. My little girl had vomited in class. Her school day was over. Back in the car I went.

Frustrated as I was not to be getting any work done, I was also grateful not to have a boss.

Plenty of Must-Have Parents work outside of the home -- and hats off to them for that -- but many of us have discovered that solo parenting is easiest when we have the job flexibility that comes with working from home.

But without the structure imposed by a normal workplace, it can be hard to stay motivated and on task.

Over the years, I've surveyed a bunch of friends who work from home and realized that, though we may execute our strategies differently, we all basically do the same three things. (Pro tip: Have a back-up computer.)

1. Follow a schedule.

Yes, the beauty of working from home means "owning your own time" and not having to suffer through rush hour. But if you treat every day like summer vacation, you aren't going to get much done.

Also? A key part of working is getting paid. No matter where you live, you will need to be available when your clients are working, so you might as well start your day when they start theirs.

But this can be a bit tricky if you're trying to work at home and have children at home, too. My editor, Amy Bushatz, swears by starting her day before the sun -- and her children -- are up. She gets a few hours of work done before the morning household rush. It is not unusual for me to get emails from her with a 4 a.m. time stamp.

2. Treat your home office like an office-office.

This means several things: First, you need an actual workspace. It's ideal if you can set aside a room of your house as your office, but a corner of a room will do, too. I've known people who've converted a closet into an office. Even if you just sit at the kitchen table, or in a recliner in the living room, set that area up with the things you need to get your work done.

Second, most offices have rules, so yours should, too. Have you ever had a boss who was cool enough to let you take unlimited personal calls and surf Facebook all day? Didn't think so. Don't do that in your home office, either.

This will very likely mean that you have to screen your calls. After a while, your friends will either get the message that you aren't available for chit-chat during work hours or you'll just have to tell them. As for social media, if the temptation to play is just too great, you may need to download a program or invest in a device that will help you stay on task.

3. Make a plan for each day, and then find a way to stick to it.

For me, to-do lists work great. Each morning, I write out a list of what I need to accomplish that day and then I mark each thing off as I complete it. Others like to use calendar app. Still others schedule status calls with clients and co-workers every couple of days to hold themselves accountable. No matter what method works for you, the more specific you are with your goals, the more likely you are to reach them.

When you reach that last goal, you're done for the day, so make sure you let yourself be done for the day. Close up that laptop and do something fun.

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Contributor

Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. Her work has been published numerous places, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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