a peek inside the fishbowl

17 Feb, 2008

Productivity issues for the WAHM

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life

As some of you know, I work at home as a web content gal and writer.


The photo above was taken at a shoot I went to on Saturday morning. See, that’s my script they’re reading!

I am the happiest clam in the sea. I love what I do, in fact, once, twice, thrice weekly I am being told what kind of a lucky sonofafish I am to have these kinds of gig. BUT BUT BUT, it can definitely be a struggle sometimes. (Do any Fishbowl readers work from home? If so, you know where I’m coming from, right?)

Check out Zen Habit’s tips for staying productive while working from home. I can tell ya, there’s some good stuff in there.

This is what works for me:

1) Having a routine and sticking to it.
I get up with the family, help with breakfast, make lunches, eat my own healthy breakfast and send everyone off to work/school. Then I hit the gym. Gym time is me time. Even when I’m feeling tired, I know that if I spend at least 10 minutes on the recumbant bike reading a trashy magazine it’s better than (a) sitting at home doing nothing, or (b) spending that extra 90 minutes hunched over my computer.

My weak point: checking email before I leave. I am going to make a concerted effort not to check my email before I go to the gym. There’ve been times when I checked, then left the house, only to worry about something the whole time I’m gone.

2) Not watching TV during the day. There’s nothing good on anyway.

3) Getting dressed first thing. It’s easy to spend the day in pj’s or gym clothes, but this does nothing for productivity.

4) Knowing my Good Time. My best work time is between 10 and 2:00 p.m. I try to schedule around it.

5) Eating light, well-balanced lunches, and going easy on the sugar. If I don’t do this I crave a nap, and if I nap I won’t be able to fall asleep at a reasonable time. Which brings me to:

6) Going to bed at a decent hour. Our kids have a bedtime, so I should too. When I’m well rested I feel better and have more energy. More energy = more writing!

7) Limiting caffeine. I drink a big coffee in the morning, a cup of tea after lunch. Too much caffeine and I get jittery. I know my limit!

8) Scheduling house work. Working at home means I have had to find some kind of work/life balance. It’s tough. Housework has to be scheduled in with everything else, otherwise it doesn’t get done.

I haven’t been that great about it lately, but I do have an informal chore list set up for myself every day of the week. Laundry on Mondays etc. This is in addition to daily tidying of the busy areas of the house (kitchen, front hall, dining room).

I’ve also had a lot of sucess with my handy dandy notebook. As a writer, I like having the freedom to jot something down when the inspiration hits. AND, as a mom, this allows me to hang out with the kids and still be “working.” I can carry my notebook everywhere I go.

What I’m not so great about:

– checking email too frequently. I changed my settings so that my email program checks the server for incoming mail every 15 minutes. That helps. A bit.

– watching TV in the evenings. I’m so tired in the evenings that I all want to do is plant myself on the couch. I don’t even want to think of all the things I could be doing with that extra hour or two … which, if I factor in a movie or two, adds up to 10-14 hours EACH WEEK. Yikes.

What works for you? What doesn’t work? Inquiring mothers (okay, maybe just me!) want to know.

6 Responses to "Productivity issues for the WAHM"

1 | mrsgryphon

February 17th, 2008 at 5:41 pm


I work from home, too, and I haven’t been very good at sticking to my “schedule” lately. In fact, I’ve been so bad at it, that I’m thinking I might need to do something a bit drastic to snap myself back into reality. Right now, my daughter goes to childcare from 9-4:30 two days a week so I can work. But I’ve realized over the past few years that I am really most productive between noon and 6:00 pm (I am an anti-morning kind of person!)… so why am I working 9-4:30 when I have the flexibility to work when I want to and my childcare situation is really flexible?! I might try switching the hours up a bit so that I can work more afternoon/early evening hours and hang out with her in the mornings!

Other things that I do: make sure that I have a dedicated “work space” (which has currently been co-opted by my husband’s ongoing laundry room reno drama – also a contributing factor to my not-so-focused state of mind!), turn off the ringer on the phone if I’m working to meet deadline and don’t want distractions, have a separate “work” and “home” profile on my computer which (theoretically, anyway) should keep me from checking on personal email/reading blogs while I’m on “work time”!

2 | Chantal

February 17th, 2008 at 6:52 pm


All of those things work for me (and I have the same things that don’t work too, like watching TV and checking email too frequently!) at least, they did when I worked at home. This working out of the house thing is freaking hard – but at least I can’t check my email!

3 | Lee

February 17th, 2008 at 7:36 pm


What works for me:
– only using “My Good Time” for things that require my full attention (and doing the more mundane things when I’m not at the top of my game)
– protecting family time (and not letting work get in the way)
– using a “top three” list of priorities for when I’m at the computer — when those three things get done, then I’m allowed to check e-mail and all the other things that end up sucking up all one’s free time like so …

4 | Julie

February 18th, 2008 at 10:04 am


I work from home too and am still getting into a groove. I try to work from 8:30 – 11:30 every day, and almost never work in the afternoons because I still have two children home in the afternoons and am reluctant to put them both in care during their “home” time. I often work in the evening when they are in bed, but find that I get sidetracked with the internet in the evening. I have a feeling that next year my life will take a big change because all three of my children will be in school. Imagine how productive I’ll be!

5 | Javamom

February 19th, 2008 at 9:32 am


I often think about this scheduling of housework. Growing up in Switzerland were people are ANAL about cleanliness, my old great-aunts, even my grandmother, they all had days of specific activities (laundry Mondays, bed/linens on Tues, vacuuming/dusting Wed, etc). I wonder if I applied something like this if things would get done more efficiently around here. It’s not like this is the military and you can’t allow some flexibility if say a child pukes on the non-designated laundry day and whathaveyou.

The only thing I’ve managed to stick to prior to newborn joining our lives is the grocery shopping trip on either Thurs or Fri morning. As soo as she can sit better (she’s 4 months) and the weather is a bit milder, I’ll pick that up again. Grocery shopping includes putting stuff away. What may work better for me though is more effort into meal planning. Does anyone plan meals for the week? I plan the day/night before sometimes, more often the day of, and use the crockpot a lot….

Email for me too is compelling. Would scheduling email checking and responding to help? I’m not sure…emailing/blogging may be viewed as procrastination by some, but for me, sometimes it’s my ME time…except, there are no limits. Because there are just so many links to click on…

6 | andrea

February 19th, 2008 at 9:56 am


re: scheduling
If I am motivated and can stick to it, it works.
Today is towel and sheet day. First batch is in. Woo hoo!

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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