Working from home can seem like a dream come true, but as in any situation, there will be unexpected “surprises” that pop up! It’s one thing to be able to call into work if you’re sick, but another if YOU are your own boss. How do you handle things that arise unexpectedly? What tips can help you to successfully manage those unexpected surprises? We asked our experts for their hints, tips, and tricks! Here’s what they had to say:
I’ve worked from home for much of the past decade. Tackling the unexpected is easier in a way since you have much more control over your schedule. The reality is when you work from home more things tend to come up since people view your time as more flexible. So when something unexpected comes up the first thing I do is ask myself is this a real problem that needs to be addressed right now, or can it wait until I finish the work I planned on doing. A good test is ask yourself if you’d leave a corporate job to handle it. If not, then chances are it can wait. If it truly is an emergency then you just need to make up for the time later. Fortunately for me working nights and weekends is my forté and one of the reasons I love being self-employed.
As a mom of 8, including a child with severe special needs, I often experience the unexpected as I work on my freelance writing and virtual assistance business! Here’s the information you requested:
- Pad your deadlines – tell yourself your deadline is a day or two earlier. This way if something comes up you can still get everything done on time.
- Have activities/toys you only pull out when the kids are sick or something unexpected happens. The novelty will hold their interest longer and give you some additional work time.
- Know what you can do from your phone. It might take longer, but many work tasks can be accomplished from a phone or tablet. Their portability allows you to sit on the couch and still get some items crossed off your to-do list!
One of many reasons I’ve chosen to be a work-at-home-mom is because of the greater ease in handling the unexpected on the home front than when I was working in corporate. Having said that, because of the flexibility my business affords me, and because my husband commutes almost three hours per day, nearly 100% of the handling now falls to me. So, I need to be prepared…
- Have the contact info for two or three reliable sitters in your phone, and know what times of day they are typically available. For the
occasional in-person meeting with a new client, or those days where your child can’t be at school but isn’t too sick to be with a sitter, you need to have someone you can trust whom you can call upon in a pinch.
- Have somewhere to go. When your wi-fi is down, you have work being done on your house or you have house guests, you’re going to want a back-up location where you can go to work in a clean, quiet environment, with wi-fi. Your local library, coffee shop or co-working space are all solid choices. Try them out before you really need them. I have a co-working space I belong to that I occasionally visit when I cannot work in the house.
- Get a jumpstart on your day. Whenever I can, I like to get up extra early – most importantly, before my kids – to knock a few things off my to-do list for the day. That puts me a little bit ahead of where I thought I’d be, and I have more leeway to handle whatever unexpected events may be thrown my way later in the day.
As a WAH business owner with a toddler, I know all too well to expect the unexpected.
Here’s how I tackle the unexpected whilst working from home.
- When our toddler is sick and must stay home from daycare, my husband works from home half the day. My workday is shorter but at least I get a few hours during the day to take care of my to-do list.
- If my husband cannot work from home, even for a few hours, I would remove my screen time limit so I could take care o f the most important tasks during that time and do the same during nap time, assuming he does not skip a nap. Then it will have to spill over to after hours.
- If the internet and/or power is out in my neighborhood, I pack up and head to the library on the other side of town where there are private rooms so I can make phone calls without getting shushed.
Give yourself LOTS of permission! I still had clients who needed things, and some days, it was therapeutic for me to help them, but some days, I had no energy do to anything but cry. Something as unexpected as sudden grief can wreak havoc on our productivity
and focus, but instead of making it worse by being hard on yourself about it, Implement support & accountability to sort things through & set priorities.
For me, this came in the form of extra time with friends and family, a skilled therapist, and a business coach.
Say yes to offers of help, Even if they come from unexpected places, take people up on their offers to support you, even if you wouldn’t normally do so. One of my friends, an experienced website designer, offered to take over a project that I was in the middle of, just to be able to do something tangible to help. It was a Godsend.
Note from Leslie:
Working at home is one of those things that goes best when you’ve got a solid routine and schedule, and yet, you need to be able to adjust, maneuver and problem solve on the fly when things don’t go as planned. As usual, our experts have lots of great tips and ideas to help. Here’s a few of my own.
- The first thing you need to do is recognize that the unexpected will happen. But you can prepare for it by anticipating things that can happen. For example, sometimes the power or Internet go off. You can make a plan for what to do when that happens. Sometimes your kids or spouse or you will get sick. You can make a plan for that. Any issue you can foresee ever happening, make a plan for what you’ll do.
- The second part to adjusting to the unexpected is to keep calm. Getting annoyed or stressed only limits creative thinking (required for problem solving) and slows you down. Instead, take a deep breath and deal with what you’ve got to deal with.
- Third, take action. Action beats inactivity every time.
- Finally, minimize the effect of the unsuspected by staying on top of or ahead of your work. If you’re behind and issues pop up, chances are you’ll fall further behind, which can impact your home-based career and income. But if you’re on top of or ahead of the game, you can afford to lose a little time.
Leslie Truex is an ideaphoric writer, speaker, entrepreneur, social worker and mom trying to do it all from the comfort of her home. Since 1998, she's been helping others create careers they love by providing work-at-home information and resources through Work-At-Home Success.
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